Discipline and Repetition Don’t Work

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There is something of the drill sergeant about the piano teacher.

We both issue orders, “Play it again,” and expect our orders to be carried out without dispute.

In my conservatory experience, I have had slave driver piano teachers, but I knew exactly why they were doing it, and I willingly submitted to their judgement.

You cannot possibly expect a six year old to appreciate this kind of commitment.

Most kids are diligent, and will repeat a piece if you ask. But after a couple of tries, they’ve had enough. The reality is that any section of music has to be repeated HUNDREDS of times until it is smooth, whether by a child or a professional.

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You can disguise the repetition with carefully constructed games, which takes some of the sting out of it.

But kids can’t take more than a little prodding. You have to find other ways, like humor and games.

The pushy piano teacher says, “Have you practiced? How much? Why not? You’ll never get anywhere if you don’t follow the exercises and play them every day for 30 minutes.”

What the pushy piano teacher is saying is, “I have failed to interest you in the most interesting subject there is. Therefore,I will fill you with shame and make you hate me and the piano.”

Why can’t this pedant figure out the real answer, “I’m going too fast. What would you like to play? Come on, let’s play something together.”

The older the child, the more they will tolerate militaristic scholarship. The younger the child, the more nurturing and friendship they need, because piano skills are difficult and slow to acquire.

Another downfall of the militarist musician is “the method.” Militarists teach “by the book,” just like in the army. They choose a method, like Faber, Bastien or Alfred, and then let the method do the work, going from page to page.

This is a disaster for most kids. Kids think music is bubbly, fun stuff that makes you want to sing and dance. There is none of that in the standard texts.

You can make the process a pain with discipline, or a pleasure with fun. The difficulty for the teacher is that the pleasure/fun scenario takes 50 times the effort from the teacher.

Most piano teacher hide behind the book: “It’s not me you should please, you must do the book correctly. Play it again.”

Following the book slavishly allows a teacher to remain emotionally uninvolved. But that is the oposite of what the child needs.

Copyright 2017 Walden Pond Press


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