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General Music training

The following information applies to the Classical department, please visit this page for the Jazz programme.

 

Introduction

General Music Training, which lies at the heart of the curriculum for every bachelor’s level student at the Royal Conservatoire, Antwerp, equips our Instrumental/Vocal Studies students with a strong basis in theoretical music skills.

Theory lessons take their inspiration from artistic practice and they bear a direct relationship to the student’s vocal, instrumental, chamber music, choral, and orchestral repertoire. Mastering theoretical concepts directly contributes to a richer and better-founded artistic creation or performance, making the application of music theory also important to the student’s practical lessons.

General Music Training consists of five components: General Music Practice, Ear Training, Analysis, Practical Harmony and Improvisation (for vocal students: Piano for Singers), and Harmony and Counterpoint.

These are standard subsidiary-subject components of the curriculum, with some special supplements and points of focus depending on the student’s discipline of study. Students may choose to do additional theory subjects by choosing the relevant elective courses or via a credit contract, and certain subjects may be taken as a major.

In the Vademecum you find practical information about these subjects.

General Music Practice and Ear Training

Efficient study processes and effective ways of working with a score rely on a mastery of the basic competencies of solfège: knowledge of keys, sight-reading, and understanding of rhythm, harmony, and melody. In Ear Training and General Music Practice, you will receive extensive functional training in these skills, within a framework that continually strives to emphasise the clear link between theoretical, practical application on the one hand, and artistic practice on the other.

In the General Music Practice modules, the emphasis is on ability and knowledge and you will work on visual-analytical competencies using a score. Ear Training, in contrast, is focused on recognition and trains your auditory-analytical skills, without the use of a score.

The teachers will coach you from various complementary angles and will help you develop strong, basic skills in relation to intonation, rhythm, melody, and harmony. The principle of “hear with your eyes” (the training of the associations between sound, feel, and note) is central. In this manner, you will develop your internal, tonal sound-imagination, and you will link this to an active musical perception and build a melodic, rhythmic, harmonic and structural memory.

Common tonal material will be used as the basis for teaching across the board, but each teacher will use his or her own approach to work on rhythm skills, sight-reading, intonation, multi-part listening skills and memory training. Students will therefore develop their visual, auditory and analytical musical imagination from various angles.

The lessons take a practical approach and are geared towards the student’s own discipline. Teachers make use of existing solo and chamber music scores both in the basic material used for the lessons as well as in the application of these materials. General Music Practice and Ear Training are directly linked to Analysis, Harmony and Counterpoint, and Practical Harmony and Improvisation, and for this reason, students can further train and refine their acquired skills in these subjects.

General Music Practice and Ear Training are part of the Bachelor 1 and 2 courses, and from the 2018/2019 academic year onwards, students may choose to take these subjects as an “in-depth” subject. The weekly lessons take place on a per-discipline basis and skills are built on, week by week. Students may progress to the next level after taking a test. Students will be monitored and given extra coaching if needed, ensuring that every student will reach a final level of competency in his or her own time.

Analysis - subsidiary

A personalised and responsible musical interpretation requires a lot more than simply reproducing the notes in the score: a deeper understanding of what is in the score and what lies behind the written notes is a must. In Analysis, you will delve deeper into the analysis of harmony, melody, and form, and you will learn to apply various analytical techniques. In your instrumental, voice, choir, and chamber music lessons, you will be able to make concrete links between this theoretical understanding and performance practice. This approach will not only equip you with the skills to better analyse and synthesise scores; Analysis will also help you develop a well thought-out vision and interpretation of existing and new repertoire.

Analysis – subsidiary course 1, 2 and 3 are standard components of the study programme, and during the lessons, you will work on the primary stylistic periods. The teaching staff will use their own areas of specialism to coach you: early music, new music, Romantic music, historical or contemporary performance practice. You will gain insight into the various types of music and genres and you will develop a general analytical understanding, using standard works from the major classical repertoire, from Bach up to and including 20th century repertoire.

You may also choose to take Analysis as a major, in order to be able to marry up a more profound analytical understanding with concrete performance practice. Or you may choose it as an elective course as part of your master’s programme. In Analysis 4 and 5, you will delve deeper into the Romantic period, and 20th and 21st century repertoire, and you will carry out and be supported in your own artistic research. The application of the various analytical techniques will assume a more individualised character, depending on the study pathway which you yourself have chosen.  This will involve more independent work on the part of the student, and the consulting of relevant sources. The weekly group lessons will be supplemented with individual coaching in preparation for the final assignment.

Practical Harmony and Improvisation – subsidiary course/Piano for Singers

Every creative and performing musician is confronted daily with the substantive and creative aspects of the profession: from improvising to thinking about structures, listening and making music in a knowledgeable way, making score-reductions and accompaniments.

In the Music programme, we therefore view improvisation and practical tonal understanding as an indispensable component of a musician’s broader horizon. We are extremely proud of our teaching staff, who have an outstanding level of expertise and count among the frontrunners in Flanders and Europe.

As an Instrumental/Vocal Studies student at bachelor’s level, you will be trained in harmonic and improvisation skills, in a context which constantly strives to make links between practical exercises and artistic practice.

All instrumental students in the first year of their bachelor’s programme must take the introductory course, Practical Harmony and Improvisation (PH&I) – subsidiary course, which will equip them with the basics of improvisation and practice-oriented tonal understanding. If you play a chordal instrument, you will further develop these skills during the remaining years of your bachelor’s and master’s study. If you are a guitarist, for example, PH&I as a subsidiary course will form part of your curriculum over the full five years of your study. For pianists at master’s level, the specialist Accompaniment and Coaching course will offer you profound coaching in relation to creativity and tonal understanding, piano reduction, transposition and sight-reading.

Vocal Studies students will take Piano for Singers over the whole course of their bachelor’s study. As well as individual piano lessons, you will take lessons in arranging, score-reduction, sight reading and tonal improvisation.

Depending on your choice of subjects, you may opt for even more focus on improvisation, if desired. For example, you may choose to take Practical Harmony and Improvisation – subsidiary course in the second year of your bachelor’s study. Students may also choose to do Improvisation as a “joint module” in which international teachers from the METRIC project (Guildhall School of Music, London, the Royal Conservatoire, The Hague, and the Royal Conservatoire, Antwerp) alternate. Or you can choose to do a module on partimento playing or basso continuo.

Performance occasions are regularly organised and these allow you to present your own creations on stage. The most driven and ambitious students have the possibility of taking part in the René Arons competition, which is held in memory of one of the Conservatoire’s former teachers.

Harmony and Counterpoint – subsidiary course

In the Harmony and Counterpoint – subsidiary course, you will learn how to develop and give form to your musical imagination. Your understanding of functional tonal harmony will be worked on and honed using focused, targeted exercises which use the rules from traditional four-part choral settings as the point of departure.

The course is, to a large extent, based on the music from the Classical period up to and including the early Romantic period, and its broad approach will provide you with a foundation on which to develop your knowledge in terms of analysis, and practical harmony and improvisation. In addition, you will become thoroughly acquainted with the building-blocks which form the foundation of much basic chamber music, vocal, and instrumental repertoire.  This basis can then be built on, depending on your own interests (such as the principles of counterpoint or style-related harmony).

Harmony and Counterpoint as a subsidiary subject is a fixed part of the curriculum for all Instrumental/Vocal Studies students at bachelor’s level. Students who have a particular interest in this subject can choose to take Harmony and/or Counterpoint as separate, focused subjects, which is equivalent to a major in these disciplines.