Whole Part Whole

Lesson 2 Chapter 1 Module 1

Good learning takes place in a Whole-Part-Whole manner. 

WHOLE: The big picture or the context is explained or presented to the learner.

PART: Individual parts, one by one, are learned.

WHOLE: The parts are added back to the whole. Both the part(s) and the whole have more meaning because they were learned in context.

Whole Part Whole Example

Consider a parent teaching his child how to mow the lawn. If done using a Whole-Part-Whole manner, the parent might do the following:

WHOLE: Explain to the child that he is going to learn how to mow the lawn. Then, the parent instructs the child to simply watch as the parent mows the lawn himself. This gives the child the opportunity see the Whole of the task in action.

PART: Next, various aspects of the task at large are explained. For example:

  • How to start the lawnmower
  • How to turn it off
  • What are safety protocols that must be followed?
  • How to add gasoline
  • How to clean up after

All of the PARTS make more sense because the child got to experience them during the first WHOLE in context.

WHOLE: Lastly, the child does it on his own, with parent guidance and repetition as necessary. He assimilates the parts into the whole because he has experienced both.

Whole Part Whole in Language

WHOLE: For the first year of our life, we simply listen to the language as a whole before we ever attempt to speak it. We hear whole conversations with sophisticated vocabulary spoken around us all the time.

PART: When we are around one year old, we begin to learn individual words by naming things around us: Mommy. Daddy. Bottle. Doggy. Kitty. Brother. We learn the all-important words “yes” and “no” which, combined with the nouns we know, give us the ability to improvise with language. (“Mommy, no bottle.”)

WHOLE: Then, slowly but surely, those words begin to make sense in the context of the first Whole. This process continues with more Wholes and more Parts in a very effective cyclical process until we are masters of our native language, and have a significant vocabulary with which we can improvise in order to communicate.

Whole Part Whole in Music

If we accept that we learn music in a very similar way that we learn language, we can use Whole-Part-Whole to teach ourselves music. This concept will come up again and again in a variety of ways throughout this course and the book. Our first Whole-Part-Whole in music will help us establish the big picture.

WHOLE: Like in language, we need a sense of the big picture of music. That is to say, we need exposure to many tonalities and many meters. If we simply listen to pop radio, that is not a sufficient listening vocabulary. That would be like if our parents only spoke very short sentences with minimal words. We wouldn’t get a sense of our language at large.

PART: We will learn specific musical patterns (words) in specific musical contexts (tonalities and meters) in a very systematic way.

WHOLE: Then, slowly but surely, those patterns within tonalities and meters begin to make sense in the context of music at large. This process continues by adding more patterns and tonalities and meters in more Whole-Part-Wholes within Whole- Part-Wholes within Whole-Part-Wholes.

Game Plan

This book and course will focus on major and minor tonalities and duple and triple meters. So, your first task is to acculturate yourself to those primary tonalities and meters. The "parts" that will be taught in the rest of the course will be part of the Major, Minor, Duple and Triple wholes. These initial acculturation experiences will occur in Chapter 1 of this module.  

In addition, you should be regularly acculturating yourself to more tonalities and meters. This broad "pallet" of tonalities and meters will bring clarity to the foundational tonalities and meters you learn throughout this course as well as broaden your musical experiences. These advanced tonalities and meters will occur in Chapter 2 of this module.

Feel free to skip them for now and move on to Module 2: Rhythmic Parts

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