Guest Author - Allan Harris
Your learning style directly affects how well you take in information. This is important for musicians, because we are constantly learning new skills and refining old ones. And it’s particularly beneficial to know if you teach music.
There are three main learning styles:
If you learn best by watching, you prefer visual learning.
If you learn best by hearing, you are probably an aural learner.
If you learn best by doing, you like learning kinesthetically.
Knowing your learning style can be life-changing. For example, if a school teacher wrote notes on a blackboard, and you easily took in that information, you probably prefer a visual style. But if it was always hard for you, perhaps you prefer hearing the information, or physically experimenting with that information.
Although you use all the styles, most people have a preferred method that makes things easier. So if a teacher told you: “You’re too slow at learning,” perhaps they never used your preferred learning style.
I had a piano student who read well, played well, and had a great sense of time. She was also highly intelligent, but found it difficult to learn new concepts. At first, I wondered why she had trouble with some instructions I had written out. Then it dawned on me that she might learn best kinesthetically (by doing). So I showed her something and immediately had her mimic what I did. The lights went on! She was fantastic at picking up concepts that way.
It took me years to understand I was a kinesthetic learner too. And then I realized you can use your imagination to translate different forms of learning to your own preferred style!
- If you are kinesthetic and someone in a class says: “watch me,” you can imagine yourself DOING the motions with them.
- If you are an aural learner, you can imagine someone saying the written words you are looking at.
- If you are a visual learner, you can imagine pictures as someone is speaking.
As a kinesthetic learner, I found that when I listened to someone lecturing, I learned best when I took notes. Even if I just doodled with a pen on paper, I still took in the information more readily. Somehow, “doing” something while listening really helped me.
You can learn music (and anything else) faster if you use your preferred style.
If you are an aural learner it may be best if you first hear someone play a piece of music before you try it. If you are visual, you may be better at reading it, or seeing someone else play it first. If you are kinesthetic, you may want to imagine yourself playing the piece, even if you don’t know it, because your body may want the experience of that feeling.
There is one other method of learning that Robert Heinlein wrote about in a science fiction book called “Stranger in a Strange Land.” He coined the term to “grok.” When you grok, you take in information intuitively. I’ve always wanted to do that, and once or twice I’ve experienced it.
Though I’m not sure how, I picked up information just by “knowing” it. I watched someone move in a Tai Chi class, and inside my body I felt how they were doing it. I wish I could do that all the time, because it would make life a whole lot easier. And I have met two people (not very many) who consistently learn that way.
You can improve your experiences by trying out styles you don’t usually use…
- If you are kinesthetic, try consciously listening more, or building pictures in your head.
- If you are visual, experiment with listening. You can always SEE the words as you hear them too.
- If you are best at aural learning, try seeing words as you hear them, or imagining your body moving to the sounds you hear.
So, for now… good listening, good seeing, good “doings”.
And especially, good grokking.
All the best,
Bella Online’s Musician Editor