Casiotone nostalgia, or the way we learn (Guest post)

Today, my good friend Ignacio Jordi is visiting this blog, bringing with him his very interesting thoughts that always makes us think and gives us an opportunity to know more about ourselves. If you haven’t visited Nacho at his blog Zerebria, please take some time and stop by to read his timeless and very educative posts.


Casiotone nostalgia, or the way we learn

Hello everybody, and thank you once again Raul for letting me show up at your wonderful blog; I’m honored of being a guest here in Alien Ghost, for sure one of the friendliest aliens on this side of the galaxy!  :)  My article today is about learning. I hope you find it enjoyable.

Some of you may remember it; in my country it got to be sort of a symbol of the 80’s, one of those many objects from that decade which have become a dear memory. The Casiotone PT-1 was not longer than a laptop screen, its keys were so tiny that they were almost square, and it had a very recognizable rhythm that was sort of its anthem (too-kee-too-kee-too-kee-too-too-too-kee-too-kee-too-kee…)

That cute and comic electric keyboard was my first one, the instrument that introduced me, and many people in my generation, to the delights of playing music.

But the Casiotone PT-1 had one more feature, the one I want to focus on: it was monochannelled. In other words, it only allowed you to play one note at a time; no sound appeared when you pressed a second key unless you released the former first.

Now you might say it was a limitation rather than a feature, but try and see it through the eyes of a kid who is approaching for the first time the world of music, of making music. Fascinated, I practiced every catchy tune I could think of, in the mood of someone who disassembles a toy to see what’s inside.

Obviously, you need no more than one hand to play a single note, so I could help myself with the other hand when I had to play something that was fast or tricky, and the result was always gratifying. I used to practice over and over until the notes came perfect. The only variation factor I was allowed was the four different instrument sounds to play with.

I did not know it at the time, but it turned out to be a perfectly natural introduction to music. A succession of single notes, one at a time, is what in musical theory is called a melody. And melody is the skeleton of any musical education, the first thing that humans tried out when they intended to make pretty sounds.

So the limitation imposed by the instrument kindly forced me to train myself in the basics of music; all my attention was focused on the melody, and the quality of sound. There was nothing else to care for.

That way, when, later on, I moved to a new, more potent keyboard, which allowed simultaneous channels (I think they were four), I was ready for the new challenge ahead: simultaneity of notes. Harmony. My next step, then, was fleshing out the melodies I had learned; to my surprise, I discovered that any song allowed a lot of possible ‘dressings’, the choice was not limited to finding a single ‘right one’. My research took me to new stages, to more complex ‘toys’, as I started to try out different chords and series…

Learning is the process of practicing an ability under controlled circumstances. The first surfing lesson is taken on land. The skilled spokesman records himself at home, with no people round, to see how he looks and sounds. The child gets familiar with the bike using small supporting wheels before heading for the challenge of balance on only two…Sometimes I wonder if I would have learned music the way I did if my first keyboard had been one of those high-tech monsters around in our days. I’m no specialist, maybe there are still monochanelled beauties out there, but the mainstream seems to be dominated by keyboards with zillions of instruments and virtually no channel limitation, where pressing the demo button bursts into a Sting song or a Wagner, loud as hell.

Maybe I would have learned just the same, but I would have had to figure out the ‘chunks’, the limitations by myself. So my conclusions are: 1) learning is one of those fields in which less is more, and 2) when trying to help someone learn, removing options is not imposing a handicap; it is being considerate.

Can you think of other examples of learning under controlled circumstances? Do you impose yourself limitations to help you learn something? Ever had a Casiotone PT-1? 

Nacho Jordi is a psychologist and translator who lives in Madrid (Spain). He is the author of the Zerebria blog, where he offers tips and hints for personal development and conscious living, besides all kind of contemporary musings.

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12 Responses to Casiotone nostalgia, or the way we learn (Guest post)

  1. Raul Ojeda says:

    Hi Nacho,

    That’s an interesting observation. If we analyze how we learned many things, like in school, we see that all the material is divided into small bits, and only when those bits are learned, more of them that complement the first are added to the knowledge acquired.

