Paul Cavaciuti | drummer, pianist, composer, teacher
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Learning an Instrument is Easy and Fun; A New Approach to Teaching Music
Playing an instrument should be a joy for life. For many people, though, the idea of learning an instrument conjures up images of endless scales, exercises and playing pieces that have all the interest and excitement of drying paint! Well, that is one way of doing it, but thankfully not the only way.

My method of music teaching is the culmination of over thirty years of study and practical experience, as a performer, teacher, music therapist and composer. In my lessons, I draw on all these areas to help my students, both children and adults, to develop their own skills and, more importantly, to give them an overview of what music is, in terms of its content, execution and therapeutic power. Much of my work in recent years has been to apply the principals that I learned as a music-therapist to conventional music teaching. Most standard methods rely heavily on the use of notation, counting and constant repetition. These elements can create enormous stress in the student, particularly when introduced too early. This slows down progress, decreases motivation and often results in the student giving up. Although the statistical evidence is limited, anecdotal evidence abounds; my own experience of music lessons as a child was soul-destroying and this tallies with the experiences of hundreds of students, young and old, that I have taught or interviewed over the last fifteen years. By combining the techniques of music therapy with my training as a professional musician, I have been able to find a way of teaching music that I believe is not only less stressful than other methods, but actually achieves better results and ensures that the student’s love of music stays with them long after the lessons have ceased.

Everybody is a Musician
My approach is based on two principals. First of all, music is not just for the “gifted” or for those who want to be professionals. Like speech, music is an innate human capability and everyone can do it. We all have music inside us: my job as a teacher is to help students to release their music in a way that is appropriate to them. Secondly, music is much more than just another skill to be acquired. Music has enormous power to affect our mood, and to change the way we think and feel. The ancient Greeks valued music primarily for its therapeutic qualities; in our culture we see it as little more than entertainment. However, if we approach it in the right way, music can be a simple and highly effective means of reducing stress, enhancing cognitive function and boosting self-confidence.

Learning Music Should Be Fun
Playing an instrument is not one of those things that we have to do. We take it up because we want to. If the learning experience is fun, we will continue playing. With that in mind, I use material from the jazz and popular repertoire. We all learn more quickly when we play music we enjoy and can relate to. Also, in the early stages, I teach mainly by ear. One of the big stresses for beginners is that they are learning how to read music at the same time as they are learning how to play. This is like trying to teach a baby to read at the same time as you are teaching it how to speak! Most of us would say that such a course would be insane, and yet it is routinely what we do when teaching music. Reading music is easy, provided it is introduced at the right stage. 

The Importance of Singing
I also encourage all my students to sing what they play. The voice is the one instrument we are all born with; our voice is, quite literally, a part of us in a way that an instrument is not. When we sing what we play, it helps us to feel the music more directly than playing alone. It also means that we don’t hold our breath when we play, a very common problem for many musicians. Finally, many people feel bad about their singing. They feel that they have a bad-sounding voice, they can’t sing in tune, they can’t remember words and so on. As far as I’m concerned, if you can talk, you can sing! Everybody can sing; it doesn’t matter whether you sing in tune or if you forget a few words. You may not make it to Covent Garden, but if you start singing, your playing will improve, as will your ear, your breathing and your overall musical confidence.

What Do I Teach?
I teach drums and jazz piano to all levels, classical piano to intermediate level. I also teach singing and composition. For more specific information on lesson content and rates, please email me at info@paulcav.com.

What Don’t I Teach
I do not teach the Grade system, unless you need it as a specific entry requirement for music college, nor do I teach for competitions. I think there are few things in music teaching that destroy a person’s love of music more than a competitive, exam based system that ranks students according to a rigid yet totally arbitrary set of criteria.