In response to Andrew Eales at


Technology and the Internet have made a lot of things possible. One of this things is starting every day with a look through the Internet. That means checking email, checking Facebook, checking a few Internet forums, etc. We all do that – nothing special about the process. And luckily because I’m my own grandpa, I meant boss, I don’t have to deal with thousands of administrative emails from thousands of administrators.

But one of the joys in all of this is I’ve met collaborators with whom I’ve had some substantial discussions. That’s one of the interesting things about the Internet. You can collaborate with someone who isn’t in the same shared bricks and mortar location.

I saw a fabulous post from Andrew Eales on Effective learning that refers back to another of his posts on Sound before Symbol. Best to read what he has to say to see what’s he saying. Part of it refers to recent and interesting academic research.

Anyway, Andrew was very pleased with a long-form comment I left on his Facebook page about that site. So, I thought, what the heck. This is the Internet. Let’s share and share alike! Because we’re both talking about the same thing, we’ve been talking about it for a while, and we’ll probably continue talking about it in the future. That truly is one of the joys of the Internet!

So, without further ado here’s my comment. But, please read Andrew’s posts FIRST. The fuller context is more readily in that order.


Andrew Eales: my practical experience: I recommend to all of my students, sooner or later, they get any of the million software packages that run on iOS or Android and which slow down the speed of a recording without changing in its pitch. Then they can play along with the recording of their choice at the speed of their choice (using headphones).

So, for example, someone learning a Bach Invention can play along with Glenn Gould and every other of the million pianists who have recorded the Inventions. It’s like getting a lesson from GG or any of the pianists whose recording one might be using.

Playing along with GG at half-speed lets you hear every nuance and articulation his playing. It’s a good discipline to learn to follow and anticipate what’s upcoming in the recording. For anyone who may one day work as a studio musician (a disappearing profession) it’s good practice for either playing along with a click track or a pre-existing recording or both.

I’ve seen from my own experience and that of students that learning repertoire like this drastically speeds up the process of knowing the piece. I haven’t seen any drawbacks to the process nor has one student been anything less than enthusiastic about it. Inversely, every student has commented on how much fun it is to feel immersed in the music, so to speak.

But the main, important point is this a way, one way, to build a mental image of what something sounds like while you’re also trying to play it. We do that anyway when we practice but using a slowed-down recording listened to through headphones amplifies the learning process.

That mental image of what we’re trying to play is crucial. Many teachers refer to it in any number of ways. I first found the phrase in a book by Abby Whiteside.

Since I’m replying at length, I might as well suggest we teachers can, and many of us are already doing it, explore how technology let’s us rethink teaching and learning. There’s so much out there and so much coming to market every day – really we’re in an unbelievably fast technology cycle and keeping up with it isn’t always so easy. But it can be worthwhile.

From a different point of view in a different genre, jazz musicians for many decades have played along or sung with recordings. The idea is capturing every nuance is a useful discipline and ultimately a good thing to do for practicing and learning.

Here’s a blog post I wrote last year about playing along with a recording.

Here’s a blog post about related issues (and Glenn Gould) from several days ago:

My experience with all above mirrors what the authors of the study say, which is building an auditory model of something we play helps and, again, I base that assessment on experience with students including their feedback. Do I sound convinced? 🙂