Monday, June 23, 2008

Music Education vs Playing Songs

I read an interesting post this morning by Jonathan Segel (enter Chris Berman to say Jonathan 'Livingston' Segel!). Jon was lamenting the fact that 'certainly in the past 15-20 years the market of guitar based music has changed massively and the quality of playing has declined in proportion to its popularity percentage. '

He wonders what might be the cause... 'U.S. schools?', the '
Market iconification of rock music'?

I think we can look at teaching for both the cause and the cure. Very few US schools even offer guitar as an option. And it seems that many private guitar 'teachers' have been neglecting basic musical concepts in favor of TAB and shredding techniques. Now we have tons of Gen X-ers, Gen Nex-ers and Guitar Hero aficionados who know 6 seconds of 4 songs but absolutely nothing about music.

Why not teach musical concepts on guitar just as we do on woodwind or brass instruments? I think too many 'teachers' assume wrongly that students will lose interest or think it's 'uncool' if they are not playing the intro to Stairway to Heaven in a few weeks (showing may age here).

Teaching traditional note reading, rhythms, intervals, scales and chords etc. will go a long way toward correcting this trend. It will also make for more well rounded musicians, music enthusiasts and music consumers. It's up to teachers to find the correct balance with each student and to provide music education, not song playing, as their core curriculum.

This is what we do at DSM and it's why software is designed to be a concept based curriculum - regardless of the instrument.

Kudos to Jonathan Segel for recognizing this slippery-slope trend in guitar education. When more musicians and educators become as enlightened, we'll all be better off!


Anonymous said...

Well said! Your clear, concise thoughts made me think of things I hadn't previously considered. Your program sounds amazing!

mystic minstrel said...

amen! and amen! but that is part of the problem with music education today. as a k-4 music teacher i feel that i have not done my job if my students do not walk away with basic theory...but i have been given a lot of flack for trying to teach bass clef to fourth graders. i also received flack for teaching music history to fifth and sixth graders, too. the point is that if all k-4 music teachers gave students the basics to read rhythms through basic syncopation and the notes of the grand staff, wouldn't that give students what they needed to learn any instrument or join choir? yet, i seem to be a minority... said...

Mystic - it's never a bad idea to teach musical 'concepts' to children of any age. Presenting concepts in a logical sequence is how we've designed our software and I know from first hand experience that it works.

Kudos for thinking ahead and arming your students with the goods that can allow them to continue studying and enjoying music. Unfortunately, too often they abandon band or choir programs because this kind of teaching gives way to a 'let's learn this song by the Christmas concert or solo contest' mentality.