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Lesson 44: Teaching

The Benefits of Teaching

Getting into teaching forces you to learn things thoroughly yourself. Very often having to explain something to someone else and actually having to show him/her how to do it will teach you a lot yourself.

A Method

A teacher should have a method. You have to think about what you want your students to learn and how to get them to learn these things.

Let's say you want to teach your students the basics of playing "jazz". One method is to choose some jazz standards of different types, each one facilitating getting into particular topics. Some types of tunes might be:

  • a blues
  • a minor blues
  • a modal tune
  • a bossa nova
  • a ballad
  • a jazz waltz
  • a tune with a lot of II-V(-I)'s
  • a jazz-rock/ fusion tune
  • a rhythm changes tune
  • an uptempo swing tune
  • a difficult bebop head
  • a harmonically more advanced tune
and so on ( these are just some examples of the possibilities)...

Some examples of tunes that I like to use are:

  • blues: Bluezo by Hal Crook
  • minor blues: Minor Blues by Bob Russell
  • modal: So What by Miles Davis / Impressions by John Coltrane
  • bossa nova: Blue Bossa by Kenny Dorham/ Lucky Southern by Keith Jarrett
  • II-V-I: Autumn Leaves by Joseph Kosma/ Fly Me to the Moon by Bart Howard
  • funk: The Chicken by Alfred James Ellis
  • jazz waltz: All Blues by Miles Davis / Saga of Harrison Crabfeathers by Steve Kuhn
  • jazz-rock/ fusion: Mercy, Mercy, Mercy by Josef Zawinul
  • rhythm changes: I Got Rhythm by George Gershwin/ Oleo by Sonny Rollins
  • misc.: Night and Day by Cole Porter/ On Green Dolphin Street by Bronislau Kaper and Ned Washington
  • ballad: 'Round Midnight by Thelonious Monk, Cootie Williams and Bernie Hanighen
  • latin: St. Thomas by Sonny Rollins
  • harmonically more advanced: Stella by Starlight by Victor Young and Ned Washington
  • etudes: Got a Match? by Chick Corea/ Ornithology by Charlie Parker

What Teaching is About

Teaching is about opening doors. While everyone has to teach him/herself to play, the teacher can do wonders by showing different possibilities and directions.

Sharing Knowledge

Some people seem to be very afraid of "giving away what they know". There are a lot of sites on the Internet with lessons for sale, while sites with free lessons seem to be somewhat rare.

I like to think of teaching as sharing knowledge. I have found that very often when you share something you know with another human being, it's not like having to share something to eat, where you of course end up with less yourself. When you share knowledge, you often get something else in return, a reaction or whatever, thus leaving both the teacher and the student with more.

A Little Bit of Philosophy

It's also very important for a teacher:

  • to lead a healthy life
  • to have healthy and modest attitudes towards everything
  • to have a philosophy/ an outlook on life
  • to have good working habits/ routines

As a teacher, you are a role model - for better and for worse - and everything you say and everything you do and ultimately who you are/ seem to be can and will leave a mark in your students.

A healthy and modest attitude towards life and our existence on this planet is what you should strive for and you should do everything that can be done to pass this on to your students. Read my very last lesson ( especially the very last part called "Last but Not Least: Take It Easy") where I declare my personal set of values and what makes my life worth living and you'll see what I mean...

Being a good role model also means to keep doing the work. The journey is never-ending, you have to keep on practicing and learning and the day you stop learning you should also stop teaching.

All these things have to be things that you display and live, really. It's not enough only to "talk the talk" - but you also have to "walk the walk" - every single moment in everything you do and say - and ultimately play...

2005 Tomas Karlsson. All rights reserved.