What Kids Think In A Piano Lesson

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What kids think in a piano lesson may not be exactly what the teacher imagines. But I think I can see inside their heads, by watching their faces. I think I know what they are thinking.

There are two possible experiences for the child: positive and negative.

POSITIVE

Inside the child’s head:

“I want to play Beethoven’s 9th. I actually played it at home a few times.”

The teacher calls for Beethoven’s 9th.

(Playing the song) “Oops. Oops. Oops. Good, got that part.”

The teacher is smiling despite the small errors.

Child: “He liked it. He laughed and smiled even though I made lots of mistakes. He didn’t get mad or stop me at all.”

“He wants me to play it again and he’s not just talking and talking. Wow, I’m going to try it slower like he says. He’s making funny jokes about turtles playing the piano. Tom Turtle…”

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“(Playing the song) Oops. Oops. Oops. Hey, it is easier slower. But I want to go fast, so…..”

“It got so out of control that I was just hitting the keys. But he’s laughing and telling me how many mistakes he makes and how every musician wants to play something fast. Then something about trying it again, if I like, and seeing if I can extend the time that I go slow, no matter what happens.”

“Okay, here goes, so slow he’ll scream.”

(Playing the song) “Wow, TOO slow is harder than fast! He’s laughing and saying I have found a better tempo. I’ll just start again. I love how he lets the mistake happen and then laughs and then tells you a way out of the mistake. instead of making the mad face like most teachers.”

NEGATIVE

Inside the child’s head:

“I don’t want to play piano. It’s boring. Life is boring. English is boring. Homework is boring.”

“What? He agrees? He’s playing a lullaby and telling me to take a nap. He’s being really funny and he’s not mad at all.”

“Now he’s telling me, while my head is resting here, how boring it is sometimes for everybody to play the piano.”

“Now he’s making that lullaby into some sort of Monster March. It’s fun. He’s asking me to play one white key while he plays. Okay, it’s just a button. Just one.”

(Playing the song) “Hey, that was fun, but now he says I’m exhausted and should rest so he’s playing the lullaby in a really funny way. I kind of like piano, how you can take a song and do it different ways.”

(Finally) “I’ve got a song I want to play. I hope he’ll let me! Yes? Okay, here goes.”

Both lessons (scenarios) lead to the same place, the desire to play the piano, because the teacher followed the energy of the student and found a place to enter into the child’s present mind.

Sometimes, a child doesn’t want a lesson under any circumstances, and at those times, go with Plan C: play music yourself and let them listen.

Copyright 2017 Walden Pond Press

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Piano Brain Chemistry for Kids

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Piano brain chemistry for kids is really quite simple: younger kids (under six) rarely have the physical development and mental skills to read music.

But they do have all it takes to make simple music using numbers or letters instead of the ancient system of notes.

In terms of brain chemistry, difficulty causes uncomfortable brain chemicals, whereas ease causes pleasureable brain chemicals.

For example, dopamine is a brain neurotransmitter (active chemical) that makes you feel good and play with more accuracy. It makes you feel confident and happy. It’s not a drug, it is what occurs naturally in your brain.Try Piano By Number Online

I’m a big advocate of watching the child’s face to look for signs of fatigue. As far as I’m concerned, I want their brains to be at ease, not under stress. Since reading music causes great stress in the early stages, I am very careful when I teach it, and keep careful track of time and the child.

Most important is the teacher’s reaction to the child’s mistakes. Every time the child senses anger in you, their brain chemistry moves towards fear. Every time they sense humor and forgiveness in you, the good neurotransmitters flow.

If you react to every mistake, you upset the child. Choose your corrections carefully. You’re under no obligation to give the child an exhaustive list of their shortcomings.

The best reaction to mistakes is comic. You both know that an error occurred, so why be negative? Just make note of it. Get the child to take note of it without feeling guilty.

I spend a lot of time training kids to react correctly to mistakes. Some kids are mightily freaked out if the teacher says, “That’s wrong.”

But negativity is totally unnecessary. All that is need is awareness of the mistake, don’t upset your whole flow for the sake of one or two wrong notes. Stay on the horse. I get kids to observe mistakes calmly.

