From time to time, people ask me “What is the Musiah Piano Method?”
Occasionally, they even ask, “Exactly what is the Musiah Piano Method?”— in other words, they are really asking me to define it.
So it got me thinking, it’s one thing to describe it (as per The Best Piano Method page), but can it be defined?
It’s rather like trying to define something like kung fu insofar as it is a number of things on different levels.
- Is it (kung fu) physical techniques or moves? Yes.
- Is it a system of self-defense? Yes, that too.
- Is it a philosophy for living an effective life? Yes again.
So if kung fu and the Musiah Piano Method have anything in common, it is that they are many things on many different levels.
“Ok”, I hear you saying, “I get the point that it’s not easy to define... Get on with it.”
Alright, alright, here goes:
Definition Of The Musiah Piano Method
The Musiah Piano Method is a method of teaching piano comprised of a number of techniques that
1) encourages equal proficiency in each hand in both
- playing technique and
- note reading
2) helps students master the skill of note reading faster. The skill of note reading includes
- reading individual notes on sheet music
- reading groups of notes on sheet music
- reading a whole piece of sheet music with notes for both hands efficiently
3) helps students learn pieces quicker
4) during the process of learning a piece, helps students put the two hands together quicker and more easily
5) teaches students a system for efficient practice that facilitates and supports rapid learning of pieces including
- The notes on the sheet music for the left hand, the right hand, and both hands together
- The physical movements, gestures and hand shapes required to play the notes in the left hand, the right hand and both hands together and
- Recognition of patterns in the sheet music
6) uses music as a means of empowering students to discover that they have the ability to teach themselves anything they want to learn (in addition to how to play piano).
The Main Issues The Musiah Piano Method Overcomes Are:
The vast majority of piano students, even those who have had many years of piano tuition with other piano methods
a) are stronger in their right hand and weaker in their left hand in both
- playing technique and
- note reading
b) struggle to master note reading for many years due to the use of inefficient techniques that slow their note reading down
c) take much longer than is actually necessary to learn pieces
d) when learning a piece, struggle with putting two hands together especially if the piece is rhythmically challenging and / or requires advanced coordination between the two hands
e) progress slowly, taking longer than necessary to learn the notes of the sheet music as well as the physical movements required to play the notes on the piano keyboard because they have never been taught an efficient system of how to practice
f) remain reliant on the assistance of a piano teacher to learn new pieces
A Summary Of Techniques Used In The Musiah Piano Method
Note 1: Use of each individual technique below will typically provide benefits to students in several if not all of the areas described in points 1-6 above.
Note 2: The below list is a summary of each technique. Most of these techniques (especially those concerning note reading) are expanded upon in our The Best Piano Method page.
Technique 1: When learning new pieces, start with the left hand whenever possible, i.e. almost all the time.
This simple technique gets students into the habit of thinking about their left hand first and then the right hand. So the left hand becomes the foundation when putting two hands together.
Technique 2: When asking students to play combinations of notes in each hand simultaneously, the teacher should always iterate the left hand first.
For example; “play a left hand C and a right hand E”. This approach supports the other techniques listed here and encourages students to form the habit of thinking of their left hand first, then the right hand.
Technique 3: When reading sheet music, read each chord (or group of notes) upwards in one eye movement from the bass stave through to the treble stave
i.e. reading the lowest (left hand) notes first and then the higher (right hand) notes.
Technique 4: Use tongue twisters rather than mnemonics.
The Musiah Piano Method strongly opposes the use of mnemonics such as “Every Good Boy Deserves Fruit” and “Great Big Dogs Frighten Auntie” as these mnemonics actually slow down a student’s note reading.
Instead, the Musiah Piano encourages students to say “EGBDF” as if it were a tongue twister. How quickly can you say “EGBDF”? Saying EGBDF gets the student to the note they are reading much quicker. And in the left hand, “GBDFA” is said almost like “Jibidy FA” — “GBDFA”.
Use of this technique improves a student’s note reading dramatically.
