In yesterday’s post (Part 1) I looked at the trend in modern music covered by this article. Today I want to talk about the last couple paragraphs of said piece, which really deserve their own discussion. Why? First, the text:
“Music is at its core a social activity. People get inspired to play because they listen to their favorite artists or see them at a live venue. But that experience isn’t translated when you take music lessons. It’s usually a very solitary, one-on-one experience with one teacher and the students aren’t necessarily learning to play the songs they want to learn.”
“We teach students of all ages the same music theory they’d learn anywhere else, but you learn to use that theory with a band [emphasis added]. Students have group rehearsals where they can practice with a band every week. And we also have our version of a recital, which is really a rock show at a live venue. We put on more than 3,000 shows a year across the world.”
I cannot stress how good an idea this is, and here’s why.
It is a truism of education that unless there is relevance, fear or self-interest (or all three) involved, education or training will be a waste of time, i.e. no learning will be retained. (“Retained learning” being defined as being taught something, and being able to repeat the input a year later with more or less 90% facility.) This learning will be doubly successful if it is practical, meaningful and requires frequent repetition.
So here’s why the above approach is so successful.
1.) Pupils are not just learning musical theory (which I can attest is deadly boring), but are immediately required to put it into practice by playing with a group — i.e. it has relevance because the band’s performance will suffer if the pupil under-performs, and thus the band will rehearse over and over until they get it right (which provides the discipline to practice, as opposed to leaving practice to self-discipline — not an easy thing to maintain for months or years). Thus: application and repetition.
2.) Pupils get to play either exactly what they want or a close facsimile thereof by making a group compromise. Thus: relevance for the skills they’re acquiring.
3.) Finally, the audience’s applause provides the reward (i.e. self-interest) for the pupil.
I can tell you from my own experience that when our band really enjoyed a song — both the learning and the playing — we would play it for months or even years until we either forgot about it or got sick of playing it. On one occasion, after an absence of five years from the playlist, we got a request for Radar Love. As it happened, one of us had it on tape, so we listened to it during a break, then went back onstage and played it as though we’d done it the night before. Retained learning.
So I am totally unsurprised at the success of the School Of Rock, if this is how they’re teaching music. If I were a great deal younger, I’d enroll in a heartbeat.
As for the main thrust of the article — that Guitar Center is in financial kaka — I’m not worried, certainly not as far as guitars are concerned. It’s one of the few items remaining where a buyer absolutely has to touch the thing and test it before buying it, so GC should be able to weather the storm, even if in truncated fashion… I hope.