Piano Is Easy Book By Mail

So the worst mistake a piano teacher can make is to cast an atmosphere of failre and gloom over the lesson. This mood alone will work against the child. They need a bright, witty atmosphere, devoid of anger and guilt.

It’s a laboratory, not an insane asylum.

So this is the real reason for all my jokes, my comic manner, my games. I want the most possible positive neurotransmitters in my student’s heads.

I don’t want fear at all, it can only get in the way of real learning.

Laughing at an error says, “Yeah, I see the mistake but this music is hard, everyone makes mistakes, so let’s just keep going and have fun.” And lo and behold, if this is your attitude, the child will act like they are playing Nintendo, trying again and again.

Copyright 2017 Walden Pond Press

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Brain Hemispheres and Kid’s Piano

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Brain hemispheres and kid’s piano are inextricably linked. Kids are unaware their brains have two halves, each controlling the opposite hand.

It isn’t information kids need to know, but it sure does explain a lot to piano teachers.

The fact that kid’s brains are divided into two halves, each controlling the opposite hand, explains the following:

  • Why kids, like dogs having their belly scratched, are often unable to do different things with each hand.
  • Why kids dislike playing with their left hand, and shy away from playing with both hands.
  • Why kids, at first, prefer to play with their dominant hand.
  • Why reading music is so hard for them at first.

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There is an additional factor to consider.

The two hemispheres are joined by a “neural highway,” that is often underdeveloped in younger children (that’s why they have difficulty playing different things with different hands: the two sides have difficulty “talking.”)

In musicians who have been professionally trained, this neural highway, known as the “corpus callosum” is up to 40% larger than non-musicians.

Why?

Because music, alone among human activities, requires a constant dialogue between the two hemispheres, via this neural highway.

That is why musical training, even with no apparent benefit (little Bobby can barely play) is so useful for growing children.

Piano Is Easy Book By Mail

Almost all motor skills require use of the neural highway, and piano playing is a festival of two-handed brain activity.

So keep this in mind as you observe that 6 year old having difficulty with two hands. It isn’t because they are stupid or lazy, it is because they are young, and need to have the neural highway, the corpus callosum, exercised more often, with greater intensity.

Only music provides the correct amount of stimulation for the corpus callosum.

You’ll know when the child has had enough when their eyes roll into the back of their head (it is exhausting for kids.)

The source of almost all discomfort for children at the piano is the teacher’s disregard for their brain hemisphere development.

Copyright 2010 Walden Pond Press

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Math, Piano and Kids

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The scientific relationship between music and math is undeniable. Every note you hear is an exact ratio of every other note you hear, and rhythm, regardless of the style, is merely math expressed as carefully measured units of time.

The reason we selected numbers as the basis of our teaching system, and not notes, letters, colors, or animals, is that numbers are found within every musical construction. And they are instinctive to kids.

The distance between the notes C and G ( 1 and 5 in Piano By Number) for example, is also called a “fifth.” Piano By Number thus follows exactly the classical intervals (the distances between the notes.) All the theory in Piano By Number is directly derived from classical music theory.

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Children dance instinstively, and playing the piano is no more than a very complex dance played with your fingers. Rhythm and counting are the very basis of their leisure activities.

Kids count their cookies, their toys, their french fries. Numbers are an integral part of their lives.

When a child is started at the piano happily, it can be a very good force in their lives, and a good source of easily acquired self-esteem. The reason for this, with Piano By Number, is that numbers are second nature to a child.

The mathematical contruction of the piano keyboard is in itself a miracle, and easily understood by a child. The black keys are in groups of twos and threes: that’s math to a six year old.

Plus the piano keyboard is laid out as an analog instrument: every note has a single, unique key that is the trigger. 88 notes, 88 buttons (keys.)

In contrast, the violin, or trumpet, requires that all the notes be created from essentially three or four buttons: the child must memorize the combinations.

But at the piano, all you need is an index finger, and you can play any song you like. Especially if you’re six.

Next, the mathematical basis of the keyboard reinforces basic physical concepts. It easy to see that “up” is to the right when you see the numbers 1-12 on the keys. This may be helpful to a child unsure of which is left and which is right, or unclear whether 10 is higher than 8.

