October 7


7 Ways to Learn: Piano “Math” as my Teacher

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Something occurred to me today! I was practicing the piano, just as I do almost every day, when suddenly I began to laugh!  I have never been great at math, but today I realized that I’m using math when I practice the piano. 

Learn by Math

I’ve learned through the Master Key Experience that there are 7 ways we learn.  One is Math and math = numbers.  

No, there is no multiplication or division, geometry, or trigonometry in musical scores, and they are not written in numbers.  The notes are printed on two staffs; the staffs contain a LOT of information, but no numbers.  Well, except for little tiny ones printed every so often – let me show you.   See those tiny blue circles?

Blue circles guide my finger numbering in piano music

Those indicate which finger is to be used to play a particular note.  They are so helpful, especially when my fingers feel clumsy and I hit wrong notes in a piece.  I don’t always agree with the finger numbering, but I work out what would be best for me, and use a pencil to change it in the score. 

What made me laugh, was that when I was playing, I realized that the finger numbers were what was running through my head!  

Here’s an example:  I learned one of my mom’s favorite songs when I was about 14. When I think of it now, this is what is in my mind:  5, 3, 2, 1 – 3, 2, 3, 2, 3, 2, 1 – 4, 5, 4, 5, 3, 2, 1 – 2, 3, 5 – 2, 2, 2, 5 – 2, 5, 3, 1, 3, 2, 1, 2!  See – math!  It’s so entrenched in my head that as I was typing this, I went back and changed one of the numbers – like you would even realize it’s wrong – I crack myself up sometimes! 

6 More Ways to Learn

I also realized that I’m using several of the other ways to learn – Athletic – because I’m moving my hands, fingers, wrists and feet when I play.  Also, Intrapersonal, this finger numbering business is going on in my head.  Of course, Music itself is a way we learn.  I suppose I could stretch Interpersonal to fit this scenario as well, because at times, I’m counting out loud to keep myself on the beat: 1, 2, 3, 4 – for quarter noted in 4/4 time and 1 & 2 & 3 & four & (for eight notes in 4/4 time).   

I could say that I’m using Shapes – because what else would you call the notes on the page, except ‘shapes’?  I haven’t come up with examples of how Language is used as a way to learn while I’m playing, but feel free to leave me a comment if you figure it out!! 

One learns from books and example only that certain things can be done. Actual learning requires that you do those things.

Frank Herbert
Read more articles by Nancy Ottinger

About the author

Nancy brings a wealth of life and health-care industry experience to her role as a successful and sought-after Master Guide. For over seven years, she has supported and encouraged dozens of MasterKey members to claim their best life. Her members include best-selling authors to best-loved Grandmas, whatever the member's bliss, Nancy's ready to guide them as they discover their true selves!

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  • Nancy I love your post so much! I was just practicing piano with my kids yesterday and ironically I had a language connection come to my awareness that I had never realized before (this was before I read your post). My daughter Clare was working on a new song and it was hard to get the counting right. There were lyrics above the staff for the song and once we started signing the words, she was much more able to feel the counting of the notes and get it right. I can’t believe that I had this connection to your question, but I love it and thank you so much for sharing so I could share a musical perspective on the 7th way to learn!

  • thanks Nancy – what a great post ! – and thank you Jen too –
    I’m in the midst of exploring links between aphantasia (greek ‘a’ meaning without”, and phantasia- “a capacity to form mental images”) & the many types of synesthesia – what it’s like to “taste” words or “see” music etc & so far, 80+ different linked combinations have emerged including language variations.

  • this insight is marvelous… as a drummer who learned classical drumming BEFORE I knew rock and roll 🙂 … it really is math. Just like the shapes…

  • Nancy, your great post is an awesome illustration of the infinite number of ways the MKE is impacting our consciousness…New awareness continues to come on a regular basis year after year…exactly what we need to continue to grow 🙂 Thanks for sharing this tiny & rich experience!

  • Yes my kid that is good at piano is also very good at math! So coll to think about the different ways of learning and the ways we can combine them to facilitate our learning! Great, fun share! 🙂

  • Thank you for sharing your experience Nancy! It reminds me of that we use different learning styles in varied degree depending on what we are learning. I love that MKE uses all the 7 learning styles in the way you get to learn a lot about yourself, not only during the course but for the rest of your life.

  • Nancy, thank you for your blog. What a very special demonstration of learning by math. That can be applied to other parts of our life as well. I am vey grateful that The Master Key Experience teaches us the 7 ways to learn. I am so grateful for your friendship. Thank you for being my Guide during 2018-2019 Master Key Experience.

  • Nancy, I thoroughly enjoyed your blog and how you used music to illustrate the 7 ways you learn. How you used shapes as examples for notes. You use Language when you sing the song that you play. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. What is your favorite type of music to play?

    • My favorite type is SLOW! If I were a better player, I could play faster, but I enjoy my level of expertise! And I cannot sing and play at the same time – it takes too much concentration just to keep up with what’s going on with the score. 🙂

    • Totally agree, JJ! If I learned everything that I’ve read or seen demonstrated, – – – wow! We choose what we learn, so we need to get going! There is still so many wonderful things to learn! Thanks for your comment!

  • I am so grateful for your blog perspective. You made me smile. Language, for me, has always been applicable as math. Thank you also for your ongoing commitment to the members and to the mission of the MKE. You are appreciated.

  • Thank you so much Nancy! You are so funny. I love how you relate the MKE and what we learn as part of life. Thanks for reminding us how these tools we learn through the MasterKey is applicable in our daily life.

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