In the 2008 paper ‘Supporting students’ motivation, engagement, and learning during an uninteresting activity’, Jang ran a study that investigated the effects of two different motivational theories amongst participants who were undertaking an uninteresting task. The two theories are as follows:
Interest Regulation Model
The Interest Regulation Model theorises that people will try to develop ways to make an uninteresting task more interesting, including setting goals, task variations, working in groups, and turning the task into a game.
Identified Regulation Model
The Identified Regulation Model theorises that if someone is given a rationale as to why an uninteresting task is important, it will provide the motivation needed to complete the task successfully even though it is considered boring. The theory dictates that merely being told that the task is important is not enough, but in order for it to be effective the rationale must be internalised by the person on his or her own terms in order to truly believe in its importance.
The study found that, although the Interest Regulation Model did enhance engagement, the use of a rationale through the Identified Regulation Model produced significantly improved engagement levels, and delivered superior results. It was shown that the negativity of the task needs to be acknowledged, and the communication of the rationale needs to be in a non-controlling manner. The reason for this is that unless the rationale is internalised, the student won’t truly believe in its importance and the response will be weak as a result.
The use of a well thought out rationale is a very important tool when discussing the benefits of learning to read music with a guitar student. A good rationale will acknowledge that learning to read music is not the most exciting thing to do, but that there are very good reasons for doing so. Some things to mention in the rationale might include:
A list of some famous guitarists who know how to read music (e.g. Ritchie Blackmore, Randy Rhoads, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Steve Morse, etc.)
It is needed to gain entry to a tertiary music degree.
It is a great tool for understanding how to write songs, e.g. when to use a major, minor, diminished, or augmented chords.
That becoming a good guitarist is just a matter of following a process, and to skip a step in the process is to render the outcome uncertain.
Music theory is a major part of understanding how to compose and improvise.
Learning music isn’t hard, and can be done quite quickly with regular practice.
It will help with music classes and exams at school.
It will make them a better musician and guitarist.
Music notation can be transferred to other instruments.
Teaching Pitch and Rhythm Individually
Research has shown that teaching students to read pitch using the tonal pattern method produces superior results than the note-by-note basis (Grutzmacher, 1987; MacKnight, 1975). When students see music on a broader scale they are able to identify the relationships between notes, familiar combinations of notes, and how the context in which a note appears can assist in the process of reading music. The teaching of pitch names in the context of scales for example teaches students to view music from a different perspective, and a similar approach to musical intervals would allow students to use the other notes of the scale as reference points. The ability to see the relationships that notes have with each other frees the student to read further ahead in the music, which in turn results in better music reading skills overall.
I’ve noticed that asking guitar students to say the names of the notes out loud at the same time as they read and play them also has a strongly beneficial effect, and quite often the students actually sing the note names and are totally oblivious to the fact that they are doing so. Not only does this contribute to ear training, but research has found that the act of vocalising the names of the notes further enhances the learning process (MacKnight, 1975).
Due to the different manner in which the brain processes pitch and rhythm, it makes sense to introduce rhythm first due to the fact that young people and those who are new to reading music tend to be deficient in this area (Drake and Palmer 2000, Gudmundsdottir 2010). Research has shown that a strong sense of rhythm plays an important role in the act of sight-reading (Boyle 1970; Elliott 1982), and a good foundation in rhythmic skills will assist in the ability of the student to read music successfully. As rhythm is essentially a mathematical function and is processed as such by the brain, the possibility of using the techniques employed by mathematics teachers for division, percentages, fractions, and ratios might be useful additions to the repertoire of a music teacher.
Guitar students who have been learning from TAB usually have an understanding of rhythm as the rhythmic values are usually included in the tablature, but experience has shown me that the student will place far more emphasis on obtaining the rhythmic information by ear from a recording than from the notation. It is worth establishing how fluent the students are with regards to rhythm, and to include some rhythmic exercises in the lessons to strengthen and advance the knowledge they already have.