Thinking Out Loud – When To Abandon A Teacher?

Education is the most powerful tool out there. With it, a person can advance forwards with new skills and creative mindsets to tackle any problem or to create something unimaginable. Without it, the poison of ignorance will set-in and cripple the abilities of mankind.

For musicians, and just about anyone looking to go into the field of music one way or another, a mentor/teacher is desired to get things going. To get those cogs and wheels turning. To help stable your wings as you prepare for flight…

But what do you do when your teacher does not do that? What if, in you deep gut feeling, that you sincerely believe that the time spent “learning” has really been wasted – covering material that has no beneficial impact on you? Can you abandon your teacher?

In most areas, education is not free – and where it is, at say a public library or internet, may not offer the same catered relationship as of a mentor with their student. That being said, good money being put into education should have good teachings coming out. But what does one do when they sincerely know that things can be better?

On one hand, you should be grateful and humble that a person who is supposedly more successful is willing to share their expertise. They are your elder and have more experience than you. However, at the same time, they are probably not a splitting image of your true idol that you wish to follow in the footsteps of – and it you feel as if nothing is being learned, then other opportunities should be pursued.

Of course, some self-reflection must be take into account. Is the reason that noting is being learned the teacher’s fault, or the student? Ultimately, how can one change – and if the teacher is the root of the problem, how can you leave an educational resource?

Just thinking out loud.

Thinking Out Loud – Using Classical Music Theory in other Genres of Music

I have been recently thinking about this argument posed, of which that claims how we cannot approach other forms of music (pop, rock, jazz, Latin, folk, etc.) in theory & analysis the way we approach classical art music. Reasoning behind is that it doesn’t take into account, or it essentially overlooks, what makes that particular genre different from the rest. That by putting the square pegs of other forms of music into the round hole of classical music – we would scrape off the edges and miss the understanding of what that kind of music is.

While I can entertain the idea that using the rules of strict school book-taught classical art theory to compose other genres of music is not a wise decision, I do believe that it is okay to use classical theory to understand – pick apart – and fundamentally analyze other kinds of music.

What needs to be reminded is that music theory & analysis is just like any other form of science; from psychology, to anthropology, to biology, etc., they all do essentially the same thing. They observe, group together, and name special occurring phenomenon to be used later in order to understand other properties of the subject.

Instead of advocating that every form of music needs its own theory, there should be more of an educational push to encourage music theorists to approach with the lenses and vocabulary of their desired theoretical base (whether in classical, jazz, pop, etc.), and make new rules to understand what makes a particular genre sound that way.

This is long-standing problem in the academic field – where colleges neglect, too, that there can be many music theory “lenses” to viewing a piece of music. Too many times has a person with a background of not reading music, but understanding it through their own way, become discouraged of pursuing music because they are branded “stupid” for not adopting the viewpoints of classical art theory. And teachers fear that unless a student knows how to use classical theory – classical music can’t be reproduced.

If you buy a table and you have to assemble it together, but the instructions are in a foreign language – do we say that the table is incomprehensible? No, it is a table for goodness sake. It can still be built despite not knowing how to read the instructions that came with it.

So instead of demanding that a form of theory has to stay with a particular genre, academia and scholars should instead approach all kinds of music with the understanding that they have already, and make new discoveries to the unique acoustic phenomenon of different kinds of music.

Just thinking out loud.

Bryan M Waring
Bryan M Waring