• Share Your Thoughts: Eyes, Hands, Feet, Ears, or Mind – What’s Most Important?

    in Ear-Training,Experienced players,Piano,Theory

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    In this lesson, we’ll be looking at the various aspects of the musician and you’ll tell me the aspect that comes first.

    We’ll proceed in this order:

    The eyes

    The mind

    The hands/feet

    The ear

    …and by the time you’re done reading, you get into the comment section and tell me what you think.

    Is that okay? Alright!

    The Musician’s Eyes — Visual Capacity

    The musician’s eyes gives the musician the visual capacity to decode music that is notated on paper. Musicians who have developed this aspect have this skill known to music scholars as sight-reading.

    The art of sight reading takes time to master. However, visual capacity is instilled from the very beginning when the musician starts to learn what the signs, symbols, and terms associated with sheet music are and expertise increases with prolonged exposure to sheet music and experience.

    The signs and symbols include (but is not limited to) clefs, lines and spaces, notes and rests, time signature, key signature, ledger lines, etc. Then Italian terms like adagio, forte, spiritoso, crescendo, etc.

    Having the visual capacity to decode music (aka – “sight-reading”) is important because musicians who can sight-read can pick up any sheet music (as long as it’s within their level of expertise) and play it — even if it’s an unknown piece of music.

    Think about this:

    “You travel to an unknown country as a renown musician and when you get there there’s an urgent need for you to perform a locally composed song (which is unfamiliar to you) and you don’t even have a chance to listen to it but it’s available in sheet music.

    Do you know how confident you’ll be if you can sight-read? Also, think about how well that will improve your perception and rating.

    If you have the visual capacity, you can sight-read anything: Classical, Jazz, Gospel, etc.

    The Musician’s Mind — Mental Faculty

    The musician’s mental faculty is the sum total of what he/she knows about music in theory, history, analysis, composition, orchestration, etc.

    Let’s check out some of the areas that make up this aspect.

    In Theory

    When a musician’s mind is theoretically sound, he/she is scholarly, brilliant, creative, and witty.

    The knowledge of how harmony and melody works both simultaneously and separately, how they are organized using beats, bars, meter, tempo, accent, and other elements of rhythm.

    Then talk about various levels of tonal organization — notes, scales, intervals, chords, progressions, and songs — and the hundreds to thousands of topics and lessons under each of them.

    In History

    A sound music mind knows about the history of music, musicians, instruments, and nationalities that are noteworthy.

    Knowing the history of the piano can improve your mental faculty;

    1. Its inventor — Bartolomeo Cristofori.

    2. The year of invention — 1709.

    3. Earlier keyboard instruments that existed before the piano — the Harpsichord and Clavichord.

    Also, the knowledge of history can help you understand how the invention of the piano impacted keyboard music, etc.

    History will point you notable composers and exponent of a particular instrument, provide you with a variety of listening suggestions — from albums and artistes that you probably have heard nothing about.

    In Analysis

    The ability to analyze a piece of music depends on the mental faculty of the musician.

    The analysis of music bothers on the recognition of various cadences, different phrases, several types of modulation, etc., in a song with a proper commentary (and more).

    Did I mention the form/structure of a song, its genre, interpretation, etc. The analysis of music bothers on a whole lot — trust me.

    In Composition/Improvisation

    A trained mental faculty can weave musical ideas (harmonic, melodic, and rhythmic) together to produce a musical work — which could be vocal, instrumental, or both.

    The ideas can be composed or improvised. Composed ideas are created before performance, and are properly arranged and rehearsed, while improvised ideas are played on the spot.

    In Orchestration

    There’s more than a handful of things that are concerned with orchestration and they are not limited to the following:

    Knowledge of the tone of every instrument.

    Knowledge of the family or class the instrument belongs to.

    Knowledge of the range of the instrument

    Take note that there are vast bodies of theoretical, analytical, and compositional information that you can’t discuss orchestration without.

    Have you ever listened to Yanni’s music and wondered how he’s able to get all the musicians play together and have the instruments blend so beautiful?

    Wonder no more.

    “So, Back To The Mental Faculty…”

    If your mental faculty is trained and advanced, you will be able to teach, explain, arrange, compose, and understand music more than the average musician out there.

    There are a whole lot of concepts in music that only those who know the history, theory, and analysis behind those concepts can grasp.

    So, there’s no serious musician who should look down on the importance of the mental faculty.

    The Musician’s Hands/Feet — Technical Dexterity

    Apart from singing, the production of musical notes on any other instrument has to do with the movement of the hands and feet.

    One of the challenges of playing the piano is the mechanical difficulty one encounters while trying to play a melody, accompaniment, bass line, or just anything.

