Pop or Classical Music?

Should my Child Learn Pop Music or Classical

There is a strong belief amongst parents that classical music lessons is much more valuable than learning pop or other styles. This belief may be passed down from older generations, or from a belief that pop musicians don’t understand the full depth of musical technique and history. It is also commonly understood that if you learn classical, you then may easily branch into other styles, and in the extreme, we have heard parents insist that their child should only learn classical and not experiment with any other style.

While learning classical pieces is a great foundation for any style, there are aspects of pop music that are actually more advanced, and sometimes require more skill and creativity. It’s not true that all classically trained musicians can play all styles. While reading notes and understanding theory, many advanced classical players and teachers cannot pick out a simple melody by ear, or improvise. These skills, both reading and improvisation, theory, and playing by ear, are what creates a well rounded musician. In some ways, playing by ear and improvising are concepts more grounded in the roots of music.

Why Incorporating Pop into Music Lessons may be Important

The goal of every parent and instructor, should be to create in the child a lifelong passion for music. This could mean a career in the music industry, an elevated hobby enjoyed into old age, or simply the understanding to be able to really appreciate music.
To ensure your child develops that passion, it’s very important to consider what music is really relevant in their lives now, and what their peers value.

At recess at school, a kid sneaks in to the drama rehearsal room and plays the upright piano. A crowd of kids form as she begins to play a clever arrangement of the latest most popular pop song. The pop arrangement includes flashy ending that garners the applause of the circle of children.

Peer approval is sometimes equal or even more important than what the family thinks.
To create that passion for music, these factors have to be considered. By entering music through the gateway of the child’s interests, it might be possible to really capture their interest and expand it over time into other genres.

Integrating Classical Techniques into Pop Music

This is where a great teacher becomes important. If an instructor is experienced with many different styles of music, they will be able to integrate classical and pop techniques. To perform pop music well, it requires the same principals that make classical music sound great. On the piano for example, pedaling, phrasing, and dynamics all come into play. Finger strength and physical factors are the same to play Ed Sheeran beautifully or Fur Elise. A clever instructor can carefully arrange pieces so that there are a few of the technical challenges a student would get out of a classical work, but with the melody of the pop song. In doing this, a student may be able to learn all the same valuable lessons. There is also another side benefit. If the student really loves the piece they are learning, they often bring double to energy and are better able to overcome the technical challenges.

Why some Music Teachers Stray Away from Teaching Pop Music

It may be that the instructor is actually not all that familiar with pop, or doesn’t really want to put in the additional effort to figure out how to integrate it. This is unfortunate if pop music might be for the student the gateway into loving music, and eventually appreciating many styles, including classical. We value all styles of music here at the academy, and believe that a passion for music should cause instructors and students to expand into appreciation of many different styles and genres.

Pop music is rhythmically much more complex than classical music. In fact, if you buy an arrangement of the current top 10 pop pieces, all of them are rhythmically too complicated to be read (in notation) by the beginner. For piano, rather than focus on trying to read arrangements of pop music, which can be very frustrating, it’s better to first learn some simple chords, and then use lead sheets. Lead sheets, rather than traditional arrangements, are just the melody on one line, and chords, such as C, G, F, am.

By knowing these chords, even in the most basic position, (a triad,) students can play the left hand to most pop songs. (Almost all pop music uses the same 4 chords, C, G, F, am).

Then, the student may be able to read the notes and rhythm of the melodic line. If the rhythms are too complex, they may be able to read what the note is, and then piece together the rhythm using their ear and the aid of the recording. The 3rd option, is that they may learn the melody either by ear completely, or with the instructor showing each note.

The simple fact is that it takes much more work for the instructor, and more thought to help their beginner or intermediate students successfully play a pop piece. The music is rarely ready and at the exact level the student needs. The instructor will have to be creative and package it in a way that keeps it fun, but always delivers some technical value that causes the student to stretch their skills without getting discouraged.

What are the Benefits of Learning Pop Music?

There are actually many great musical benefits to learning pop music in this way. As we mentioned earlier, it’s much more rhythmically complex, which builds the child’s sense of rhythm and as the student advances in notation, they will eventually be able to read these complex rhythms rather than simply understand them by ear.

Playing by ear, (Learning from listening and emulating), both the rhythm and the melodic lines is a great skill, and should not be considered as secondary to reading. In today’s world, less and less music is being written out in traditional notation, and some styles are only accessible by ear. The benefits of being able to pick out your favorite melody are many; a sharper ear, superior focus, and a much more intimate knowledge of the music being learned. Note by note is the way a composer writes, and the way a student that plays by ear uncovers music note by note for themselves.