Integrating Jazz and Pop in your Lessons?

Some Questions to Ponder

Have music lessons changed since you were a child?

Do you sense a shift in your teaching because of  iTunes, iPads, YouTube, Spotify…?

Have you modified your daily lessons to accommodate the interests of your students and their desire to play in today’s styles?

Do you intend to buck the cultural trend and stay true only to your “classically-trained” roots?

Do you carry a wait list because you offer lessons in the jazz/pop styles?

Regardless of your answers to the questions above, please take a moment to answer a few more in a brief survey.  Before you click on the link and take the survey, keep the following definitions in mind.


Clarifications of Styles

What does “Classically Trained” mean?

“Classical” instruction uses traditional method books that focus on reading from the grand staff, technique, and careful interpretation of the written page. Emphasis is on mastering and memorizing repertoire of the Baroque, Classical, Romantic and 20th century style periods. Theory is included but the overall approach includes little or no improvising.

What is  Jazz/Pop Training? (as defined by Bradley Sowash)

Dixieland, Big Band, Small Group in a club? All of these constitute jazz genres but jazz is not a style or sound. Jazz is an approach to making music that involves reading and improvising over specific rhythmic feels within a given  harmonic context. Born in America, the roots of jazz lie in:

composer, concert jazz pianist, author and educator

  • African Rhythms
  • European Harmonies
  • Ethnic Influences

For pianists, “pop” could be defined similarly since most pianists read. One big difference is that with jazz you are expected to personalize the music. That’s why people like to hear the same standards played by different artists: because every jazzer brings their own perspective to the interpretation.

Student bands playing music, however, usually try to sound exactly like the recording. Pop music is actually defined as a subdivision of rock that is watered down and designed to appeal to teenagers. [For the purpose of this survey], the term popular means popular in the same context as “pop” at the symphony.

To boil it down–I’d say we are actually talking about “non-classical” or American styles. That would include bluegrass, folk, cajun, cowboy tunes, rock–basically anything that grooves, uses chords and is not through composed. Maybe the best strategy is not to separate them; pop/jazz always together.”


Thank you in advance!

I greatly appreciate your participation in the survey. Please, share this link with your fellow teacher friends so that a large cross-section of partipants’ answers can be collected. Results will be shared with intentions to invite more dialogue as we all ride the tide of teaching in the 21st century. Change–something that we can always count on.

Click survey to begin.

About the Author

Leila Viss
Hi, I'm Leila Viss, pianist, organist, teacher, author of The iPad Piano Studio and blogger at
I enjoy teaching piano to around 45 students ranging in age from 6 to 91. I am drawn to discovering innovative teaching methods and successful practice strategies to encourage the average player stick to the bench for life. Customizing lessons for each student is a priority and therefore... [Read more]



    i m also learning music and my music teacher is very helpful..

  2. Bella Payne

    I do teach pop and Jazz. That is the bulk of my teaching, because that is how I play the piano as well. I was classically trained and I do teach classical, but I LOVE teaching the Jazz method and my students love it too!

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