    “Take Note Of The Following…”

    Here are some vital things I want you to keep in mind about technical dexterity:

    1. There are so many aspects of dexterity that every serious musician has to train on — finger independence, balance, coordination, speed, agility, rotation, fleetness, etc.
    2. There are so many instrumental works out there that require virtuosity on an instrument before you can stand a chance to practice or perform them.
    3. There are advanced pieces in jazz and classical music that only advanced players who have the required level of technical dexterity can attempt.

    There are etudes and technical exercises that help in the development of technical dexterity and they can either help you improve your technique or maintain it.

    Attention: When an experienced piano player says stuff like “I’m rusty”, it simply means that he’s unable to smoothly execute his/her ideas on piano.

    If technical dexterity is what you need to execute those crazy ideas even at an extremely fast tempo, then what do you do when you don’t have it?

    The Musician’s Ear — Aural Awareness

    The musician’s ear is amazing!

    Ever heard of perfect pitch and how it works? Okay, I’ll tell you about the perfect pitch shortly but before we do, let’s take a look at aural awareness.

    “What Is Aural Awareness?”

    The musician’s ear when trained can be able to recognize or reproduce notes, scales, melodic lines (licks, runs, etc.), intervals (melodic and harmonic intervals), chords (and arpeggios), progressions, and songs.

    Although there are cases where child prodigies with gifted hearing are naturally good at distinguishing notes, this recognition (called aural awareness) can be acquired and it takes a training process called ear-training.

    Using ear-training exercises and prolonged exposure to music, a musician can develop his or her aural awareness and it doesn’t matter even if they’re said to be tone deaf.

    The Perfect Pitch

    The perfect pitch is phenomenal, rare, and arguably the highest level of aural awareness.

    Any musician who is gifted with the perfect pitch literally sees with his or her ears and as funny as that might sound, here’s why you have to believe me:

    1. He or she can recognize notes (whether they are melodically or harmonically played) without any reference. I mean, they can hear notes (without any reference) and be able to tell you the actual notes on the keyboard.
    2. He or she can produce the pitch of any given note without a reference. For example, you could wake him/her up in the morning and ask for Eb and he/she will accurately produce the given pitch.
    3. He or she can accurately hear and identify definite pitches from ring tones, television, and radio.

    There’s more to the perfect pitch phenomenon than we can possibly cover in this lesson and according to experts only 1 out of 10,000 musicians have the perfect pitch ability.

    Don’t feel bad if you don’t have the perfect pitch; I don’t have it either.

    “A Good Ear Is Priceless…”

    There are 12 major keys in tonal music and and the ability to find the prevalent key of a particular song in 1-2 seconds or less comes with prolonged exposure and expertise.

    But if you can do it, you know how priceless it can be; especially in performance situations.

    I wish you can get a pair of good ears on Amazon for $300 and it would still be worth it. However, we’re yet to get there in technological advancement and when we get to that point where you can buy a pair of good ears, they might not be affordable.

    But here you are with the Ear Tutor — a cutting-edge, contemporary, and helpful software that will take you by the hand and training your ears with over 775 exercises. Check it out now.

    Final Words

    Now that we’re done examining these aspects of the musician, can you kindly let me know (in the comment section) what you think the most important aspect of a musician is.

    In a subsequent lesson and after I most have reviewed your thoughts, I’ll be back with another lesson where I’ll share my thoughts with you on what I think the most vital aspect of a musician is.

    Feel free to share this post on social media and always remember this: “If you can hear it, you can play it”.

    All the best!

    The following two tabs change content below.
    Hello, I'm Chuku Onyemachi (aka - "Dr. Pokey") - a musicologist, pianist, author, clinician and Nigerian. Inspired by my role model Jermaine Griggs, I started teaching musicians in my neighborhood in April 2005. Today, I'm privileged to work as the head of education, music consultant, and chief content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with hundreds of thousands of musicians across the world.

    Attention: To learn more about this, I recommend our 500+ page course: The "Official Guide To Piano Playing." Click here for more information.



    { 4 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Joseph

    i think whats important most is the mental faculty, the musician mind


    2 Chuku Onyemachi

    Well spoken.

    Why do you think so?


    3 Wendy MacBain

    I think what is most important is the musician’s ear, followed by the mind and technical dexterity followed by visual capacity. I place these aspects in this order because there are so many accomplished blind musicians past and present that prove this to us.


    4 Chuku Onyemachi


    I love your submission. The visual capacity comes last in your submission and you nailed it when you used accomplished blind musicians to drive your point home. The ear is the musician’s greatest asset and I can see that’s why it ranked #1 on your list.

    When Beethoven lost his physical hearing he still relied on audiation (which is the mental ability to hear sounds) and he could cry even while playing a distuned harpsichord.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me.

    – Dr. Pokey


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