Wednesday 18 March 2020


Is teaching music any different than other subjects so that its methodology
requires a different approach?
Compare these questions about Music and Math. Answer these questions.
Do we learn Math for fun ? Do lonely singles suddenly decide to take a Math class? Is Math like Music as just a pleasant way to waste time?
Is there such a thing as serious music? If so, is it better than unserious music?
Can you teach "good taste" in music ? Would you even think about "good taste" in Math class ? Would you feel sadness, or joy over a particular Math problem? Would you prefer to write a song or a new Math problem? Is music really a creative subject ? Is Math a creative subject ? Is there always a perfectly correct result for a musical performance?
Is there always a perfectly correct result for a Math calculation?
Is Math physically involving?
Is Music physically involving?
Is one easier than the other?
Is one more important than the other? I won't answer these questions about differences between teaching Math
and Music. They are just to get you thinking.

A learner's motivations might be very different as is the subject matter.
A kid comes to a music lesson for different reasons,
sometimes the kid deeply wants to learn music,
sometimes the parents want to live vicariously through the child's success,
sometimes they are just curious to see where it goes,
sometimes the parent wants the kid to be busy and not with them.

An adult comes to a Music lesson because
they might have a hole in their life
they need to fill or find distraction from (lost love)
they simply love music
they might enjoy the social experience that music can provide
they might find music a form of escapism from a life of adult responsibilities.
they want to return to a nostalgic moment in their life through music.
they wish to gain confidence, social status & poise via music.

Are you noticing some of the important differences between Math and Music?

So there are differences in teaching and learning different subjects. Will that affect the lesson ?
Let's examine some of commonly important things about teaching both
Math and Music.
Both involve: practice. reading. stepping up through levels. concentrating on the processes. memorizing information. using models for practice & applying those models to different situations. organizing lesson materials. evaluating the results. improving consistency. using tools.
Examine some major differences in learning & teaching Music. Choice of being in that music lesson. Emotional connection to the subject music. High levels of multitasking with mental and physical connections in music.
e.g. reading, playing, looking ahead while tapping a foot,
naming notes simultaneously while thinking about countable value,
where it is played on different hands and coordinating this information
with 2 hands, feeling the right amount of tension and angles in picking
and fretting notes and listening and responding to the quality of sound
& possibly an external partner playing. Possibly singing to this at the same
time. Public performance which comes with subjective judgement of the task.

I often hear people talk about music as a "creative" subject.
Is it creative ?

If your purpose is to make exacting copies of existing work, is it creative?
Is creativity an important part of music education?
I know several high level teachers of music who have not written a song or tune.
Are they creative? It is certainly skillful.
I do write songs and tunes. I didn't at the start. For me it is skills, knowledge and
practice first. With some basic ideas, creativity can begin.
Creativity is enhanced by having a toolbox of these inputs.
Creativity is also enhanced by having the suggestion that making
something of your own can be part of the process.

Comparing Music to Math might lead you to think that Math isn't creative.
It could be but isn't often taught that way. A student could be asked to
solve a real life problem or question using Math.
This is very different from being told to answer Exercise 7b questions 1 to 10.
Think about it.
Cheers for now.


Years back I started work in Japan as an English Teacher.
I’d worked in Australia as a teacher prior to this, in schools and as a
private music teacher with a thriving practice. 
At orientation day some 200 recruits entered our company.
The question was asked “why are you in Japan?”  
The answers involved: travel, adventure, making some money, curiosity,
Some of those people spent many years there and I would hear some talk
about leaving to "start their career."
It may surprise you, not everyone who teaches actually considers teaching
as a career, or education as a subject itself worth studying. 
A study of Teaching binds the psychology of teaching & learning with the
micro-skills of teaching and core subject knowledge.
Professional teachers are more consistent, more likely to prepare for lessons,
not just show up. 
It’s generally better learning from someone who sees teaching  as a career,
not a stop-gap measure between gigs, like just something to do until they hit the
big-time with their hit recording, find a real job or win the lottery.
Some people  working as “teachers” have no interest in the subject of
Give this some thought when choosing teachers.
Some people  working as “teachers” have no interest in the subject
they teach.
Give this one some thought when choosing teachers.
Yes I said that twice.
In music, the best player might not be the best teacher simply because
they are not interested in sharing their knowledge. A good music teacher
should be good at music AND interested in teaching.


It’s reasonable to expect that if you’re hungry, tired, sick or urgently need a toilet
your readiness to learn is hampered. You cannot easily focus when your body is
not in balance.
Some needs are obvious, others aren’t. Stress from abuse or loss of loved ones
leave mental scars far less noticeable than visible physical impairment.
Emotions can disrupt physical and mental stability.
Like an iceberg which is mostly underwater, humans can look right but haveissues such as health which are not obvious at first glance.
Humans have “drives” beyond satisfaction of hunger, some controlled by instinct
like sex, or adrenalin response to fear and pain revving up our bodies.
Maslow was a prolific psychologist who famously developed  a list of needs
starting with basic things like food and water & progressing to “self-actualization”
where the drive to reach personal goals was recognized. Maslow wasn't the onlyone to develop these kind of lists but his list has stood the test of time.


