Practising Music Without Instrument, With Notation.

I suppose I was not practising the piano enough in my university years because my piano teacher suggested I practise in transit from my home to university, on the train. This, Stephen said, would be a constructive way to use my time. Following his advice I placed the sheet music on my lap, and using my imagination, started to play. What a revelation! I did not need my instrument to rehearse music. The brain constructs learning through mental imagery and imagination.

Q. Why should children bother to attend band rehearsal if they forget to bring their instrument?

A. Because they can still learn through mental imagery.

I take this a step further. When a young musician once declared, “Sir, I cannot come to rehearsal because I forgot my trombone,” I put his mind at ease. “Rest easy because you can still attend rehearsal.” Providing him with spare sheet music, I had the boy make realistic movements with embouchure and arms, as if he were playing ‘air’ trombone. To make this look as real as possible required the use of his musical imagination. The boy thought I was a little crazy for asking him to do this but here was an opportunity to teach the band a new learning concept. Interestingly the boy did not forget his trombone again. Likewise with the choir, although I would not ask a student with a sore throat to sing they would still be required to attend rehearsal and mouth the words without instrument, with notation.

Score reading engages the musical imagination without the extra demand of physical performance. This cognitive rehearsal enables students to imagine the muscle movements that would be engaged in performance and provides insights into the musical structure and intricacies of a work that are difficult to obtain from merely listening. This visual clarity can enhance the pleasure of a listening experience. In addition, mobile devices can store digital sheet music, which can provide unlimited opportunities for private study.

from ‘Learning Strategies for Musical Success’ by Michael Griffin

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“A must read for all music educators” – Robert Adams, Music Educator, New Haven, USA.

“A must buy for every music teacher and music student” – William Bruce, Guildhall School of Music, UK.

“A deeply impressive work, the breadth of research is fascinating!” Robert Chamberlain, Team of Pianists and Monash University Piano Staff, Victoria Australia.

“I have read your book and it has made an amazing difference in my teaching and in my studio.” Beth Cruickshank, Past President – Ontario Registered Music Teachers Association.

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‘Bumblebee: Rounds & Warm-ups for Choirs’

Bumblebee! is more than just a collection of 84 choir exercises and rounds. The author shares timeless wisdom to help you get your choir – primary or secondary – into shape.
View Table of Contents.

“This is really good for all kinds of vocal groups, choirs, conductors. Bravo!!”

“The thinking person’s guide to training a choir. Love it!”

“It’s great to have some fresh warm-ups to add to the repertory. The tips for actions and techniques are really useful, and the advice at the back of the book has made me review some of my strategies.”

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Public speaker, music education trainer, conductor and pianist. Author of 'Learning Strategies for Musical Success', 'Bumblebee: Rounds & Warm-ups for Choirs', and 'Modern Harmony Method'.

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2 comments on “Practising Music Without Instrument, With Notation.
  1. No doubt about it: working with notation alone strengthens those “musical” areas of the brain, but let us note one false implication: it does not strengthen the ability to perform on a particular instrument. That demands some physical/neural interactions that go beyond.
    William Thomson

    • mdgriffin63 says:

      Thank you for your comment William, but respectfully I disagree. What you say is false is exactly what the neuroscientific research supports: that mental imagery strengthens neural connections – not the ‘musical’ areas of the brain (what are these?) as you put it. Specific research in this regard has been done with pianists. Read Norman Doidge ‘The Brain the Changes Itself’ or my book ‘Learning Strategies for Musical Success’ for further details.
      Best wishes, and thanks for following my blog, Michael Griffin.

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