chapter  16
Music, Informal Learning and the Instrumental Lesson: Teacher and Student Evaluations of the Ear Playing Project (EPP)
Pages 20

Outside the dominion of curricula, schools and colleges, a great deal of musicmaking and learning, in childhood and into adulthood, occurs most successfully. Within vibrant traditions, musical knowledge is transmitted effortlessly between practitioners in their communities, artistic collaborations take place and significant innovations occur, all without recourse to ‘formal’ training. Traditional and popular musics are simply not reliant on ‘formal’ music education for their survival, yet they have flourished and proliferated – indeed, massively so! In England, Lucy Green has investigated the ways in which popular music is distinct in its learning processes from Western classical traditions and, what is more, has shown how its traits can advantageously be imported into schooling. How Popular Musicians Learn (Green, 2001) reported on detailed interviews with 14 musicians from the London area, aged 15 to 50 years. The musicians’ recollections of learning experiences revealed key differences to ‘formal’ music education. She has categorized these as follows:

• music the learner selected by him-or herself • the primacy of learning through copying from recordings without the

presence of notation (ear-playing) • self-and peer-directed learning, typically in the absence of adult guidance • holistically-acquired skills as opposed to those formed through a pre-

determined curriculum, one progressing from simple to more complex material

• a high integration of listening, playing, composing and improvising throughout the learning process (adapted from Green, 2008, pp. 5-9)

Her findings fed into the ‘informal learning’ strand of a major national project in the classroom that was funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, namely Musical Futures ( An account of this venture can be read in Music, Informal Learning and the School (Green, 2008). ‘Friendship groups’

within Musical Futures governed their own learning, with teachers starting as observers, diagnosing needs and responding only to requests for guidance. Owing to this increased autonomy and to teachers ‘stepping back’ a little, even challenging students became more motivated (see Hallam et al., 2008; Jeanneret, 2011). These musical studies were approached through ear-playing. The research discussed here, the Ear Playing Project (EPP) came about naturally from the success of Musical Futures as instrumental teachers began to question whether or not its pedagogical strategies could be tailored for their lessons. The EPP was initially piloted in 2009-10 (Green, 2012a; 2012b). A teacher handbook and supporting materials will be available in a forthcoming publication by Green.