The five whys in music education

Taiichi Ohno pioneered the Toyota manufacturing system back in the 1950’s and he did it by taking the exact opposite approach of American car factories. He gave power to the workers and had managers serve the workers. To this day, workers in a Toyota factory can still stop the whole manufacturing process with the flip of a switch.

Once that switch flips the manager comes by to help the worker and they begin the questioning process. If the whole manufacturing line needs to stop then everyone should learn why a mistake was made.

Ohno believed that if you ask why enough times you uncover the real problem. So he would have workers and managers talk out problems and continuously ask “why” until they arrived at the root of the problem.

This could be so valuable to students if they are able to apply this to their own practice.

“I missed the note.”


“I played E instead of Eb”


“Because it was so far to reach from D to Eb”


“Because my fingers are too close to the bottom of the key”


“Because I’m not siting right”


“Because I need to sit higher”

Most students couldn’t complete the gamut of why’s, but as they get older, help them to do this. It will make all the difference if they can master the process of thinking deeply about improvement.


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