Music Education Method – How You Can Jump Start Your Music Theory Education

How would you like to jump start your music theory education with an approach that acknowledges a students ability to learn more quickly than we give them credit? Sounds good, but can it be accomplished?

My answer is not only yes, but unequivocally yes.

The Steps
Using a four step process as an outline for your lessons can speed up the process. This method is used for developing learning materials that both help get past roadblocks in learning and is used as a system for explaining and teaching others. Here are the steps:

Step 1 — The Big Picture sets up the boundaries and provides definitions.

Step 2 — Learning the concept and approaching it from several directions.

Step 3 — Working with the concept to internalize the knowledge.

Step 4 — Own it. This is taking the internalized effort and working with the knowledge until it becomes a natural part of your skill.

Step one is where more focus is required. It is far to easy to jump in with out giving adequate context to your lesson. So let’s focus on step one.

The Process
Step 1 is about setting the stage for the big picture that I have adopted in creating teaching materials and applying to learning experiences. It is the one thing that is sometimes overlooked or not well thought out as a way to ensure a successful start

Get to know the basic structure, although simple, it is a key component in your success. It doesn’t take any more applied effort to complete, but the rewards are far greater.

Step 1 — Start with the big picture
In approaching any new subject there are definitions of terms, symbols, and notations that are key to understanding. Clearly pointing out them out and giving them meaning is necessary to building a common foundation or context in which you will be working.

Take the example of music’s master staff. Instead of jumping into the middle of the lines and spaces and trying to define note names it would be better to define the symbols associated with the staff.

Wouldn’t it make sense that we define what a treble stave and bass stave are and how they are identified with clefs? Why there is a bar line that connects them. What the numbers like 4/4 mean even if we don’t get into the detail of exactly how they work. Talk about ledger lines above and below the staves.

Step 1 is all about painting a big picture to put things in context. Overall descriptions allow us to frame a reference for applying more details to a larger concept. This can usually be done fairly quickly and will provide boundaries for the rest of your lesson.

Following this with the additional three steps not only provides a great foundational frame work, but will allow for better retention and application to related topics.

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