Learn to play the guitar – It’s one of those instruments that is incredibly versatile and can be carried around the room, unlike the piano which creates an actual physical barrier between you and learners. It is used in many different genres, too.
Learn how to play by ear and jam – Let’s face it, a lot of modern music is not written down or uses a notational system that is designed to be used with a recording (Tablature for example). This means that learning by ear is incredibly important for learning and teaching modern music. Jamming is how a musician communicates and has a conversation with another musician, if you can’t do this, it might be time to get at it.
Learn how to write music – I don’t mean physically write, I mean formulate your own musical ideas. I know that your theory class in your conservatory training likely emphasized the harmonic style of 18th and 19th century European court musicians and that there were certain rules to follow. But, in the end, if you write something and it sounds good, and feels right, it probably is good and is right.
9 pieces of advice for pre-service, new, and early-career music educators
Learn how to run a sound board – Every single one of your colleagues will already assume you know how to do this, so you should probably learn. Use this blog post to help.
Learn to play multiple instruments and styles – You have learned how to be really good at performing classical music on your primary instrument, which is fantastic. Kids, however, not only don’t care about this, but are also likely really into modern music that you’ve likely never played or have very little experience with. Pick up another instrument you are unfamiliar with and learn it without staff notation. Try a new type of notation and just play around and see what you find.
Learn how to fundraise – This will likely be one of the only ways you get to get new instruments and maintain your current arsenal.
Learn a DAW – A what? A Digital Audio Workstation. A popular open-source one is Audacity and if you have a Mac, GarageBand, but there are some great cloud-based DAWs that can do a lot more with relative ease like BandLab and Soundtrap. Both BandLab and Soundtrap have a COPPA-compliant Education section for schools too. Using Loops, and other ways of composing music outside of a notation software is useful for helping to understand how modern music that kids are listening to is made. Some of the industry standards are: Ableton Live, ProTools, FL Studio, Cubase, and Logic Pro.
Learn to “let go” of European Staff Notation – I know, it’s pretty great, and it is certainly useful in many teaching situations, but most music made outside of European classical music and Jazz either uses a completely different form of standardized notation or does not use any at all. I’m not saying don’t teach it, just don’t rely on it solely because there are many more ways of musicking that do not involve the use of European staff notation.
Your first year or two will be tough – you might even want to quit. It does get easier, just hang in there.
Until next time, Happy Musicking.