Piano fingering is another area in which math is essential. The fingers are numbered 1-5. The child is forced to associate the numbers with the fingers, or they are crippled at the piano.

Piano study also leads to an introduction of more advanced, even algebraic concepts.

For example, a child sees the chord C, and later sees the symbol Cm.

The child is responsible for knowing that the “m” requires one of the members of the chord to move from the original position.

Thus music begins the process of “interpolation,” where one is asked to infer more information based on what you see.

Kids learn that there are “procedures” that one follows when shown certain symbols.

Music and math part ways for a child, usually when they can play a recognizable tune, like Pop Goes The Weasel. This is an acceptable, fun use of math to a child:

POP GOES THE WEASEL

1 1 |2 2 | 3 5 3 | 1 | 1 1 | 2 4 | 3 1 |

Algebra, of course, is useless to a child.

Copyright 2017 Walden Pond Press

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Neurotransmitters, Children and Piano

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Neurotransmitters and endorphins are substances in your brain that induce good feelings. If you’re a clever piano teacher, your student’s brain will be chock-full of feel-good endorphins.

The published benefits of piano for kids are better math scores, better handwriting and better schoolwork.

But the hidden benefit is the beneficial mental state that half an hour with a nurturing adult will produce.

The quickest way to that feel good state is humor, so if the teacher employs humor, learning becomes much easier for the child.

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First you must dispel the “lecture” atmosphere. Your first job is to engage the child on whatever level they make available to you that day.

Get that kid to smile and your job today just became 100% easier.

Humor from the teacher works no matter what the mood of the child. If the mood is good, you are furthering it. If their mood is bad, you have a chance to break through it.

Back off” is a good rule of thumb. You’ll get nowhere by forcing your ideas onto a reluctant child.

Using force, you can see the kid shrinking from you like an audience from a boring play.

Kids know when they’re being treated as an equal, and when they are expected to be a robot. Treat them as an equal, ask for a simple task, and eventually they will do it.

Perhaps the best scenario is for the teacher to first produce happy endorphins using humor, and then engage in brief, intense intellectual exploration.

I’m not suggesting you just be a clown. If you ask firmly for work, after you have let the child play, they will almost always comply, knowing that more fun is always on the way.

This approach works for any average child. If the child shows more promise, you can treat them like a young artist. Even with these rare kids, the humor and collegiality is appreciated.

Copyright 2008 Walden Pond Press

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Brain Structure and Kid’s Piano

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Your child’s experience of the piano is entwined with the development of their brain hemispheres, and their brain structure.

When the hemispheres are less connected, the child has difficulty. This is based on age.

Most piano teachers do not take this brain development into account when they encounter a child having difficulty. They just asssume the child is stupid or lazy.

Given the difficulty of the piano, even trying to play is a victory.

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Piano teachers and parents have to decide what their expectations are: do you want virtuosi on their way to Carnegie Hall, or kids who love to play songs on the piano?

If your child has extreme talent, it will be obvious to everyone. But the statistical probabilities are daunting.

Almost no children will become world-famous pianists, but, with the proper guidance, they can become enthusiastic hobbyists.

More important than Carnegie Hall is your child’s experience of the piano, and you should do everything to ensure that it is a positive one.

Drawing of two brain hemispheres
Let’s look at the human brain itself to see how kids perceive the piano.

The left brain controls the right hand, and the left brain controls the right hand.

Depending on your child’s age, the connection between the two hemispheres, known as the corpus callosum, will be more or less developed. There is nothing you can do about it: it takes growth and time for this neural highway to grow.

Playing music forces the two sides of the brain to “talk” to each other, and this is what produces greater mental capabilities in musicians. In younger children, the lack of the development of this connection produces profound discomfort and stress.

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It is well known that the “corpus callosum” (the connection between the hemispheres) is up to 90% larger in trained musicians.

The best strategy is to start the child early, and ignore early failures as their brains develop.

So it makes no difference if your child has historic musical talent. What you need to do is expose your child to musical experience frequently, early and often: piano lessons. It makes no difference if they succeed, the brain is growing.

Let’s not rob kids of a positive experience of the piano just because their brains haven’t grown quickly enough. The solution is to design a curriculum that suits their particular stage of brain development.

You need to start seeing piano lessons from the child’s point of view.

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