Music Education is traditionally thought of in terms of General Music, Band and Chorus. But, except in a few schools, the vast majority of students are not enrolled in Band and Chorus.

So, how should we teach music to everyone else? Should reading music be a priority? Notating music? Are these, perhaps, roadblocks to music creation, involvement and enjoyment?

The REALITY is that, even among people who earn a living as musicians, only a full 10% can actually read music. A popular example is Paul McCartney. Would anyone call Sir Paul musically illiterate? Hardly. He’s made quite a few dollars in his day as a performing musician.

The shift now needs to be towards experiencing, analyzing and constructing music. We have the tools, thanks to technology, to “compose” music without having to write music notation. Loop-based music software allows us to achieve this (ie…Sony Acid, Pro Tools, etc..). We music educators can and should provide access to these tools for all students in the future. When we do, we may proudly proclaim that EVERY student is a music student.

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Tags: music education

Comment by Teach_J on March 29, 2009 at 7:53am
It may be true that only 10 percent of people can read music, but a great number of guitarists can read guitar tabs. That is also a form of reading music too. Not everyone can play music by ear. I still think that reading music is important. You would teach someone to read or write without first learning the alphabet.

Reading music also has a lot of side benefits. Students who can read music are also better at math (all those 1/8th notes and 1/4 notes).

I would agree that elementary music and general music appreciation classes can be taught without music reading, but teaching someone to play an instrument should include reading music.
Comment by Andrew on March 29, 2009 at 9:09am
I'm playing devil's advocate here since what I do and have done for the past 19 years is teach students to read music (as a band director). I'm also thinking more about the secondary level (ie..middle school general music) where there are many students who could create music (non-band and choral students).

After attending this week's All State Music Ed. conference, I'm not so convinced we should teach the reading of music right away because in doing so we're using a linguistic and logical-mathematical approach instead of a musical approach). I am beginning to believe all students should experience music (listening, moving, singing etc..) before reading, performing and creating music.

The significant point I was trying (badly) to make is that we can't (in music education) continue to trumpet ONLY the band and chorus paradigm and call it a music program..it's not enough. How do we effectively harness the intelligence and creativity of all the other student's in the school?

Thanks for your feedback!
Comment by Cameron Scheibe on April 4, 2009 at 3:10pm
I agree that music should be experienced first before you learn the technical side of it, especially with younger children. I also think that it is a sad reality that only 10% of musicians can read sheet music. Being able hear music be ear is important, as a lot of these musicians can do, but being able to read music and understand some of theory behind is very important and could open up a lot of opportunities to for them to expand their musical experiences.

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