Music In School Lessons?

What kinda stuff are school teaching in their compulsory lessons? Or more importantly, what should they be doing?

Ultimate Guitar

Music lessons in school are often compulsory up until a certain year, or grade (if your in the USA). I remember my music lessons - I had a rather old fashioned teacher who literally spat at the sight of a guitar, bass or drum kit. He was one of these people who is into all classical music. Don't get me wrong; classical music is good (in a technical way), but is that really what pupils should have the music curriculum based around?

I did compulsory music lessons up until 3rd year in senior school (aged 14) and I must say that these lessons were, to be polite, a complete waste of time. The teacher would only teach you to write classical music for piano. The books we read blabbered on about Bach and Mozart. Is this really what we wanted? Is it heck. We wanted modern music, even if it was to be pop music it was better than being forced to listen to Beethoven's XVII symphony or something like that. This, I feel, is one area where schools have failed to modernise and adapt, at least my old school did.

Its not just a matter of whether you prefer to learn about a certain type of music, it is about how beneficial learning about a certain type of music will be. Learning about how modern music has been made and processed is much more beneficial than learning how Mozart tuned his orchestra, for example, isn't it? By modernising music lessons at school I think that more children would become interested in music at a younger age, thus keeping the spirit of modern music alive. My school did have an orchestra and choir, but these had about 5 people from my whole year group in. These people clearly had a liking for classical music, and I respect that, but the fact is that looking at the ratio, learning about modern music in class would be beneficial.

Orcontradicting myself, maybe learning a mix of both would be a good idea? This way lessons would swing both ways into modern and classical, comparing and contrasting styles and technological developments. In my music classes some of the kids had never seen a set f turntables until I showed them mine. This is what schools need to get into their heads - learning about modern music is not only more interesting, but, in my opinion, almost vital. By crossing old and new music in lessons new opportunities can be opened for pupils - orchestras and jazz bands, maybe even rock bands.

Okay, wow this is fun : my opinions changing (yes, its meant to be like this to make it more interesting, really =P ). It is important for children to learn to appreciate all types of music. I learnt to appreciate jazz music by seeing Jules Holland live. I was into all rap and rock music, but this opened a new gateway for me. The jazz music was so different, almost idyllic to me. If children can be taught to appreciate all types of music in the music lessons (although less classical in my opinion, but that's just me being biased) then it will, conclusively, make their lives better. They will be more sociable, happier, and with a bit of luck, learn some useful skills.

Okay, so enough of the ranting from me now. Now comes the part where I tell you what the lessons should be like. Depending on how advanced the lessons are and in what year, expect a different view, but this is what I would expect in a typical 14 year olds lesson: Start off the first week playing some of the more common songs that the kids would have heard of, lets take Blink 182 for example. From Blink 182 kids can relate to them because the kids are the target audience after all. The kids like this music too, so they will be more likely to listen to what the tutor has to say about the song. After this first week or so of popular music to get the kids interested, I would go back to the beginning of the Centaury (or whenever it was!) and teach about Bach, Mozart and Beethoven. I would teach, here, about time signatures and the types orchestral instruments. This giving the kids a firm understanding of the basics of musical notation. Then, I would progress from the Classical music age to the 50's-60's which is where the roots of pop music come from: Blues and Jazz. Jazz was the first major genre of music to use a beat and rhythm. Clearly this is important in the development of modern music. For this, I would relate to a real performer such as John Coltrane. This giving the kids a base to compare classical and modern music, but at the same time swiftly progressing onto the more modern music, as they are 14 after all!

After the Jazz music era, lets call it, came old pop-music. One of the major people here would have to be the Beatles. How they revolutionised music is of such significance it would take a whole article to write about one year of their career, so I won't rant on here! After that came the Hippie culture, bringing a new wave of emotional Ballard type songs, but also lively pop songs. The importance here would be to show how the state of the world affects the whole music industry. Jumping ahead here, look at Michael Jacksons Earth Song written about destroying the earth at a time where environmentalists are worrying about the world. The great Jimmi Hendrix is in amongst this time period, although I wouldn't have him on the syllabus. To get the kids guitar music knowledge increased I would teach, say, Sweet Home Alabamba and Apache (The Shadows). Sweet Home Alabamba shows how technological advances have altered the sound of music.

Coming up to the modern era now, I would concentrate on artists such as Nickleback, some dance music artist I don't know the name of, and Destiny's Child. These would be suitable as the kids would have heard most of their music. They would also help show the advances since Bach. but also show how modern music is shaping up.

Your opinions will be different, I am sure, as you did not go to my school, but I expect that many of you have had a similar experience. Thanks for your time, hope you enjoyed the article.

