Teaching Pitch Internalization Processes

Edward Klonoski

Most music educators would agree that one of the primary goals of aural skills training is to develop in students the ability to recognize and understand musical relationships with "the mind's ear." That is, we strive to teach students to internalize pitches and pitch relationships. By internalize, I mean the ability to mentally create or recreate auditory images without singing, playing, or otherwise outwardly reproducing the pitches. Yet most of the strategies traditionally used to teach both aural skills in general and dictation skills in particular rely exclusively on external sound sources. This reflects the tacit assumption that students can learn to internalize musical relationships through exercises and drills that exclusively utilize external sound.In this paper I will: 1) consider some of the reasons why the use of external sound sources remains so prevalent in aural skills instruction; 2) examine some commonly-used aural skills teaching strategies that are based on the assumption that instruction with external sound sources will result in internalization; 3) propose strategies for determining early on which students are likely to struggle with or fail to translate external sound sources into pitch internalization; and, 4) suggest several approaches designed to teach internalization more directly, approaches that can be used in conjunction with more traditional instructional techniques.