Along with music, I have an interest in a language Learning (a hobby). In reading several articles about best practices in learning a new language, I was struck by the similarities in the way I teach piano to my students.
I didn't used to think that music was a language. Now I not only think it is but I think the best way to learn a musical instrument is to follow the structure of language learning.
So how did you learn language? Probably, as a child, you learned to "mimic" your parents and family members as they spoke. You learned a few individual words at first, later graduating to putting them together in phrases and short sentences. You made lots of mistakes in pronouncing things and probably the adults thought it was cute and knew that eventually you would get it right.
And you did. Later, In school, you learned what words looked like, and how they were constructed. You also learned how to put together more complex sentences into paragraphs. Perhaps most importantly, you learned how to express yourself in your speaking and writing.
So the journey of language began with speaking only, then later learning to read words and sentences. No one would expect a toddler to learn to write words and sentences before they learned to speak. That would be ludicrous.
Can this compare to learning a musical instrument? You bet it can. I've found that when I follow the same mindset of learning to play first and learn to read music later, my students find it easier and more motivating because they get to play great stuff right away. We begin looking at music reading exercises about 6 months in. It's rather easy for them as they're so used to playing the notes and rhythms they’re learning.
We would call this type of piano method a "playing based" method. These methods are fairly new on the music education scene. The only two I know of are Suzuki and the one I teach, called Simply Music. All other piano methods are "reading based" (you must learn to read music notation as you learn to play) and have been around in the same basic form for about 200 years. Here are some of the reasons I choose to teach the Simply Music method:
There are many more benefits but these are the most prominent.
I do know that I'm glad to be able to provide great learning and motivation for children and adults who want to learn piano but may have had challenges with other methods. For many people, learning to play the piano is really a dream come true.
There are many ways to learn to play the piano. Especially nowadays, one can surf the Internet and find many options to learn anything, including how to play something on the piano. If one wants to really make piano playing a good hobby or profession, however, the choices are fewer.
After teaching for a fair amount of years, I classify piano methods into two major categories: reading-based and playing-based. I began piano lessons in the second grade of elementary school (US). Most or all piano methods were (and many still are) very traditional (reading-based). This meant I started learning the complex language of music notation from the very beginning. Since it was a requirement that I had to learn to read the notation of a piece before I was able to play it, the first couple of years were filled with super simple and boring pieces that, frankly, I'm not sure I would want to push on anyone.
Was this the best way for students to learn to play piano? I assumed so. All piano teachers in my area taught this way so I also taught this way for many years while constantly trying to think of another, better way. However, I wasn't aware of some important concepts that blow this way of learning out of the water.
Music is a language, the learning of which can be compared to our own language.
How do we learn our language? As toddlers, we start learning words, then experiment with putting them together into sentences. Only several years later do we learn what those words and sentences look like on the printed page - that is, we learn to read. And along the way, we've made many cute mistakes in grammar and pronunciation and that was okay as that's part of learning.
Terry Smith teaches piano and voice privately in the Phoenix, AZ area and online anywhere using an innovative approach called "PLAY NOW!"
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"As a piano teacher myself, I was anxious to find a teacher that would make learning music an enjoyable experience for my children. I am totally and completely happy with my children's lessons with Terry. He is patient and encouraging. He draws from a variety of resources to provide music that teaches, challenges, and is pleasant to play (and listen to). I highly recommend him!" - Anna H.
"Terry Smith is an excellent piano teacher. He is very knowledgeable in technique and the history of music. He was always on time and ended on time for his next student. He always made lessons enjoyable."