I was talking to a lady
tonight who expressed interest in changing piano teachers. Her reason?
"The teacher put so much pressure on me. I can't go that fast."
What on earth was that
piano teacher thinking?
A student clearly
expresses their confusion at the speed of the lessons, and the teacher
What could possible be
gained from such an attitude on the teacher's part?
It sounds as if the
teacher's intention is to punish the student for not being easier to
But that is, after all, a
violation of the tacit contract of the piano teacher: I will teach you to
play as well as you can, using any tool at our disposal. That includes by
ear, by rote, by eye, by number, by color. Any way we can find to get
happily started playing MUSIC, not exercises.
Incidentally, the primary
tool of the piano teacher is patience.
Back to our story, the
lady went on to describe the lessons with this tyrant in more detail.
"I tried to keep up,
but it became such a chore. I try to practice every day, but every lesson
had a new piece. I wanted to take more time with each piece but the
teacher was in such a hurry to get to the next page."
Folks, what happened here
is that the teacher was in reality bored with teaching a person of such
humble gifts, and was rude enough to ride roughshod over the clear signs
of the student's confusion.
Piano teachers seem to
suffer from a delusional disease, unique to their profession, in which
they can only teach in the same manner they were taught.
Let's call it
Hand Me Down Method."
This "method" is
probably the main reason for the failure of most piano teaching practices
to turn out people who simply enjoy playing the instrument.
Instead, these inflexible
teachers turn out saddened refugees of their method, who are always unable
to keep up with the master's wisdom, although the master is well able to
take their money.
The "master" never
seems to notice that they are teaching their METHOD to the student, not
the spirit and literature of the PIANO, however humbly, on the student's
A piano method, ideally,
should be transparent, so that it can be molded to fit the
individual student. The less there is apparent routine the better.
A real pianist plays
because of two things:
want to play.
of a child. First show them that they can play the piano, using any means
from numbers and colors to comedy and bitter irony if you have to.
up and sense what that child understands. Find where they are comfortable,
and then lift them up from there.
means that a child might take a year to learn three simple pieces, with
both hands, from memory, all the way through with relatively few stumbles.
That is very hard to do for the average child who wants to attempt the
piano, and there are millions each year.
have to have a strategy with each child.
first secret requirement I have of a child is that they walk away from the
piano, early in their lessons if not the first, with a piano piece they
can play for anyone, from memory and proudly. It has to be a song they
love, and that everyone knows.
this single song will do is act as their calling card at every piano they
pass by. They can play it and people will say, "Oh, you can play the
piano!" Those simple words will raise a child's self-estimation in a
way few other things can.
you give that emotional and social tool to a child at the piano, a song
they can play for themselves, you have given them nothing.
go find that song that makes their heart sing. It isn't hard.
might be Spider Man, it might be Handel's Water Music, it might be
Boogie Woogie, it might be a rap beat.
you find it, and can simplify it to the point that their beginner hands
can play even a portion of it recognizably, you will have a tool like the
Rosetta Stone, that will open up further and further doors into their
Give a kid a song
they know and they will play it on the piano for themselves.
they will want to play.