Pin on Pinterest

It is truly a time for change, not in what we do but in why we do it. We want our children to know how to play a musical instrument for many reasons. School age music students have higher grades, better attendance in school, and are more active in community affairs. These are documented by multiple studies from higher level institutions. Children and adults show improved concentration, coordination, perseverance, self-confidence and esteem. Study shows that studying a musical instrument strengthens cognitive skills as well as auditory memory. Music is a language that brings people together. Music uses communication, creativity, and cooperation to enrich lives.

However, starting with the British Invasion and the Information Age, the world of music has changed and it is time we consider changing with it. None of the Beatles could read notes and they became the most successful band of the twentieth century. Transcribing music gave way to sharing between students through recordings. There was no longer the same need to read notes that there used to be. Bands from abroad and here in the U.S. began popping up all over the place. These were bands of kids and adults who had no formal musical training.

Then came the Internet. You have all heard of YouTube (or you live a very sheltered life). Kids and adults can watch all kinds of videos from the real artists performing, to a plethera of videos of people who say they can show you how to play a certain piece. Along with the Internet sites, there arose a new method of transcribing guitar music called tablature. Students can go online and Google a song name and put the word "tab" after it (like "Purple Haze tab") and see hundreds of sites that show you tablature of how to play the song. Tablature shows lines representing the six strings of the guitar and the lines have numbers on them to show you which frets to press to get the notes for the song. As far as when to play those notes, the student can listen to the song to hear when. With computers and apps for phones and tablets, you can slow down the speed of a song without changing the pitch, so you can understand better when to play the notes.

Transcribing music is not nearly as necessary as it was in the past and neither is the need for you or your children to spend the time required to learn the notes on the staff line, the time duration values of notes and rests, key signatures, and more. I recently had a student start lessons because, according to his mom, "He has been taking lessons for three years and just is not progressing." The student could play only one piece from memory and it was with single notes on a six string guitar.

You should know that the best way to learn anything is to have a mentor, a guide, someone who can sit with you and help you overcome obstacles and minimize errors for you. Music teaching in general is not the issue here. It is the way music is taught by so many teachers. They are not at fault. It is the way they were taught and therefore the way they believe it should be taught.

I believe I was very lucky for being self taught for eleven years through the sixties and early seventies, but even more fortunate to have been taken under the wing of a very knowledgable mentor named Terrill Gardner. He taught me for seven years and took me through note reading from "Mary Had A Little Lamb" through "Modern Method for Guitar" books I, II, and III from Berklee college in Boston. He wanted me to learn the conventional method to augment my real-world knowledge.

Most importantly, I learned that to communicate with music, there is a language you must learn. If I want a dreamy sound to a song, I can play major seventh and minor seventh chords behind the melody. You need to understand the language to know what a major seventh chord is. In so many cases, students spend months on reading single notes before they ever learn a chord. I teach every major chord on piano in one sentence. Try me. Guitar, however, is a much more complicated instrument, but I start students with chords because chords are being played behind the singer in all songs.

There is an interesting article entitled "Paul McCartney Can't Read Notes" on my Bubblelife site at You can click on the link in the article to hear what Paul, himself, says about it. You can also reach me at 469-855-6865 to talk with me or go to my Bubblelife page at

Mike Ellis

Mike Ellis Music Instruction
9450 Skillman, #101
Dallas, TX 75243

Recognize 812 Views