Promises abound on the Internet about playing piano in a flash. Short cut promoters claim thousands of dollars are wasted on “traditional” piano lessons.
A teacher in the Southwest advertises software that speeds up note reading. Children as young as two are glued to a computer that’s attached to an electronic keyboard with far fewer notes than a real piano. Mozart’s name is attached to the program. (May he rest in peace, and not roll over in his grave)
Touch and tone production are not part of the package. Getting right notes is the goal. A typing class would easily meet these requirements. Artistic considerations are tabled until note reading is out-of-the-way??
At the New York City High of Performing Arts where I was a student decades ago, one of the most popular electives was TYPING. The big chart with all the KEYS arranged in neat rows was like an orchestra for Mr. Latner as he took a pointer and rhythmically tapped F, G F, and J, H, J. It made sense. We weren’t going to become concert typists but we needed ace manual skills to compete in the work place if our dreams of stardom died on the vine.
Most piano students can develop dexterity up to a point on a digital keyboard, and can be trained by a computer to read music, but both have little to do with music making that encompasses phrase shaping, nuance, and interpretation.
Parents will inquire about private lessons saying that they have a 61-key or less electronic portable that little Jimmy had been practicing on in school. About 10 of these are set up in rows and students have ear phones to tune out wrong notes coming from neighbors. At Fresno High teens tap away for hours without a second thought. Dynamics, phrasing are out of the ball park.
The electrical keyboard hook-ups are very tenuous and if the plug is pulled or power fails, kaput, finished! (It reminds me of the leg press machine at Bally’s whose pressure gauge went poof yesterday) No workout worth anything. I could have applied the same minimal energy to playing a bell and whistle digital piano with little if any key depression resistance. Yet these are used with toddlers and older students whose parents think that they have signed up for piano lessons.
The question remains, can you side step a piano with 88 keys or expect to learn the singing tone by starting with a short keyboard–or one rigged up to a computer?
With all the note reading skills in the world under your belt, including a set of formula chord progressions, how does that begin to cultivate the piano on its organic terms? The art of creating a singing tone and bridging the distance between the player and his sound source, are the challenges.
Being a baby step advocate, I’m put off by gimmicks that skirt a time-honored learning process and hype $$$ driven short cuts.
Perhaps, I’m an anachronism, steeped in an era where getting to a place was half the fun, not being there before the once savored journey.
To those who parcel out teaching piano to computers, separating the player from the real instrument for too long, I say, well, here is where we part company. A teacher should be involved from the ground up because the very earliest stages of learning are the most critical. The presence of the teacher in each and every developmental juncture is essential. The computer cannot phrase the music. It cannot NUANCE the music. It cannot teach the BREATH in music, etc.
While 1984 came and went without George Orwell’s doom and gloom prophecy fulfilled, and the Millennium survived the world’s end, I still think we have to fear what lies ahead. If computers and keyboards keep picking up speed, we’re likely to ride over a cliff leaving acoustic pianos and flesh and blood teachers behind. In that case short cut learning and electronics will sadly prevail!