Don’t Practice, Say “Go Play.”

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Someone is going to tell you, “Go practice.” Yourself, your mom, you as a mom, your teacher.

You’ll find out quickly that unless your child has a reason to practice, it’s not going to happen on any level other than pulling teeth.

There is only one reason to practice, and you, if you are a teacher, better learn it the first day: you love the music. If your student doesn’t love that song, they are not going to play it willingly.

Unless you love the song you have been sent to “practice,” you might as well call the dentist and ask for a voluntary root-canal.

Doesn’t your child have a favorite toy or video game? How come you don’t have to order them to play it? How come you have to tear them away from the game or toy, to come and have dinner?

The point is that if you make piano”practice” drudgery, (usually with the unwitting help of your conventional teacher) your child will soon try to evade “practice.”

Think of the difference if your child is trying to learn one of their favorite songs. They will be playing it every second they have a chance. There’s no “practicing.” They just go “play.”

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So the first objective should be to find a song the child loves, rather than begin the time-honored process of indoctrinating the child into the world of 19th century music theory.

There’s time enough for music thoery, but you need to act immediately to interest the child in the piano on a “child” level.

But here’s where you will need the help of your teacher or just use your common-sense. Exactly what level is comfortable for your child to approach the piano as a fun experience?

The answer is simply, “lower the bar.” Find the child’s comfort zone and stick to it until they are ready to move further forward.

For example, most kids, on their first lesson, will offer their dominant index finger for every note. Instead of confusing them immediately with “proper” piano fingering, accept their childish way of doing it and see where it leads.

Obviously, they will eventually play with all ten fingers, but why confuse them at the beginning? Take one finger, build it into two, then three, then the whole hand.

And you should play these fingering games before the child ever sees a note of music. Let them get the physical idea, then introduce the further complexities.

A child will let you know with confusion, that you are going too fast. Listen to them.

Show the child you are never in a hurry for them to “get it.” Your job requires almost Biblical patience.

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We’re suggesting you choose your battles, especially in the beginning. Thus, giving in to their childish fingering may be a viable trade off for their current enthusiasm, leading to a discussion of proper fingering later when they are ready.

It’s so easy to get above the child’s intellectual level without realizing it, because we are adults.

So find that “magic way” that allows the child to play and thrive, accept small suggestions gradually, and be allowed to grow. There is no “set” curriculum in terms of the individual child.

The worst habit you can learn at the piano is to not want to play.

Copyright 2017 Walden Pond Press

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