Monday Mailbag – Questions from Students

I wasn’t prepared for all the questions from my student as she sought to understand the “why” behind things, and I think I’ve overwhelmed her at times with my in-depth answers. I’m learning to sometimes say, “The reason ‘why’ is pretty complicated, but as you progress it will make more sense.” Is that OK? Do you always answer their questions?
Finally, do you use a theory book with your adult students? I want them to practice drawing all the musical elements and such, but most theory books (even Faber’s) can be beneath the adult at times.

It’s actually been a little while now since I’ve taught an adult student, so I’ll just answer these questions a little more generically. Whether a student is a young beginner or an older adult, I think it’s always important to assess what they can handle in terms of theory concepts and terminology. There are definitely times when I only give partial answers so that I don’t drown them in a sea of information beyond their comprehension. But if a student is especially inquisitive, I’ll keep explaining away as long as they keep asking questions. Also, often times I tell them that I will explain the answer to them the best that I can, but that I don’t necessarily expect them to understand everything I’m saying. There’s some truth to the statement that you have to hear something seven times before it really sinks in!

As far as theory books…I rarely use theory books with any of my students, including adult students. I prefer to use the repertoire they are working on for discussing and analyzing theory concepts and/or use a manuscript book so that I can customize the assignments to the areas they are interested in or with which they are struggling. Another excellent way to incorporate written theory work is by having students compose original pieces or arrangements of other songs and then learn how to notate it. Most of the time, these approaches seem to work better for actually understanding and integrated theory concepts into the study of music.

Do any of you work with adult students regularly? Do you have any thoughts on the above questions? I’d love to have some input from others who are currently working with adults!

Remember, if you have a question you’d like to contribute to next week’s Monday Mailbag, leave it in the comments below or send me an e-mail sometime this week with Monday Mailbag in the subject line!

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