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photo credit: Daniel Barkley

This post was inspired by one of my wonderful students.


She is a 1st-year college student.  Her past involvement in music includes piano lessons in 2nd grade (which she hated) and choral singing.  She is also singing in chorus this year.


A good ear, easy ability to feel chords in hands, immediate recognition of interval spacing as it translates to the keyboard, naturally clear pedaling.  She may have perfect pitch.


She possesses a great deal of self-motivation and curiosity.


In September, we started with an adult beginner’s book and a book of exercises.

That soon changed to pieces chosen by my student in place of the beginner’s book.  In this case, it was the right choice.  We are working our way through the exercises a page or two at a time at the beginning of each lesson.

About 2 weeks ago, my student mentioned a piece she had on her iPod.  She couldn’t quite sing it, but I thought I recognized part of it.  So I played the beginning of the melody.

She became quite animated and said, “Yeah, yeah, yeah!”  Her iPod listed the title.  It was Chopin‘s Prelude in E minor.

As soon as we confirmed that we had the same piece in mind, she said, “Teach me!  Teach me!”  So we did some of the melody by ear.  At the next lesson, we had the printed music.

Then something amazing happened.  My student sight-read the entire piece, hands together!   Sure, it was under tempo.  Of course she needed to eyeball the chords.  But she’s a beginner, and she sight-read it!  She didn’t give up, didn’t give in to frustration, and never doubted herself.

She was so excited!  She couldn’t believe she could do that.

After working on fingering and chord progressions for a few minutes, I asked her what kind of piece she thought it was.  She was immediately able to supply descriptive words, which made me very happy.

Then I showed her about harmonic rhythm and how to make the left hand more subtle while sustaining the melody.

And even without having technique that is advanced enough to do that, she did it!  All of a sudden, she was producing beautiful music.

So this is what I think:

Perception begets technique;

Motivation lets the music bud, flower, and then flourish;

And we all need to stop trying so hard and get out of the way!  We all have music in our hearts and souls ~ otherwise we wouldn’t be doing this in the first place.

What do you think?  Do you sometimes get in your own way?  Do you experience a better outcome when you stay out of the way of the music?

Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

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