Flow while teaching beginners? This is how:

Dr. Wolff - How to induce FLOW

This week, I had an intense moment of flow - teaching an adult beginner how to improve hand posture, how to heighten playing and timing awareness and how to INSTANTLY profit from my thousands of hours playing experience.

For most pianists, it is rarely reflected, when EXACTLY a note is played, down to the millisecond, down to the utmost movement detail, down to the optimum in muscle tension and joint stability. Up until now, I was sure that a certain level of expertise is needed to aim for such depth.

Now, I am convinced otherwise: We designed an exercise on the spot, analyzing together, which movement components are needed, which joint positions needed improvement, which movement concept was most suitable and which sound components we aimed for.

The resulting exercise would be difficult for any pianist - without regard of his or her level of expertise.

The stunning thing is, that we both experienced this flow, we both could wander with our thoughts, ponder over philosophical questions and draw parallels to her profession as a medical doctor.

Now - what do you need for this flow-inducing, creative process?

A Focus:

We focussed on building up a sound feeling of the finger pulp sitting on the keys in a firm and deep fashion. Aditionally, we sent our awareness on establishing the arches of the hand - the foundation for free finger movement at the piano.

The right amount of stimuli:

Tactile, aural, visual and kinesthetic stimuli help to reach a movement goal sooner. We tapped the muscles that were about to become engaged, we re-enforced joint awareness by approximation (a gentle push into the socket of a joint), we saw the nail beds turn white upon resting some weight on each finger, we felt how muslces tensed up following tactile and verbal cues and we drew some pictures and schemes of the entire movement - thus, a multi-modal image of the exercise emerged.

Expertise and awareness:

We used a technique called "tandem playing" - the student's hand lying relaxed on the teacher's hand, thus enabeling the student to feel the expert's movement in real time. This is a true treasure in letting a novice sense otherwise unknown realms of movement fluidity.

A fresh look:

The intense work with a beginning student led to unexpected creativity and a totally new concept of movement and timing at the piano, bringing about the core essence of playing piano - the conjoined distribution of weight of a group of notes until a legato motive ends with the release of weight.

A musical concept:

First, one needs to reflect the musical goal and parameters that are paramount to achieving it. With each musical parameter in mind, one can define a scale on which this parameter is adjustable. Then melt all parameters together. Define them as accurately as possible and write it down as lively as feasible.

A movement model:

For each note, a movement concept can be pinned down - and described in detail. With a thourough understanding, practise becomes more efficient and musical parameters can be optimally rendered with the optimal technique.


Allow yourself to become inspired, let the Flow emerge, drift with it. There is nothing more rewarding than pushing one's limits of awareness, perception and musical mastery.