My Thoughts On Learning
Late last century I got asked to write my teaching philosophy for a job application at a music school (which I didn't end up taking 'cos the owner was a twat, but that's another story!) and I thought it might be useful for some of you to understand where I'm coming from.
My teaching philosophy is to teach a student how to learn forever. To guide and show them the available paths toward expression of emotion through music. It is easily possible to teach a student to teach themselves as long as some basic skills are taught. Understanding why and how music "works", learning to transcribe music and self awareness of technique are for me the basic threads that are needed the weave a musicians expression.
A desire for knowledge should also be sown in the students mind for without it the enthusiasm to learn and improve rarely sprouts.
It is important to introduce students to creativity through practising the most useful and enjoyable techniques. I believe that people learn and want very different things from a guitar teacher. But I also believe that there are many common needs and the solutions are in the explanations, making the same information clear to a beginner and showing the path for exploration to those who wish to follow it.
Why and How?
Every student should get an understanding of WHY things work and HOW the information can be applied to "real" playing. This enables their own creativity to explore the relationships between scales, arpeggios and chords for themselves and develop their own harmonic knowledge and unique voice. These connections need to be taught at a basic level because some people have trouble making the connections themselves. Luckily the depths that these relationships can be taken is endless so those that connect things quicker can explore deeper on their own, while the less serious musician can put the information to immediate practical use. A serious music scholar who wants to make music at a professional level has very different needs to someone happy to be a bedroom strummer and they need a different education. For the bedroom strummer the how and why needs only to practical and useful examples, but hopefully they can be inspired to continue their education and knowledge for their own enjoyment.
I believe that the "lost art" of transcribing is sadly lacking in music education. In my experience it seems to go like this. When a student transcribes music regularly a relationship between sound and hand position (or harmonic knowledge) develop faster and more musically than when only shown these relationships between sounds as scales and arpeggios. The understanding of these harmonic ideas as practical examples can really help understanding how to use them.
The "object" of learning becomes the ability to perform any harmonic idea that can be imagined or "heard" in the head. This is a skill that can take many years of study to develop but even when only studying this method for a short period the benefits can be huge. Consistently studying this technique a few hours a week makes a huge impact on a students understanding of the scales and arpeggios used in different styles and techniques. Even at the most basic level this requires a deeper level of listening than they might have encountered before, such as dynamics, relationships with other instruments and melodic development.
Writing down the music also has major advantages that cannot be found elsewhere. Learning to write down a rhythm is a skill sadly lacking in many young guitarists and having a strong understanding of rhythms helps the student in many ways. It develops the rhythm guitar skills, helps with sight reading, and develops into a complete understanding of rhythmic development and poly rhythms.
The analysis of the transcribed work also enables the student to get even deeper into the music they have chosen to transcribe. This can give a better understanding of music, theory put into practice. The skills that are required to analyse music need to be taught independently, with clear examples until the student can make these type of connections on their own.
Technique develops through careful self-awareness and repetitious practice. I believe this can be achieved by looking for faults, aiming to develop a smooth and comfortable technique that allows the player to express the sounds and feelings in the head and heart. The use of a metronome is mandatory for any student wishing to develop their speed as is regular practise time. A diary or notebook should be kept and notes taken on speeds achieved and developments made.
Technique does not exist only for itself but is a means to facilitate the expression of ideas.
I hope this might provoke you to think about the way that you learn. I certainly don't have all the answers, just more questions!