Eyes: Traditionally this has been the main focus of piano pedagogy. Worked great if reading was your strength. Frustrating if not.
Ears: Many amateurs play by ear. Works great but, a real limitation for most. In my professional experience the ceiling of your potential is reached much too early. Too many amateurs play the same limited repertoire year after year.
Hands: The pit of mindless repetition. Musician as robot. Married with the eyes, it has bored countless students for centuries. The belief that if one just repeats the darn piece enough time you can master the work and express it's beauty is a self-limiting paradigm that needs to be put to rest.
Intellect: Rarely do music students ever consider the role of the of the intellect. Specifically, knowledge of the structure and history of the music they are playing. Knowledge of how the body makes music. Knowledge of how to connect the eyes, ears, and hands into well-polished and creative process.
Recently in Rome Italy I spent a week at the Rome Summer Jazz Workshop. They believed the first step to playing Jazz was imitation. They had this down pat. It was nothing like I experienced in all my education to date. It was intense, it was fun, it was effective, it was inspiring. I've taken those ideas and put them together in a form practical for piano students to do at home. We've been at it for a few weeks now, everyone is very happy.
The practice process goes something like this.
- Score on the stand.
- Play professional recording while reading the score.
- Play the first phrase on the piano.
- Listen to the recording play the first phrase again.
- Play the phrase at the piano again. Repeat this process (play, listen, play, listen, etc.) until you have mastered the phrase. It is important to play at slower tempi than the recording. We are listening for rhythm, dynamics, and articulation. (In reality the students don't listen for rhythm, dynamics or articulation. They absorb this intuitively by ear! But, they are reading the notes.)
- On to the next phrase, repeat the process.
- A couple of phrases each practice session.
- Recordings on your phone or tablet
- Ear-buds for good sound
- Pencil of mark in fingerings as needed
Music is an aural art. Why not change the way we practice to take advantage of new effective methods and technologies?
More on this in the next post.