Why I don’t use a music lesson book when teaching lessons

When I am teaching a student how to play an instrument, I tend not to use a traditional music lesson book in my class. After decades of teaching music, I can easily tell you why I do this.

A music lesson book is usually filled with exercises. If the student is learning about syncopation, they’ll read about syncopation, and then play the exercise. A lot of times it’s the same note that they’re playing over and over, and it might look something like this:


Now, while a student might play this in the class with you, they will never go home and practice this exercise. Why? Because it’s boring.

When I am teaching a student about syncopation, I will find a song that has a syncopated rhythm. I’ll have my student play the song, and when we go over a syncopated section, I’ll use a pencil to put it in parenthesis. Once I’ve isolated the pattern, I’ll tell them to play that section many time each time they practice. When they feel comfortable with the pattern, then they can play the whole song.

This method of teaching gives the student a goal to attain, and once they attain it, the reward is music to their ears.

A great example of syncopation in a song is The Caisson Song, which can be found in our collection on page 72. Halfway through the 5th measure until the 8th measure is a great place to isolate. Have your student play it until they’re comfortable and then tell them to play the entire song. And if you get comfortable without a music lesson book, don’t be afraid to try another method

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