Getting the mix right of practical music and music theory in schools

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?

There has never been a subject in which the practical aspect is more important than in music. In any school learning music should be about doing. Singing, Movement, Playing and listening all play an important part. music theory worksheets are very important, but the practical component cannot be underestimated.

No-one would disagree that music lessons in schools should have a lot of practical components. The only thing that I have found music teachers to disagree on is how much music theory the school 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.

A good solution to this is to link the theory with the practical lessons as often as you can.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 program will find this very easy: plan for a theory lesson as soon as possible after the practical lesson. In this lesson plan the students can a) listen to recordings of the work they are trying to play b) study the manuscript of the song they are learning Engage in theory activities and exercises based on this music that are suitable to their current level d) create an arrangement of the music for instruments in their band or ensemble.

The theory lesson could be similar if your school has a more traditional band or classical program. Many school use the old approach of choosing a theory book and making the students go through each activity in order. Instead you could pick an activity based on the problems or challenges they are currently facing in band or orchestra, and choose a worksheet based on that.

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.