In this day and age, basically everything you can want to learn how to do or study has an online tutorial or a popular book. There are videos to teach you to sing like a diva, videos that will teach you how to blend paint colors, and videos to teach you how to plié. You can watch to learn how to speak conversational Spanish or change a truck tire. We are lucky to living in an age where we have so much knowledge right at our fingertips. It is a great privilege that through videos, blogs, and books that we can locate so much information with relative immediacy. However, there are not and simply cannot be videos, step-by-step blog articles, or books about everything and none of them contains enough detailed information to take you to mastery. (While there are tutorials and teachers that focus on a number of fields, we are focusing on why one-on-one music lessons with an expert teacher are the best investment of your time.)
Today’s tutorials are great when you are just starting out. If something is completely new to you, it is helpful to know what you are getting into. After all, you probably wouldn’t choose to dive headfirst off the cliff, if you didn’t know how deep the water was below. It’s great to know where you want to go and how deep you want to take your study. To succeed as a student, it is important to have goals and expectations in mind before you take begin. For example, singing along with a video lesson is be an appropriate way to see if you even want to study voice further. Once you’re sure you’re ready to begin your musical journey, and really take it down the long road, it’s best you have someone to walk with you, and guide along the way.
The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires. – William Arthur Ward
1. The Value of Learning from a Subject Matter Expert
Some people who put out tutorials are experts, but many others are not. Many do not have to have a certain qualification, a certain number of years of experience, or even more than a very basic knowledge of the subject matter. I have seen videos where well-meaning vloggers demonstrate techniques, which are physically harmful, such as singing with painful strain, or playing piano with rigid hands. When it comes to singing and playing music, there are many different styles and genres, however, anyone can learn to perform in any style that they choose as long as they learn the proper techniques for that style. There may be times when you wish to try singing or playing in a style to which you are not accustomed and a “how-to” video is a great place to start. But, be sure to follow up with someone who can listen to you in real time and give you “outside” ears. Anyone’s well thought-out input can be valuable, but an expert’s ears are the best ears for the job.
As we learn a set of skills and continue to practice them, our
ability to use these skills and evaluate other’s performance of these skills improves. A trained ear can pick up on subtleties that others may not. A rehearsed eye may perceive issues in posture or body tension in a budding student that a person with less experience may not be able to see. Music making involves seeing, hearing, and moving. A small misalignment on the wrists when starting piano, for example, can create carpal tunnel or tendonitis issues further down the road. Or, a singer may not understand the different “voices” that are used for different ranges of notes or different styles of singing and may sing in a way that may sound good to an untrained ear, but may it resulted in vocal cord damage. Once again, an experienced teacher is able to teach their students ways to sing or play in any style they wish without causing physical harm.
2. The value of creating a student-teacher relationship
Historically, we learned from watching our family members, fellow villagers, and through apprenticeships. A young apprentice would learn by working under a “master.” This master was called “master” because he had reached the level of “mastery” in his field. In music, composers studied composition with other composers. For example, Clementi was a student of Beethoven who was a student of Haydn, or Mozart, who along with his sister, studied under their father. Musical apprentices copied scores and wrote out orchestrations to see how the master constructed musical works. The master composers guided the young composers until the students were ready to take their own commissions.
By observing, copying, and doing, the apprentice (or student) gains the necessary skills to become experts in his or her own right. More than that, everyone in the village acted as a teacher in some way, and everyone was a student at some point in his or her life. Experts took an active role showing and nurturing the development of novices. The student wasn’t just watching, they were doing. The elders had a keen interest in the success and learning of the young. The value of learning from an expert is timeless and still relevant today. What makes this type of learning so effective? A valuable student-teacher relationship existed between the apprentice and his master. In the village way of life, the master or elder teacher had a vested interest in the success of the student. If the student learned and performed well, the village did well. The same idea applies to your music teacher; your music teacher is invested in your progress. They want to see you succeed and achieve your goals and find your unique musical self-expression. How does they do this? They do this by building up foundational skills.
3. The Value of Foundation Skills and Advanced Techniques
As we say at Perennial, learning music and the arts is like a marathon. You must train before you can run the long race. Training both your body and mind is needed to succeed. The best way to get yourself in the condition necessary to reach your goals is to start with strong foundation skills. These skills include, but are no means limited to, scales, chords, and postures. These skills must be mastered if you are going to
take your playing, singing, or creating to the next level. While there exists videos that demonstrate these types of skills, and such videos make a great reference, an experienced teacher will guide you and check for any problems early on. In my own case, I developed many poor piano habits that I had to un-learn and re-learn as a college student, and I had a teacher from the age of six. However, my teacher was not highly qualified, and she simply did not know how to teach technique. If a real life teacher may not be able to offer corrections for improper technique, you are getting no feedback from a tutorial. So, when you choose your teachers and learning materials carefully check their qualifications and ask others for suggestions. While studying technique may sound boring, it does not need to be. Technique lessons should be incorporated into real songs and appropriate creative activities for students of all ages and skill levels. To learn advanced skills, you must begin at the ground floor, and a strong basis will take you higher. We will discuss this more in a later post.
As previously mentioned, there are numerous tutorials out there, but none or very few exist which demonstrate advanced skills or concepts. (Read this previous post about how a strong music theory background benefits music creators for some specific examples.) To reach a deeper understanding of music, you need to dive deep into the material. While there are academic books that can offer some guidance, a teacher who has already discovered and studied for decades can offer you advice, tips, hints, and encouragement that a book or video cannot.
Jacqueline and I created Perennial because we believe in the value of hands-on learning under the guidance of a dedicated teacher. We envisioned a music and arts school that had a staff of only highly qualified and caring teachers. Our teachers are subject matter experts in their respective fields, through both education and training as well as real world experience. As we continue to bloom, we look forward to adding more experts to our team. Music and all the arts are crucial parts of human life, and we believe a great coach should be there to encourage you along the way. While a tutorial may be able to tell or explain; it may even be able to demonstrate, but can it inspire? Inspiration comes most clearly to us as students when we know that our teacher cares about our success and wants us to find our expressive style. Let us inspire you. If you are interested in learning more, please fill out the New Student Form.