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Did music lessons at school help with your musical life?

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I didn't particularly learn much from my school music lessons because all I wanted to do was play the bass. I wasn't interested in the whole keyboard harmony side of things. The teacher was sound though, and pretty much left me to it because he liked me.  I was having private lessons anyway, and I was the only bass player in school who could read so I used to do all the school bands and shows. In fact, the week that I left, the music teacher asked me to join his band ( where I replaced the deputy head), and he paid me to go back to play for the shows for the next 2 years.  

But as far as learning goes, I leaned far more in the year after I left school by sitting in on Jazz gigs with serious older players, and eventually being offered the gig with them every week.

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No, in part because the music teacher was a ghastly old bastard whose sole qualification was that he'd played lounge piano on cruise ships in the 1950's and who operated a lucrative sideline whereby he shanghai'd you very much against your will into the 'school orchestra' then charged you instrument rental, said musical instruments being no more musical than a Zip firelighter.

If he'd been any good at his job I'd be on ViolinChat right now saying disobliging things about bass players.

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9 minutes ago, skankdelvar said:

No, in part because the music teacher was a ghastly old bastard whose sole qualification was that he'd played lounge piano on cruise ships in the 1950's and who operated a lucrative sideline whereby he shanghai'd you very much against your will into the 'school orchestra' then charged you instrument rental, said musical instruments being no more musical than a Zip firelighter.

If he'd been any good at his job I'd be on ViolinChat right now saying disobliging things about bass players.

That fairly accurately mirrors my experience.

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Didn’t do a thing for me at first. The teacher was a hyper aggressive guy and just shouldn’t have been a teacher.

in about 1997 we had a guy called Mr Burrows, he was ace - and the first time I played a bass in front of anyone was a 750 capacity concert hall. And it was rubbish he played piano, a mate played guitar (much better than me at the time) and it was a song from the previous school production.

He encouraged and advised us. He was pretty cool. 

Mr Burrows left later that year. There was no music department when GCSE options came around.

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The main thing I remember about my music lessons are sadly all negative. I was an early developer and my voice was breaking much earlier than any of the other boys in my class. I didn't take a shine to the music teacher, something seemed a bit off to me. He obviously picked up on this and insisted on picking on me to sing solo at various points knowing full well my voice was all over the place during the transition from prepubescent to adult voice.

After I left school I found out he'd been 'let go' by the school after being found touching up pupils in a store room, not sure if the police were involved or it was all brushed under the carpet (as sadly was often the case back then). He wasn't a very old teacher so very probably still alive hence no names. 

I've usually been able to spot a wrong un fairly quickly to this day.

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the trouble with music lessons at school was that we did songs that I had no interest in at all on an instrument (the  recorder) that I had no interest in, now if we'd been learning Beatles songs it could have been different

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No. In the early 80s it was all about listening to Holst or learning Gilbert and Sullivan songs. That said, I didn't expect any different. I learned classical guitar outside of school, which I enjoyed, and when I was 19 some mates asked me to learn bass because they wanted a finger-style player. The rest is history.

Anyway, if there had been Precisions, Strats etc. in school down my way, they would have ended up down at the local car boot within a week.... 

Edited by odysseus

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As the head of music at a secondary school I'm following this thread with curiosity and a sense of dread!

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Whilst the late 80’s music curriculum had its limitations, particularly lack of instruments. I was lucky to have a music teacher who encouraged all us who had a passion to hang out in the music rooms. We talked about all the music we were listening too out side of the normal chart stuff. It’s construction and why we connected with it. She also brought in players from The Birmingham Philharmonic Orchestra to give us individual lessons. It gave us the opportunity to play in lots of youth orchestras and in my case brass ensembles.   

I fast forward to visiting the music classrooms at my children’s school and it’s littered with technology and creative spaces. So much more accessible. Allows all abilities to create their type music. 

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I was at secondary school in the early to mid 70’s. Small all boys school for gifted thugs (or those who they didn’t know what do with).
Can’t say I can remember anything from music lessons, but I was roped into the choir as I could “hold a tune”. Now THAT was a great education. I learned harmony as I progressed through the ranges as my voice (and family jewels) lowered, along with listening to other parts, and an appreciation for a wide range of music. Added benefits were: Time off lessons to rehearse, open access to the instrument cupboard where I discovered double bass and meeting up with the local girls school for “joint performances” ...ok this was the main reason (joints and a quick performance).


So in summary, learned nothing in class music lessons.

My kids on the other hand had great experience of music lessons at their secondary school. Head of music was great, made playing in orchestras “cool” and they learned a wide variety of styles, and he was genuinely interested in what music motivated them. 

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Other than some bloke who spent a term trying to get us all to sing “Jonah and the Whale” and who, apparently, failed to show up the following term because of a nervous breakdown, I didn’t have any sort of musical education at school. 

We did a ton of Latin though so that made up for it*
 

 

 

 

*No it didn’t. 

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At age 5 I was asked if I wanted to learn guitar. I immediately thought Rolling Stones, The Kinks, Beach Boys etc so agreed enthusiastically. I then spent interminable weeks being taught Edelweisse and Michael Row the Boat Ashore and was told that I absolutely had to learn a load of this stuff or I'd never be able to play anything else. I believed it, gave up and never picked up an instrument again until I was 15.

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I briefly played saxophone then switched to clarinet at school and even played in the school junior orchestra when I was 12 or 13.  But neither instrument really gelled with me, mostly due to having to endure the discipline of learning to read music for pieces that I was uninspired by and then play them.
 

A lot of my home practice time was illicitly spent working out songs or lines that I liked - but playing them by ear - rather than the stuff I was supposed to be doing. This was infinitely more enjoyable and satisfying to me.  But inevitably my tutor and I had to agree that I was not making the expected level of progress, so I dropped the clarinet lessons and took up competitive swimming instead!😂

I was 19 by the time I realised that bass guitar was my instrument - but again no reading of anything written down and only using my ears to learn songs for the past few decades.

