"...dew is her cool way of being satisfied.” Robert Priest

January 24, 2017

I am thinking about the ways we teach music in private studios. Often we quickly learn how to read before proceeding to learn pieces from a graded collection. The thinking is that works of a similar level of difficulty are nice when grouped together. From an early age we study varied repertoire because that makes a more interesting program. We adhere to this notion even though almost none of the students will go on to become concert artists.

For most of western art music history, you learned what your teacher knew and stayed pretty much within the time frame you lived in. This would have simplified learning because the repertoire reflected a narrower syntax. Students learned to play using music from a similar aesthetic, developing skills and dexterity based on those needs.

Knowledge in this sense is additive, we learn a little bit then add to it. An allemande does this and a sarabande does that. A study by Carcassi in A major employs certain chords while the same composer’s study in A minor does a few different things.
It is much more challenging to learn music from different periods and styles; an allemande from the 17 century, will be very different from one composed in the early 20th. Each of those requires a radically different skill set.

If one teaches a set of works by a given composer, the student learns how that creator explores the keyboard or fret board. Knowledge comes by seeing similarities. One of the main reasons so many teachers [and learners] use graded repertoire is because of an exam system and it is so much simpler to teach to the exam – four pieces and two studies. Work and refine. The graded repertoire books are marvelous collections of music sold at a very accommodating price. They are not
a method.

This is the problem with standardized testing it creates standardized teaching. and then there are the profits from the exams…

One fine spring day a neighbour noticed Nasrudin digging a hole, and asked what he was looking for.
Nasrudin said, "I buried something in this field last month, and I've been trying to find it all morning."
"Well," said the neighbour, "did you mark the place where you buried it in some way?"
To which Nasrudin replied, "Of course I marked it, there was a cloud directly over my head as I was burying it. It cast a long narrow shadow as I was digging. Now, I can't find the shadow or the cloud!"