Hi everyone. If you’re reading my music blog it’s likely you have a strong desire to learn music, teach music…..or you’re one of my super-supportive friends. Since this is my first post I wanted to write about my approach to music education and what you can expect to find on my website. Simply stated, I have a passion to provide fresh, creative music education resources that center around creativity, improvisation, and listening-based music learning.
THE MISSING LINK
In over 20 years of teaching music I’ve heard a few specific problems voiced so often that I couldn’t help but notice. These problems are very common and point to some very important missing links in people’s music education experience. Time and time again, I’ve heard parents of my music students say that they “can’t sing”, or that they “took piano for 7 or 8 years but can’t play by ear” or “play at all without sheet music” in front of them. These are often people who wanted to be able to sing or were dedicated music students and yet are completely unequipped to express their own musical thoughts. Don’t get me wrong, they have tons of musical thoughts it’s just that no one ever knew how to bridge the gap and teach them how to articulate them. What was missing in their music ed. experience?
TOTAL MUSICAL FLUENCY
Consider how one learns a foreign language. Since total fluency is the goal for learning a language, spontaneous, improvisational conversation and listening are indispensable and integral to the process. Could you imagine if rote echoing, perfect pronunciation, and decoding foreign words were the only focuses? How well would those language students be able to communicate in a foreign country? Unfortunately, these are often the main and sometimes only focuses in music education. These certainly are valuable parts of learning a foreign language and music education, but is deep comprehension and actual communication possible without practicing improvisational speech and listening? This analogy begs the question: What is the ultimate goal of what we’re doing in music ed.? Is it just to have great concerts, satisfy a State requirement for an arts credit, or repeat the pedagogy of 40 years ago? None of these things are necessarily bad, but should they be our ultimate or only goals?
Total Music Fluency is my main musical goal. Well-rounded musicians should not only have a broad foundation of rote songs, and an understanding of how to decode music notation, but a bridge of listening-based performance skills (improvisation), musical vocabulary (solfege) which describes what they’re hearing, and an understanding of how music works (music theory) to connect what they hear in music and what they see in music notation.
I am more convinced every day that creativity, improvisation, and listening-based music learning should be at the hub of the metaphorical music ed. wheel. What I’ve noticed through traditional music teaching methods is a huge emphasis on visual-based music learning, and a great lack of resources geared towards creativity, improvisation, and listening-based music learning with a few notable exceptions……usually in the realm of Jazz. The approach to a lot of music education is: ‘play what’s on the page’. To clarify, I’m not anti-accuracy, a hater of precision or music notation, but those are just a few of the many facets of music ed., not the ‘whole enchilada’.
Whether you’re a music teacher or music student you’ve probably always wanted to be able to play by ear, improvise, understand the music you hear, and read music better. All of my resources will be geared towards this and will ultimately point to creativity, improvisation, and listening-based learning becoming more integral parts of music education.
That, in a nutshell, is why this web site is here. I want to help people learn to communicate in the universal language of music! To assist you, I will have inspiring performance videos, insightful instructional videos, effective written and audio training resources, and interesting blog discussions. My hope for everyone who visits Mr. B’s Music is that you’ll find resources here that will enable you to be active music participants for your whole life. Enjoy and Jam On!!!!