The Science of Music Education

What is Genius?

The Science of Music Education: With Chaun Chang

Chuan C. Chang was born in 1938 in Taiwan, studied physics at Cornell, and worked much of his career as a material science physicist at Bell Laboratories.  He is the son of two pianists, and the father of two pianists.  His unique scientific approach to learning the piano stems from the frustration he experienced as a piano student and the longing for more effective learning methods.  Inspired by the teachings of Julliard piano professor Yvonne Combe and fueled by his own desire to make since of why some methods of learning piano are superior than others, Chuan authored the highly unique book Fundamentals of Piano Practice, now available for free in it's third edition at Chuan's website and also for sale on

-- I love the section in your book where you demystify the mystique of geniuses. People like Mozart are considered by many people as super-humans, but really, the skills and talents these people have is something tangible.  Most of the time you can dissect and explain the development of their skills and originality --

That's right. I'm interested in is what makes a genius. What are they? I think that's an interesting topic. The more you dig, the more you come to realize that these genius things that Mozart did are things that anybody can learn if you understand how he did it. Not that I've dug up all of the explanations, but everything that I managed to dig up falls in that category, so you begin to think, "Was he really a genius?" It's an interesting topic.

-- Absolutely. I'd love to see a whole book on that topic.  Explaining the details of people who are considered to be geniuses, like Mozart and Einstein. That could be a fascinating book. --

You really bring up a good point because Einstein didn't generate all his ideas. Many of the important ideas that were attributed to Einstein are not his. They were topics that were being discussed widely by many people at that time. People were very happy to come to him and ascribe the discoveries to him because he would get immediate recognition. It's quite interesting. He has quite a few women friends, lady friends, and they were all physicists. Many of those ideas came from them. So that's interesting.

I've come to the conclusion that practically all, at least 90 percent of the people that we call geniuses aren't really geniuses. They just learned the genius tricks. There's one section in the middle of my book where I list some of the known genius tricks and one of the biggest ones, of course, is mental play.

It's almost a crime that more people don't know about mental play because good mental play will immediately lift you up into the genius category.