Tuesday, July 18, 2006

New Learning Breakthrough, pt. 1

I get new insights on the art of learning all the time. Sometimes figuring out how the human brain learns music is as fascinating as the actual learning process itself.

We've been discussing left hand and right hand independence, and I recently had one of the greatest learning insights of my life on this particular subject--and quite by accident.

Playing the piano can be hard. No, that's not the insight. We already know that, don't we? Every instrument is difficult in its own way for various reasons. And when we understand what that unique challenge is, then we can possibly have a map for figuring out how to master the instrument.

In some ways piano is easier than other instruments. We don't have to worry about developing an embouchure (that's the muscles of the face that wind instrument players have to be concerned with). We don't have to worry too much about tone quality (like almost all other instruments). We don't have to worry about playing in tune (that's your piano tuner's responsibility).

But most other instrumentalists do.

So what's the special difficulty in piano?

First, you have to play more than one note simultaneously.

Second, you are responsible for playing both the harmony (that means chords) and the melody simultaneously.

Virtually no other instrument has that problem. And that's the whole crux of the left hand versus right hand problem we have been talking about lately, isn't it?

A guitar player uses both his hands just to play chords. A violin/flute/trumpet/clarinet/saxophone/trombone player uses both hands just to produce one single tone.

We piano players have ten fingers to play all the notes of the melody as well as all the notes of the harmony simultaneously. There's the challenge.

Sometimes, when learning a new song with challenging chords, challenging melodies, challenging keys or all of the above, it's just overwhelming. All the elements of the song come together at once and overwhelm my senses.

But I just recently in the last few months discovered something that really opened up many many doors for me. And in the next blog entry, I'll reveal what it is.


  1. You evil little wizard-behind-the-curtain! Reveal the new breakthrough! Us piano-munchkins can't wait!

  2. Nope. Just a little more drama first.

  3. OK, now that you got all of us excited......

    Can hardly wait to hear it.


  4. So my FIRST time on this blog, and you have to leave us with a CLIFFHANGER?!?!?! What is this, May sweeps? :)

    Can't wait to hear what it is....

  5. Experience guitar players can play harmony, melody and bassline at the same time.
    Violin players can use triple stopping to play chords sometimes.

  6. I'm dying to hear the breakthrough. I just got a blog and the new breaakthrough isn't noted.