All Will Learn To Read, Write, & Play the Piano in the First 3 Lessons.
Following the winter break, I was asked by one of the parents about her child’s lessons. She wanted to know if in fact her 6 year old daughter's progress is at an accelerated rate that I often talked about. I thought the answer was obvious as the child started to use the same book in her third month as her 11 year old daughter who had studied piano for 5 years else where. She wanted to know how acceleration was possible for her younger daughter who, although smart, isn’t terribly talented.
This was a hard question to answer, because while most learning we know is linear, progress doesn’t have to be (and I can't explain this part here.)
Know this: I respect every ounce of gift in a child. It is very possible for a talent that looks irrelevant to have big impact in the student’s own life. In fact, in every child, I see many seemingly insignificant gifts that can actually be huge. No talent is too small to be developed. Can’t a tiny drop of fuel ignite a glorious fire if it’s in the right environment?
In the end I told the mother that I mainly use an intuitive approach supported by the 17 years of experience I have in teaching. I also gave her more concrete examples of tools that facilitate acceleration in learning. It is from the perspective of IQ and EQ. It was an interesting discussion. I would like to share this part of the conversation with you.
We all know about IQ and EQ. IQ is used in virtually all educational systems. Some systems also incorporate EQ in their curriculum. Nowadays, most parents take into account both IQ and EQ in their children’s learning.
In my opinion, IQ is a concept that can be subcategorized to account for its complexity. Furthermore, learning piano involves other quotients beyond the classical IQ and EQ. Recognizing these quotients is the first step in helping students gain more access to their innate talents. Without going into the details, I’m listing a few of the quotients that I use in improving student’s learning experience.
The Vision Quotient (VQ) is the student’s ability to move her/his eyes without getting lost. It also refers to the eye’s ability to absorb information steadily before data can be processed.
The Spatial Quotient (SQ) is the student’s ability to feel the space and somehow make sense of it relative to her/his bodily position. In piano learning, this space can be as small as 1/8th of an inch and as wide as 5 feet. It also changes rapidly. Playing piano requires more sensitivity and awareness of space than most other activities.
The Aural Quotient (AQ) is the person’s natural ability to understand sound, detect its nuances, or absorb information through sound. AQ can be demonstrated by someone’s aural memory as well.
Mozart has the highest known AQ. While most of us only hear shades of high or low, some children can hear the very ‘color’ of a pitch (they can identify every pitch on the piano. Only a few people have this hearing gift (1 in 10,000 or 0.01%). This hearing ability parallels our vision ability where 96% of people can distinguish colors. The ability to hear a pitch perfectly doesn't necessarily make the person more musical. It does however help the person learn a new song more quickly than average people.
The Intellectual Quotient (IntQ, as applied to learning music) is the student’s ability to absorb, understand, and digest information before applying it to solve a musical problem. Piano music has the highest intellectual quotient among popular musical instruments. Musical problem solving is one of the main activities that we practice during our piano lessons.
The Muscular Quotient (MQ) is the student's physical ability to sustain her/his playing through a long period of time. It is often expressed in terms of physical power and quickness of fingers.
The Coordination Quotient (CQ) refers to ability to coordinate the sensory information (sight), the processing skills (the thinking) and physical skills to execute a complex musical response that involves using fingers, feet, wrists, elbow, etc. When playing piano, this coordination cycle repeats itself every 0.33 second.
During my teaching lessons, I incorporate these types of quotients. While some teachers may categorize students as fast/slow or musical/not musical, I try to go one step further to identify the categories of learning-quotients in each student. This helps me to target what needs most attention for the week. It also helps me to understand the student. And it accelerates her/his learning, deepens her/his understanding of self and music, and reduces non-constructive frustrations.
At some point, a student who isn’t as musical as Mozart will look like he is on his way into becoming one. In my experience, skills acquired in piano lessons are very much transferrable to the student’s academic endeavor. A student who learned slowly academically will now have analytical ability to learn faster. This part of my work is most rewarding and is one of the main reasons I continue to teach.
Learning from the perspective of these quotients is applied to students as young as 3 and even more crucial for the teenage students. There is an ideal classroom environment to accommodate this way of learning. For this, I apologize for keeping the guardians out of my office in winter months. Young students really adopt new piano-learning-behavior a lot more quickly when parents and baby-sitters are unseen and unheard and not in the student’s thoughts during the lessons.
Learning music independent of their past allows students to have a better self-understanding. I find this process magical every time. Where appropriate, I incorporate their past learning too.
I do give out complimentary coffee cards to the café at the corner if guardians decide to leave my office.
Happy New Year!
PS- This year, my goal is to put all my writings into a binder, and hope some will have enough value to be compiled into a book. Because of my poor writing ability, I started using a professional editor. Often I undo his edits however.
I am very serious about teaching and have many tools in my teaching bag, but sometimes I think it's only understood by the students and not the adults.
Can you kindly let me know if this material is as useless and smelly as NYC summer trash, or is old news (as you have heard it many times elsewhere), or did it give you a feeling “Oh, I didn’t know that’s how people learn”?
~ I thank you in advance!