What's the most effective teaching method?

Many parents of students and prospective adult students wonder, what is the most effective teaching method.  While there are many methods and strategies out there, there isn’t a primary method that’s more effective than others, because we are all unique learners.  Some students may respond very well to a technical or theoretical approach, and some may really enjoy a more organic approach relying on ear training, chord analysis and using alternate methods of notation.  The most effective teaching method is the one that will work to help a student reach their musical goals.  More specifically, an effective teaching method helps a student understand music, how to read, hear and play it in a way that becomes part of them.

From a practical standpoint, there are a few book series that teachers generally use for young beginners. These book series are called “method books” and they generally follow the same trajectory although some may emphasize certain aspects of music over others.  For example, there are three that we tend to use in our school, and they are identified by their publisher.  My personal favorite is the Faber and Faber Piano Adventure series, although initially I did not like it, and tended to use two other series, the Bastien and Alfred’s methods.  Over time I began to favor the Piano Adventures series because of the emphasis in encouraging a student to use all of their fingers equally and move them around the keyboard.  This prevents a student from thinking that the thumb always plays C, the 2nd finger always plays D, and etcetera.  Bastien and Alfred’s are also great methods, and they will teach a student all of the basics they need to know in a step-by-step manner. 

It is imperative to teach a student in such a way in which one concept will be built upon by the next.  For example, a student should learn the symbols of notes based on different rhythmic durations first, then learn how they are arranged on the musical staff at a later date.  It is too much for a student to see notes on the musical staff and have to learn the note names all at once, so the best methods are those that systematically add to the next concept once a solid foundation is achieved for a prior concept. 

The most important method again, is the one that fits the student!  Different method books can be excellent guides to help a teacher show a student musical concepts in a particular order, but ultimately the teaching method is unique to the teacher, and therefore uniquely geared towards the students goals, strengths and weaknesses.