The Summerglen Files

Music, Creativity, and Everyday Life at Summerglen Music in Raleigh, NC

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The Importance of Having a Good Teacher

August 6th, 2008 · 1 Comment

As I’ve worked through my new technical routine, I’ve done a lot of tailoring to make each exercise fit where I am and where I’m going as a trombonist. It feels like I was given a pair of pants that was far too long, so I hemmed up the legs so they wouldn’t drag the ground. Later, when I grow, I know that I can rip the hems back out, and adjust them again.

But what about less experienced trombonists? When a piece of music is difficult, do they intuitively know how to slow it down, break it down, and fix the problems? Or, when something is too easy, can they modify it to make it more interesting? For many student trombonists, the answer is a resounding “no”. Their metaphorical pants don’t fit, and not knowing how to fix the problem, they walk around uncomfortable.

Many studies have suggested that there’s one major ability that professional musicians have that students of all ages lack–metacognition, the ability to monitor, evaluate, and modify your thought processes to enhance your learning. When a student is engaged in metacognition, she is able to attack a trouble spot on a variety of fronts, and work out problems easily. On the other hand, when a student just blindly “practices”, trouble spots stubbornly stay put, and he grows frustrated.

As I was modifying my exercises the other day, I wondered how I learned to do what I was doing. My thoughts led me back to my favorite trombone teacher, George Broussard. The most valuable lesson he taught me was that music isn’t set in stone, and that to be a great musician, you have to approach the music from a variety of creative angles. He showed me how to eek out every possibility from a piece of music by reading it in different clefs, transposing it at sight, or changing the articulations or tempo. Most importantly, he gave me ideas that would have taken me DECADES to figure out on my own.

Getting a teacher was an investment of money and time, but in the end, I was the one who made a profit. I gained challenges to overcome, experience to draw from, and a new way of thinking. A musician’s way of thinking.

Tags: music education · Practice Tips

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Brenda // Aug 14, 2008 at 3:17 pm

    I’m glad you touched on the phenom of metacognition, but it’s not just professional musicians; others can learn this skill as well. (I’m working on this in my own learning and believe it should be taught as a fundamental learning skill!) Did you also know that different types of music can affect cognition? I’m guessing so since your in the business! But thank goodness for music teachers! Music intermingles with so many other aspects of life and learning; it even helps my financial planner (who sidelines as a musician) function in the mathematical world! Bottom line: you’re right … a musician has an enhanced way of thinking!

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