Learn to Write Your Name (Again)

11/9/2008 11:10:11 PM
San Carlos, California


Learn to Write Your Name


Do you remember when you learned to write your name? I do. Not print your name – but move from printing your name to writing your name in cursive. We were using pencils in class and the best kids that turned in the neatest cursive papers were the first to go from pencil to pen. I was one of the last. Big, jagged letters I desperately tried to write in cursive which looked like, well a little kid learning to scrawl.

This got me thinking: do you remember when you wrote your first quarter rest (crotchet)? I sat there most likely to write a piece of music – I most likely had the paper on my piano ready with 5 blank lines and spaces – I began – then, a quarter rest. Uh, oh. How do you do that? I’d sit there and practice writing one: “Let’s see: “left-right-left’ – no that’s no good: ‘right-left-right'”. I look in the Michael Aaron First Grade piano book and see how they’d do it: “Wow, that doesn’t look anything like mine….hahaha”.

What’s the point? Well there I was ready to try my hand at doing this thing called “writing music”. I was probably in 4th-5th grade. But then what was to be my first composition turned out to be an exercise in writing music symbols: a quarter rest. Just like writing my name. I knew how to print it – and now you’re going to make me learn it all over again in a thing called ‘cursive’???

Well guess what? The exact thing is now happening to me with Schillinger. I paid my course dues – I had my lessons in front of me; I’m excited; I’m jazzed; I’m ready to go with Sibelius loaded on the PC and a new ball point pen. I’m reading the lesson and ready to get started on the assignment; which I’m being instructed to do on graph paper. Huh??? What? Graph paper? Oh, right; ‘it frees the notation process – notation is simply used to translate for the performer’s benefit’. “Oh, ok. I’m cool with that.” But wait. I don’t have graph paper. And it’s 10:30pm. I’m jazzed, I’m excited, I’m ready to dig in to the assignment. Then it dawned on me:

I don’t know how to draw a quarter note rest.

So get ready for learning to use new tools. And don’t let any discouragement of having to do so translate in another Schillinger myth: “Schillinger’s System uses graph paper which makes it a difficult system to learn.”

Writing a quarter rest now is as easy as writing the capitol “D” in my first name. It’s done without thinking. And so is fractioning 5:2 on graph paper. But it had nothing to do with ease or difficulty of the Schillinger System – it was simply learning to grow on a mechanical level. A motor skill level. I was simply learning to sign my name…again. As if the teacher said, “Ok class, you’ve learned to print your name; good. You’ve learned to write your name in cursive: excellent! Now today class, you are going to practice learning to print your name backwards”. What? But believe me, within an hour you’d be able to do it.

So the assignment and lesson “stalled” for me. It’s 11pm and I need graph paper and no art stores or office supply stores are open at this time of night. “That’s ok,” I say to myself, “I’m an online kind of guy anyway”. So now at 11pm I’m not doing my assignment I was so excited about 30 minutes before. I’m Googling for a free online or downloadable utility that will print graph paper; sure enough I found one. I fudged it and tweeked it – now it’s midnight. Then I thought of Excel. “Hey, I can just check, ‘Show Grids’ and create my OWN graph paper!” Now it’s midnight – not happy with the results. Now it’s 1am. This concluded my first Schillinger Assignment – and I hadn’t even started yet. First, I had to learn to draw a quarter rest!

This really went on for the first few days – but soon I had an immense joy and ease with the material. So much so that I could now easily and effortlessly out all fractioning series’ while waiting in line at the post office if I had to. It’s that’s easy.

The same thing repeated itself as I moved deeper into the material. I was already to dig into the assignment on Distribution of Durations and all of a sudden I was faced with having to type a division symbol in Word 2007. I never had to do that before. It’s 10pm. Ok, Google and find out – ok, character map – got it – ah…there it is – excellent – € ha ha ha – look at that – beautiful! Wow, does that clock say 11pm already?” I stared in disbelief, “Ok, well let’s go now” – oh geez….now I have to write a fraction. Man, this is more than a fraction it’s more like an equation! Yikes! Now what? It’s 12:30am. “Google, Word Help – please, somebody help me!” I blurted. “Oh, you mean Word 2007 has an equation feature?” 1am. “Ok, let’s give it a try”. And I started my first fractions in Word 2007. “Hey it works!” I exclaimed to myself in glee. “Now I can get started!”


“Ah….well, Ok, maybe I’ll pick up this tomorrow”.

Like 4 hours or whatever and I hadn’t even started the assignment! First, I had to learn a new way to write my name!

I just can’t tell you the satisfaction of now easily it is to do exercises like the one in the attached pic. It’s really simple formula. My math skills do not go beyond the 12th multiplication table and 12/8 time. Seriously.

Now others may find it differently. But for me, just the preparation was a big deal. But I refused to blame the “Schillinger system” for it any more than I blamed 18th century notation customs for forcing me to learn a quarter rest.

There are skills in other areas you will develop. Whether it be finding out how many squares in an inch you want your graph paper, new ways to use your notation software, experimenting with colored markers for certain resultants, learn new features in Word, or simply how to organize your material in your 3-ring binder. But the way I look at it is that it’s the foundation. Once you’ve go that, well, you’re on your way. Today I breeze through what a month ago seemed to be an experiment into uncharted territory. Currently, although the assignments include melody and harmony in standard notation, the graph paper is only being used for horizontal rhythmic notation – I understand when I move into melody, the graph paper will begin to be graphed vertically instead of only horizontally like I’m doing now – but that’s fine – I just grow more in that direction! – but I’ll already have my graph paper in place – no searching Google at 1am looking for a utility – no more wondering how to notate the “does not equal” sign in Word 2007.

So what I learned was this: If I was up late at night, frustrated, tired when I hadn’t even begun on the real work I was so anxious to get started on hours before, it was not because the system itself was frustrating, tiring or discouraging….it was just because I again needed to simply set up shop first. It was like moving into a new house. Everything different and new – what you thought was going to take a few minutes to set up your TV room turning out to be all afternoon because of a million little details that had to be delt with first.

So be encouraged. It’s really easy. Just say to yourself, “I’m just learning a new way to print my name – I’m just learning a new way to draw a quarter rest”.

The rewards of this are immense.



Published in: on December 16, 2008 at 6:04 am  Leave a Comment  

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