Sometimes it’s hard to put your finger on what makes a “successful music lesson”. Is it the teacher, the student, the environment in which the lessons take place, or something else?
As I ponder the question, I’m sure there can be many factors that contribute to a music lesson’s success. But here’s what I know for sure: every successful music lesson has 3 defined areas that are covered.
Technique, Performance, and Music Theory are the 3 pillars of success, and students who progress as musicians have teachers who tie these fundamentals together. When each of these aspects are found in a music lesson on any instrument, its highly rare, if not completely impossible, that the session won’t be fruitful.
Technique – The Great One
Perhaps the most important factor behind a music lesson’s success lies in learning proper Technique on your instrument.
When a music teacher talks about technique, they are referencing how one plays their instrument, how they sit with the instrument, stand with it, play a note with it. What muscles are used to play it? What actions and repetitions does one take to play it best? We think of how to physically play notes and hold the hands.
One of my favorite teachers once said, “If you had to play these two notes for the rest of your life, how would you do it with the least stress to your body and play the notes in a way that’s pleasing and intended by the composer?” That’s technique.
Performance – Wow, That Was A Great Concert!
Attention to music Performance is another reason music lessons succeed. “Performance” is exactly what you are thinking of. It’s when a pianist, guitarist, violinist, etc., plays a song on their instrument for themselves or others. When you ask someone what a musician does, they always give the same answer: they play music. This is performance.
You teach performance in a lesson by playing what you have learned. Your student should play a song or exercise not only to demonstrate that they can, but also play a piece to share it and enjoy it. You need to perform music to fully digest what you have learned. The performance can be a recital, playing for a neighbor or family friend, or even playing for yourself.
One mother of a piano student recently called to say how much her son loves his piano lessons. When I asked her how she could tell her son loved the music lessons, she said, “he just goes the piano and plays all the time”. This is both performing and practicing! Not a bad combination.
Music Theory – Do You Speak Theory
A successful music lesson always contains Music Theory. Music Theory is the language of music. It’s how musicians know what other musicians mean when they “speak” through pitches, rhythms, and phrases. Just like other languages, the conversation is sometimes simple and sometimes more complex.
When you know what the signs, shapes, notes, and musical markings mean when you look at sheet music (i.e. how music looks on paper), you know some music theory. When you understand what makes up a scale, why, how to build a scale, and how to share it with someone else, you also know music theory.
Music theory workbooks are used most often by teachers to cover theory topics in their lessons. These books incorporate exercises, activities, and introduce new concepts on level with what the student is studying in the Performance area. What we find so funny is when our students think they have little or no music theory knowledge, but actually have a lot!
Why These 3 Reasons Equal Success
When your music teacher guides you according to the 3 areas of music lesson success — technique, performance, and theory — each week, you’re playing and learning in a complete way.
All 3 complement one another to build the foundation of what you need to gain momentum, enjoy lessons and your instrument, and progress. There are so many types of musical success in lessons, but a study informed by these principles will take you further on your journey in a well-rounded way. These are the 3 reasons music lessons succeed.
If you’re a musician or take music lessons, which aspect, Technique, Performance, or Music Theory is your favorite?