One of the most important things that chanters do to improve is to practice chanting with the scale degrees (ni, pa, vou, ga...) instead of with text. This is called parallage (and is the greek equivalent to western solfege).
The main way that students learn to read interval symbols in Byzantine Beginnings is through Parallage Phrases. This is because I want students to learn the symbols by experiencing them in their natural context (and this is how chant has traditionally been taught). Yet, I would like Byzantine Beginnings Parallage Phrases to be different than those commonly used to teach in the past.
I taught myself a lot of Byzantine notation by using a chant manual in Greek made available on Byzantinechant.org. In this manual, there are over one hundred exercises that go through the symbols using long, repetitive phrases. I have seen a number of other manuals similar to this in Greek, Arabic and English. I would like to take the basic function of the older manuals and expand on them. In particular there are three main things that I would like to improve upon. [read more after the break]
First, the phrases in the manual are long and usually follow a pattern. In my own case, once I figured out the pattern, I stopped focusing on the written notation and focused on saying the correct Greek syllable (ni, pa, vou...). I have spoken to others using this manual and they often say the tricky part is knowing the Greek syllable and/or getting the right pitch. I want to give students materials that better support learning scales and how pitches are related (the scale cards) so that they can read the Parallage Phrases phrases accurately on their own (after learning them at lesson). The Parallage Phrases in Byzantine Beginnings are short and focused to help students remember the phrases more easily.
Second, the phrases in the manual sound like western vocal exercises to me. They do not sound like Byzantine chant and are not rooted in the melodies of the hymns of the Orthodox church. In ByzB, after some initial generic phrases, the phrases are those that students will encounter in real Orthodox hymnography. Due to this, the phrases will also teach ison, rhythms, modulations and other aspects that students encounter in real hymns. My goal is that after learning the phrases the students will be able to read music at an intermediate level.
Last, in other manuals all of the pitches of the scale are used from the beginning. Students who are unfamiliar with the Greek scale are often overwhelmed by the language and end up stumbling over the pitch names instead of learning or practicing what the symbols mean. In Byzantine Beginnings, we start with only ni and pa and slowly add one more pitch. This way students will have learned the Greek scale well forwards and backwards with other materials before they need to use it in Parallage Practice.
For now, these ideas are all theoretical. But, based on the limited testing I have done a few with 4-5 and 8-10 year olds, I believe that the Parallage Phrases will work. I think the trick will be training students' ears really well so that they can do things vocally before they encounter the symbols in the phrases. It will also require writing phrases whoso difficulty increases incrementally and creating games that help students to memorize the theory that they are learning.
SAHM by day; ByzB curriculum developer by night. My career was in teaching: kindergarten, first grade, bilingual reading, Suzuki piano, and Music Mind Games. Now I paint icons and spend lots of time making materials on the computer. My greatest joy is directing my students in their learning. This blog documents the process and provides a space for my other ramblings as well.