- Private lessons
- 30 – 40 Minute duration
- Often taught in someone’s home
- Using method materials from the major publishers.
- An ambiguous use of “theory” as in “I teach theory”.
- An ambiguous use of “classical” and “classically trained”. (Do you teach “classical”?)
First of all if “traditional” refers to lessons that were taught a certain distance in the historical past, some of those “traditionalists” might be reluctant to be associated with some of today’s methods and lessons. Many of them were readers AND improvisers.
They possessed more skills than the ability to read. They could write, they understood how to apply “theory” to their creative endeavors and they were great technicians.
One issue at a time:
Private lessons. Why the assumption that one teacher and one student deserves to be thought of as the ultimate lesson format. The lessons often lack energy, the teacher becomes an adjudicator that listens, makes some corrections and sends the student home for more practice. Talk to almost any “piano drop-out”. They had private lessons often described as “boring” and slow moving.
30-40 minute duration. Is that really enough time to accomplish much? The time constraint dictates the lack of additional skills and information in the curriculum.
A home studio might work as long as there is a studio and not just a piano situated in a living room. Most teachers set up in their living room or den are not able or willing to include additional equipment from white boards to computers to . . .
An analysis of those method materials generally reveals a very strong emphasis on reading music and little or no emphasis on the develop of improvisational or creative skills in a student. And with a short lesson time, there’s no opportunity to teach more.
We’ve done a few presentations. “Theory” can mean anything from the effect of a lengthening dot to sophisticated harmonic information. After we’ve explained our interest in a student learning about chords, (along with their music reading skills) some teachers will volunteer that “I already do that”. We’ve learned to probe. Most often what they “do” turns out to be cadences in 12 or 13 keys. When asked what the students are expected to do with the cadences, we’re told that they “play them”.
Or more recently, someone described to me a technique of comparing major chords to cookies and then the student was awarded an appropriately colored cookie as a reward. I asked: then what does the student do . The answer was that is what they do. No practical application. No attempt to use the chords to improvise, play by ear, create something, etc. But, I guess if you get to eat a cookie that is better than nothing.
In our presentations we’re often asked if we teach “classical”. That apparently can mean anything from “do you teach students to read treble and bass staff” to “do you use the popular method books”. It’s a major stretch to conclude that those “Three Froggies in a Puddle” type pieces could in any way be labeled as “classical”.
We think there are easy solutions to many of the inadequacies of “traditional” lessons including (1) how to teach any student relevant/current music theory, (2) how to play pieces that are two or three years ahead of expectations and (3) a lesson format that is more efficient and exciting than half hour private lessons. We’ll describe those solutions in future posts or you can subscribe to our free newsletter called Lines & Spaces. Or you can request the FREE CD of examples of the big-sounding pieces or some sample pieces. (firstname.lastname@example.org)