An integrated approach for music theory in schools

Challenges facing music teachers – getting the mix right of music theory and practical.

This is a question that every music teacher faces – how much do you load students up with theoretical knowledge and how much do you just let them play?

Music is a practical subject. In any school learning music should be about doing. Singing, Movement, Playing and listening all play an important part.

I’ve never met anyone who would say that music in schools should not have a practical component. The issue with music teachers is always how much music theory the lessons should include.

Music Theory can be a very dry and boring subject – if you let it! In a high school or junior high or setting studying keys, scales, transposition and modes can quickly seem irrelevant to the students.

What is important is to link the practical and the theory lessons as much as possible.If you can take a piece the students are currently playing, and start the theory lesson by looking at that you’ll have much more success.

Schools with a Rock based curriculum will find this very easy: plan for a theory lesson as soon as possible after the practical lesson. In this lesson the students will a)find and listen to a recording of the song they are playing b) study the manuscript of the song they are learning c) write down notes and chords, copying out or doing other activities that are appropriate to their level. d) think about suitable arrangements for instruments that would suit the music.

The theory lesson could be similar if your school has a more traditional band or classical program. The traditional approach is to choose a theory book and make them go through each activity in order, despite the order that they should do things. Instead you could choose music theory worksheets based on the challenges or problems they are currently facing in their band or orchestra.

Music Theory lessons can be much more fun and rewarding for children learning music in schools if teachers can take more of this integrated approach.