Private Lesson Pedagogy: “Five Steps to Teaching”

As many of you know, I’m a huge fan of the late great John Wooden.  One of the myriad of things I learned from him by reading his books, etc. is his “Four Laws of Learning.”

“The four laws of learning are explanation, demonstration, imitation, and repetition. The goal is to create a correct habit that can be produced instinctively under great pressure. To make sure this goal was achieved, I created eight laws of learning: namely, explanation, demonstration, imitation, repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition and repetition.” John Wooden (

Building just a little on this, I propose a “Five Steps to Teaching.” To Wooden’s Four Laws I would add “Correction” between imitation and repetition.  (I’ve heard him include correction to the four laws, so this is not original to me; I’m just packaging things up in a certain way.)

So,  for example, here’s how the “Five Steps” would work in teaching a student how to articulate on a clarinet:

  1. Explanation. Discuss how the tongue should touch just below the tip of the reed.
  2. Demonstration. Pick up a clarinet and play a few tongued notes for the student.
  3. Imitation. Have the student try to copy what she’s heard on her clarinet.
  4. Correction. Make suggestions for improvement based on the imitation.
  5. Repetition. Have the student try it again.

Sometimes it makes sense to switch the order of the steps based on the topic, student, etc. For example, it might be useful to demonstrate and then explain. Or, after the imitation, the student might need another dose of explanation and demonstration along with correction. This might especially be true with tonguing. FYI, I have found that it takes a lot of work to improve one’s tonguing on the clarinet. However, articulation is profoundly important – notice the prominence of Beethoven 6th Symphony mvt. 1 and Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Scherzo on orchestral audition lists.

For more wisdom from John Wooden, go to (scroll down)

About ClarinetMike

American clarinetist MICHAEL DEAN performs and teaches internationally and across the USA to consistent praise such as "world-class clarinetist and pedagogue," "consummate performer," "inspirational," "outstanding teacher," "super," "brilliant performer," and "one of the best clinicians I have ever seen." His career is headlined by appearances at Carnegie Hall, ClarinetFest, NACWPI, Eastman School of Music, and Royal Northern College of Music with recent recitals and master classes in Italy, Spain, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Louisiana, and Texas. In July, he will return to Vipiteno, Italy as Clarinet Artist Faculty in Residence at Orfeo Music Festival 2018. He is featured on 5 commercial CD's and on New Media, such as YouTube. He is currently preparing another new clarinet CD, Postcards from Silver Lake. He's performed with the Southwest Symphony, Nevada Symphony, Abilene Philharmonic, Southeast Chamber Players, Red Mesa Trio, and Duo 35. He performed for 11 years with the Paducah Symphony. His articles appear in journals such as Southwestern Musician, WINDPLAYER, NACWPI Journal and The Bandmasters' Review. As "ClarinetMike," he writes for his widely-read ClarinetMike Blog, in 150 countries on 6 continents. He was recently a tenured Associate Professor of Clarinet for 11 years at Southeast Missouri State University. He returned to his native Texas in 2012 due to family concerns. He is a past president and former National Board officer of the National Association of College Wind and Percussion Instructors (NACWPI). Dr. Michael Dean studied clarinet performance at Texas Tech University, University of Colorado at Boulder, University of Texas at Austin and University of Texas at Arlington. His teachers include Robert Walzel, Phil Aaholm, Carol Jessup, Jess Youngblood, Bob Ackerman, and Pam Youngblood. His web page,, features video of his teaching and performing as well as information on his CD's and other publications. He is a BG France Performing Artist.
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One Response to Private Lesson Pedagogy: “Five Steps to Teaching”

  1. Pingback: ClarinetMike’s Clarinet Teacher Tips: “Five Steps to Teaching” | ClarinetMike Blog

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