A Study to Determine the Pedagogic Practices Piano Teachers Use to Teach Musical Independence

May 20, 2010 / By: Emily Ireland

The intent of this thesis was to determine the pedagogic practices piano teachers use to teach musical independence.  The theoretical questions examined were:  (1) what is the nature of independent learning and musical independence; (2) how does a pianist demonstrate musical independence; and (3) how does one teach beginning pianists the desired elements to achieve musical independence.  

Research demonstrates that the goal of many teachers is for their students to make music throughout their lives, know how to learn and apply concepts to new situations—essentially becoming independent musicians—that is, people who can make music on their own, without depending on a teacher.  Research has found concrete skills that musically independent pianists can demonstrate.  Two of these skills were researched in detail: ability to work creatively, improvise, compose, harmonize and play by ear and the ability to work independently and problem solve.  The additional factors of student motivation and piano method books on independent learning were also examined.

Results of this study suggest that skills to foster musical independence can be taught.  However, even though there is much information about how to teach musical independence, the research is somewhat ambiguous in the definition of a musically independent student.

In the research and literature, teachers are recommended to emphasize the importance of improvisation, playing by ear and a firm technical basis as fundamentals in the preparation of lifelong music makers.  Teachers can facilitate independent learning through encouraging imaginative thinking, problem-solving and discovery learning techniques, asking open and closed questions, offering choices and possibilities, demonstrating practice strategies and having the student demonstrate practice techniques.

Additional factors that contribute to the development of musical independence are student motivation and the available teaching materials. By combining psychological research with their own experience and training, teachers can learn much about student motivation and teaching strategies to benefit their students.

In regard to creative activities and practice strategies as suggested in method books, it would appear that the skills sets for working creatively and the ability to work independently and to problem-solve are not addressed extensively in the most popular-selling books, and must be supplemented by the teacher.