*This is the forth in a series of blogs which are an in depth analysis of Daniel Coyle’s book The Talent Code as it relates to the “Talent Education method” developed by Dr. Suzuki.

In the section on “Learn to Feel It” as a part of “deep practice”, Daniel Coyle tells about how he observed students at the Meadowmount music camp in a class entitled “How to Practice”. They are asked to listen to a violin that is out of tune and connect with how that feels:

“If you hear a string out of tune, it should bother you, Skye told them, ‘it should bother you a lot. That’s what you need to feel. What you’re really practicing is concentration. It’s a feeling. “(1)

“Feeling it” is the way children learn naturally. The baby learns to walk by learning to feel its balance. Feeling is a term which includes the input from the senses such as hearing an out of tune violin, taste, tactile, physical feelings and visual input, It is the awareness of  the environment without explanation In the book Sensibility and Education Dr. Kataoka says:

“Children live in the world of feelings, and they feel things directly with their intuition…(Let us) try to understand the world of children’s sensibility and make an effort not to destroy it…(2)

Connecting feelings with learning engages the student. This does not mean we spoon feed feelings, but rather that we enable children to connect their feelings with their learning. By focusing the students awareness on the quality of the sound we enable them to “feel” the music through their senses, aural, tactile, and even the aural connection to the visual. By properly sequencing skills with just the right amount of challenge to feel accomplishment and develop skill, the child can associate the learning with a deep concentration and sense of success. Focusing on tone while developing skill will enable the child to produce the highest quality tone as pure communication This will motivate, involve, and inspire the student in deep practice.

When listening to a great pianist, one of the most striking and distinctive elements in their playing is their ability to directly communicate through the sound.

Their learning has involved putting their own sensibility/feeling into the music. There is a physical sense of touch connected with the quality of the sound, an aural understanding of the patterns of the music into patterns, phrases, and sections, and an ability to communicate deeply, individually, and directly through the language of music.

When practicing with your child, keep listening for good tone, and bring awareness of the feeling of the good tone into the practice. Allow this to be the focus and it will take the student into a state of deep practice/concentration that connects the tone with the broader patterns of the sound as well as the physical motions, In this same way they will be able to understand the visual picture of the music: the score; as it relates directly to the sound without any extra explanation. Thus we are enabling optimum learning by keeping the child connected with their sensibility. Dr. Kataoka says:

“People who reach adulthood with their sensibility intact can make correct judgements about everything; this is because their natural sensibility has not been destroyed. It is because they can listen to the voice of God.”(3)

A previous blog from January 2009 which is also about feeling music:
“The Integral Learning Perspective- Learning to Play by Heart”

1. The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle, p. 90-91
2. Sensibility and Education, Dr. Haruko Kataoka, p. 14
3. Sensibility and Education, Dr. Haruko Kataoka, p. 17

Books quoted in this post: