February 2, 2015 posted by littlewhitecottage

Why do we learn music theory..?

Music Theory + 1

It’s really interesting as Ollie learned the ‘cello for just over 2 years. He was really quite good in that he didn’t practice much but was able to play most of what he was supposed to in the following lesson. He was in tune and, important for a stringed instrument, didn’t catch the other strings as he played. He played his first concert at school and did very well and came off the ‘stage’ with such a grin on his face and he told me that he was so proud of himself I thought this maybe this was ‘the thing’ that Ollie was going to be good at. In short he had potential and was working his way towards grade 1.

But then something happened and this something I’ve never really got the bottom of.

He didn’t want to play the cello any more. We talked to his teacher who agreed that the focus would be to play what Ollie wanted to play and not to work towards an exam. Ollie liked this but when he left that school and it was time to find another teacher (his cello teacher was also leaving to train to become a teacher herself) he said he didn’t want to that he wanted to stop and so, after much persuading from both Hubbie and I, he gave up and has never touched the cello since – nearly 6 months later. I thought If I left it then he might come back to it. The cello is still resting on the end of his bed in the hope that it might be played again but it hasn’t and, if I’m honest, I don’t think he will again which is a huge shame.

His brother has since started the piano and works every day diligently practicing. He, again, is making progress and he seems very happy with himself.

Ollie started circling and asking if he could play the piano. I said absolutely and he didn’t mind sharing Henry’s book and so he started at the very beginning and began having a go most days.

But after a few weeks the same thing happened.

He stopped.

And I had no idea why as he seemed to like it, seemed to ‘get’ it and he was making progress.

When I asked Henry to practice (he did, no issue) Ollie said he would practice afterwards but he didn’t unless I sat with him. I did sit with him but then explained that I couldn’t do this every evening as I have Florie to look after, supper to cook and the house to get ready for my sewing ladies who come at 7.30pm. Sometimes it just isn’t possible to be the all singing all dancing mum of 4 who can spend all the time that her children needs with them. If I’m honest I find it hard that I can’t do this but there are 2 issues that the family and I have to think about. 1) We are a family of 6. We’re a very busy family and I can’t spend all the time with just 1 child as there are 4 children altogether that have to be tested on their spellings, heard read, be reminded to start their homework and also I need to feed them (and the baby), get them ready for bed and put the 3 younger ones to bed before my 7.30pm ladies arrive. They are home from school at around 3.45pm (4.30pm with clubs 3 nights a week) so I have little time in which do to everything. 2) At the age of nearly 11 I need to help my eldest develop a bit more independence. I can’t just sit with him for everything that he needs/wants to do. This may sound harsh but cello is an extra that needs to be done after the things that have to be done.

Now Ollie loves codes. He’s loved learning roman numerals and challenging us to count to 50 as well as all the other little games he likes to do with them. He strangely remembers codes easily -algebra has stuck too – so I had an idea that we would keep in with music in a way that I can manage and might just tickle Ollie’s brain.

We started to learn music theory.

Music is a code which is full of secrets and hidden ideas that you only know if you’re ‘in the know.’ This appeals to Ollie so after finding a theory teacher he has ploughed through his first music theory book. He’s very interested in knowing the mark that I got so he can beat me in the exam which is strange as I took grade 1 cello and did rather well and that didn’t motivate him yet I didn’t take grade 1 music theory (I only did grades 5-8) and this seems to be incredibly motivating him?


Yes but who am I to argue!

My thinking is that with the music theory he is still learning about music, we practice his theory using the piano so he’s getting a little interaction with an instrument and because he’s learning about all the dots and dashes should he want to jump back into a musical instrument when he’s older – he can. I can just imagine him wanting to play the guitar. Fab is all I can say. (He’s bound to be so much better than I was when I was doing my teaching degree as we had to learn the guitar as part of the course. I was terrible!)

I’m hoping that by learning about music jumping back in will be very easy but also he may have got over whatever it was he didn’t like when learning to play the cello. He may be more independent in his learning and he may probably never go anywhere near a music exam but that’s all fine.

The future still holds him watching his music videos on YouTube and telling us all about the music he likes on a Saturday morning – we play music on Saturdays and all have an input as to what we listen to while eating breakfast. He will still memorise the lyrics in that oh-so-easy way that is very easy for him.

He loves music. It’s an escape for him.

I totally get that.

It’s always been an escape for me too…

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