Fluency in the language of music on the piano keys – a radical approach!

By focusing on a simple model of rhythm and tonality as you practise whilst letting go and expressing yourself freely, you can learn to play by ear, improvise and sight-read fluently – see an unfamiliar score and hear it playing in your imagination.

What is fluent musicianship?

Musical fluency is the ability to play music that you can imagine instantly and spontaneously using clear and simple principles and elements of musical language. It’s exactly the same idea as fluency in language. Playing in a natural, flowing, expressive style, without stopping or making mistakes is not the same thing as fluency but it is a byproduct of the deep musical understanding and expressive command that a fluent musician possesses.

So fluency is the ability to EXPRESS YOURSELF effortlessly and authentically using elements of rhythm and tonality that are as deeply familiar to you as words and groups of words in your native language. Fluent musicians can summon and recognise these elements of musical language instantly and spontaneously, without prior planning, rehearsal or theoretical working out.

The difference between fluency training and conventional piano lessons

Conventional training is passive, concerned with the execution of a rehearsed performance. Fluent musicianship training is active, concerned with self-expression, understanding and a knowledge of musical vocabulary and syntax. Think deeply about the vast difference between fluent expression and even the most beautiful execution… 

I could recite a poem in a language that I don’t grasp fluently, just by learning it phonetically – I might even rehearse it to a level that would fool people – but this is not fluency. It would require a great deal of rehearsal time to achieve this whereas fluent musical skills give us instant access to intelligible musical language. Improvisation is therefore the principle skill of fluent musicianship.

How the course works

The basic course is presented in 15 steps. There is an illustrated PDF document with integrated links to video demonstrations of how to practise at each step. There is also a PDF document called The Concise Model which offers a clear, comprehensive but succinct birds eye view of this model of musical language. Practice and coaching materials are then offered at each step: you may cherry-pick these materials as you need them, working at your own pace. Ideally, each step must be fully mastered before moving onto the next.

When you make a purchase, you receive links to the relevant PDF documents and video files for you to download. New materials and updates to these materials will be announced here: the original links provide lifetime access to these updated versions.

The training is simple but not easy

If you enjoy music, feel its message deeply and have the ability to imagine music playing in your mind, then you have all the necessary innate ability to become fluent in the language of music on the keys. The training is simple but it will only work if you practise the art of deep, clear, calm focus and expressive letting go. It requires no cognitive or physical strain but it does take discipline, humility and courage.

Self expression, meditation and play

The rather Zen-like approach is a real challenge for many people who are conditioned to think critically and to be results-driven. The focused, expressive, playful practice required is very different from the typical training style of working towards fixed outcomes. Any desire to perfect an external performance will block the path to fluency: instead we must have a burning desire to express ourselves from within.

In fluency training, you do not follow commands passively in the form of theoretical data or show-and-play instructions. You must not listen critically to the musical result but rather to the model as you use it moment by moment. This shift is so important – failure to understand the importance of this always results in failure. Making music that exists outside of you is not the goal of fluency training. Instead you work on your ability to express yourself from your inner musician by grasping musical language and developing a clear and simple, moment-by-moment focus on the model as you let go to play with authentic freedom.

Conventional pressure to achieve results only leads to a loss of mental clarity and expressive freedom. Letting go to find the powerful combination of discipline and expressive freedom at the same time is the greatest challenge of the programme for many people. When you can focus and let go, function in a state of flow, great results will follow naturally – as a byproduct of fluency in the language of music.

Beginner mind

If you have any prior musical experience (or even if you don’t), you will have passive musical habits: you will play using muscle memory, pinning your fingers to set keys, decoding notes or theoretical elements in a linear fashion, or perhaps relying on show and play instructions, mixed with a “karaoke” sense of how the music goes. It is necessary to abandon these approaches completely if you wish to keep the path to musical fluency clear. This is a serious challenge as habits can be hard to break. The best way is to embrace becoming a complete beginner. Being curious and open, in a state of wonder, is the best condition for effective training.

Discover the simple focus and playful letting go of a curious child. Enter a state of flow! With the musical structure clear, you can play effortlessly from your body & soul!

Learn like a child – play freely in simple ways – aspire to express, not impress

So can you find this deeply curious and playful attitude? Do you embrace the discipline and freedom of exploring how a simple model works and use it initially in very simple ways to express yourself authentically? Are you willing to awaken your child’s mind, the mind of a 4-year-old? With a childlike state of guileless expressiveness, it is easy to absorb the simple principles and elements and use them in ways that build in complexity gradually. Keeping things simple yet expressively powerful is a challenge for the aspirational adult mind. And it’s a challenge you can win if you simply let go of the need to impress. Express yourself don’t impress yourself. Using only the principles and elements that you know, make up musical stories that are vivid and honest!

The task of internalising the principles and elements of musical language is exactly the same as what you did as a small child when you learned colours, shapes, words, numbers and so many other familiar things. The coaching guidance materials can really help you get unblocked and enter the childlike zone of deep disciplined play and expressive letting go.

Growth mindset using a fixed model

Allowing growth to happen organically from a place of trust and strength goes against much of our usual conditioning around learning. Most of us have been trained to have a fixed or perfectionist mindset where we believe that if something can be improved, it must be inadequate or wrong in its current state. We tend to think that we will arrive at a point of adequacy – or perfection – only in the future.

In contrast, a growth mindset sees everything as work in progress. Imperfection and failure are embraced as part of the learning process. All practical skills rely on this. You have to throw the balls in the air and drop them to learn to juggle; you must fall off the board and get back on when the next wave comes to learn to surf. So it is with learning to play music fluently. If you believe the delusion that all you need is the right instruction to perform a new task well straight away, you will fall into a pattern of intense stress and ultimate frustration and failure. It takes practice! And part of practice is to fail and go again! Embrace this! If you learn to measure the quality and clarity of your focus and letting go rather than check the musical results, you will learn to trust your natural inner musician, to experiment, to express yourself playfully and unlock your true musical potential.

However, the principles and elements of this model are fixed and never change, unlike your practice which must be flexible and fluid. This means that your focus on the model can improve indefinitely, become clearer and clearer, if you adopt a playful, disciplined growth mindset. In this spirit of growth and experimentation, new materials will be added to the course. It’s exciting that even after so many years of expert development, new angles and practices can still be found. But remember – the principles and elements of the model never change.

If this approach sounds interesting and appealing to you, please explore the rest of the information on this website to find out more. Then if you still have any questions, you can contact Phil Best – the course creator.

Visit Phil’s PlayPianoFluently playlist on YouTube and don’t forget to subscribe to be notified when new videos are posted.