Updated: Oct 16, 2019
We teach piano. But more than that we are a teachers of music. Our hope is our students will enjoy music throughout their lives. We hope they'll be able to spy one of those airport pianos and knock off something that will cheer weary travelers or sit down at a party and play Happy Birthday . The ability to sit down at any piano and play is a dream that is difficult to achieve if you are only a note-reader.
Someone who can read a language but only speak what someone else has written, is the equivalent of a note reader. How could you express your own thoughts? You would be a slave to someone else’s thoughts. They may be brilliant thoughts, like those of Einstein, but they are not YOUR thoughts.
Playing the piano by ear is equivalent to someone speaking a language they can't necessarily read or write. They can communicate their thoughts with speech but emails would not be possible. In order to be comfortable and expressive in a language we need to read it, write it AND speak it.
So how do we ‘learn to speak piano’? Or, how do we TEACH improvisation and playing-by-ear? Spend 5 mins of each lesson improvising. Consistently. Starting a lesson this way opens the ears, cements chords and scales, and creates a student that ‘speaks piano’ Bobby McFerrin would like us to improvise for half of each lesson but 5 mins consistently works wonders.
If your interest has peaked, next weeks blog will present some concrete improv exercises anyone can do in the first 5 mins of a lesson. Stay tuned…