Getting the mix right of practice and theory

This is an issue facing most music teachers – how much do you let students just play away, and when do you introduce the theoretical knowledge?

There has never been a subject in which the practical aspect is more important than in music. Learning music should always be about doing in any school 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 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.Whenever possible a theory lesson should start by looking at the piece of music the students are currently playing.

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) look at written examples of the music Engage in theory activities and exercises based on this music that are suitable to their current 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. Many school use the old approach of choosing a theory book and making the students go through each activity in order. 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.