Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Time for Tip Number Three in our series of 22 not-so-obvious, outside-the-box ways to improve ones musicianship other than practicing ones butt off. One of the biggest drawbacks to this crazy Information Age in which we currently live is that there is simply too much damn information. The problem is not that we have a hard time finding information. It's that we have a terrible time trying to manage it.
The key to information management is to know what information is important and what isn't. It's to prioritize. And this is very true when it comes to learning the piano or any other instrument. There is so much one can do. Where do you start? Do you learn scales? If so, which ones? Do you try technic exercises? What songs should you learn? What helps, and what is just a waste of time?
You can easily obtain a catalog of over 12,000 chords. But you can't learn them all at once. Which ones do you learn first? Which are the most important?
But with so much information now at our disposal how do you sort the wheat from the chaff?
Making this decision is one of the primary roles of the piano teacher. A teacher (or anyone who has already traveled the road that you want to travel) can be qualified to make those decisions. One could argue that music teachers might be superfluous. It's true that many great musicians are self taught.
But a teacher (or some authority) can be very valuable in helping you sort out the "important" pile from the "not-so-much."
Of course employing a teacher to help you sort things out, in and of itself, leads to an opinion too: the opinion of the teacher. That's why it's so important to choose a teacher very carefully, if you choose to use one.
So now the question would be, how do you find the right teacher? Here's what I think is important.
1. the teacher knows the information you want to learn
2. the teacher is able to perform the music you want to learn
3. the teacher has excellent two-way communication skills
And this last one is the kicker. Two way communication skills. Yes, the teacher must be able to transmit information to you. But he must also be able to listen to you, to find what you want to know, to discover what you already know, to know what gaps you have and how to fill them.
In other words, the teacher needs to know what it is you don't know, and then remedy that by providing the information that's important and only the information that's important. We just don't have enough years in our lives to fill in all those gaps with random, unstructured information.
My own piano education is kind of unusual, I guess. When I was 23 I found a pro piano player (age 18) with whom I studied for a year. Then he moved. Since that time I've had lessons with dozens of different players. With a few I studied for several months. But with the overwhelming majority of them I just had one lesson. Maybe two at the most.
And one super positive benefit I got from taking just one lesson from so many people is that I uncovered a few choice beliefs that they all shared. A consensus. And those beliefs constitute what I consider to be the "important" things in music.
And these beliefs form the central core of what has come to be known as my teaching system: the workshops and the coursewhere. I haven't got the time to learn everything there is to know. And I certainly don't have the time to teach everything there is to know.
Some things musically just don't matter as much as others.
And knowing which is which is half the battle.
Posted by Newsam at 2:53 PM