Hello and welcome. My name is Brendan Hogan. Today in this little session we are going
to talk briefly about the Musiah Teaching Method and in particular how the method applies
to the teaching of note reading. But before we get into it too much, let’s
just look at what is it that we actually teaching? We are basically teaching piano lessons, even
though we use keyboards for the obvious practical reasons.
But what else is there about the method that is uniquely original?
OK well first of all let’s have a look at some of the main methods that are known throughout
the world today. There are basically three main methods…
there’s Suzuki, Yamaha and traditional teaching. Now the thing with Suzuki, no disrespect to
Suzuki, but in summary it is teaching the kids or adults to play by ear.
Yamaha method, again no disrespect to the Yamaha method I’m sure there is more to it
than this, but in summary the gist of Yamaha is it’s all about teaching the kids to read
the notes using solfa names DO RE ME FA SO etc.
And then of course there is traditional, and by traditional I mean where we actually teach
the kids to read the notes. The thing is, with Suzuki as an example, I
used to leave next door to a young girl in her teens and she was getting ready for her
Grade 8 exam and basically she couldn’t play the pieces and she would ask me to come in
and actually sight read the pieces for her so she could record them in order to hear
how they sound and then she would essentially learn them for her exam by ear from the tape.
So that’s just an example of one of the deficiencies of the Suzuku method if it’s used in isolation,
without at least some exposure to traditional teaching where we learn to read the notes.
Yamaha, well you know it’s another approach, another valid approach I guess when taken
on its own merits. But I have had experience where I’ve taught
students who’ve learnt with Yamaha for perhaps three years and they don’t know where Middle
C is. They call Middle C “DO”. And I point to the key and say “what’s that
note?” and they’ll say “oh that’s DO”. What the Yamaha teachers never seem to teach
the kids is that DO can shift, so for example in the key of C Major, C is DO, but in the
key of G Major G is DO. So it shifts.
So there is no such thing as “oh Middle C is DO”.
It’s just interesting some of the things you actually see when you come across this various
methods. So by far out of the three existing well-known
methods I would say traditional teaching is the best.
However, having learnt traditionally myself, there are some drawbacks even to traditional
teaching. And it’s those drawbacks and limitations that
led me to gradually overtime develop the Musiah Teaching Method.
When I was a young kid learning piano, I thought I was the only one that had this problem,
but basically my left hand was weaker than my right hand.
So I was a little bit stronger, more confident at reading and playing with the right hand
then with the left hand. And then as I got to know other students as
I, you know, mingled with them in music school and so on, I found that some of them had the
same problem. And over the last 17 years as owner-operator
of Australia’s largest in-school keyboard music program, I found that many of the kids
that were being taught through our program also had a similar issue.
And in fact so had many of the teachers. So basically it seems to be the case that
95 percent of students all over the world from Ireland to Australia and everywhere in
between have this funny little thing, which is a deficiency in the left hand.
Why is that? The answer is surprisingly simple. It’s basically the way they’re being taught.
You know it comes down to even otherwise good, well-meaning teachers… they’re basically
for some reason teaching the kids to habitually start every song with the right hand.
There is no particular reason for this. If you ask a teacher “why do you always start
with the right hand?” usually they just don’t know.
And yet, unwittingly, unknowingly they are doing huge disservice to the kids that they
teach all over the world. I’m going to ask you a quick question: How
many hands am I holding up? It’s not a trick question. I’ve got two hands,
right, because God gave me two hands. Why logically would I repeatedly, habitually
favor one hand over the other to the detriment of the other?
There is no valid reason for doing it. So… very important but very simple, the
first aspect of the Musiah Teaching Method is… Start with the left hand at least 50
percent of the time. Now, notice I say at least 50 percent of the
time, because there is actually a very good reason why you should consider starting with
the left hand more than 50 percent of the time.
Apart from the fact that we need to do something to redress… redress this sort of global
consciousness of “Oh, I must start with the right hand all the time”, there is a very,
very good reason over and above that. See this… This historically is what music
used to be written on. As legend would have it, before we had the treble and bass staves
of staffs, whichever you want to call it, you say tomato I say tomato… however the
saying goes, before we had two separate staves, music used to be written on a big stave like
this which has eleven lines. The thing about the eleven line stave was,
yes it was harder to read then today’s stave. And this thing here, see this funny little
symbol on the left, that what’s called a C Clef, OK, and this note here is actually a
Middle C. And it’s hard to read because obviously with eleven lines on the stave, you know,
looking at that at a glance… Is it the fifth line from the bottom? Is it the sixth line
from the bottom? A little bit hard to tell. So somebody quite clever came along and basically
rubbed out the Middle C line thus creating two separate staves. And what they did was
they gave Middle C it’s own little line which is called a ledger line.
Next thing was of course we added treble and bass clefs and then we moved the staves a
little bit further apart to make it even easier to read.
And this seems like a good idea, of course, and for the most part it is a good idea.
Let’s have a look at this. This is back to our old fashioned stave, if you like eleven
lines. Here is a chord made of four notes. The one advantage to the old system is that
reading a chord like this, we would start at the bottom and we would scan up the stave
in one eye movement, OK. By contrast, because of the way that 95 percent
of the teachers all around the world are teaching their piano and keyboard students, today’s
students are basically reading the right-hand notes first, they scan up the treble stave
and then in a second inefficient eye movement they come down to the bottom and they scan
up the bass stave. So that all the time when they’re reading
they’re basically going one, two, one, two, one, two.
