Different ways people think when learning piano

Different ways people think when learning piano

This week I have learnt a lot from one of my students…

I learnt that someone can be seriously interested in learning and still find it difficult. I learnt that sometimes, applying the standard approach is not enough. I learnt that sometimes when a student struggles it doesn’t mean the student is stupid; it can mean we are not very creative teachers as well…

Every culture has its own ways of incorporating knowledge. Some cultures are more ascetic while some others are more concerned about how facts relate to each other in nature for example. When we teach in such an international set up as London is, we need to keep our sensitivity at its highest. Teaching is not about just applying our comfort-zone-methods, it is about finding the right language to communicate with each specific individual.

The way we learn can be culturally determined and it relates to centuries of habits. We inherit these habits from our ancestors and they define the way we intellectualize reality.

The thing with music is that it is 100% abstract. For some people, this might not represent an issue, but for some others, it might turn the entire learning process into a total nightmare. For example, if you come from a culture which relates primordially to nature, relating notes to letters and at the same relating them to pitches which simultaneously have to be understood as “heights” – in frequency terms – can feel almost impossible. In these cases, it would be far more advisable to just try and find a natural analogy to notes – this instead of relating them to letters -.

In a case very similar to the latter, I decided to think about the scales as a pyramid that goes from the ground until it reaches the stars. I came to this conclusion after seeing how one of my students struggled to travel down through the scales. The student found very difficult to name the notes backwards and I discovered that it must have something to do with how the student related to the abstract structures. Later on, I realised that there is no logic tying up these letters besides the alphabet, which we learn by heart. I also discovered that if we create a logically intertwined analogy with objects from nature, then the problem can be easily solved for the student.

It was following that logic that I came up with the idea of structuring notes as if they were in this imaginary pyramid. “A” was the ground, “B” was the air, “C” was the heat, “D” was heaven, “E” was the clouds, “F” was the empty space and “G” the stars. In this way, the student could follow a logic when moving up and down the notes and therefore avoid having to just learn the name of the notes by heart. After 4 weeks of struggling, we could finally solve the mystery of why it was so difficult to read using the cleves as references.

Another teaching challenge solved through the application of some creative devices…