As a music industry professional, clinician, and national trades columnist, one of my great passions is sharing new techniques and teaching tools with progressive educators all over the world. Since we all share the same goal (making more music makers), we are all heavily invested in inspiring new generations to play. More importantly, we all strive to keep our knowledge of teaching methods and music technology current – so we can solve the pedagogical problems that come our way.
Even though we are dealing with an instrument that is over 300 years old and has changed relatively little, the best music educators know not to rely on outdated traditions or inertia when making decisions about their teaching methodology. Despite “the old saying,” there IS something new under the sun – and anyone who wishes to remain relevant with modern students needs to learn their language: the language of technology.
Why technology, you ask? Ask yourself this question: How many students today still use a typewriter or rotary phone? Do they even KNOW what a cassette tape looks like? Kids are learning differently than we did and – if we want to engage them in lifelong music making – we’ve got to speak their language. We must incorporate the tools they use everywhere else into our piano studios. Think of these new tools as “translators” – devices that (over time) can help students understand and appreciate traditional instruments and classical music in ways they never would have on their own. We aren’t abandoning our grand pianos – nor are we casting Fur Elise out of our studios (ok, maybe that one is a bad example) – we’re just using modern tools to help us expose more students to traditional music.
Learning this new language is not unlike learning any other – you start simply. Maybe you use a drum rhythm instead of a metronome. If used properly, they accomplish the same thing, but one is annoying and the other is much more fun. Then, once you master that basic concept, you advance to “play along” files or even Bluetooth MIDI apps that give your students instant feedback every time they practice! As they say, “a journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step.”
One of my favorite examples is a truly incredible piano teacher named Angela Hartman. Angela teaches a large piano studio in her “Old Kentucky Home” and she is well-known for her fearless creativity. Before I left Kentucky, Angela purchased a Roland digital piano from me and used it to teach a student who is legally deaf. Here’s how Angela describes it:
I purchased the Roland and now I can’t imagine my teaching career without it. I have been blessed this summer with the opportunity to teach several students with special needs. One of my four year old students has significant hearing loss in both ears. If I just had an acoustic piano in my studio, lessons would not be as easy or enjoyable for him. Since the Roland has such a wonderful sound system and headphones, he is thriving. Due to the touch screen, he can also see pictures of all of the different instruments he is hearing. The Roland is also a great tool for ADHD and autistic students. When a student is losing focus, we can easily switch to another sound or game. Having students compose their own songs or sounds is an awesome way to connect on a more personal level with them.
Music has always been a language that everyone can understand. My Roland just makes it so much easier and exciting for those students who face different challenges. Thanks to James and Roland for introducing me to this career changing instrument!
This is exactly the kind of thing that digital pianos are becoming famous for. It’s not about whether the digital feels just like your favorite grand piano. The question is – how can you use the tools available to you (whether digital or acoustic) to enrich a student’s learning experience and motivate him or her to make playing the piano a lifetime passion.
Angela is not alone. Today, digital pianos are outselling acoustic pianos 8 to 1. This means that more and more beginning students are inevitably going to start lessons on a digital instrument… and they’re going to look for teachers who speak that language.
Need a tutor? That’s what we’re for! Stop into one of our Phoenix area stores and find out how we can help you become a master music technology “linguist.” Digital or acoustic – we’re here to help you build a future for our musical community.