Technique 5: When reading high notes on ledger lines (or spaces) above the stave, use the sequence of letters ACEGBDFA to rapidly count up the lines (or spaces) to the note(s).
E.g. when reading a note on the 4th ledger line above the treble stave, students would count up the lines, “EGBDF-A-C-E-G” — it’s a “G”. Easy — and much quicker than any other method.
Technique 6: When learning a new piece, practice small segments of 1-2 bars at a time, learning the left hand, then the right hand, then both hands within each segment.
When introducing students to a new piece, most piano teachers (during a lesson) take a student all the way through the right hand of the piece from the beginning to the end, then all the way through the left hand, and then the teacher will usually say to the student (rather unhelpfully), “try both hands together at home for next week”.
This is inefficient and ineffective as the student (at the end of the lesson) has no idea what it will be like to attempt to put the two hands together on their own at home, and has not been given any direction by the piano teacher in terms of how to go about putting the two hands together efficiently and systematically at home.
Instead, it is much more efficient and effective to teach students as follows within the lesson, and to encourage students to continue this approach at home as an efficient system they can use to teach themselves or practice any piece as follows:
Initially just take a small section of the piece, say 1-2 bars and, going as slow as you like, practice the left hand about 5 times just in that section. Then, when you can comfortably play the left hand, do the right hand about 5 times until you can comfortably play it. Then try both hands about 5 times or until you are comfortable at your own tempo. Then do it a few more times, very gradually increasing the tempo each time.
Then progress to the next 1-2 bars and repeat this process. This way, even if the student only gets to learn 1 or 2 sections (with both hands) in the lesson, at least they have gained the confidence that comes from experiencing for themselves what it is like to play some of the piece with both hands while at their lesson. And they have been shown an easy system they can use to continue learning each subsequent section at home.
To summarize this method of practice/learning: Do 1-2 bars; LH 5 times, RH 5 times, BH 5 times.
Technique 7: Use pattern recognition as a means of learning pieces quicker.
During each lesson, the Musiah Piano Method trains and encourages students to recognize recurring patterns in the music which empowers students to systematically home in only on the different passages that have yet to be learned.
(In the absence of this technique, students will often waste time practicing passages they already know without realizing they already know them).
Technique 8: “The one thing you need to know”.
This is a philosophical and a practical approach to learning new pieces that empowers students to realize that, for the most part, they can teach themselves any new songs they want to learn.
It stems from the reality that in any new piece, there will only be one or two things the student may not have seen before. Yet, in the absence of this technique, students will often fear new pieces, wrongly suspecting that they will contain dozens of new things they have never seen before.
So in simple terms, this technique is about turning to a new page and pointing out to the student that, apart from “X”, the student already knows everything they need to know in order to be able to learn this piece on their own.
And once “X” has been explained to the student, this is very empowering because they discover that they are much more capable than they may previously have realized.
As students progress through the Musiah piano syllabus, if this message has been driven home repeatedly by the teacher (which it is by Musiah), students themselves soon arrive at a point where they can look at a new piece without fear, scan it for anything new that may need clarification, and otherwise teach themselves.
This discovery is very liberating for students as it gives them the knowledge, skills and confidence to learn all manner of new subjects throughout their life, knowing that for the most part, they can teach themselves whatever it is they wish to learn with little or no guidance from a teacher.
In terms of living an effective life, this is one of the most useful skills a person can have, and any person that has it, is well on the path to success.
I hope the above has helped to shed some light on what exactly the Musiah Piano Method is and how it can change the lives of students who learn to play piano through this method, not only by imparting the gift of music, but by liberating and empowering each student to achieve their full potential by unlocking the ability that resides within all of use to excel at learning new things.
If you (dear reader) would like to experience the life changing benefits of learning to play piano with the Musiah Piano Method for yourself or for a loved one, I invited you to take our Learn To Play Piano FREE For 14 Days Trial Offer.
You have nothing to lose, and so much to gain.
Thanks for reading, and please feel free to comment.
Til next time,
Brendan Hogan L.Mus.A, A.Mus.A.
Piano Teacher & Musiah Inventor