Saturday, May 18, 2013

Making It Happen - One Tone at a Time

The trouble with muscle memory is that it presumes a disengaged mind.  I just undertook the incredibly difficult task of relearning to articulate my toes - yes, toes, as a result of a physical condition that had gradually reduced their independence and my control over them.  I had to retrain my muscle memory by literally holding onto some toes so that the others could tell that they had the power to move independently.  Sounds bizarre, but it worked.

It struck me how similar that is to the way most people learn to play the piano.  Put this finger here and that finger there and then everything will be reliably in place and you won't have to think about it.


There are two things wrong with that approach:
It leaves out hearing altogether.
It leaves out all trace of variability as a good, even welcome thing.

Children who learn this way inevitably fall apart in recitals when they are playing on strange pianos: different touch, different acoustics, different everything.