What is this method then? What does it mean? Where does it come from? Who came up with it? Why was it created? How does it work? Who is it for?
Over the course of the next months we will try to slowly answer these questions in a series of concise and non technical articles. But before we get started, we thought it’d be good to first give a quick overview of the main differences between an Edara lesson and an average music lesson, to give the people who are unfamiliar with the method a rough idea of what it’s like.
- We make real music from day one
From the first day at the Edara method you make real music, that is, music that you’d actually hear outside of a classroom, music you’d listen to yourself for reasons other than being dragged into a school concert. This is different from some music courses which start with ‘beginner’s music’, exercises, studies, scales and the like. They have their reasons, which may be valid up to a point, but it does mean that for a while, some music students are not making the kind of music they knew outside the classroom. We try to avoid this. Of course, we start with simple parts, but they fit into full arrangements that are to be played by students of all levels and teachers during musical performances.
- We learn music without instruments and very soon after we play it on many instruments
We learn without instruments, so we have one general way of hearing music that we can then use to play any instrument, or in many instruments for that matter. This is not an instrumental class, but we do give some basic instrumental skills (keyboards, guitars, drums…) which enable students to play many instruments in our ensemble performances. The fact that we learn music off instruments makes it easier to switch around, and it also allows for anyone to bring their own instrument.
This is again different from what you find in your average music course. You can have an instrumental lesson where you learn everything on one and only one instrument, or you can have a theory lesson where you do not touch any instruments at all.
- We learn music with the whole body
Even without instruments, we human beings have a lot of tools for learning music. We can make sounds by singing, speaking or hitting things. We can use our voice, our hands and our legs. We can make gestures such as hand signs or conducting. We can move around. We can write in words or in symbols.
The average music lesson only uses a few of these abilities, all too often focusing solely on written notation and passive listening. People rarely move up from their sits. They rely on instruments rather than their voice, and they do not often ‘speak the music’ or ‘sign the music’. At the Edara method we use all of these ‘body tools’, trying to make music learning as active and student-based as possible.
- We welcome mistakes
There are music lessons that are strict and do not allow you to make mistakes, and there are others that are lax, where you can make things up, where there are no such things as mistakes. Normally, you have to choose one or the other kind of lesson, but we try to mix the two. With us there are definitely such things as mistakes, but instead of repressing them we want students to make them, because they are an integral, almost necessary part of the learning process. We encourage students to make mistakes without fear, knowing that their will to play good music is enough motivation to use the mistakes constructively.
Learning in group sessions makes this matter easier, because it takes the burden away from individuals to be constantly perfect, and musical activities can carry on as everyone makes occasional mistakes (including teachers!). The fact that we make rhythm a high priority also helps, because it allows us to stay together when things go slightly wrong, and thus we avoid the chaos that would ensue otherwise.
- We learn theory last
Again, you normally have to choose between two kinds of lessons, as far as music theory is concerned. Either you have a theory-free lesson, a practical lesson where you play music by ear, or you have a theory-first lesson, which starts by introducing some theoretical notions, often on paper, in the visual dimension, and then this theory is applied into the world of sound, by reading a score, for instance. Along the way there is no shortage of symbols, conventions and codes that have to be deciphered, as conventional music notation is very archaic and complicated. Thus a music theory lesson often ends up looking like a maths lesson.
Now we do not choose either of these options. We do want to learn music theory, but we do not want start with it. Instead, we begin with a simplified notation, a ‘theory-light’ notation, so we can get on with the business of making music straight away, and at the end of the process, we translate the simplified notation into conventional music notation. More generally, we focus on learning music, you know, the thing that we hear with our ears, and only later we try to analyse and theorise about it. We think that this is the only way that music theory is properly understood, and that it is definitely a lot more fun.
We compared the Edara Method with an average music course, not with every music course out there. We do not claim that no one else does any of the five things we said we do. Nevertheless, it’s not easy to find a music course that does all the five things at once. For instance, the Kodàly method does emphasize learning real vocal music (1) and using gestures (3) but doesn’t concern itself much with theory (5) or instrumental playing (2).