Learning Music Musically

It may surprise many but many students don't get the chance of learning music musically.

Besides technical details, training a student to be musical should be the desire of every good teacher.  No matter what instrument you play, whether piano, flute or trumpet, this common goal remains. 

Training in musicality when neglected in foundational years puts the student at a great disadvantage.

Hence, the need for a really good teacher in beginning piano lessons or any instrument lessons for that matter.

"The teacher of beginners is a person of great importance in all education, particularly in music...  The work is not looked upon as an ignoble one, worthy of only the failures or the inferior teacher."

- Josef Lhevinne

In musical training, it's easy to neglect many details that are necessary to make a piece of music really moving and beautiful.  When one is taught only to read notes, the crux of playing the music and communicating it's true beauty is sadly lost.

The Heart of Learning Music

As a piano teacher, these are some of the foundational skills I aim to develop in every of my students.  Piano technique aside, essential points of learning music are:

  1. a good sense of rhythm
  2. a keen ear
  3. an expressive heart

1. A Good Sense of Rhythm

Knowing the values of different notes and rests is absolutely essential, not just in a theoretical sense.  The ability to clap and feel rhythms with great precision is key to all good music. 

Exposure to different types of rhythms - straight, syncopated, jazz etc. and reinforcing the feel for each builds musicality.  Playing duets with a rhythmic partner helps strengthen a sense of rhythm.  So does listening to rhythmic music from young.

2. A Keen Ear

Ears are as important as the fingers, if not more important.  In my years of piano teaching, it was a great heartache for me to see many transfer students who studied music for years have no clue how to 'use their ears.' 

A keen ear is a musical ear.  Ear training begins from the very first lesson.  It is not just listening to whether notes are correct.  That's only one percent of what the ear is supposed to do.

Listening intently to what you play and knowing what to listen to will take a student very far.  All students can be taught to listen well to rhythm, tone quality, dynamics (loudness), harmony (chords), style etc.

This is an invaluable tool in learning music as it provides the student the tools to fine-tune his own playing and gives him a chance to input his own creativity in the music eventually.

Some students with greater perseverance, interest and perhaps aptitude go further in this but very often, what limits the development of a keen ear is musical training. 

3. An Expressive Heart

To express music in a way that is beautiful and true to the composer's intentions is highly valued. 

Reading on the life of a composer, conditions in which he wrote a piece and ideas that may have influenced his creativity are central to playing music well.

Till today, the reason why audiences flock to hear great pianists like Martha Argerich is to be rewarded by a performance of great beauty, thought and authenticity.

› Learning musically