what it is
A method for music education
Created by Lucas Ciavatta in 1996, guided by principles of inclusion and autonomy, O Passo understands making music as inseparable from the body, the imagination, the group and the culture.
O Passo emerges in response to highly selective models for accessing musical practice, with the richness of Brazilian popular music as its main influence.
The method's approach values each musician's, professor's, school's and group's musical project, contributing with its effectiveness and even facilitating the use of other methods.
Since its creation, O Passo was experimented and adopted in schools, universities and projects throughout Brazil and the world, making music accessible to thousands of people of all ages through classes, workshops, seminars and other activities.
Today, O Passo Institute assembles teachers who recreate and disseminate O Passo in their new spaces and paths.
what it's made of
Here we share basic information on O Passo and present all of its tools and some exercises. In order to get the full material, get the book O Passo: Music and education. To experience the method, check our calendar.
Understanding O Passo is understanding its foundations and strengths, direct results of the relations and reverberations between its principles and pillars.
Principles: inclusion and autonomy
At O Passo, principles are more than theoretical foundations; they are constantly present in the practice, the process and the projects.
On inclusion: In the method's dynamic, everyone can learn. No matter their gifts, special needs, resources and means, there will be learning. In a music class with O Passo, the absence of instruments, for example, doesn't impair the process. Clapping and voice* are the only necessary sound resources for creating a solid foundation of rhythm and pitch.
On autonomy: It's possible to spend your entire life in a percussion group without having precise rhythmic references; it's possible to spend your entire life singing in a choir and frequently sing off key. That happens when the person playing isn't autonomous, doesn't exactly know what they're doing – "counting on someone else" is different from "depending on someone else". To overcome this condition, you need strength and means. O Passo provides the means, and the strength comes from the perception that the means lead to a real possibility for learning.
*(Do not confuse clapping with body percussion, which, as with every traditional instrument, requires specific technical studies.)
Pillars: body, imagination, group and culture
Body: At O Passo, the body isn't seen as something that follows, from afar, the cognitive processes of the mind, but mainly as an autonomous unit of knowledge. Notions of space and time are built on a dialogue between imagination and bodily experience. There's no possibility for the absence of the body in this process. What usually happens is an underutilization of the body and a resulting underdevelopment of these notions. Without the body, processes that are usually only associated with the mind, such as reading and writing, simply can't happen.
Imagination: We can only play and sing what we see. A clear mental image of what should be played and sung is the only way of achieving a good musical realization. Every musical learning should have building these images as its main goal. How can you play a rhythm if, when it is proposed, you can't "see" it, can't imagine it? It's through our imagination, in which what Mark Johnson calls "image schemes" operate, that we manage images and build any kind of knowledge. Those mental images are references that guide us when we make music. We build some of them through concrete objects or real actions that we relate to that song, such as sheet music, the instrument, the teacher; and others, more abstract, subjective, we build through various stimuli, such as colors, movements or feelings. Visual notation is only one way of externalizing them. With O Passo, we use visual notation, but also oral notation and body notation. O Passo attempts to balance all three forms of notation and, through their articulation, makes the act of reading and writing itself more significative.
Group: O Passo understands making music as part of a socialization process, as a space for exchange and negotiation. In such a process there needs to be a balance between group and individual: the group is strengthened by the roles of each individual and each individual is strengthened by their roles in the group.
The individual is never alone; for their development, group work will always be needed. It's the collective experience and its diversity that provide the tools for that to happen.
Culture: To effectively know how to play a rhythm and sing a song, you need to get closer to the cultural environment where they were created: its history, its traditions and its manifestations. When we do that, culture stops being a concept to be learned or appropriated to become a reality in which we live and play and which we more easily understand and respect.
The concept of position
We usually consider four parameters to define a sound: volume, intensity, timbre and length. The issue is that none of these parameters can show us or teach us the difference between beat and backbeat. There's a simple reason for that: they were made in an acoustics lab and not in a music class. They're enough in acoustic terms, but not in musical ones. That's why O Passo proposes a fifth parameter: the concept of position.
It's important to understand the difference between beat and backbeat as a difference we necessarily perform with our bodies. It's no coincidence that every musician, in whatever culture, marks the beat with their body to be able to play the backbeat. Through a movement, they make a corporal notation and draw a musical space. The concept of position allows the mapping of this imaginary musical space.