36 comments sorted by best / new / date

    OpeN WidE
    1st, pretty good. i also find that people who take lessons like that through school, often get concieted because they think they know it all
    man, music in american school's sounds like shit. it ***in rocks over here in australia...we're taught to solo and taught all the theory for guitar, bass, drums or whatever...then we jam. We learn from experience. What better teacher is there than experience?
    My school supposedly has the best music department in Scotland, and I can see why. We have a huge range of instruments and staff at our disposal and in our listening period we do everything from Baroque to post-60s music. It's a shame if you are really into music to be let down by poor teaching. I've been taught classical guitar from age 8 in school and I would agree with Singing Sabre, it's the best way to learn.
    IF schools required kids to play guitar, more people would be playing now, making more bands, and making an excess of the same sound and nobody will really stand out. There would be too many bands to succeed ahead of. I think classical music is alright to learn, because it is based on melody and rhythms, which should be the basics of songwriting.
    Classical music is really important to learn just because it teaches the basis of musical notation and theory in the most basic forms. Most Bach music is so straightforward that it is simple to show a student his chord and melody scheme.
    alright article but i totally agree with spoonman and most of the best guitarists i know have taught themselves
    I only read a little bit, but... learn modern music?! listen to the radio. (stereotypical) modern music consists of three note chords and a whiney wanna-be singin about how he's a loser and rejected because he chose to be that way for some shallow reason. (music before they year 2000 is a different story (most the time)) I agree classical music can be boring, but you gotta learn the basics before you can go into to improvising, jazz etc.
    u lost me at the part where u started talking about ur turntables. theyre not instruments.... but i think learning about classical music has helped me alot, especially all the music theory i learned.
    My freaking teacher is old 1820 old school. i cant play my bass..for some reason he alows a drum kit. ive been stuck playing the baratone for 6 years now(im in grade 8) and guess what..I'VE GOT % MORE YEARS LEFT..URG!
    nice article. i remember asking my music teacher if there were any music groups that focused on the guitar. I think he is still laughing right now.
    i took comlusory music lessons in school for 3 years and learnt nothing at all as we had the poorest teachers and a class full of students who were not willing to take part in music of any form. when i had the oppurtunity to take music for GCSEs i was put off after playing the piano in year 6 i knew i had to get some sort of music back into my life and took up playing guitar last July. looking back i wish i had the music lessons to help me get out of this dumbass I.T. course im stuck in
    We have the greatest music-teacher ever. He thinks that it's better that we play "Real" songs like "Ziggy Stardust" and "Paranoid" that all that pop-s**t on the radio or MTV.
    classical music will teach you far more theory and basics than learning about modern rock will. i'm in a music appreciation class right now, studying bach and beethoven, even though i dont learn any theory in this class its enlightening and making me even more interested in music.
    I disagree. Learning opera and classical techniques (at least vocally) has really helped me out musically. I also sing jazz, rock, anything really. As to guitar. I know quite a few people who learned classical guitar in school, are really quite strong in theory, and amazing guitar players. They pick up songs better than anyone else I know, and also write intricate, beautiful songs. In the end, I feel there needs to be more funding, more options for music programs, so a student can pursue what they're interested in. I also feel there needs to be a basis...such as each music class teaching basic theory pertinent to that music/instrument/style.
    OpeN WidE
    that "1st" is first post. i see you guys doin that quite often. "2nd too"
    9th yipee. the article i find is pretty out of date. my school is excellent we have guitar, vocals and a regular music course, the only not being taught is strings. we also have 3 different courses for guitar including a university preparation one, how rad is that. vocals are aweosme, and music is awesome too where u can pick any instrument except the piano and the strings. and we play some pretty modern songs (john williams stuff, harry potter, starwars), and lord of the rings and some pop songs for the choir.
    Didn't read all of it... but in my school we learn alot of Jazz and Blues and Rock... Just wrote a report about Black Sabbath So I'm happy
    Geldof the Grey
    3rd. Great column. My current school sucks for music but when I leave to do my A-levels I'll be moving school and their department kicks ass.
    in my elementary school we flipp-flopped from classical to 60's from mounth to mounth. we would be bauch, then the beatles, beatoven, then the doors.
    Yeah, it is quite dependant on your school, but i got really pissed off with it so i wrote about my experiences =D
    i agree with a lot of your points; my school wants nothing to do with rock it totally totally sucks. well, we have band(brass woodwinds and percussion) orchestra (strings and some percussion) and a jazz band(hard as hell to get into and doesnt even play any recognizable songs) but nothing to do with guitar or bass or the kit
    Skugg, like i say, it depeds on your school. I know that 7 schools around me are like i described in the article. I cant go researching every school...
    Towlie's right, there are many, many schools lacking a desirable music program. Mine would be one of them.
    in ontario, where i live, canada, all the schools i know of have pretty good music program(except the ones in scarborough, the ghetto). of course ontario is the richest province so that might be why.
    joyful womble
    16th! im keeping on music at school. you do group compositions and performances, but you also have to do stuuf like listening test. better than physics...
    nice not in USA, but ive been studying musical theory since grade 1...hey,do ne of u guys kno AMEB?
    yeah, aussie music classes are great! america sounds like it sucks AND blows. primary school doesnt normally have proper music classes but theres plenty of bands and choirs around. in high school in yr 7 (12-13 yrs) you do percussion and keyboards, mostly to introduce those people who dont know much about music. you pretty much ignore the old stuff (old as in before 1950s)and just play popular music, just teaching the skills. yr 8 u do jazz for a while, and then the rock n roll period, and for a bit at the end of the yr opera and musicals. thats when compulsory music stops and electives begin. in yr 9 first term we did jazz and went thru all the different styles and subgenres. we didnt soley concentrate on jazz, we played rock n pop and we still did aurals and musicology. 2nd term we did baroque, so that we cud understand terrace dynamics and to provide a foundation for our later studies in wacky 20th century music. 3rd term we did classical (mozart, haydn, beethoven) and saw how it changed so much in 50 odd years. then 4th term we did rock and we cud see how it all fit together. 1st term yr 10, african/caribbean music, looking at syncopation and polyryhtyms, 2nd term i dont know becos its not 2nd term yet, but i heard it would be classic rock or romantic, 3rd term 20th century wacko jacko stuff, which is really why we needed to kno classic/baroque so we cud understand how they changed form and structure and pre-concieved ideas (postmodernism in music - YEAH) and then 4th we're just gonna jam cos the school certificate is over. but in every topic we always play stuff that us and the teachers wanna listen to, none of us want to do the old stuff but every1 knows we need to in order to fully understand the new and wacky stuff, and to create our own fully sick shit. i love australia