I know piano players make it seem so easy, but it’s really not and until you start breaking it down for a four-year-old to grasp it, you won’t see the depths of its difficulty.
There are three layers of senses that are being activated when playing the piano: sight, touching and hearing.
The sight works on two levels and it must properly connect, synchronise and correlate them.
- The first level is watching the musical score – THE NOTATION – which is the most important, because it helps develop a touch memory and supports memorizing the positions of the notes on the stave.
- The second level is watching the piano keys – which helps verifying if the correct note was being pressed, and of course will help visually memorizing the order of the keys.
The touch – THE FINGERING – is the one sense that will actually act on the information it receives from the eye, pressing on the keys and eventually start developing that touch memory I was mentioning before.
The hearing – THE SOUND – confirms what our eyes see noted on the score and the fingering action we’ve taken according to what we saw and starts building in our brain a pattern of the musical reality – if the melody line goes up on the stave and it goes up on the keys, then the pitch of the sound is also going up. Once this reality is being settled, the child will start to notice his own mistakes, observing that what the eye sees and what the ear hears does not correlate.
All you need now is for the brain to successfully process all the information (notation, fingering and sound) these three senses are sending. And if the process’ results are accurate, then the satisfaction of achievement is being activated and the child starts liking this activity.
So the brain needs to have at this point minimal understanding of mathematical functions, the ability to correlate simple symbols to concepts and a crave to solve problems and even finding new solutions to these problems, which is what creativity is all about.
But if any of these senses doesn’t understand the data, either from a lack of attention or just because the brain lacks the bridges to connect the data, the result will be disappointing and the child will most likely want to quit.
This is why it’s very important to begin learning to play the piano at an age you are definitely sure the child will find pleasure in it.