University of Jyväskylä

Dissertation: 28.10.2017 M.A. Johanna Hasu (Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Music Education)

Start date: Oct 28, 2017 12:00 PM

End date: Oct 28, 2017 03:00 PM

Location: Seminaarinmäki, M103

Johanna Hasu Picture: Foto Monza
M.A. Johanna Hasu defends her doctoral dissertation in Music Education ”Kun siihen pystyy kuitenkin, ei oo mitään järkee olla tekemättä. Oppimisen vaikeudet pianonsoiton opiskelussa - oppilaiden kokemuksia ja opetuksen keinoja”. Opponent Ph.D. Speech Therapist Paula Salmi (Niilo Mäki Instituutti) and custos Professor Jukka Louhivuori (University of Jyväskylä). The doctoral dissertation is held in Finnish.


Music is a strong element of the empirical world of the young. Playing an instrument creates meanings, and it can help to feel and deal with emotions. Music itself is a source of immense joy and motivation for young players, even when learning is not easy. Year after year, the piano is the most popular instrument chosen by Music Institute applicants. The aim of this study was to investigate the difficulties encountered by piano students who are slower to learn than might be assumed from their talent and practising. The study also examined whether the piano teacher’s observations about the student's learning difficulties in piano playing tally with the results of tests measuring learning difficulties. It also aimed to find teaching methods that will help these students to learn faster and more easily.

The study involved 27 young piano pupils. They all participated in tests measuring reading and spelling skills, rapid naming, and mathematical skills. Fifteen pupils had difficulties in one or more tests (n=15). Based on these tests, eight students of different ages were selected for interviews (n=8). The interview data lets the students speak: it allows them to say how they feel about their playing and learning.

The findings showed that the results of the tests partly corresponded to the ease or difficulty of playing. Pupils with similar test results seemed to progress and encounter similar problems of playing. The results also showed that the piano teacher cannot tell whether the pupil has other learning difficulties or not based only on the piano lessons. Pupils must be taught “according to the symptoms”.

According to the interviews, playing meant much to the students, despite any difficulties that may arise. Most important was the teacher’s role as motivator and learning facilitator, and above all as an adult willing to encounter them in their ongoing life situation. This study also yielded a collection of teaching methods that can be used to teach all kinds of pupils.

The findings indicate that whether or not a pupil has any learning difficulties is not very relevant if they are motivated to play. When each student is taught as an individual, seeking the most appropriate method, whether the student has dyslexia, naming difficulties or some other problem is irrelevant. Anyone who is taught well and listened to as an individual can learn to play the piano.

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Johanna Hasu
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