How to Teach Music: Methods & Tips

Instructor: Matthew Hamel

Matt has degrees in Journalism and Business and has taught a variety of courses at high schools and universities around the world.

Teaching the joys of music can be thrilling, but it also presents significant challenges. In this lesson, teachers will learn methods and tips on how to teach music.

The Art of Teaching Music

Even a basic understanding of music can be hugely beneficial, regardless of the age or level of your students. If music is not the primary focus of your lessons, it can sometimes be difficult to determine which aspects of music to cover and how to introduce and discuss them. The first step is to figure out what you want to teach and how adding elements of music into the learning environment will benefit your learners.

The music tips and methods outlined in this lesson can serve as a starting point for deeper discussion and expression. Even if you're not a music teacher by trade, incorporating at least some exploration of music into your lessons may help students develop a better understanding and appreciation of this timeless and universal art form.

Tips for Teaching

The following tips for teaching music can be used individually or in combination, depending on your needs and resources.

  • Decide on which elements of music you want to teach.
    • Music is a vast subject to tackle, so you'll want to consider which aspects of music will be most beneficial for your learners and in which order. For instance, do you want to begin by teaching them about musical instruments or musical styles? What era or eras of music do you want to focus on? Do you have the resources for students to try out different instruments? As a general rule, try to get students as close as possible to experiencing music firsthand.
  • Take advantage of what your students already know.
    • Consider the prior musical knowledge and abilities your students possess. For instance, a student who has studied classical piano for several years may have some valuable insights on classical composers. Likewise, a vocalist or guitarist may be able to give more details about a specific artists or singer.
  • Try to keep an even playing field.
    • No matter which component of music you are focused on, try to ensure that all students are as equally challenged and engaged by the material as possible.
  • Use cultural diversity to your advantage.
    • Encourage students to share their personal and cultural musical history and experience. Exploring musical traditions and styles beyond those prominent in Western culture can open your students to a variety of new sounds and musical expressions.
  • Try something new.
    • Playing the same music in class that students hear at the shopping mall or in every other movie is unlikely to inspire interest. Instead, make use of lesser-known music artists and styles so that students are absorbing something new rather than just listening to cliched and overused musical pieces.

Music Methods

Once you have an outline of what you'd like to teach, it's time to implement a few music teaching methods for both you and your learners to fully enjoy the experience.

Listen and Discuss

Provide examples of different types of music for students to listen to. If possible, play musical styles or genres that students are unlikely to have heard before. Next, follow each listening session with a class discussion. Use the following questions to get students talking. For each question, be sure to solicit responses from several students.

  • What would you call this style of music?
  • Where is this music from and when was it created?
  • What instruments did you hear?
  • Who performed this music? How many people were playing?
  • What did you think of the music? Give specific reasons why you did or didn't like the music.

You can also encourage students to share and discuss the music that is a part of their daily lives. When students have this kind of personal input in class, they're more likely to be engaged in the learning process.

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