Make Beginning Piano Simple

To make beginning piano simple, you have to bring piano down to the child’s level at first, or they will be terribly confused and find it almost impossible to generate any enthusiasm for such confusion.

This temporary lowering of the bar allows the child to move at their pace: if they show understanding, we can raise the bar a little. If the bar was too high in the first place, and continues to be too high for them, most kids will make the instant decision, “This is too hard.”

If you let the child set the height of the bar, you’ll see what the child can learn comfortably. In that comfortable mood, you might be able to introduce a little more complication. You might even be able to raise the bar half an inch.

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Most piano teacher’s methods consist of trying to get the child to live up to their expectations. They expect to be on page 1 on lesson 1, and on lesson 2, they will be on page 2.

If the child doesn’t “get it,” they are a problem the teacher would rather not have. Now the teacher has to figure out how to get the kid to understand, and he can’t just go from page to page as he expected.

Maybe the old method doesn’t work on all kids. But that would never occur to this teacher.

What was the six year old expecting?

To a six year old, music is bouncing, bubbly fun. It is either fun or it isn’t. There’s very little middle ground.

But the teacher doesn’t want you to “taste the delicious sausage,” to see if you’d like to become a sausage maker.

He wants you to see exactly how sausage is made. And the going is tough.

Wouldn’t it be better for the child to experience the joy of making music, however humbly, and then, later, plunge into the intense world of music theory?

The problem is that the teacher has no way of making music simple enough for the child to play, without making the music terribly simplistic and boring. The “tunes” aren’t even recognizable.

So we suggest you delay reading music, and start instead with numbering the piano keys.

Numbered Keyboard
Numbered Keyboard

Kids have enough mindless drudgery in school all day. The kid isn’t expecting a circus in the lesson, but they’re not prepared to sit still, be quiet and listen to a professor rant for half an hour. “Where was the fun?” says the kid.

Pressure won’t work. Kids have no idea of the goal you have in mind that requires such pressure. They thought they were here to have fun with the piano.

So we number the keys as above and I ask the child, “What songs do you know? What music do you want to play?” Then I set about translating their choices of songs into a form they can understand right away.

Yes, eventually they will read notes, but for now we need to convince them that the piano is a fun place to be.

Nothing will happen until the child has decided that the piano is fun enough to continue.

If it is too complex, the first lesson may be the last.

Copyright 2017 Walden Pond Press

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