Toggle Main Menu Toggle Search

Open Access padlockePrints

'I've heard there was a secret chord': Do we need to teach music notation in UK Popular Music Studies?

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Paul FleetORCiD


Full text for this publication is not currently held within this repository. Alternative links are provided below where available.


From key stage 2, a student’s level of musical ability is measured by their ability to perform, compose, critically listen, have knowledge of world musics, understand a history of music, and manipulate musical symbols. At this early stage in a student’s education this seems a fair spread of musical skills to encourage and a reasonable palette to be explored throughout the life of their state musical education. Where it becomes problematic is when one of these areas, the level of musical literacy, is set as a precondition to further learning; for example, when a theoretical grade becomes a prerequisite for a practical grade or when it becomes part of an entry requirement for an HEI. It is this very issue that sits as a point of debate within those who create the curricula of popular/contemporary/commercial degree programmes. Historically speaking, ‘traditional’ music degrees required some form of evidence of musical literacy as an entry requirement and then proceeded to enrich these notational skills as part of the degree programme. This would seem to offer an unquestionably consistent trajectory of learning from a student’s stage 2 beginnings. However, the very nature of a popular music student’s prior learning makes this trajectory unfeasible and we are left with a sector that has multiple approaches to the requirement of and provision for musical literacy on their programmes. This ranges from degrees that do not ask for music literacy as part of their entry requirement and do not teach it as part of their programme, those who do not ask for it on entry but then proceed to teach it during, and those that do ask for some form of literacy and proceed to teach it further. This study considers not only the implications that these multiple modes of delivery present to those collectively involved, from both sides of the desk, in popular music degree programmes but also the wider implications of what it means to potentially study music at degree level and leave without ever having to write a note of music.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Fleet P

Editor(s): Smith G; Moir Z; Brennan,M; Rambarran S; Kirkman P

Publication type: Book Chapter

Publication status: Published

Book Title: The Routledge Research Companion to Popular Music Education

Year: 2017

Pages: 166-176

Print publication date: 03/02/2017

Acceptance date: 01/01/1900

Publisher: Ashgate

Place Published: Aldershot


Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

ISBN: 9781472464989