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What do you need to know in order to learn something else?

Music learning theory is simply this: what do you need to know in order to learn something else?-Edwin Gordon
This quote has been on my mind lately as it relates to what we’re doing.

Over the course of my 17 years of teaching (plus many more years of experiencing and observing), with dozens and dozens (hundreds?) of students passing through, I’ve become aware that very often modern music lessons do an inadequate job of integrating music into students’ lives in a meaningful way.

It’s difficult for a parent with 1 or 2 or 3 or 4 children to see this, because that’s not enough data points. It’s not like you get to pass a hundred kids through the system to see what works best. But I can, and I have.

It’s not unusual at all for a student to go through Prep, Level 1, Level 2, Level 3, etc., maybe make great grades on music exams, and eventually quit and never touch an instrument again. Or maybe be asked to play in a school ensemble and not have a clue how to approach learning that music. I follow many piano teacher forums and I see this kind of thing frequently.

At issue is that students are often not taught how to move from discrimination learning, learning skills and patterns through imitation, to inference learning, learning skills and patterns by being guided to teach themselves. Instead they’re taught obedience–play what the teacher says, how the teacher says to play it. And let me tell you, it might take a year, it might take twenty, but students get tired of that.

If music is to survive and if students are to thrive, music teachers have to ensure that students make an effective transition to inference learning. This is a core concern of MLT and it’s accomplished by various methods including a carefully sequenced curriculum and utilization of the special ways students learn in groups. Believe me; I did not introduce group lessons into my studio on a whim. If so I would’ve done it years ago. I’ve been waiting to learn how to do it in a way that creates net benefits for students, and I’m so glad I found one!

Music Learning Theory is not a quick and easy approach to music, but it is a path that opens up over time to endless possibilities. MLT rightly values each student not just as a practitioner of an ancient art, but as keeper of a living flame.

We are what they grow beyond.-Yoda

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