And that’s just crazy! Ok so, even though there are two staves, this
little line here, this vertical line at the side, joins the two staves to form what we
still call to this day the Grand Staff. It is still one stave or staff.
So we should be teaching students to read the notes as though it’s one staff.
They should be reading up in one scan per chord or per group of notes.
Ok, so that’s a very important aspect of reading notes and so it brings us to an extension
of the previous point which is… Start pieces with the left hand first and then the right
hand almost all the time. Sometimes you come across pieces where you
know the obvious thing is to start with the right hand just because of the character of
the piece. But most of the time, as a general rule, start
with your left hand first, and then do the right hand.
And if you get the kids into the habit of starting each new piece this way, they get
used to thinking about left hand first then the right. And then they read that way. And
that will do a great deal to speed up their reading.
And the next little tip I’d like to give you, this is a… this is a… a great, simple
little tip, that most people would never, never think of, but it will save your students,
those of you who are teachers, it will save your students two to three years of time they
would otherwise spend learning to read notes. And what it is, is this.
Don’t use phrases like “Every Good Boy Deserves Fruit”.
OK, because if you think about it, for a child particularly, let’s say a youngish child who
is just getting used to the alphabet, for them to read a note, let’s have a look at
a sample note, OK, here’s one. If there were going to read this note and
they’re going to go… Every Good Boy Deserves Fruit “Oh, fruit begins with F, therefore
it’s an F”. They don’t make that connection instantaneously
the same way an adult would, OK, so rather than going… Every Good Boy Deserves Fruit,
to read that note it’s much quicker to go E G B D F… Just like that!
So say it like a tongue twister. How quickly can you say E G B D F?
Because the quicker you can say E G B D F, the quicker you can think it and the quicker
you get to the note. OK, so by… by encouraging kids to continue
saying if they already know these phrases “Every Good Boy Deserves Fruit”, you’re actually
slowing them down. And it was actually my third piano teacher
who got me on to this very simple tongue twister technique. So in the right hand it’s E G B
D F for the lines, and of course “FACE” for the spaces F A C E.
In the left hand instead of going something like “Great Big Dogs Frighten Auntie”, it’s
just G B D F A. How quickly can you say G B D F A? It’s almost
like the word Jibidy F A… G B D F A. That’s how we read the lines in the left hand.
And of course we can say ACE with a G for the left hand spaces.
So tongue twisters are much more efficient way of teaching kids the lines and the spaces
for both the treble and the bass clefs. So forget the phrases, use the tongue twisters.
Now my third piano teacher did a great job in quite dramatically improving my note reading
in a short space of time by introducing me to that simple technique.
But there was one limitation to that technique that my piano teacher, even though he was
brilliant, didn’t quite pick up on, and it is this.
If I were to read this note, this very high note up here, four lines above the treble
stave, my third piano teacher would get me as far as the top line very efficiently, but
then I’d be stuck. So I would be going E G B D F and then I’d
have to go, OK… G in the space, A on the line, B in the next space C D E F “Oh, it’s
a G”. So it would take me a long time to read this
thing. Here’s a really cool technique and this is
for probably more advanced students. You wouldn’t be teaching this to kids on day
one or adults for that matter. Write this down if you have never seen it
before. It’s very easy. A B C D E F G A B C D E F G and another A
at the end. And then what you do is just circle every
second letter. What we can teach our students is that it
goes in a loop. So if you start on A and you go A C E G B
D F, it always comes back to A, it comes back to where you started.
Whatever letter you pick, say you start on E … E G B D F A C it comes back to E, so
it’s a never ending loop. And the thing about the never ending loop
is, when we come back to our note over here, let’s read it again using that technique…
E G B D F A C E it’s a G. That make sense? So just by teaching kids the sequence of every
second letter and how it comes around in a continuous loop, we can help them read even
the most difficult of notes. And that’s just a quick snapshot of some of
the things that we do in the Musiah Teaching Method particularly in relation to teaching
note reading. And it really does work. It saves the kids
a lot of time. But probably more importantly even than the
techniques that we use to teach, is the philosophy behind the teaching.
Basically for me what teaching is all about is not so much teaching, but rather being
a guide and using music as a means of helping students discover that they can teach themselves
anything they want. Every lesson, of mine anyway, almost every
lesson of mine, when I’m teaching a student regardless of whether they are adults or kids,
there’s usually a kind of a maybe the first two thirds of the lesson when they’re really
thinking “Oh, I can’t do this” you know, “it’s, it’s ,it’s a, it’s a… I just can’t get it,
can’t get it”. And then they have this kind of breakthrough
and the breakthrough is… you could roughly describe it as the feeling of “WOW I can actually
play this piece!”. But it’s more than that because it’s Wow I
can play this piece and I’ve just discovered that I can play it because I’ve basically
taught myself. You know, yeah the teacher is there to give
them a little pointer along the way, but it’s that moment when they just beam all over because
they so full of that pride, I guess, that they… that they can actually really, really
do this. And that’s a really special thing. And that
for me is what teaching is all about. And so these techniques that we suggest, teachers
and students, to consider using as you learn your music is… that’s just part of it.
But the bigger part is to enjoy the journey and of course discover that thru learning
music you can in fact teach yourself to learn anything you want to learn.
That’s basically all we’ve got time for today. For more information about either Musiah or
the Musiah Teaching Method, visit musiah.com Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next