    I didn’t have an electronic keyboard, but about the age of four I had a little toy piano (probably not bigger than a Netbook) and it was fun to follow the songs in the radio playing one note at the time.

    Thank you for the nostalgic memories and the interesting post.

    Raul Ojeda´s last post ..Casiotone nostalgia- or the way we learn Guest post

    Nacho Reply:

    Hi Raul,

    I’m glad the post brought great memories. I think all children should have access to a musical education… and I don’t mean what many teachers do to music, in my country at least!
    Thank you for the opportunity to appear in your terrific blog.
    Nacho´s last post ..Food inbox – How good are you at processing it

  2. Sara says:


    This was a very interesting post. I had to really think about how I learn new things. I’m definitely a trial and error person; I experiment with something new before I read the manual or textbook,if possible.

    This may be why I’ve never been very good at musical instruments, even though I love music.

    I am pleased that you visited Alien Ghost. I will stop by and check out your blog.

    Thank you Raul for having Nacho Jordi at your site.
    Sara´s last post ..Story Photo- Photo Contest

    Raul Ojeda Reply:

    Hi Sara,

    Isn’t it fun (sometimes) to learn experimenting? Maybe we all do that one way or another.

    Check Nacho’s blog; there’s lots of interesting posts to read and think about.

    Raul Ojeda´s last post ..Casiotone nostalgia- or the way we learn Guest post

  3. Kelvin Kao says:

    Interesting thoughts. I think this is why some music classes teach recorders as the introductory instrument. They are portable and they are played one note at a time. The students aren’t overwhelmed with harmonies and chords. (Sometimes they introduce harmonies at first by having two people playing together.)

    We started learning puppetry this way too. At first it’s just our hand. We use that to work on the breath and lip sync. And we attach eyes to work on eye focus. Then we put on the puppet. Initially we just put the arm rods at the default positions. We add those later.
    Kelvin Kao´s last post ..I Wish I Could Go Back to College

    Raul Ojeda Reply:

    Hi kelvin,

    It seems the process is adding rather than taking the whole, at least most of the times.

    Raul Ojeda´s last post ..Casiotone nostalgia- or the way we learn Guest post

  4. Pingback: 'Casiotone nostalgia' for Alien Ghost

  5. Hi Nacho,
    I am only a music listener and never tried to play any music gadget. I never used CasioTone PT-1 as I think that I have not ability to learn music.
    Enjoyed your post and your personal experience.
    nazimwarriach´s last post ..Quicksilver Games Coupon Codes

  6. Nacho says:

    Hi, Nazimwarriach,

    I’m glad to know you enjoyed the post. Music is always a highly recommendable thing, even only as a listener (I’m listening to music as I write this :) ). Thanks for sharing.
    Nacho´s last post ..God created rock &amp roll

  7. Patricia says:

    When I was teaching Developmental Psychology I always liked to share that a newborn baby needs to connect over 10,000 brain synapses in order to roll over – some do it faster than others…but that includes things like blinking the eyes, turning the head, waving the arms as you would like them to go, leg and hand connection, rocking the body, listening, and trusting yourself…

    Learning is a big deal….
    We unlearn the same way whether it be habits or aging….the muscles and brain need exercising all the time to stay fit. –
    Everything needs clean air to breath and water to drink to accomplish anything.
    Now I will go and check out your blog…
    Nice words found here!
    Patricia´s last post ..In a gentle way – Inspiring Myself

  8. Nacho says:

    Thank you for your very interesting comments, Patricia, I’m glad you found the post interesting.
    So 10,000 is the number, ha? I’ll have it in consideration with my nephew and niece… :)
    I once saw in a documentary a representation of a baby’s brain: it was like a forest in autumn, only a few naked branches, and all that space waiting to be filled! It seemed very tender to me.
    Nacho´s last post ..God created rock &amp roll

  9. Sara says:


    I just wanted to say thank you for the comment you left about my story The Call. You were nice and made me feel good.

    Thanks for reading the story and for your support:~)
    Sara´s last post ..Story Photo- Five Senses

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