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.
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.
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