How long does it take?
Each step requires many – even hundreds – of hours’ practice. To master all the steps fully would take most people around three years. But in truth, it depends! There are variables which might seem obvious when pointed out but are nevertheless worth considering. First and foremost, people devote different amounts of time to practising and vary in aptitude: so some learn quickly, others may take much longer. Beyond that, the most important factors are first the quality and then the quantity of your practice. Quality of practice is something that needs your close attention. People with experience of conventional training do NOT learn more quickly and are mistaken if they believe that parts of this course will already be familiar. Blockages, linear ways of thinking and bad habits such as playing passively from muscle-memory and finger-pinning commonly persist when people have prior piano training experience. So to learn quickly, you must enquire deeply into the ideas of fluency, study the material thoroughly and do lots of practice in the right zone (clearly focused and expressively let go) at every step, with complete trust in the model and your inner musician’s natural ability.
Does it really work?
Of course it works! If you do it as instructed! It seems strange that this question gets asked so often. But then as we live in a culture full of duplicity, deception and lies, it is perhaps understandable that people will need reassuring on this point. Of course, it only works if you do it properly. If you don’t actually practise regularly with the correct focus and letting go, it will not work…
Can I play my favourite songs and tunes on this course?
No! But once you have developed all the skills set out in the 15 steps (which is not exactly a course, you must direct your own learning), you will be able to play pretty much whatever you like. These are foundation skills that build as you gain greater familiarity with these elements and principles of musical language. You must improvise and play studies using these language elements. Your favourite music will contain musical language that is beyond your fluency level until your skills are developed. The vast majority of people simply don’t have the necessary blind confidence to play music that they don’t grasp consciously with any flair. This learning develops skills that address the all too common problem of ruining your favourite music by playing with poor rhythm, stiff and/or uncontrolled movements and an undeveloped sense of musical syntax. Playing music you like but without a fluent grasp of the language it contains usually makes for very poor results indeed. To play well, you must understand what you are playing: know the elements of musical language, just as you know the words in order to understand what you are saying when you speak, read and write fluently.
I’ve not studied music before. Is this a good course for a total beginner?
Yes, the materials start very simple and do not assume prior knowledge. In some ways, being a beginner can be easier as the practice you should do is so different from that required in conventional music training. But it’s not a course as such, your practice must be self-directed.
I have musical experience, do I still have to start at the beginning?
Yes! The principles and elements of musical fluency as set out here will probably not be familiar at all, as they are not covered by any conventional music course. If you have talent and experience, you might acquire the skills more quickly but you must still work to practise all 15 steps or you simply won’t have the full skill set.
I’m a teacher who finds traditional aural and practical musicianship training does not work well for most students. Could I read your materials to learn how to teach it in your way?
No, I would think this would be impossible! You would need to do the practice – work on your conscious focus on the model whilst simultaneously playing intuitively. It can be challenging to bring conscious awareness to something that you can already do intuitively but as long as you meet this challenge head on, your progress through the course should be very quick.
Will I learn music theory on this course?
No. This is not a music theory course in any conventional sense. The theoretical side of things is very stripped back or streamlined. You must grasp that it is practical skills that you are working on here, in a self-directed way. You will find learning music theory extremely easy however, if that is something that interests you, once you have developed fluent musicianship skills.
Does this course cover scales and chords?
No. As this approach is self-directed, so not a conventional course, there are very little rote practices at all. Also the theory behind tonal blocks is a different way of looking at tonality but their structures are based on the same principles. It is important that you grasp the difference: nonlinear, spatial keyboard mapping means that tonality is taught in a very different way from the conventional scales- and chords-based methods. Prior knowledge of scales and chords does not mean that you already know the tonal blocks because of this being such a different way of looking at tonal structure. Essentially, it is simpler and more practically applicable.
Do we practise drills and exercises?
No. Playing patterns with fluent understanding is very different from practising finger drills and scales in conventional jazz piano training. Repeating something until you can play it using muscle memory is very different from having a fluent grasp of its musical structure and meaning.
Is this an ear training system?
IIt is not a musical ear training system in any conventional sense. My thesis is that you already have a perfectly functioning inner musician. In practice, you will find that fluent musicianship equips you with the most impressive aural skills.
Is this course more for classical, jazz or pop music?
This is an entirely “non-denominational” approach that will prepare you for playing any style of music on the piano. It will also prepare you well for developing keyboard-based production skills, as well as composing and arranging music.
Is it OK to use this course alongside other approaches?
There are clear dangers with mixing learning approaches towards the same goals. Other methods that make use of decoding theory or passive sight-reading and drills such as scales or finger exercises may conflict with this model and prevent it from working. You need to be very clear about what real fluency is and work single-mindedly towards that goal. If you want to play music passively (rather like reciting a poem in a language in which you are not fluent) of course you can do that, but passive, reciting skills have nothing to do with this approach.
Can I keep playing my old pieces?
If you want to keep playing music passively, using muscle memory, of course you can but you must make a clear mental boundary between this passive playing and the fluent musicianship training practice you do on this course. Whilst the fluency practice you do here can help your passive skills, your passive practice does nothing for your fluent skills at all and you need to be careful that it does not embed bad habits.
Why is there no free sample?
There is a huge amount of freely available information on this website and in the free videos on YouTube. Giving a small sample away, as is a common practice, is usually nothing more than a marketing ploy to acquire email addresses etc. To succeed with this course, you must be serious about it. So read the materials, watch the videos and think deeply about the whole idea of fluency. It is surprising how many people might think fluency is merely playing without stopping or making mistakes. True fluency is a whole other thing! If you really can’t find the answer to your question, it is probably something you will learn about if you buy materials: you can always contact me to ask.
I don’t have a good musical ear, will I be able to do this course?
If you listen to music and it makes rhythmic and tonal sense to you then you do in fact have a good musical ear, just as most people do. Another check that your musical ear or sense is working OK is whether you can hear music in your imagination. Very few people lack these abilities. Singing out of tune is not an indication of having poor musical sense or a weak musical ear so much as a sign of lack of confidence in your singing skills which of course can also be trained…
Is this a good course for children?
These materials are designed for adults. But the concepts in the first steps are very simple and children will grasp them well if they are taught by a creative, patient and sympathetic adult who can make up characters and stories to help communicate the concepts. I intend to develop children’s materials at some point in the future.
You say each step requires hundreds of hours of practice but not the repetitive, rehearsing kind. Without hundreds of hours of video lessons, how does that work?
There are no show-and-play videos but rather sample practice demonstrations. The materials provide you with a lot more to do than you might expect. You get clear diagrams and concise instructions about how to do improvising practice on simple structures that have endless permutations. Even the notated materials are designed to be read in different keys. This kind of practice develops fluency because you use basic elements in many different ways so that you fully internalise them. You don’t simply learn to passively recite the material either by decoding-style reading or parrot-fashion mimicry as in conventional training. Instead, you must be fully engaged, in terms of both mental focus and expressive letting go, as you play with the materials creatively.
If it’s not what I expected, can I have a refund?
Please read the copy on this website carefully – you can also watch the free videos – to get a clear sense of what this approach is all about BEFORE you make a purchase. This is NOT a conventional course and will not suit everyone. Do not buy materials as a present for someone else or just to do research. They are designed to help you PRACTISE!
If you do purchase materials and still feel they are not for you, you may contact us within 14 days to explain. You must agree to delete any files you have downloaded and a refund will be issued.