I have sorry statistics
for you that your local piano teacher doesn't really want you to know:
90% of kids who start piano today will quit within three months. Why, you
ask? Read on.
Most piano teachers are
honest people, but the piano is simply difficult to master, as any musical
instrument is. And statistically, perhaps some large percentage of those
90% who quit were perhaps never destined to play very well in the first
Still, there has to be a
reason why piano lessons turn out to be less fun than perhaps the child
In fact, the reason the
kids quit is the piano teachers themselves.
The sad truth is that
most piano teachers don't try to get their students fired up about
piano: they simply go from page to page in a standard text and see if the
child can stand it.
And believe me, it is
boring to have to play these exercise pieces again and again.
Of course, going from
page to page in a text is very easy for the TEACHER: there is little
creativity required on the teacher's part. And as all parents know,
you'll have to be creative if you want to hold the attention of your
But most piano teachers
don't really even try, because they apply the same methods to the
average child's humble musical gifts as they would apply to someone
clearly destined for Carnegie Hall.
These piano teachers
acknowledge no difference between a budding professional and a potential
hobbyist, and hold your child, struggling to maintain an interest in this
rather difficult art, to the same standards as those used to train
A creative, intelligent
teacher takes a good look at each individual student, and takes the time
to find what factors will affect the piano study progress:
the child happy?
they have motor skills, such as finger coordination? Hand movement?
they distinguish left from right?
is the child's personality? Quiet? Exuberant? Belligerent?
they know how to complete a simple task?
The list of things to
look out for at the beginning goes on and on. Each one of these factors
affects how an intelligent piano teacher will approach that student, as an
The first barrier to
cross is expectation: what is the child expecting? Did they hear stories
from Mom and Dad about old Mrs. Perkins, who rapped their fingers when
they made a mistake? Or did they hear how wonderful piano lessons would
In any case, this piano
lesson is THEIR piano lesson, not yours, and you had better find out how
to communicate with this child as an individual in the first five minutes
or it's over.
One approach that works
wonders is humor. And playing. Make a joke and play a song for them. If
you do that first, you answer two childish questions that the child will
inevitably be asking themselves:
Is this teacher a mean person?
Will playing the piano be fun?
The answer to those last
two questions had better be, "yes." Otherwise, you have already
created a barrier between yourself and the child.
And I have to tell
parents, unhappily, that most piano teachers are NOT avid players,
comedians or game show hosts.
Many are either very
young and inexperienced, or old and tired of the business. It's rare to
have a good player as a teacher, but the rewards are endless: the hardest
obstacle to hurdle at first is to instill the idea that piano can be lots
of fun, and a good pianist vaults that barrier instantly.
Kids love to hear a tune,
a funny song, something they know from TV or outside the lesson. The older
they are, the more important this becomes.
Avoid the following kinds
of piano teachers if you have a young child:
there is always time for discipline if you can get them to love it
you need someone who knows how to handle a child, and gruffness NEVER
works. Gruffness is the last resort of the impatient.
the first mark of a real piano teacher is the patience of a block of
stone. Learning the piano requires repetition, which a clever teacher
will disguise or make illuminating.
It is not easy to be a
good piano teacher. Many factors will work against you:
is not inherently fun unless it is something that interests you
kids are people, too. They have good days and bad days. Have the sense
to find out which it is. Modify your teaching pace accordingly.
of lesson: is it right after school? Does the child need rest or food?
schedules: all kids have too many activities and to them, you are just
one more. Don't make it difficult and dull.
THEY want lessons, or are they doing it to please Mom and Dad?
In closing, you can only
lose the battle of the piano once. Once the child senses that this is a
negative experience, the battle is lost, and it is the teacher's fault,
not the child's.
It is up to the teacher
to give the child a sense of victory during each lesson, no matter how
small or undeserved that victory is.
Often what is required is
to lower the bar so far that the child succeeds at something, no matter
how small. Which would you prefer as a teacher, a tiny victory at some
aspect of piano, or a profound sense of defeat over a task that only YOU
deem necessary to master?
The point is that the
piano and music is such a vast endeavor that there is always SOME
small area that can be worked on if the child isn't following
your curriculum well. Here are some examples what you can do during a
playing. Move the child over, get them a chair, but start playing that
piano and show them why they came in the first place.
ear training games. Listening games. Counting games.
about the famous composers, play a piece by them, talk about the
composer's life. There isn't a child alive that doesn't want to
hear of the adventure of the rivalry between Mozart and Salieri, and
if they're old enough, tell them the theory that Salieri murdered
Mozart. Make it up if you have to, but hold their interest.
concentrating on reading music. Play by ear. Memorize. Play by number.
Children that have been
taught with this benevolent, fun approach, will reward you with a love of
the instrument that may lead to unearthing some of the talent that lies
with them. It's your job as a teacher to find and nurture that talent,
and it may not be the kind of talent you're expecting.
For example, kids may
have an interest in pop or rock music, and if you can play a tune on the
piano that interest them, the battle is halfway won. It doesn't matter
what STYLE the music is, it matters that the music itself interests
Most kids don't know
Mozart from a hole in the ground, and you may have to play music from TV
and the movies to reach them.
I've never met a kid
who wasn't interested in playing a tune on the piano if you make it easy
enough to be pleasurable.
Aschenbrenner Copyright 2008 Walden Pond Press All Rights Reserved
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