The Difference Between
Traditional and Non-Traditional Music


If you have studied music with a traditional instructor you probably were learning to play the music of master composers . If this is the music you wanted to play, learning scales is an important part of it, but not necessarily because the music is based on scales. Instead, much of traditional music is decorated with scales. In order to play the decorations of master composers you must learn to play scales with dexterity (delicate fingering). Success in this music requires tremendous persistence and determination for a majority of students...and accounts for the estimated 90% drop-out rate for traditional students!

The mistaken assumption of most people is if you can play the traditional music of master composers, you can play anything. For most folks, this is NOT the case!


In the following discussion:
traditional = master composers (Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, Chopin, etc.)
non-traditional = everything else (pop, rock, standards, ballads, boogie, etc.)


There is a vast difference between how traditional and non-traditional music is presented and performed. Although the two styles are nearly identical in the way they are composed (based on chords), they are quite different in the way they are taught, practiced and played. The main difference will be found in the thought process required by the person playing.

In traditional music, the way tones are supposed to be played and combined already exists in the preferred form, as written by the composer. To play traditional music correctly, you play finger by finger...written note by written note.

For example: If 30 people from around the world came together in one location, and all took turns playing Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata," you would recognize Beethoven as the composer AND the artist (picture on right). Except for minor variations between musicians, the music would sound the same from one person to the next, regardless of their native language. Although they may play with great artistry, the people who play traditional music are often called performers.


By contrast, non-traditional music often occurs as a spontaneous expression of emotion combined with rhythm and additional creative tones. The correct way to play non-traditional music is flexible and unique for each individual.

For example: Although The Star Spangled Banner may be considered a nice tune, it is not art without a creative performer. It is artistic creativity that makes Whitney Houston's version of The Star Spangled Banner sound different from that of Rosanne Barr! Although they are performers, the people who play non-traditional music are often called artists, because their music emphasizes creativity.


Both traditional and non-traditional music are composed out of chords, but traditional music is decorated with scales. This important principle is beautifully demonstrated in the following audio discussion presented by Itzhak Solsky, a world renowned concert pianist (and member of PMMO).

Mozart Discussion by Itzhak Solsky (2:16)


Students of non-traditional music excel as they understand how chords and melody work together through a song...not by practicing scales. Why? Because MUSIC IS BASED ON CHORDS...scales alone do not sound like music. The focus of Piano Magic is completely upon playing non-traditional music (the music most people live with - pop, rock, standards, ballads, boogie, hymns, gospel, etc.), without having to read music.

In addition, simply knowing how to play a variety of chords is NOT enough. In order to play with ease using both hands, you need to know WHERE those chords are likely to go next. To learn how and where chords move from one to the next, we learn to think like music one-simple-step-at-a-time. Step by step moves pretty quickly for most folks, so it won't take long to 'get it' in your noggin'.

The language of music (and English) can be as simple or as difficult as you think it needs to be.

  • When promulgating your esoteric cogitations or articulating your superficial sentimentalities and amicable philosophical and psychological observations, beware of platitudinous ponderosity. Let your verbal evaporations have lucidity, intelligibility and veracious vivacity without rodomontade or thespian bombast. Sedulously avoid all polysyllabic profundity, pompous propensity and sophomoric vacuity.

    What this really means is -- "Don't use big words! THINK SIMPLE!"


Teaching you to think like music is my most important purpose in Piano Magic! Thinking, using concepts you already know, is the very key to developing a natural talent for playing a keyboard instrument 'by ear'.