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This article from Bret Pimentel Winds. The original address: https://bretpimentel.com/pedagogy-appropriate-to-students-level/


I remember as a young college student attending a masterclass by a world-class musician. He was scornful of students spending a lot of time in practice rooms playing scales. He urged us instead to get outside and watch a sunset, and then “play the sunset.”

Advice like that has its place. But I was doing exactly as my teacher assigned: spending a lot of time in practice rooms playing scales. My teacher assigned that because it was what I needed at that stage in my development. I wouldn’t have had much success trying to “play the sunset” because I hadn’t yet learned the technique I needed.

I have my university woodwind methods students do an assignment evaluating pedagogical articles. They use a few criteria, including appropriateness for teaching beginners. The articles’ authors don’t always make that clear. In fact, I suspect many of the authors would resist the idea that their advice is level-specific. “Oh, no, my ideas apply to all students.”

I understand the appeal of that viewpoint, that good woodwind pedagogy is made of unassailable truths. But here’s a counterexample. With beginner and intermediate students, I teach that voicing is stable; you learn the “correct” voicing and then stick with it. But with more advanced students I teach that voicing is a tool to adjust tuning, response, and tone. Their technique, ear for pitch, and expressive requirements have reached a higher level, and they are ready. (I’ve addressed this two-phase approach to voicing previously.)

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Masterclasses like the one I attended are often taught by very high-level performers. Their own teaching studios are filled with advanced, high-achieving graduate students. With those students, it may be productive to discuss heady philosophical or creative ideas. But the less-elite students really do need to hit a practice room and learn their scales. For them, high-level advice is pointless, frustrating, and condescending.

Consider carefully the needs of those you teach. When necessary, be clear that your teaching may be geared toward students at a particular level.


Bret Pimentel is a woodwind specialist and has worked on his website "Bret Pimentel Winds" for years now. He has a wealth of resources on his site. If you are interested, you can pop over there and "show him some love" for all the great work he does.

(You can donate to support his work over there from the main page.)

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