Monday, June 2, 2014

We're Teaching Music the Wrong Way

In my past year as a professional musician, performing 9 to 12 hours a week, I've come to the conclusion that most American piano teachers have it backwards.  Even I -- was teaching my piano students the wrong way for 15 years.  I had a hunch that this was the case, but my experience of the past year has confirmed my suspicions.  The fact is -- reading classical notation slows people down and it's not for everyone!  A child should never learn to read music before they have learned to first listen and speak the language of music.

This classical method of teaching students to read notation at the first or second lesson is just dead wrong!  Millions have learned that they're not smart enough to play music without the crutch of sheet music.  They've been taught to rely on a set of instructions and to dismiss the power of their ears and musical intuition.  They've been taught to read alphabet letters but not to see the musical words (chords), sentences (phrases), and paragraphs (sections/form) of a song.  They've been taught to decode notes but they play with such anxiety over making a mistake that they speak those notes in an emotionless monotone. 

Music lessons/ piano lessons can only prepare students to be professionals if they first start with first training the ears and the creative mind.  The learning of spoken language starts with the ears.  What comes first with a human baby?  First, babies must spend a year or two listening to the language.  Only then are they ready to speak the language.  Then, babies aren't typically able to read the language for another few years.  Learning music, which is also a language, should follow the same sequence:  listening first, then speaking the language of music, and finally, reading and writing that language.  

Why are American piano teachers doing it backwards, insisting that children read notes at the first lesson?  We have it wrong because we've been following the script of those beginner piano books as if they were gospel, rather than trusting our own intuition about how to teach music.  

We need to delay the reading of traditional staff notation until the ear has learned to hear what a perfect fifth sounds like, what a one chord going to a four chord sounds like, and how to sing a song in numbers.  Music students must learn to be creative and improvise right away; from the first lesson.  They need to understand chords and scales before they read anything.  

We need to be able to make music without a sheet of paper, in an intuitive and joyous manner first!   And then, when a joyful and intuitive musical ear has been developed, introduce the reading of notation. Though I have fought through blood, sweat, and tears to master the tortuous task of sight reading in our classical notation system (and I am a pretty good classical sight-reader), I have found that there is a better way; a system to learning and playing songs on the piano that is more intuitive, faster, and produces more awareness of the structure of music.  

I have also come to the conclusion that immediate memorization of the "structural map" of a piece can yield rapid results in the learning of a piece, and yield immediate memorization.  This system relies on the power of the human mind and imagination rather than a piece of paper.  

Gone are the days of spending months on a difficult classical piece!  And forget about laboring over a difficult arrangement of a pop piece.  In the next few posts, I hope to show you some videos if how this rapid learning system works.  I'm excited to share this with you, so stay tuned to my next few posts.