Art TED-Ed

The music teacher you wish you had

Posted by: Kate Torgovnick May

Far too many of us still have flashbacks to piano lessons, when an uber-serious teacher would rap our knuckles after every wrong note. If only we had taken bass lessons from Victor Wooten of the band Béla Fleck and the Flecktones. In the video above — the first ever live-action TED-Ed lesson — five-time Grammy winner Wooten explains that music is a language and that learning to play it shouldn’t be a militaristic affair.

“Think about the first language you learned as a child,” says Wooten in the video. “You were a baby when you first started speaking, and even though you spoke the language incorrectly, you were allowed to make mistakes. The more mistakes you made, the more your parents smiled.”

Watch above, as Wooten envisions a way of learning music whereby children are encouraged to do their own thing and to practice alongside better musicians in order to sharpen their skills.

Comments (13)

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  • commented on Mar 27 2014

    I remember my first music teacher, under whom I learnt music for about 10 years. She was brilliant, competent and very much focused; but I can’t say much about her patience! She taught me to appreciate music and learn the principles well. Pop music was prohibited. As a music teacher today, I have stepped into it with a different approach. I encourage pupils to learn the type of music they like and are good at, for I strongly believe that one size doesn’t fit all. This video opens one’s mind to look at teaching music differently.

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  • Kathleen Weidenfeller commented on Aug 28 2012

    As an instrumental educator (in Finland), I’d like to make a few comments…

    It IS a great idea to have kids learn music as they learn their mother tongue. One of the best things parents can do for their children is to sing to them (doesn’t matter how well you carry a tune!) and put on the radio and let them dance!! Schools should have kids singing – ALL THE TIME :)

    Instrumental instruction however, must involve a little ‘this is right, that’s wrong’, or else the student will be saddled with difficulties that are much harder to un-learn than they would be to learn correctly in the first place.

    But the ‘right-wrong’ has to do with technique, not actual music making. Once the kid learns how to hold the instrument correctly and get the note out well – if the teacher isn’t letting them explore that note – find another teacher :). I think you’ll find today that there are a lot of music teachers out there who subscribe to this kind of thinking.

    How fantastic would it be if all our kids were exposed to great music/music making everyday!!! (I’ve got 4 kids at home, and I’m sure they’ve benefitted from it, even if they don’t go on to become professional musicians themselves). There are loads of studies that show that making music (even singing in a school choir) is one of the BEST things we can do to encourage our children’s learning.

  • Kathleen Schoen commented on Aug 27 2012

    This idea is universal – Shinichi Suzuki used it back in the 1940′s when he developed his “mother-tongue method” of music learning!

  • John Clemens commented on Aug 23 2012

    Thank You for this golden message! The approach works – and everybody has a voice! Pick up an instrument or sing today! – 1 Critique: Re-mix the message speaking above the music because his playing was so good I couldn’t hear (concentrate) on the spoken word -Bravo the message!

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  • Carsten Forester commented on Aug 16 2012

    He speaks the truth. I got further on 4 instruments in 2 years by jamming with my brother (who at that time was better than me) daily then i did through 10 years of piano lessons and 7 of violin. Don’t get me wrong, part of the reason i was able to progress so fast is because of the experienced teachers i had had before, but the fact remains that they could not do what fun and creativity could.

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  • commented on Aug 13 2012

    If only the entire education system were modeled after this teacher’s style and ideas! Seriously!