Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Long-Distance Learning

Memorizing the Chopin waltz is going slowly.  I realized that I am attempting to do it by memorizing a series of notes and chords, with little understanding of the underlying theory.  I just had a remarkable experience that illuminated some things that may help me along in this process.

I have a good friend clear across the country who does music for a living.  She teaches, she plays, she listens.  It’s definitely a part of who she is.  This afternoon we had a lesson by phone using our respective cell phones, our respective pianos, and the identical piece of music. 

We walked through the Chopin Waltz in C# Minor and talked about all the underlying architecture and theory.  She had analogies using forests and trees and smaller groups of trees.  Everything started to make so much sense. 

But our discussion once again showed how little music theory I know.  At one point, I said, “How did you learn all that?  Did you read books?  Take classes?”  To which she replied that she had taught herself decades ago as her job demanded that she be able to play from chords and by ear. 

She asked what books I had.  So I sent her a list of the few materials I have on music theory.  I keep hoping there is some way to make sense of this thing that must be very mathematical and logical. 

I’m convinced that this additional knowledge will make playing the piano so much more enjoyable and will make learning easier.

I found the experience of taking a piano lesson by phone to be almost as satisfactory as having my teacher sitting next to me.  The wonders of modern technology!


Blogger Cyndy said...

That's very cool - a long distance music theory lesson! With your math background I think you'll be able to grasp it very quickly. It is very mathematical and very logical and it will totally change the way you see and hear music. It's like studying grammar to understand a language better. You get a deeper level of knowledge and more flexibility in the way you are able to use the language. Just like in any other kind of language, all of those music theory rules actually provide a basis for freedom in the way you listen, perform, read, create, and memorize. It's great that you are getting into that now because as you've already discovered things will really start to make sense!

12:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree. Just as with language or any craft, art, or sport, music has its "fundamentals" that we learn so that at times we can eventually internalize and "forget" them, and express ourselves with more informed spontaneity and creative possibility. (Another analogy: meditation cushion as practice ground for daily living.)

An understanding of those fundamentals can also help us appreciate our music at a much deeper level; kind of like looking under the hood of a car. We can appreciate the craft and beauty of a composition, improvisation, or interpretation with more depth.

Context is so helpful for both comprehension and memorization!


1:27 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

That's definitely using technology for the best. What a novel approach!

9:05 AM  

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