Ways to learn music... what thoughts do you have on the subject

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by samdaman, May 9, 2009.

What answer is closest to your "school of thought" on teaching music?

  1. Teach by Rote, then introduce notated music

    0 vote(s)
  2. Teach by notated music, then introduce rote

    4 vote(s)
  3. Teach by Notated music

    2 vote(s)
  4. Teach by Rote

    1 vote(s)
  5. Other school of thought

    3 vote(s)
  1. samdaman

    samdaman Pianissimo User

    Jun 15, 2006
    Baltimore, MD
    Hello all TMers! I have been doing some thinking. My sophomore music ed. semester has just wrapped up and my heads spinning with rote procedure, writing down music in a visual/not notational manner, having kids learn tonal patterns, using notated music after learning the song by ear, and other theoretical, pedagogical approaches. Now, when I went to school my teacher put a method book in front of me and said "Here's a G. It's open on the trumpet. Play a G." and the rest was history. SO... My question I have been turning over in my mind is, "How much rote playing is too much?" Were you taught by rote or by the old-school music stand/method book approach? Do you think that teaching music should evolve into more rote teaching and other "creative" techniques or is it fine the way it is? As a future music teacher, I want to find out others thoughts and opinions on the subject, that maybe I haven't thought about or considered. So ready, set, go.... Let's hear what you have to say!
  2. willbarber

    willbarber Piano User

    Nov 22, 2008
    Medina, NY
    I voted for the second choice.
    There are many instrumentalists out there that can't read music, but I think most people that are just learning should learn to read music, and at least some basic theory.
  3. simonstl

    simonstl Pianissimo User

    Nov 25, 2008
    Dryden/Ithaca, NY
    I went with "other school of thought" because I'm not really sure what distinction you're making. "Learn by rote" to me meant "learn by memorizing without knowing what it means", which is an accurate description of what I did as a kid - but not what it sounds like you mean here. (See Rote learning - Wikipedia, for example.)

    Anything that teaches some of the theory along the way of learning to play sounds good to me. I'm not sure that kids in particular need a full dose of theory when they're starting out. I wouldn't have had any idea what to do with counterpoint when I was in 4th grade. At the same time, though, no one explained how the valves worked (1/2 step, whole step, 1 1/2 steps) until I was in seventh grade, and I'm pretty sure no one explained the harmonics behind the open notes at all. I might have continued after 8th grade if they had. Maybe.

    Before returning to the trumpet, I spent a month with a book on reading music and "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Music Theory". It wasn't rocket science (though it did reach basic counterpoint), but I started out with a much better idea of how the instrument worked and how those workings mapped to the notes, key signatures, and even rhythms on the page.

    I still have a long ways to go in my playing, but having a sense of why I'm doing what I'm doing makes it vastly more fun.
  4. Pedal C

    Pedal C Mezzo Forte User

    Jan 24, 2005
    When I was a little kid, I used to sit on the piano bench and watch the music as my grandpa played the piano (Chopin and Liszt and stuff that's pretty complicated to look at). It wasn't too long before I could put together what I saw and what I heard. When I started the trumpet, understanding the notation and how it relates to what you hear came pretty easily, probably because of that informal "training" I had on the piano bench.

    When I learned to play the trumpet, the book showed me a staff, and note and a fingering. Mostly I learned to play by reading the music, but my teacher would make up slur patterns for warm ups and I somtimes just mimicked those.

    I didn't learn any of what I would call "theory" until high school, and it was things like key signatures, order of flats and sharps, chord types (identify by ear) and scale types. The more involved theory didn't come until college.

    Anyway, I don't know if that helps you, but that's how I learned. Whether it's because of that or just dumb luck, notes and rhythms have always been the easiest part of playing music for me.
  5. samdaman

    samdaman Pianissimo User

    Jun 15, 2006
    Baltimore, MD
    Yah. All the stuff being said makes sense, and sheds some light on learning. Another point is what Pedal C brings up. Most kids just starting out aren't exposed to enough listening. People such as Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, etc. are just dusty, far-away thoughts to kids. Even composers such as Bernstein, Sousa, and other modern-era giants are not played or exposed to children right off the bat. Simonstl's comments also jogged a thought from my brain too. I also in favor/going to start instituting that students transpose right off the bat. I'm not for having 4th graders read a Mahler symphony part in A or something like that, but take the first three notes in a D scale and play Hot Cross buns and then think of it in C and play Hot Cross Buns again. Then go on to looking at the music for "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and do it again by looking at the music. Thoughts? Too ambitious, too tough, different approaches?
  6. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 23, 2006
    Parts Unknown
    My learning "by rote" meant reading the same stuff over and over again until the fingers leaned it. Creativity comes from turning "knobs" Check out Douglas Hofsatder. Wait--Oldenick did so already!

    Oops, the link didn't transfer, but still a great read.

    Have fun!
  7. Peter McNeill

    Peter McNeill Utimate User

    Jan 30, 2009
    Melbourne Australia
    I am not a teacher, nor a pro, just a hobby player; I still use the "Tune-a-day" technique, introducing one note at a time, and then later couple this with Arbans. Then progress to playing tunes that you like to play. I am still learning..

    I think for kids it must be fun first to get the interest, and then play tunes, and then play together. That means notated music. My first band was a Bugle Band (30 buglers and 30 drummers), so got the Open notes nailed quickly.. our music was 1 2 3 4 5 (open notes), so progression to trumpet was natural, and easy. Basic music was introduced early. It Seemed to work.

    So I voted 2 as the closest choice.
  8. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    I think you are making a mistake. Teaching music in a class means reaching the whole class to achieve group goals. If you are a good teacher, the method is secondary as you have the necessary "influence". If you are not a good teacher, the method is also secondary as the class is turned off. So instead of putting the cart before the horse, you should ask what skills does one need to be a killer teacher.

    Rhetoric skills
    be recognized as an authority on music that the kids care about
    Motivational skills
    management skills to get support from the school management

    By rote in my book is plain repetition, in spite of the criticism from the acedemic community, repetition is the only way to build habits. We are creatures of habits. Even the "dummies" (I don't mean low IQ here, I mean wasted talent!) retain things that have been repeated often enough.

    I would not mess with visualizations. Notation is necessary for any musician.

    The creative process is only useful for the interested and qualified. If your system is designed to "favor" creativity, you will put the technicians at a great disadvantage. Your classes will have both!
  9. trpt2345

    trpt2345 Mezzo Forte User

    May 21, 2006
    Morelia, Mexico
    I wouldn't mess with visualizations, either. I'd prefer audiolizations. (Read singing). And yes, you need to to be able to deal with notation at any level.
  10. samdaman

    samdaman Pianissimo User

    Jun 15, 2006
    Baltimore, MD
    But Rowik isn't that just depriving the technicians from the creative side? My philosophy is that if you work on the musical aspects and play the MUSIC, then most of the technical aspects will get worked out (and whatever doesn't an be improved through working on technical studies). Another thing is that you may be the best dynamic, encouraging, and communicating teacher out there, but if you don't have a GOOD plan or method of teaching then you are sunk. I think a good plans take the theoretical aspects of teaching knowledge and apply them effectively as your class (or student) dictates by their musical skill and progress. Some of those ideas work well and others of them don't. Like on this thread, most people seem to have learned music well through the use of music notation. This is pretty contrary to some of my ed classes in that they taught entire (or most) classes by rote (which is the way they want us to emulate once we graduate).

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