Music Teacher's Helper Blog

Cognitive Thinking

Cognition:“The process of thought“.

On several occasions I have had a student ask me to teach him to sing while playing. This task seemed impossible for the student(s), I explained that this was a learned skill, which takes hours of practice. When I am playing, I will make a mistake if I stay focused on my fingers. Therefore, I perform better if i subconsciously play the instrument while I am consciously thinking of something else or singing.

I have started working with some of the students on this process, and getting good results within weeks of the training.

First, I find a song in the student’s repertoire which he/she can play well, and by memory. As the student starts playing, I start a conversation. I will ask what he had for lunch, and then question what was eaten in detail. I also ask about each class that was attended in school, and the activites and homework that was given.

The first several times I do this exercise, the student, after being asked a question like “What did you have for lunch today?”, will freeze up with eyes bulging and eyes opened wide. He keeps playing, but is speechless. After a few moments he will answer the question as he starts missing the notes, or just say “I don’t know”.

After doing this exercise during a couple of lessons, the student starts looking forward to the exercises. Within four to six weeks, the student starts answering questions and having a conversation while playing, without missing a note,

Adults and children alike share the same initial response (a look of horror). An adult student asked me a few nights ago how he could continue the exercise at home. I told him to play his songs while watching tv, reading a book, or talking to his wife. The adult student, a medical doctor, told me that this exercise helped train his brain to think on two levels: the conscious level and the subconsious level.

Try it. With yourself. With your students.

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3 Comments

  1. English music songs

    nice post… I loved it.. wanna listen some music.. do try.. play & listen music online at koffii.

  2. Lisa

    Why would you want to do this? I was taught to be extremely focused on playing and doing nothing else- therefore I can’t even converse while I’m playing.

  3. Mike Lunapiena

    There’s a lot of reasons why you’d want to do this.

    1. Teaching in class (particularly with elementary kids)
    2. Being able to discuss things during rehearsal w/out stopping
    3. A lot of styles of music utilize talk or singing or vamps/chord progessions
    4. To test if you’ve fully memorized something
    5. To prepare yourself for performing with distractions (because you will be distracted when you play)

    Those are just some off the top of my head…

    Hope that helps..

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