Several years ago I had an adult student who was a great jazz player. She felt all of her issues in playing music came from not understanding the circle of fifths. She came in with the diagram and explained it to me perfectly. I said that it sounded like she knew the information really well. But she insisted that I help her use the information within the context of a performance/piece, rather than in a theoretical sense – and especially not restricting it to key signatures.
It took me a while to wrap my head around what she was looking for, but I’m glad she was so adamant about this. Because the series of exercises we worked through and I later refined has become a staple for all of my students from and intermediate level and up. It helps with learning and memorizing large volumes of repertoire (in any genre), improvisation, composing, ear training and reading… Just to scratch the surface.
After a lesson with a student who has been working with me for nearly 14 years, I took a moment to assess the state of our room as I walked out, letting him tear down his gear. I was inspired to take a quick picture after realizing that this may not be a typical scene to many folks who teach, practice or took lessons at some point in their lives.
All of us who have played, taught, listened to or experienced music in any way know the power it holds. Many people can trace certain important times of their lives to specific recordings. Several musicians, myself included, can trace the reason we play music back to one or two recordings. Many people who play music have often been pulled out of major ruts in their practice/playing after hearing a recording. There are people who don’t have anything to do with playing music who simply can’t function without it.
Notes:I’ll be speaking at the WSMTA convention. This is for members of the association throughout the state of Washington. If you’re there, stop and say ‘hi’. After my presentation I’ll be in the vendor area answering questions about my books.
Creating a community of musical peers is something that rarely gets emphasized in the music teaching/learning world. There are many studio events, ensembles, recitals, festivals and competitions that have students cross paths with one another. However, the bonds from these events only scratch the surface of what could potentially be formed between students.
An in-depth look at the membership site with a video demo:
I’ve always said that there is no better time than now to be teaching kids to play music. The access that students and teachers have to music from all styles, genres and eras makes it nearly impossible for anyone to lose interest in creating something musical. The result may end up sounding like a concert pianist, or it may end up being a kid learning to produce quality dance music on their laptop and becoming a producer. But to have so much music and music-related content at our disposal is a huge benefit to teaching and learning music today.
One of the main concepts my favorite teachers hammered home when I was a student and hopefully I’ve continued the tradition; is an emphasis on playing in time, developing a strong time feel and learning how to make musical decisions on the fly. Hence the large library of accompaniment tracks with this method.
After years of accepting transfer students who wanted to learn classical, jazz, popular music and composing; I realized that much of the information they wanted to know was in the music they already knew how to play. Somehow the information they had accumulated paralyzed them when it came to “creating” their own sounds – even when playing written music. They were either overwhelmed by all the options or going through their mental checklists of everything they were supposed to do to play “correctly”.
For the last several years I’ve been wrongly thinking that a teaching method I was working on was ready to release. The world certainly didn’t need another collection of music arranged into a method. I have written over 200 pieces for students over the past few years, but I felt that the impact of those on future generations of music makers would be small if I didn’t properly wrap them in the context, methodology, long-term vision and core philosophies that initiated their creation.
Thankfully, current technology has allowed me to build an interactive website for teachers over the past couple of years so that the written music can be part of the bigger whole. Teachers and students will be able to move through their development in a way that is consistent with the intent of the method.
This video covers the background and motivations behind making the method.
I’m really excited about sharing this with everyone. It’s been a lot of blood, sweat and tears but I feel very strongly that this will help a lot of teachers who are frustrated on some level with options available to them as teachers and more importantly – to future generations of music makers.