question is, "How do we get our child to practice the piano?"
I always stop them
politely and say, "Please, say 'Play the piano' not 'Practice the piano.' "
If you make the
piano into a game, you might get the child to try playing piano on their own,
not under your orders.
For example, your
child undoubtedly has a favorite toy or game. You don't have to say, "Go
play your game," because the child ALWAYS wants to do that activity which
brings them such personal reward.
To learn the piano
even moderately well (even as an adult) you'll need not only persistence, hard
work and a lot of intelligence, but also one other quality: love.
you'll have to love the piano in order to weather all that repetition,
confusion and effort, not to mention the time involved.
possibly make so many people work so hard to master this great instrument? The answer
is, because they love the instrument.
And this is also
the answer to the original question, "How do we get our child to practice the
You get them to
play because it's so much fun that they do it themselves. There is no "practicing." You don't have to tell them to practice. They play the piano
as if it were a toy, a treasured toy they like to spend time with, until
they're done with it, and then off to another happy activity.
Now, for children,
this is very easy to accomplish. How? Simply lower the bar initially to the
degree that the child cannot fail, can only succeed.
Make initial kids
piano lessons so much fun that the child begins to want to explore the world of music
through the piano. Do this as long as the child needs it until they demonstrate
comfort playing simple music.
As an example, let
them play with their index finger, as their instincts tell them and piano
teachers see again and again. It teaches the child no bad habits because the
"one finger system" will be gradually improved upon. How? By using simple
finger and note games. See
the article on Fingering.
fingering curriculum might be to let the child play with one index finger
initially, preferably the right index finger. It doesn't matter if the child is
left or right handed, start with the right index finger.
Then let them play
with the index fingers of both hands. Then introduce the right thumb. Then use
the right thumb and index together as a team. Then introduce the right middle
finger as the third member of the team.
And all this
finger stuff and games is before they ever see a note of music!
Always let them go
back to a simpler system (one finger) if they demonstrate repeated discomfort
with a more complex finger position (more than one finger.)
Discomfort is a
child's way of saying, "You're going too fast."
It's far more
important that the child feels proud and happy than you, the teacher, feel your
method has been understood and mastered.
doesn't care about your "method," or any method. They care about how they
feel about themselves and how they feel about the piano. It's simple human
nature and child psychology.
After a little
rest (simplicity,) they are ready for another try at reading music, but never
press beyond the point of "mostly fun with a little work."
Better to back off
while it's still fun, and try again another day when they're fresh: it's
hard work to learn the piano and you're better off if you and your teacher are
not in a hurry.
With a child
it's not difficult to get them started without anxiety, but it requires a
teacher of almost Biblical patience.
Give your student
a system that is transparently simple, like piano by number, and let them play
by themselves. Hopefully your only problem will be getting enough songs for them
to consume and explore.
Kids get very good
quickly with piano by number, and then, at the time they become comfortable, of
course, is the perfect moment to introduce reading music, for they are already
comfortable with the instrument and able to play familiar songs reasonably well,
in a way that makes them feel proud.
You'll need a
good teacher, a very, very patient, almost saintly creature who is funny,
articulate, and always has a secret curriculum in mind, reading music.
Allow the child
time to demonstrate that they are ready pass beyond the world of preparatory
piano games and attempt to start to read music.
could be a week, could be a year, and is entirely dependent on the particular
Almost the only
mistake you can make is to go too fast.
All children start
learning the piano in different ways, and a good teacher unlocks the way of
teaching that gets them started and makes them love it from the very first
way," is different for each child, can be humor, it can be math, it can be
them imitating what you play, it can be sound games, it can be number games, it
can be "Name That Tune," it can be playing with your nose, but don't let
them leave that piano with anything in mind but, "Wow, that was FUN!"
music until the child is comfortable playing simple, familiar songs by number.
And when you begin
to read music, make each attempt initially no longer than a minute or so.
That's right, a minute at a time. The concepts have to be broken down into
such simple units that only a minute is required to make a child understand each
Later, those ideas
are drawn together, allowing the child to easily find the notes on the page on
You can use the
concepts in our book I
CAN READ MUSIC, and as a practical matter, never go to the next idea until
you are absolutely certain the child can unfailingly master each simple idea
(such as lines and spaces, what is a note, where is middle C, etc.)
The worst habit your
child can learn at the piano is to not enjoy it and not
want to play.
That's the habit
that will make you want to quit.
Aschenbrenner Copyright 2010 Walden Pond Press All Rights Reserved
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