Whole class Instrumental teaching ...

is it a good thing or a necessary evil?

I must admit that before I had done any whole class instrumental teaching I took the view that it was a waste of time and that the only reason anyone did it was to guarantee a bit of income from something that the government thought was a good idea … and that most teachers who did it would claim they enjoyed it in order not to get dismissed from their job.

Well … now I have done some whole class instrumental teaching and I enjoy it a great deal. It is challenging, fun and I do believe the children I am responsible for are learning from it and having fun too. It has to be said that it is not (and never can be) a replacement for small group and individual tuition on a musical instrument, but if you approach it from the point of view of looking at what it is possible to teach / learn and experience in that environment without making comparisons with other modes of delivering instrumental tuition, then you have a starting point that will eventually bear fruit.

The targets you set when you have a class of 30 children with a musical instrument have to account for the fact that some will fly and others will have to strive - but that is the same with delivering any other subject. Those of us that are instrumental teachers will have experienced narrower target setting where the focus may be only one or two pupils, and if that is your background you will have to broaden the scope of what you think might be achievable by a larger group. My teaching background is mixed between instrumental and academic music teaching, and I have taught across all year groups, both primary and secondary. I think this has given me an edge in approaching whole class instrumental teaching; my starting point is as a class teacher, but with the skills I have as an instrumentalist and instrumental teacher. I plan my lessons much as I would as an academic teacher, that is to say, I attempt to teach Music, rather than the (for example) clarinet, but with the instrument as a vehicle for learning the concepts, discipline and skills.

At some point I hope to make some resources available for other teachers of whole class instrumental music, but you will have to wait until I have adapted what I have for more general use / application.

There was, I think, a fear amongst instrumental music teachers that whole class teaching would eventually erode the more traditional approach of delivering instrumental music in small group or individual sessions. I don’t think this seems to have happened; as long as the two things can happily co-exist, we have another branch to our music delivery in schools, which is surely a good thing.

Mike Halliday

Mike is a UK-based clarinet and saxophone specialist and founder of this site. When not out performing, he is usually at the computer composing, arranging, or engraving and editing music.