JJ Rocks Article # 217:
From St. Croix Music Magazine, Issue # 42, March,2010
Teaching someone how to play a notes on a sheet of music is fine for polishing one’s basic reading skills, but not teaching them what the music means or where it comes from is a disgrace. Some people who teach only have experience that is a product of going to college, making the grades, and then becoming a recycled version of the teachers that taught them. This does not help someone who wants to know what it’s like to be a professional full time musician. You can’t teach something that you haven’t done yourself.
This article is not about becoming a music teacher or how to teach your students. It’s about people that call themselves teachers but aren’t even good enough to be in a decent band or have ever played full time. A little weekend pickup work does not make you a pro level player, and that is what’s required to teach young minds who dream of being on stage playing in front a great crowd without having a music stand in front of them. First they have to learn how real musicians communicate to each other, and in most cases, other than large orchestras with a conductor, the students must know the tunes in their heads and not have to read them while performing.
This brings to mind a piano teacher that I know (not pro level musician) who said to me “I teach by the book. You teach by ear”. I almost fell over because this is the same person who came to my house when I was putting together a reggae band and had to play the song “Stir it Up” by Bob Marley. She had it written out over several sheets of paper. Now keep in mind that this song has three chords that play over and over. I guess that’s what she means when she said “by the book!”
So first let me say that I don’t teach from a standard book that you can buy in any music store. And I don’t just teach buy ear. My students know more about music theory and the simple math of music than most of the local music teachers that I know. From the beginning they all learn to read chord charts, discover intervals and the way scales and chords are constructed, and before you know it they are play Charlie Parker and Miles Davis jazz tunes without any music in front of them. And by the time I go to show them how to read single note “old school” notation, they act if it’s a waste of time. That’s when I say “you might be in a situation where someone throws a chart in front of you with notes instead of just chords and wants you to play it cold”. One students reply was “why would I want to play something that I never heard?” So even though I save that lesson for last, I still try to get them to learn it.
The most important thing is the final product. That would be a student who has the knowledge of the “DNA” or math of music, the ability to remember songs without reading them, and most of all, being able to improvise and create on the spot over any set of changes. If all you can do is teach from a book, or simply try to get a student to copy your motions without showing them why it works, them you should not be a teacher. And If you have never played professionally yourself, you shouldn’t try to teach someone how it's done. Don’t try to “talk the talk” if you can’t “walk the walk”
JJ Rocks - The Spotlight Zone
The Woodshed: Teaching music: By the book
JJ Rocks Article # 217: