Issue 23: Intentionality

Doing things “on purpose” is a key to understanding how to learn – in general, and in music.

The problem that many learners have is that this requires slow, purposeful work in the early stages of learning something new.

The idea of learning being an active, engaged, process, which has to be “switched on” is very hard to get across; “finger training” is a bit like puppy-training; you have to go over and over the “commands” until finally the whole eye-brain-finger-ear combination has got the idea and stops “arguing” or “fluffing” and becomes complaint to the will of the person.

This is a sophisticated understanding; if our young musicians can get the hang of this process, they will become powerful learners.

Unfortunately, this type of groundwork often isn’t “fun” or “exciting”. What the pupil wants to do is play the piece in the way that they have just heard you play it!

The teacher’s role is to coax, persuade, encourage, the pupil to learn deeply, thoroughly, exactly, accurately, right from the start. Ummm. How do we make this sound fun and exciting?

I set very small goals; play these two note with your 3rd and fourth finger six times in a row; play this one-bar phrase six times in a row with a Blat every time. (“Okay, that’s five success in a row; so, this could be the last go…no pressure then….”. Reward success extravagantly; move on to the next bit, then, unexpectedly see if the “fingers can still remember” the first phrase. Make a game of it; maybe use the stars and scissors system….

You want to develop a habit of concentration. The ultimate carrot is that 5 minutes of concentrated practise is worth 15 minutes of half-hearted plonking at the piano, so you can get the results in half the time (or get twice the results n the same time) if you give it your full attention!

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