• Root vs Shoot Systems (On Growth)

    in Self-Improvement

    root vs shoot systems

    We discussed two great teachers extensively in a previous post.

    Today, we’ll be learning from nature with a focus on the organ system of plants and what it has to do with your growth on the piano. If you don’t understand biology, please indulge me.

    Organ Systems In Plants

    Plants have two organ systems – the root and the shoot system – and both of them are important to the plant.

    The Shoot System

    The shoot system is made up of the stem, leaves, flowers, fruits, etc.

    This is the part of plants that is exposed for us to see. A plant is outwardly visible because of its shoot system.

    The process of food production in plants, called photosynthesis, is done by the shoot system.

    The Root System

    Although there are roots that grow on the land surface (aka – “aerial roots”) the root system is basically the underground part of a plant we don’t see.

    The root helps in the absorption [of water nutrients], anchoring [of the shoot system], and storage [of food].

    Attention: The shoot and root systems are important parts of plants.

    Interestingly, the fruits and leaves (aka – “shoot”) of certain plants like cabbage are edible while the root of others like ginger are edible.

    Root vs Shoot Systems

    The root and shoot systems are important in plant development. However, for the sake of a few things I’d love to highlight, let’s do a quick contrast between the duo.


    The shoot is the flourishing part of the plant that is beautiful and attractive (especially if there are fruits and flowers)  while the root is that part that nobody sees because it’s buried underneath the ground.

    We love talking about great players and we appreciate their dexterity, creativity, chops, musical expression, and all that. I call this “glory.” This is because they are visible like the shoot system of plants.

    “Wait a minute…”

    When was the last time you talked about the other side of them practicing, going through the school of hard knocks, pain, frustration, determination, commitment, and all that?

    People usually don’t have so much to say about the other side because it’s the hidden side of the coin called “story.” But when it comes to the visible part of it – stage concerts, auditions, etc., people will always have so much to say.


    The root is the part of the plant that goes down to create anchorage and support for the rest of the plant – the shoot system. Plants with relatively large shoot system are adapted to have the tap root system that goes deep down into the earth while plants with smaller shoot systems have a shallow root system (known as the fibrous root system.)

    So many musicians out there would prefer learning tons of flashy licks all day to sitting down to read workbooks like our 4 steps to next level playing.

    There is nothing wrong with investing in flashy and fanciful tricks and progression. But, be it known to you that the flashy chords and tricks you want to learn will depend on your depth in theory, the same way the upper and beautiful shoot of a plant depends on the root system for anchorage.

    How deeply rooted are you? You may not really go far with those spicy progressions if there’s no anchorage to support them.

    Final Words

    Every germinating seed has two parts – the plumule and the radicle. The plumule grows upwards into the shoot system while the radicle grows downwards into the root system.

    When I did a little research on germination and found out that the radicle is the first part of the plant to sprout, one question that came to my mind was “why will a germinating seed take root downwards before growing its shoot system?”

    A germinating seed needs anchorage and support just as much as a fully grown plant does. It is important for the radicle to sprout first so it can support the young plant and most importantly, absorb water that is needed for germination.

    Permit me to liken the process of getting started with your instrument (or as a musician) to germination.

    While germinating as a musician, the appropriate thing to do is for you to learn the key concepts and basics of music, which is similar to the downward growth of the radicle.

    Those key concepts are what will give you anchorage in music and ensure that, while learning, you’re balanced.

    In the real world, it’s not always so. You’ll find a vast majority of musicians who prefer the plumule sprout to the radicle sprout (in other words shoot before the root.)

    • If you belong to the league of people who are interested in playing songs from keyboard lesson 1.
    • If you want to start sounding like a dexterous jazz musician without dedicating time to practice and also bypassing all the essential body of rudiments.

    …then I’m sorry to say that you’ve got it backwards.

    I believe why most people are not concerned with growing the root is because it is not visible (like I said earlier). For the most part, one who has a beautiful shoot system can play on stage without a deep root system and perhaps even get away with it.

    An African proverb says that “the tree that is not properly rooted will bow to the wind.” Trust me, there are everyday stormy situations in music that reveal rootless players.

    Improve your musicianship by investing into improving your anchorage by growing the root system and realize the long term effects of growth and stability.

    All the best.

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    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.



    { 6 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Braz

    Hi Jermaine

    I thank you for the post and very good advise you gave me. I am working hard in order to do my best. I saw that when you look for something you have to put your effort on it. I am straggling to have my own keyboard in my room. I would like to practice it. But before I buy it here, I would like to know how much a YAMAHA PSR- S 950 could cost there in U.S.A plus shipping it. Please let me know, because music does not make to sleep. Today I did really play Amazing grace first part it is really amazing. When I will be ready I promise to make surprise.


    Braz Alberto


    2 Jermaine Griggs

    Depending on size, they seem to range from about $1800-$2500.


    3 Braz

    It is about 15ks and I know how difficult is with customs. Thank you for your help. I will think about it

    Braz Alberto


    4 David Brakes



    5 Tekena

    Im speechless.. This is an amazong write up! I draw a lot of motivation from ur write ups. Please keep it up!


    6 Tekena

    I meant amazingamazing 😊😊


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