Teaching Children Who Are Learning an Instrument about What Can Be Played on That Instrument

When I was in elementary band, way back when, I started on the clarinet. I was never truly happy with it and I always wanted to play the saxophone. I did end up switching to the sax within a couple of years of starting an instrument.

Now I’m older, and I’ve heard enough great music to know what the clarinet is capable of. I wish that my band teacher had devoted a lesson to teaching us about our particular instruments. If he had spent time playing Benny Goodman tunes and perhaps Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto, I would have understood right away what beautiful music the clarinet was capable of – in both genres – Jazz and Classical music.

If a student is playing the trumpet, they should be exposed to the music of Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis and perhaps some trumpet concertos early on.

In band we played When the Saints Go Marching In. I found the arrangement to be boring. If someone had played one of Louis Armstrong’s renditions of the same piece, it would have inspired me. I would have seen that the slow version I was playing could lead to something more lively and jazzier as I gained more experience.

I have a feeling that many young children who take band in schools can study an instrument for years without ever really hearing it played by the masters. Of course, kids have to start with the simpler stuff, but they should be exposed to the masterpieces so they know the payoff if they stick with it.

Just some food for thought for band teachers.

I ended up very happy with the saxophone. Now as an adult, I’m considering taking up clarinet lessons when both of my children are in school full time. So I’ll be making a full circle!


This article was posted on Wednesday, June 6th, 2007 at 12:13 pm and is filed under Band, Canada, Classical Music, Countries & Cultures, Instruments, Jazz, Learning, Mama Lisa, Music, Music, Music, Parenting, Teaching, United Kingdom, USA. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

2 Responses to “Teaching Children Who Are Learning an Instrument about What Can Be Played on That Instrument”

  1. Elizabeth Says:

    Why blame the band teacher?

    Why not blame your parents for not exposing you to music of your instrument?

    Parents are the first line of education.

  2. Ed Gawlinski Says:

    The goal of music education is not to produce professional musicians but rather to pass on that part of a society’s culture that is encapsulated in its music tradition. Music is like language, it comes from a psychological impulse to communicate and be connected with other people.

    As Suzuki and many other music educators believe, you need to hear music before you can play music. Children whose parents sing to them when they are infants and sing with them when they are toddlers tend to be better prepared for school in general and music education in particular than those who are not. I’ve seen a statistic that there is a dramatic increase in the number of children who can not sing simple songs, or move in time to music when they start school.

    As Elizabeth pointed out, it is the parents who have primary responsibility for educating their children. I also agree with Lisa that hearing what a master performer can bring out of his/her instrument should be part of the formal education process.

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