61. A Little Revolution Now and Then is a Healthy Thing
Little kids love music very much and always gravitate towards it. They want to play on music instruments and aren’t afraid of doing this. And now, we have a wonderful opportunity to teach them! Nowadays, this can be done at home, and at the daycare; and as for school, please, for goodness’ sake! Music literacy can and must become accessible to all people, and especially children. For too long now, our public schools have been occupied with our kids’ animal needs, such as paid meals and physical exercise. But they also need guidance in creating, and understanding that their spiritual needs are just as important. This is what separates us from the animals, after all! Reading and writing in music notation can become just as ordinary as the reading of books, magazines, and newspapers. Music making can be a popular creative activity. Most people can compose and perform. And this language of socializing can unite humanity more soundly.
All that is needed for this to happen is a little revolution. It should happen in the consciousness of adults. It is us, the piano teachers that are standing between children and music.
Our tedious habits and ambitions for “the last drop of blood” are fighting for their comfort and continuity! And it is up to us to examine our methods. Every teacher should decide what it is he working for: the real abilities of children, or his reputation as an infallible, “gifted” being.
Seeing the vertical and color-coded grand staff, at times, my colleagues go into a fury. To them, this temporary method is a terrible sin, at the core a murderer of all of their assumptions about what a “proper” educational process should be. I simply ask them (and yourself, if you have the time) to conduct a small experiment with their own perception, so that they can understand someone else’s.
Grab a sheet of paper and pen. Take a small sentence (such as the one below) and write it out in ‘Japanese style’ (from top to bottom, right to left). Keep track of the time it takes to complete this task. Then, rewrite it in the usual style (left to right) and compare the times it took.
Writing in the opposite direction that you’re used to reading is extremely hard; it requires a huge amount of extra concentration.
How much more time did it take for you to write in the ‘Japanese style?’ Of course, no one’s ever taught us to do this before, but maybe if we practiced a bit… Yet no one’s taught the beginner to read sheet music before, either!
Yet, is it worth practicing? That’s the question. It’s possible to learn to walk on one’s hands, but what’s the use in that? But to get back on one’s legs and walk properly, that’s really useful. Reading the notes while moving in a parallel direction along the keys, the beginner quickly develops his coordination and technique, and as a result develops his hearing and voice.
Adapted especially for beginners, a simplified and vertical representation of the music staff develops reading at the level of a foreign language. The speed of reading that is achieved from the very first steps allows the hearing to perceive the musical sense of the entire piece. The voice, familiar with the music alphabet, is supported by the sounds of the piano and confidently sounds out the material that’s read. All channels of the student’s perception unite into one collective and work together to read the text.
It’s clear that when these skills grow strong, the music text can assume its usual horizontal representation. The student’s attention, already free from vigilant watch over his coordination, hearing and voice, easily figures it out, and without obstacle occupies itself with the music notation.
When I first started using the vertical music staff, anxious parents often asked if their kids could just learn with the “normal” sheet music. I asked them why it mattered how the notes were standing at first. If only the child could read them! But kids flawlessly follow the stages of development. “Getting” the principle of the music text, they themselves turn the notes back to “normal,” and after doing this, don’t lose a minute in their reading speed! Receiving a guide and mastering the process, even a little child will keep striving forward rather than loitering in one spot.