But I also bought myself a saxophone a couple of years ago - unfinished business and a chance to learn it the way I wasn’t allowed to all those years ago.

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Yes - early music lessons in secondary school (mid-70s) embedded some of the real basics, and introduced some new music (also confirmed my dislike of a certain really famous band). Later on, O Level music gave me some good theory, and the ability to follow a score. This is now in that deep bank of knowledge that you don't know you have until something triggers it later, and has come in handy helping to shape songs, and bring ideas together in bands many years later.

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Yes, it did help. I may not have always had the finest teachers (they ranged from great to near-useless, although none was as bad as Skank's - see above), but I managed to learn some useful stuff nonetheless and often find it handy many years later, as Mykes comments above.

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Broader point here on the limiting ways instruments are taught, esp Associated Board / Trinity exam route.  

Played upright from 11 to 16  - grades, county youth orchestras etc. Didn't enjoy it, just something else to learn by rote. Nothing on creativity, just flawless repetition. You regurgitate but don't understand context.

Ironically now play mainly jazz, on electric, with bands who'd rather I was on upright, and once strong reading ability largely lost. Hopefully teaching has moved on since then, but the exam factory put me off playing upright since. 

 

Edited by Drax

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To be fair, in the 3 years that we had to take music at school, I don't recall a single thing from the lessons. Certainly don't recall touching any instruments (stop sniggering at the back boy!).

40 minutes, once a week, well wasted.

Now the kids are back in school, from what I'm being told, they actually get to choose the instruments they want to play, and actually get taught as well. Son has picked drums & bass, he's already tried to nick one of mine! :D 

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Nah, not at all.

For a few weeks our music teacher let us bring songs in we liked, to play to our class. At the time, kids were bringing in Duran, Culture Club, The Smiths... when it came to my turn, the teacher pressed play on the cassette, and the opening chords of Supper's Ready chimed forth.

Cue 23 looooong minutes of confusion / horror / boredom / delight*

*Delete as appropriate, depending on your PoV

Edited by wateroftyne
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2 hours ago, scalpy said:

As the head of music at a secondary school I'm following this thread with curiosity and a sense of dread!

My OP was a negative experience - but I'm hoping for some positives ones.... especially from younger bass-chatters🤞.

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as with most subjects at school it depends on the teacher, and that's down to luck, as with most things in life

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We had music theory lessons at school, but no actual playing. Then they were dropped after the first year because it became a voluntary course and not enough kids wanted to continue. I pushed myself to understand and read music by the time I left secondary school. I was slow, but could read to a level that enabled me to play simple bass lines in a recording studio from the dots. I work with chord charts these days but the dots have never featured in my bass playing life since that first band.

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When i originally said that I didn't remember any, I do remember now (I have a useless memory, especially of childhood).  I had two parallel paths as I had piano lessons from pre-10 to probably about 16 when I decided it was uncool, and then maybe 18-19 when I decided it was cool again. But this is about school.

In my first year of school, so 5, there was a music lesson, I remember playing puff the magic dragon on an electric guitar that wasn't plugged in. 

Later on a few years teacher was playing music and asking us to write down what we thought the instruments playing it were. Turned out we were all wrong it was a sin-thee-size-er. whatever that was. Anyway, pretty fascinating for me. 

Then at bigger school, first lessons were ok, people would bring in records and the teacher would go through them and say what was going on. That worked well. Then nothing, then another lesson which took all the fun out of music entirely that I don't really remember.Then later proper music lessons - brass. I learned the cornet and ended up first cornet in the orchestra. Which was good, I liked performing, saturday mornings shopping my parents used to drop me off in the big department store in portsmouth and I would play upstairs in the Organ department and get a crowd of old ladies watching. The staff loved it as they didn't have to demo anything and they got an audience, and my parents could just dump me and wander off and shop like parents did in those days.

All in all very mixed and disjointed but some of it was ok. I think not anywhere near as good as the separate piano lessons really

 

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18 hours ago, TheGreek said:

 

Another of my music teachers I now realise was a dope smoker. Obvious looking back but didn't realise till years later.

A musician smoking dope...! Who woulda thought 🙂 

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3 hours ago, scalpy said:

As the head of music at a secondary school I'm following this thread with curiosity and a sense of dread!

Conscious this is probably a busy week for you, but be interested to hear anything on how it's done now. 

Have eldest just starting state secondary this week - what does a decent music education dept involve these days? 

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Grew up listening and singing to a whole load of 78s with my mum and have a strong family musical tradition, great uncle Reg was Noel Gay, Uncle John had Jazz band (Mellow Yellow) and later a composer, cousin Eds runs the John Armitage Memorial (JAM) trust set up in his memory ll my family have been choristers or singers and my grand kids are carrying on the tradition Ed's son was senior Chorister at Durham Cathedral. I do think music teaching has improved a lot quite recently, oldest grandson on Accordion/uke, 2nd granddaughter on Bass/keys, I've made sure both households have access to guitar, uke and keys.

School music was a complete waste of flipping time, Piano, FFs how many time can you play march of the middle C twins before a coma playing anything other than what you were given was verboten. Cello a small 8yr old given an adult instrument and the emphasis all on holding an adult bow 'correctly'. Recorder I have a natural affinity with fortunately. I also sang and solo'd in 2 comp winning school choirs, by the time I should have been joining the third school choir I was sick fed up of daily services and practices so somehow managed to miss the audition. My range covers the full bass baritone with a slight overlap at the top end

So in answer to the O.P., an absolute and resounding NO, my school music lessons were a complete waste of time.

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