How To Teach Music: Teacher Objectives vs. Student Objectives

bored music studentsAs you know, all music teachers especially classroom school teachers have lesson plans including “objectives”. Private instructors, on the other hand, have more flexibility in their choice of “objectives”, some of which not very flattering. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

There is another set of goals just as important and that is the Student’s objectives. My reason for starting the saxophone was at the ripe old age of 13. I heard a sax playing on TV and knew I had to produce that sound, got my first horn and never looked back!

Once a student has an instrument’ their first obvious goal is to play and complete easy, recognizable songs, resulting in “instant gratification”. As they progress, their focus is usually on the styles of music they would like to play. Of course young students will probably encounter band music passages that are “boring” and not melodic, (like harmony lines.) You know, “The good with the bad”.

I’m sure as teachers, we all have the same objectives, to teach students: counting beats, rhythms, fingerings, embouchure, tone production, note values, syncopation, dynamics, all of which are important. For beginner wind students, what order of importance should these concepts be introduced? Students have no idea! They just want to play songs.

This is where the instructors come in. What’s your order?
1. Make a sound on their chosen instrument.
2. Learn 4 or 5 of the easiest notes and fingerings.

I suggest let your students spend 2 or 3 weeks playing “Songs for Beginners” using those 5 notes. Even beginners can feel the rhythms. Let it be their choice of songs they know. If they know the songs, they’ll enjoy practicing. At this stage exercises are anti-student objectives.

Objectives: Experience early success (Student)
Develop finger co-ordination (Teacher)

Think about this! As babies, we all took almost five years of life to develop simple language. In 1st grade we then started to read words that represented our verbal sounds. Let’s give beginner students 3 weeks to prepare for musical 1st grade.

After stage 1, introduce one or two concepts at a time. Keep in mind your student’s objective: “Complete songs they enjoy”. Instructor’s objective: “Tweak their abilities”

Remember: If a teacher introduces one rhythm or concept each week, how many will the student learn in a year? You do the math. No need to burden beginners all on the first month of lessons…………Think about it!