[Last article] [BTGMT Index] [Next article]
a guitar tutor you will have applied many aspects of guitar
music theory over and over again. You will have used your knowledge
of theory to answer your students' questions, to assist you
in transcribing songs your students have asked to learn, to
transpose songs into easier keys and to arrange difficult songs
so that they can be played by less experienced students. You
will have used it, almost without thinking about it, in all
these sorts of situations.
Because of this, your knowledge will be solid.
It will contain a high level of certainty. You know stuff
- but, more importantly - you know that you know it - because
you have put it into daily use and found out what it's good
Your student lives in a different world from
you however. Chances are that they have relatively few opportunities
to test the knowledge that you have helped them gain. Unless
your student is a professional musician, songwriter, arranger,
record producer or whatever they will not have the same demand
to consolidate their knowledge.
So My Golden Rule Number 10 says:
Periodically examine, revise and consolidate
your students music theory knowledge
The word 'revision' has a bit of a poor reputation
in mainstream education. It usually means 'going back over
what you have been studying so as to prepare for a written
examination'. Now, in my view, the examination-based culture
in mainstream education is an evil necessity created mostly
by the economics and politics that surround the subject.
From a purist's point of view, to revise in
preparation for an exam is all wrong! It's wrong because it
has the examination as an end result. Better to work the other
way round: Study, Examine (to discover what needs revising)
then Revise (in order to consolidate knowledge).
When you are teaching people on a one to one
basis, or in very small groups, then you can afford the luxury
of working this way round. You could put your students through
a massive annual examination that causes all kinds of stress
and can only lead to either a sense of failure (if the exam
goes poorly) or falsely-grounded success (passing an exam
proves that you have the ability to pass exams - it does not
necessarily make you a musician).
Alternatively you put your students through
many small examinations as you go along. Each exam has, as
its sole purpose, the goal of revealing which bits of knowledge
the student has confidence in and can use to good effect and
which bits of knowledge need further work.
So having got as far as explaining the circles
of fifths and fourths as a means of establishing key signatures.
You check your student out by asking them to transpose a chord
sequence or two. Or you get them to write out all the notes
in the key of E major. Or simply ask a question or two along
the lines of:
"How many flats in the key of Ab and what are
You do this repeatedly until either: It becomes
apparent that they have not grasped the theory well enough
yet to put it into use. or They show signs of confidence,
certainty and fluidity in applying what you have helped them
In the first case, you would then help them
revise the subject (always from the bottom up) until you found
the level at which they got stuck and help them get unstuck.
In the second case you make a note that they
are ready to proceed to the next level of theory.
However these mini-exams go, they should result
in the students' confidence being increased. Either because
you immediately pick up and sort out any confusions with the
subject, or because you confirm their competence with the
subject. Frequent short examinations (10 minutes maximum)
followed either by instant revision or by confirmation of
competence, will build your clients' confidence and help them
consolidate their knowledge. Far better than one massive exam
at the end of the year, by which time it is generally too
late to undo the damage done by continuing to teach later
levels over poorly consolidated basics.
So don't wait until the end of the year to discover
that the student you are now struggling to teach arpeggio-based
jazz improvisation actually fell asleep right after the first
lesson when you failed to check his understanding of the word
'note'. (All this time he's been working on the basis that
a 'note' is something you leave out for the milkman!).
[Last article] [BTGMT Index] [Next article]