A Contribution to Teaching Vietnamese Music: Key Pitches in Context and the Pitch/intensity Contour Graph

Ngo Thanh Nhan, Phan Gia Anh Thu


Areas of difficulty in teaching Vietnamese traditional and folk music to non-Vietnamese include the aural-oral traditions, the use of non-Western European scales and extensive multiple pentatonic scales, their associated airs and modes, the heterophonic texture when musicians in an ensemble improvise a tune freely, and the Vietnamese-specific sentence-based poetic structure of the piece-sometimes described as non-metrical. By analyzing voices and instruments, a group of community organizers attempt to set up an initial guide for understanding and teaching Vietnamese folk music. This involves searching for original musical pieces and identifying the scales, ranges, background knowledge, melodic contour, sequences, motives, and temporal characteristics before visual representations of the pieces can be suggested for documentation. A recording of Ru con miền Nam “Lullaby from southern Vietnam” is fed to a peak frequency engine. This produces the pitch/intensity contour, PIC, in real time. The rhythmic patterns and metrical structure are displayed. They are further enhanced by key pitches in context, or kpic, that lays out the frequencies of occurrences of two, three, etc. adjacent pitches that reveal dominant pitch patterns in the piece. Significantly, they suggest specific characteristics therein, which help music learners to replicate the feel of Vietnamese music.

Received: 24th May 2017; Revised:20th September 2017; Accepted: 30th October 2017


Key pitches in context; microtone; peak frequency; pentatonic; PIC graph; pitch/intensity contour.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1172/vjossh.v3i5.277


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