What is MusicallyFluent and how did it come about?

I developed MusicallyFluent as an alternative to traditional music training. As a young child, I was naturally very gifted musically and could play complex music by ear.

But from the age of 11, as I was obediently practising loads of scales and arpeggios, learning theory and playing the same examination pieces over and over again until my fingers played them without my heart or mind being involved, I found  – to my horror – that my natural, fluent skills were disappearing. The only way I could play fluently was to empty my mind and play only from the body and soul and this strange state was becoming difficult to access.

Searching for musical logic

So, determined to keep and develop my fluent musicianship, I started to examine what was going on, somewhere deep in my mind, on a barely conscious level, when I played fluently. I wanted to find clear, conscious awareness of what I had been doing intuitively as a young child. I soon discovered that there was a simple process at work.

I discovered that all I needed was clear, constant awareness of how rhythm and tonality are organised. By noticing the rhythmic pulse organised into a strong but flexible nonlinear matrix and the symmetry of the keyboard’s layout, I could maintain and grow my fluent skills.

The discovery – a simple model!

It was not rocket science! And I found I could still do well in classical piano examinations as long as I used my own secret model. I admit that I felt like a cheat because I wan’t really doing what my teacher asked, but he seemed none the wiser and enjoyed all the exam results and prizes that I gained.

For the past decade, I have been developing ways of teaching my approach to others. It is far from conventional so it has been quite a journey! I had to develop innovative materials to find a clear, simple way of describing the process.

I am grateful to my wonderful students whose patience and tenacity have been so important in the process of experimentation as I searched for terminology, pictures and various pre-notational systems that communicate the principles and elements clearly, especially at Level 1.

Sharing this model with the world

My desire is to encourage people to make an deep mental shift and therefore connect to their powerful inner musician. Musical fluency on the keys is a wonderful skill and I want as many people as possible to be empowered by practising the MusicallyFluent model.

So a short eBook offering a clear and colourful explanation of the model can be downloaded for free here but you will have to do a short quiz first to see if you have the right mindset. Finding this mindset can be a real paradigm shift for many people. Unless the core of what fluency is is clear, the ideas will be difficult or impossible to grasp. However, if you just take a little time to ponder the ideas contained in this website deeply, you can take the leap of faith and grasp the wonderful musical possibilities that fluency opens up.

Passive musicianship vs. fluent musicianship

This why I must put the little hurdle of the quiz in place… because the truth is that many people in today’s culture do not have the right attitude for musical fluency training. This is because fluent musicianship is actually not our cultural norm.

I often say that we live in a karaoke culture: music is seen not as a form of self-expression but as something you do passively. Music is perceived as something outside of you that you must imitate. This can cripple you as a musician. The other paradigm of how to go about making music is to see it as theoretical code. If we execute that code perfectly, like a machine, we we get the musical results we want. This is not musical fluency either.

If you think about it, when you are hearing a piece of music for the very first time, it does make sense. This is because you have a natural inner musician. Your inner musician understands the patterns of rhythm and tonality perfectly, just unconsciously. MusicallyFluent training is designed to bring that intuitive musicianship into conscious awareness. 

Special gifts like perfect pitch

There is an odd belief that to be fluent on the keyboard requires special, innate gifts such as perfect pitch. This is absurd and disempowering. Some degree of pitch memory will tend to accompany fluency but how accurate your pitch recall is matters very little. The overwhelming majority of people have good enough pitch awareness to be fluent.

We actually process tonal relationships rather than individual notes so that melody and harmony occur to us a recognisable and meaningful patterns. Also, awareness of rhythmic structure is at least as important a part of fluent musicianship training as awareness of tonal structure.

What about musical talent?

I find our cultural obsession with innate talent rather irritating. Passion and discipline are far more important than talent! Obviously, we all have different levels of aptitude or talent – we learn at different rates – but this does not lie on some kind of linear scale. We are all good at different things and unique as musicians.

Musical fluency is just the ability to process musical language and the MusicallyFluent model is an excellent basis for training this ability; it is not a trick for you to reach some imagined pinnacle of musical achievement. We are all fluent in spoken language although our aptitudes vary. Of course, we are not all poets or legal writers but these lofty skills have nothing to with fluency! Fluency simply unlocks whatever musical magic is deep within you. It frees your inner musician and lets you express yourself, musically and naturally.

My thesis is that we are as musically talented as we are interested in music. If you love music and feel it very deeply, if you find the question of how it works genuinely fascinating and are prepared to approach it as a practical skill, then you have talent that can be unlocked by training.