Friday, October 23, 2009

On Changing it Up

Been teaching my son to hear music.

Confirm: I've been teaching my son to 'hear' music. He's eight years old and has been playing trumpet for two years. Loves jazz and has posters of Miles Davis taped to the wall next to his bed.

But early on it was all drone all the time. Long notes played for as long as possible, generally in the bottom range of the trumpet, and repeated over and over and over.

I wonder why this was. After all, he was taking music class and learning songs. But when we'd play together improvising, he was just droning on.

Now, as a guy with a foot in the world of free improvisational music, I really didn't mind this per se; but I did feel like as an eight-year-old he needed to think about trumpet in a different way and get the experience of changing it up.

So I changed my instrument.

Whereas I had been playing mostly guitar and piano, I switched to double bass.

And suddenly his sound started to expand. And he started to bring snippets of melody into our improvisations. And his trumpet got more talkative. And he seemed to 'get it' more.

We often forget that as teachers, we are the ones who set the tone. And the instruments we choose to play -- sometimes out of habit more than pedagogical conviction -- directly effect the way our students both learn and express themselves.

So be willing to change it up. Don't let a tool become a given.

Keep yourself on your toes and you'll start to hear melodies in your students.


  1. Great parenting, great teaching, great article--and no doubt, sweet, sweet music!

  2. Reminds me of the integration of technology and SM in the classroom...we don't have to settle for chalkboards and outdated textbooks anymore, especially when our students need us to expose them to the latest information resources available on web 2.0, while instructors themselves can use social tech to "change it up" and develop and share these resources as part of the digital network. I know many of my students use social networks more often than even picking up a book of any sort when out of school, so why not use live, up-to-date, appealing tech resources that they are so used to in the classroom as well?!

  3. "Nice touch" as Miles Davis would say.


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