This is the first post in the Neural Net series.
In teaching piano, you can create ability and skill by connecting the knowledge about playing the piano with the physical movements and sound of the piano. This way the physical motions involved in playing the piano have a direct correlation with the quality of the sound. “When your hand is relaxed and your fingers are moving, the sound is a beautiful ringing tone.”
So, through this learning process, the physical/tactile movement and listening to the sound produced become wired together.
Ability development requires repetition so that the performance of a pattern* in the brain is consistent and secure. The picture at the right shows a neuron that is wrapped in the Myelin sheath – the fatty cells. With each repetition myelin wraps around the neuron cells and creates a consistent neuromuscular response.
At the same time we want to allow for freedom of expression and adaptability. It is ideal if the student can evaluate their playing after each repetition. The student evaluates the feeling and the sound, and adapts the neuro-muscular response accordingly so that the practice involves focus and concentration, and the repetitions can change and improve.
So, the first steps are the body posture/balance, the physical movement, and the concentration on the quality of the tone. Next, the student can layer in the dynamics, or feeling of the meter etc. Other concepts can be presented for holistic learning such as “authentic cadence”, diminished chord” and these labels can then be connected to the sound and feeling of the spot.
The physical expression of the pattern/spot/ phrase can evolve and change. Repetitions progress to a higher level of understanding and ability. The student learns the pattern, and then can be transferred to the other parts of the piece that have the same elements. Later the learned skills can be transferred to the new piece.
Daniel Coyle discusses this in his book The Little Book of Talent(3):
*A pattern can be any small part of the music such as repeated note legato, the feeling of rhythm (down-up for example) or any other part such as a phrase that is inherent in the piece being learned. Often referred to as a “spot” that the student does repetitions on.
1. Nurtured by Love by Dr. Suzuki, p. 89
2. This is referred to as “Hebbian Learning”, and is discussed in How to Create A Mind by Ray Kurzweil, p. 80
3. The Little Book of Talent by Daniel Coyle, page 39
Books quoted in this post: