Teaching ‘Philosophies’ (or Approach)

A long–term goal that I have as a music teacher is to instil enough confidence and knowledge in my students to enable them eventually not to require a teacher and then to independently direct their own lifelong learning and practice in music.  I teach from a general principal that musicianship is most enjoyably and successfully advanced through putting music making and listening first, ahead of reading music and academic learning (e.g. of music theory).  More specifically, I believe that when we learn or rehearse an element of music (e.g. a scale, arpeggio, cadence or sequence of melodic patterns), instrumental and musical 'language' proficiency is almost always most effectively progressed in a context that closely resembles performed music, so that classic prototype chunks of music – to be understood, perceived and played as melodies – express a specific tempo, a common time signature (usually "four–four") and a common phrase length (i.e. of 4 or 2 bars — with a rest for most or half of the ending bar).


I also have — and encourage in my students — high realistic expectations for their achievement.  In conjunction with this, I try regularly to acknowledge progression and achievements, and likewise, also have my students recognise and 'own' their accomplishments and hard work.  Finally, I believe that it's through playing with others that the 'batter' of musicianship developed through practising is ‘baked’ to gain the most memorable personal and social meaning.  The experience is not only transformative, but it is the memorable — even magical — reward, and it 'fixes' the hours of practice into a more lasting facility.


Whilst I am committed to encouraging and enabling people to acquire musical knowledge, appreciation and skills, I believe that talent is not nearly as important as the drive to learn and improve.  To support this, I feel it is part of my role as teacher to inspire students' drive and curiosity in music (and the world around them) outside of our lessons.  In addition, I believe that praise, patience, respect and reflective practice engender learning, and that demeaning students has no place in education.  In manner, I am generally an expressive and thoughtful person, yet I also enjoy learning from others, including my students, and try always to be sensitive and receptive to others and aware of the impression I create.


Teaching Methods

For one–to–one tuition, and whenever the scheme of work is largely my own design, such as in workshops and mall and large group tuition, since formal lesson plan structure is typically not the norm, lessons adhere to a flexible learning agenda that is developed in part with the student/group, to reflect their needs and goals.  If and when these change, the student/group is free to reorient the learning plan.  To help students (and me) keep to the plan, I maintain a weekly record of each student's/group's practice agenda and achievement history.  This may also include notes on special needs and particular teaching and learning strategies relevant to the student/individuals that would differentiate the advice and curriculum I present for learning.


My advice and guidance in this bespoke context consists roughly of three areas of study: a) tunes/pieces to learn and to play, including improvising, which largely are chosen to reflect the interests of the student/group, b) practical skills, which include not only what and how to practise, but also structures and strategies for efficient learning, practising and self-led learning and rehearsing, and finally, c) terminology, theoretical concepts and relevant history, presented on a when-they-need-to-know-it basis.  Practical skills encompass many topics, such as posture and body use, ear-training, rhythm and metre work and by-ear and by--reading learning and playing.  Reading music also is important, chord notation in particular for jazz and more popular genres.  However, unless a student places reading as a high goal, I give it lower priority than other skills.  Typically I recommend dividing daily practising time roughly in half, between learning and rehearsing proto-type material, and learning and rehearsing — and when relevant, learning to improvise within — tunes/pieces.


I hope this has been helpful and encouraging.  If you have any questions or wish to enquire about lessons,

I'd be very pleased to hear from you (020 8530-0710 / 07985 763-072),

Claude Alexander


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Copyright 2017 Claude Alexander – All rights reserved.