73. What is the Teacher For?
Often, people object to the computer in this way: “Nothing can replace live interaction with a teacher!” Well, there’s nothing to argue with here… I am in complete agreement with this! From that very stipulation, “live interaction” is far from all that a student needs.
Let’s examine where live interaction is really necessary, and where it becomes an empty waste of effort, time, and money.
What is needed in order to:
- help to coordinate both hands while playing
- teach to read music notation
- play along with the right hand while the student plays the left, and vice versa
- point out where the mistake is and what must be done to fix it so that the phrase sounds right
- break the piece into small parts so that the student can work out “local” challenges
- help to learn the piece by memory, analyze the text by ear and alert the student of mistakes
Is the inimitable talent of the teacher really necessary here? By no means! A good computer program can easily take care of all of this. And it’ll do it much better than a teacher can!
Transforming the development of elementary skills into “live interaction,” the teacher trades valuable practice time in for lectures, and sharply limits the progress of the student. Only a teacher is capable of thinking that his smart speeches and notations are more useful for study than concrete playing, reading, and singing! A computer could never be guilty of such naïveté.
With a computer, my students play a piece a minimum of 15-20 times in one lesson. Moreover, they quickly perfect the technique of each hand and coordination of them both, work out and put the finishing touches on a tough passage until full acquisition, develop their hearing and train all forms of memory. Meanwhile, in the “traditional” class, almost all of this time is spent on “live interaction”; the teacher diligently explains “how this needs to be played,” and seriously believes that with this advice, the student will be able to play as he’s been told.
It’s a completely different deal when the student can read on his own. Here, live interaction can be written without any quotation marks! The teacher outlines the strategy for the student’s development, helps to pick out an adequate repertoire, to grasp the traits and nuances of the pieces, realize the subtleties of interpretation and to express the character of the music. No computer could possibly replace the teacher here – and no one has tried to suggest otherwise.
I don’t know how feasible it would be to make a similar program that could teach foreign languages. It would have to control the student’s voice, his intonation and articulation, and react to mistakes on time, in pronunciation as well as grammar. But for the music language, this type of control can be fully realized because the focus here is coordinated work with the keys of the instrument. Meanwhile, the voice and hearing develop in parallel as a result of practical music application.