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The Insiders Guide to Rote Learning.

Following on from my previous post on why learning music is like learning a language. This post will explain one way I approach learning music like learning a language.

There are many different approaches to teaching music, and I use a combination of different approaches for my beginner students. I do adapt the approach depending on the age and the need of the student.

rote learning
Rote learning is copying what their teacher is doing

I do a lot of teaching by rote at the beginning stages. Learning by rote is where the student learns to play something by copying their teacher. This is the same as an infant trying to copy sounds that they see the people around them.

Rote learning means that they are playing interesting tunes from their first lesson, making it more enjoyable for the student (and the parent listening to them practising!). But teaching by rote does so much more than given a student an interesting tune to play.

Teaching by rote helps a student to gain an understanding of a music aurally. They can hear how music is made up of repeating patterns. It helps to develop their listening and memory skills. Learning by rote can help to increase their ability to understand and remember increasing difficulty musical patterns. The more advanced patterns are already in their hands and ears, which frees them to read the notation without having to worry about what their body is doing.

The student can also learn how to make the different sounds at their instrument, by trying to imitate the sounds their teacher is making. They can see what the teacher is doing with their hands and body to make that sounds. Not having to worry about the notes that they are meant to be reading it can free them up to focus on getting a good sound. They learn how to make the sound before they learn to read it.

When a child starts to learn to read, they can speak and understand more words then they can read. It is the same for beginner students. They tend to be able to play more complicated pieces of music by rote, then they can read. This makes the music that they are learning more exciting and enjoyable. As their reading skills increase, the complexity of the music they can read catches up with the complexity of the music they can play by rote.

Learning to play by rote, teaches the beginner student how to make the sounds on their instrument, it teaches them to listen to the music. It makes it easier for the student to learn to read music. Like an infant learns to speak and listen to words, before they start to read and write. How long the student stays at that stage, depends on the student, and quite often reading is introduce gradually along rote learning.

My next blog post will look at how I introduce the reading of notation to my students.

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