What is Whole Body Learning?
Whole Body Learning is an approach to teaching music that can be incorporated at any stage of learning for any piano or instrumental student. It is based on the ideas, concepts and approaches of Orff & Keetmen, Dalcroze, Kodaly, Suzuki, Gordon and the current research into neuroscience and how the brain learns.
These strategies for teaching music are not new. Bringing them together to develop pedagogically sound, educational pathways for instrumental and piano teaching is unique. Over the last 30 years of teaching, Susan Head & Paul Myatt have explored many approaches and incorporated what we believe has worked best for our students and us as teachers.
What we have observed in our own teaching is that students find learning easier and more fun as well as achieving a more musical outcome which incorporates aural, rhythm, performance, improvisation and reading.
In this approach, all the learning happens in the lesson, so even if they don’t practice during the week, they tend to remember what has happened because it is embodied. We are confident you will have the same experience with your students.
Whole Body Learning for piano is quite different from “traditional” music lessons. The “traditional” approach to instrumental and piano music education started in the 19th century with advances in paper manufacturing technology. Prior to the 1800s music was taught by ear, passing on tunes, melodies and harmonies through listening, movement and dance. Paper before the 19th century was a rare and expensive commodity and not readily available to the general public.
The advent of inexpensive paper allowed easy distribution of printed music. With that came a necessity to read music. For many piano lessons has been about “reading the music” and playing by reading. This meant there was a need to be able to read hence traditional piano lessons were often not commenced until a child was about 8 years old.
Research has concluded that starting piano lessons at the age of 4 or 5 offers students’ brain stimulus that enhances future learning and impacts on academic results. At this age students aural development learning capacity is at its strongest. From the ages of 4 - 8 years is the point in life when accent in language and speech is developed and cemented. Those who are lucky enough to speak more than one language, will often have a “local accent” in both languages or be "accentless" in the other language.
This occurs because of the rapid development of the ear and its connections to the brain during the ages of 4 & 8 years. Music can certainly be considered a language and children who learn music especially with a focus on listening and singing will develop excellent pitch - for some that will be perfect pitch.
Hence an over arching philosophy of Whole Body Learning is for children to start learning piano from an early age. Four years of age is the perfect time to commence piano lessons. During this time an elemental approach to learning incorporating the natural learning process is essential as these children are too young to read music.
The development of recorded music and the internet has offered many people the opportunity to listen to music. The majority of teenagers will now say they’ve learnt a new skill via YouTube for many it will be a musical instrument like guitar or piano. Susan and Paul have noticed many students will often take to YouTube to learn a new song or find some help with a piece they are playing. If used effectively, this technology is incredibly useful in assisting students to learn more efficiently.
Devices like tablets and iPads now offer teachers many new possibilities for improves their teaching offering for:
The interaction between students and teacher is human interaction that can not be replaced by AI, certainly not at this stage in human development. Providing a space for children to explore and learn through their senses as well as offering the opportunity to imagine and improvise will give you as the teacher, wonderful creative outcomes. Awakening the brain and stimulating creativity in the students provides a wonderful foundation for all future education.
It is the ability to be creative that offers children success in their future. Very few of us will ever teach concert pianists, we can however assist a child by offering him or her some fundamental skills on their educational journey. Some of these include:
Interactive, hands-on workshops make learning effective for piano and instrumental studio as well as classroom music teachers.
Paul Myatt and Susan Head ran a highly successful workshop for the Open Academy (Sydney Conservatorium - University of Sydney) on how to incorporate Orff-Schulwerk practices into piano teaching using AMEB repertoire as the base material. Both presenters were very engaging, approachable and had lots of enthusiasm. Our survey of the course produced many positive responses from the participants who were especially appreciative of the new skills and approaches that they could use to keep their teaching fun and fresh. We are definitely looking to run this course again.
Paul Myatt and Susan Head are well informed pedagogues who bring a sense of fun and excitement to learning offering teachers practical, hands on activities that can be used in lessons immediately. Their workshops offer teachers an insight into current pedagogical approaches and technology.
Susan and Paul are enthusiastic presenters. They demonstrated great activities for off the bench to introduce pieces of music to students through movement before reading.
Engaging workshop with full of refreshing, practical and hand on musical experience - thoroughly enjoyed it and what an instant transformation of skill and knowledge!