Meri’s Musical Musings

Differences in music lessons of the past and present

Posted on: March 3, 2013

Past: Music teachers taught using little more than an instrument, method book, and maybe candies or stickers for rewards

Present: Many pro teachers have more than one instrument, have various types of rewards (such as music money that can be saved and used for larger rewards) and incentives, and often incorporate technology in their studio such as a laptop computer and camcorder

Past: Piano lessons only used a limited range of the keyboard in early lessons

Present: Students have often used the entire range by the first or second lesson, and use of the full range is involved in several pieces of the early levels

Past: Learning to use the sustain pedal was not a part of beginning students lessons

Present: Modern piano methods and teachers have it used by the second or third lesson

Past: Popular music was put down in value, and not worthy of teaching

Present: Many teach like or even LOVE teaching popular pieces and are happy to include them when a student reads well

Past: Special needs students couldn’t be taught

Present: Some teachers enjoy teaching them, and even consider themselves specialists

Past: Teachers frowned upon students who improvised or composed

Present: Teachers are being ENCOURAGED to incorporate improvisation and composition for ALL students!

Past: Students are expected to learn to read on the staff from the very first lesson.

Present: Methods for some instruments, especially piano, often have pre-staff notation to get students used to reading direction and values of notes.

Past: Theory was not connected to playing an instrument

Present: Strong connections are made to make sure students see and understand the theory behind the music they are playing

Past: Method books for various instruments moved quickly, causing some or many students to quit in frustration, especially piano methods

Present: Modern method books are usually much slower paced, enabling many more students to be successful.

Past: Playing by ear was frowned upon by many teachers

Present: Teachers are encouraged to offer an appropriate balance between playing by ear and reading music

Past: Games on helping students learn notes and musical terms hardly existed if at all.

Present: There at least a few hundred music games, many available for free online, which students LOVE playing with their teacher or other students.

Past: Music History was often ignored until a student reached an advanced level

Present: Students are sometimes taught about the history of the composer of the pieces they are studying and even of the piece itself.

Past: Children were required to wait until 6-8 years old to start music lessons

Present: Many teachers successfully teach 4-5 year olds, especially on piano and violin, and are successful at teaching them. Also, children vary greatly in their maturity in how young they are to start lessons, some are ready at 3 1/2 or younger, while others, especially cognitively challenged children, are better off starting at 8 or 9 years of age. There are stories of students who started before they were 3 years old and who are brilliant young performers by the time they were 8 years old; however, often their physical development and emotional readiness to handle advanced pieces is often lacking when they reach an advanced level at a very young age.

Past: Teachers were encouraged to be critical and negative to their students, even physically hurting them if they played a wrong note (by slapping the student’s hand with a ruler for example)

Present: Many teachers try to give much more positive reinforcement than negative reinforcement, and almost no teacher physically hurts a student for playing wrong notes for example, instead finding ways to help students master the concepts. Also, teachers often have a feel for how much a student can take in their assessment, some students and parents (especially students who are headed for a musical career or parents of certain groups of ethnic origin) would rather have a critical, demanding teacher that really knows when the student really is playing excellently and when they are playing poorly, while others need as much encouragement as possible due to being highly sensitive people.

Past: 30 min lessons are standard for beginners

Present: 45 min lessons are standard for most beginners in many teacher’s studios, except very young students.

Past: Lessons were paid at each lesson.

Present: Lessons in most studios are paid at least one month in advance, some ask for a term or semester payment. Increasing numbers of teachers are asking for 1st and last month’s lesson payment upon enrollment to control dropping out of lessons with no notice.

Past: Piano lessons could be started with a shortened keyboard (anything less than 88 keys) without pedal

Present: Modern piano methods make many pieces on a shortened keyboard difficult or impossible to play

Past: Music lessons only involved learning to play an instrument, and most if not all the time was spent at the instrument in lessons.

Present: Especially with young students or students who have difficulty mastering different musical concepts, there is much more off-bench or away-from-instrument activities, such as rhythmic exercises using percussion instruments, musical board games, computer games for note finding, and music theory.

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  • None
  • V V: Wish I had read this before I fell for their scheme ! Oh well - have posted my experience on Yelp and N49 and hoping others can avoid the pain of fal
  • clariniano: Thanks for the additional information. It was actually Yelp that deleted my reviews, because of so-called bias. I too have seen the horrible technique
  • No Thanks: Former Teacher at the Ontario Conservatory of Music I took lessons at the Ontario Conservatory and when I left for private lessons from another tea
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