Supplementary Music: What To Teach and When To Teach?


Throughout the school year, every parent, music student, and music teacher require certain types of motivation. There are many of the following: deadlines to complete, practicing to be done, lessons to be taught, music to be learned, as well as various performance opportunities to keep us all busy. From time to time, it is natural to lose motivation. We are all human, of course!

One way that I find helps to motivate music students is to encourage each student to learn supplementary music. Supplementary music, by definition, is music that is learned in the lesson that is not a part of the main curriculum of the student. Supplementary music is always a fun way to motivate students to enjoy the learning process as well as to expand their horizons of the musical landscape.

Categories of supplementary music could include any of the following:
– jazz pieces
– popular songs
– ragtime pieces
– original composition
– improvisation
– learning lead sheet styles

Each student is different; they have different musical interests, learning styles, and personalities. All students are similar in that they may not be motivated every week of the school year. From time to time, each student needs a gentle nudge.

Here is a classic example that occurred in my music studio in recent weeks:

John (the student’s name has been changed to secure privacy) has been diligently working away at classical pieces and examination curriculum to prepare for a Royal Conservatory of Music (Toronto) examination. After March Break, he came to a lesson with a glum face.

After asking what was wrong, John said, “I don’t like practicing only Classical music. I would like to learn something else as well.”

I asked, “what style of music would you like to learn?”

John said, “I really like listening to Green Day, can we try one of their songs?”

I went over to my iPad and cued up We listened to a couple of songs and decided on the song Wake Me Up When September Ends, it is one of John’s favorite songs.

Here is the video that we watched to make this decision:

I went to and found a great version of the song at John’s performance level, we printed the music sheets and began working away at the first two pages of material.

At the next lesson, John came into the music room with a big smile on his face.

“Let me show you what I can play!” he exclaimed. He sat down at the piano bench, opened up his music, and played the first two pages of Wake Me Up When September Ends with feeling, expression, and joy.

“Can we try the next page this week?” John asked.

“Of course!” I said. “By the way, how is your Sonatina in C Major coming?”

John said, “Let me show you.”

He proceeded to perform the complete piece from memory, he had been working at this task (with much resistance) for many weeks.

This is one small story to show us that motivation comes in many forms. Teachers, parents, and music students are all a part of the same journey. It is important to continue to mold and nurture the natural way in which music is learned. Every once in a while, a little nudge in the right direction will help spark further interest in learning, like a small breath to a flame.

Happy music making!


About mymuco1

Ian Green wears hats in many areas of the music industry including: co-founder of a technology start-up company that designs music education tools for mobile devices and the internet; music educator; music festival adjudicator; professional classical and jazz pianist; member in good standing of Ontario Registered Music Teachers' Association; member of provincial council of Ontario Registered Music Teachers' Association; member of the Canadian Music Festival Adjudicators Association (C.M.F.A.A.) Thanks!
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2 Responses to Supplementary Music: What To Teach and When To Teach?

  1. violetrose32 says:

    Great blog…..thanks for all the ideas:-)

    • mymuco1 says:

      It is my pleasure to share with the musical audience! Please continue to enjoy the materials as they are posted, please tell your friends and colleagues to visit the site, this is the power of sharing information with the greater vision of changing the way we speak and learn about music.

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