Times are changing and ideas that seemed like science fiction not long ago have become everyday reality. Machines, apps and robots are replacing humans in many fields, but will this also be the case in learning piano? Can machines take the place of human teachers or is there something unique about a human being that a machine can't replace?
You will find a large number of music learning apps on the internet. Many concentrate on drilling the note names and basic music concepts. There are also numerous YouTube tutorials teaching you how to play a specific piece by rote.
Can we separate the notes and rhythm recognition from the actual music? Is it OK for apps to introduce the students to the basics of music?
Technically it works. Reading notation means identifying the place of the note head on the staff and knowing which key it relates to. The answer is either right of wrong, so perfect for handing over to a machine.
However, the danger I see is that by handing this over to a computer the life is drained out of the notes. An inspiring human teacher will start with the musical experience and move from there to the notation. The (good!) human teacher- in person or on Skype etc- will sing, move and enliven the notes, that will then be recognized as dots on the staff. When notation is introduced by a machine, music could be reduced to just dots on lines that need to be drilled in computer game style. I like assigning pages from note speller books or suggest digital apps to reinforce the note recognition during the week. The lesson is where we interact as humans and aim for the artistic musical experience.
Can you have a musical experience learning to play a piece when your teacher is an App? apart from feeling proud of playing the right notes at the right time, will you feel elevated? develop artistically? understand how you could interpret the same piece in different ways?
Someone shared the following story with me the other day: an adult decided to challenge himself and learn an intermediate level classical piano piece. This person had never played an instrument before and had no previous musical knowledge. With the help of a learning App and a lot of determination he practiced for a few months and managed to do it. Then he stopped playing the piano.
I am pretty sure that if this person would have been taking lessons with a (good) human piano teacher he would spend these months building up an enthusiasm and appreciation for music. His teacher would understand what sort of pieces this person will be happy to play and would set him on a path that would keep him engaged and committed to music. On the other hand, this person may have never considered taking piano lessons and would have lost out altogether, if he hadn't had the computer to help him.
Learning apps may assist the parents in structuring the kid's practice during the week, but can't replace the human experience of learning. The personal connection of students of all ages with their teacher goes hand in hand with the musical experience. There is a special "something" in music that is beyond what a machine can teach, and I think it requires that special "something" that humans have and machines don't to pass it on.
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