We’re in the midst of a massive paradigm shift in music education.
Truthfully, it’s a shift in education as a whole. But I’ll be focusing on music for this piece.
So what’s the shift?
It stems from the revelation that learning music emotionally is far more effective than learning music informationally.
Whether you’re an aspiring artist or an experienced one, take a look at your motivations for being creative.
Most likely, your motivations stem from your innate human desire to know and express yourself.
Therefore, the pathways to learning music should be driven by that same desire.
Historically, however, this isn’t the case.
In our excellence-based public education system, there isn’t room for this. Emotion is an inherently subjective quality. It can’t be measured in a standardized test (like excellence can).
Yet, this is exactly what we’ve attempted to do. For decades.
Instead of training emotional explorers, we are training memorizers and rule followers.
And what’s the result?
Widespread musical burnout
Many who’ve had a taste of an excellence-based (as opposed to creativity-based) music education can attest to this.
How many countless individuals mark their experience with music by their unpleasant childhood piano lessons?
The more sinister effect of this form of education is that it makes it seem like learning music is out of reach for the common person.
This is an absolute falsehood.
The truth is, anyone can interface with music relatively quickly.
Instead of learning music by chasing the moving goalpost of excellence and mastery, the key is to bring the music down to the level you’re already at. That is, you should seldom sever the emotional connection between you and the music while you’re learning.
Enter Jacob Collier
Jacob Collier is a jazz multi-instrumentalist who produces highly technical, genre-fusing music; incorporating complex ideas in musical theory to create tracks accessible to a lay audience.
Thereby bridging the gap between topics previously trapped in the glass cage of academia and bringing them down to a level understandable to everyone; music theory democratized.
At the young age of 25 years, he’s completely transformed the musical landscape; raising the bar for educators and musicians alike.
Thankfully for us, he is extremely generous in sharing his knowledge.
It’s clear he wants the whole world to share his passions and processes.
So without further ado, allow me to present an array of what I believe to be his essential content; with topics ranging from music education, theory, and harmony.
The video that made music theory go viral.
Through the course of the video, we see Jacob explaining the musical concept of musical harmony to five individuals; each with an ascending level of understanding.
This video is proof music can be learned and understood incrementally.
I’ve revisited this countless times, and glean something new from it every time.
When I first watched the video, it was difficult for me to grasp the meaning of the latter 3 explanations. Upon revisiting, it’s been fun to see how my understanding has progressed.
In this brief video, Jacob gives some key insights into music education.
He contrasts the easy and hard ways of teaching.
- Easy way: give the students the answers.
- Hard way: give the students the questions and tools to find the answers. But not the answers themselves.
He goes on to contrast inspiration and relatability styles of teaching
Inspiration being to show the student some distant goal; what they could be if they practice hard.
Relatability being to show the student that the music is not some faraway thing, but something they can actually closely relate to.
An effective teacher will harness both, but should primarily show the student how close they already are—with the tools they already have—to the music.
In this video, Jacob primarily discusses the topic of Negative Harmony.
The concept of negative harmony was first termed by Swiss musician Ernst Levy, and is now being taught and popularized by Jacob.
Due to the nature of the topic, this video is fairly musically technical, but I would encourage watching it even if it doesn’t immediately make sense.
After explaining negative harmony, Jacob goes on to give some tips on learning music in general.
He emphasizes that we should learn music by exploring, rather than collecting information and knowledge.