Different ages require different  teaching.
All ages are teachable but in Music Education, you will spend a lot of time &
effort to get a baby to a stage where they accept direction, let alone play
an instrument. There is physical readiness & there is emotional and intellectual
A most asked question is “how old is old enough to start?”
In theory, any age is fine. Even babies can be introduced to instruments & show
a bit of sense about them in a quiet moment. The baby pictured was very curious
to the sound & touch of the guitar. Now at 9,  she is singing well and expressing
her musicality with a strong desire for formal lessons.
An interest and curiosity is not always ‘readiness’ to hire a teacher and commit a
budget to developing your child’s musical progress.
Suzuki started teaching violin to very young children with exceptional supportive
parents and achieved great results from children of preschool age. Most families
don’t have an Asian tiger mum to bring this level of discipline & dedication to daily
practice.  Most parents won’t take the time to turn their child into a prodigy, even
if the child shows interest & aptitude.
Some parents are disappointed after spending big money on lessons with their 5
year olds to get little or no results.  5 year olds are usually not disciplined to
independence & need a lot of hand holding & encouragement to play an
instrument proficiently. You simply can’t say to a 5 year old “ now go to your room
and do your practice” and expect this to happen. 
Some can, but in general terms most can’t.
Older children have more ways to absorb information. Reading skills compound
their other existing senses, they have more independence & experience to take
on a new hobby more easily. They still need support and parents who can push
them in a good way (as distinct from bullying them into practice). From around
age 7 a good learner may have developed many tools to learning that will speed
their ability to learn music.
Adults have a rich history to draw upon. A child  has to learn a song first, but an
adult may know already what it sounds like and have a head start to the learning.
A child needs to learn to move little fingers first but most adults have at least
basic dexterity. Adults often have commitments which reduce their practice time.
An (imagined) ambition isn’t the same as a commitment.
That said, many late starters do very well.
Every person is different. Even adults drop out so readiness to commit to
a budget and time on music education needs to be thought out
well in advance. 

If money is no object, music lessons can be just an amusement that might lead
If getting skills is the main object, preparing the time and resources and support
to make it happen are all part of getting a good result from your spend.
Most people realize quickly enough that without practice, skills don’t develop.
Space in your life to set aside time to practice won’t happen if you can’t prioritize
a commitment. Bite off more than you can chew and maybe you can chew like
mad, or, you could choke. Ambition without commitment to time and energy
through your body is wishful thinking.
We don’t teach driving a car to a 5 year old generally because it bears no
relevance to their lives. Learning happens best when ideas, information and skills
come at a relevant time.
Some of the seeds of learning planted will nurture and grow before fruition.
Others never find a place in learning because they are perceived as irrelevant by
the learner.


Having tools that don’t hinder a performance are a minimum.  A terrible musical
instrument can be part of learning experiences but its limits are low.
Quality instruments can inspire your consistent attention. It won't make you play
well, that is a separate issue. It is fortunate with modern production most tools
(musical instruments) are at least usable. Be certain that the tool you choose is
usable and suitable to the size and physical characteristics of the user.


People are born with various levels of physicality and intellect.
Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. People through nature or environment
will have more or less of the ingredients we might call "talent".
Having less isn't a reason to give up before starting.
Having more from the beginning doesn't necessarily guarantee success either.
As a kid, I couldn’t be a great golfer. After hitting any ball further than 100 metres,
I couldn’t find it. Wasted time searching for balls hurt my ability to achieve.
At some point somebody might have noticed a set of glasses would have made
a substantial difference, but a poor start killed my enthusiasm for the game
Accurate senses have a profound effect on your level of success. Accurate
senses & robust physicality eases the transition to learning pretty much anything
This may be recognized as TALENT ADVANTAGE.
An enriched environment of family, school or community where people sing or
play instruments brings in cultural influences of role modelling & ready help that
compounds native knowledge & skill into that well of TALENT.
Some people come from a virtual cultural desert. They must work harder to
equal the basic level of those who have experienced a steady stream of able
people through their lives. 
INTELLIGENCE  has aspects that compound the springboard of TALENT.
A great MEMORY: visual, symbolic, audio & physical,  particularly helps.  
Intelligence is more than memory.
Ability to problem solve, emotional intelligence & communicative skills are aspects that slow down or rocket a
person to success. Intelligence can be nurtured, taught & improved.
A developing talent needs critical reflection.
Imagine we play or sing well, but replaying an audio/video performance highlights areas of strength &
weakness. Having feedback of your performance that doesn’t crush your spirit
helps you rise.
Music and Art  isn't always about complexity. Most of us don’t need a competitive
scorecard to enjoy music. There's joy in knowing that humanities are generally
not just a race for points. Anyone can participate & many succeed by virtue of
the fact that they use their abilities to an individually high level with discipline
to pursue goals.
It’s not just what you’ve got, it’s what you do with it.
Native ability is a starting point yet it isn’t the finish line. Even talented individuals
won’t succeed without practice. Figures like 10,000 hours of practice to mastery
are often quoted for pretty much anything. That’s about 4 hours a day practice
over 7 years. It would certainly get you some skills.