In the Music Lesson
As we all know, it is hard to keep the attention of young children for more than a few short minutes. They will get the wiggles, find something shiny to play with, or request a delicious treat instead of doing what you want them to do. So what will motivate our young students? FUN!
First, let’s talk about what FUN means. These days, fun pretty much means instantly gratifying entertainment. Playing music takes a lot of work and dedication, and the end result of being able to play a song you love is fun, but it definitely takes a while to get there. Many children do not believe LEARNING is fun, so it is the job of the teacher AND parents to instill in their students/children that the learning process in itself is enjoyable and rewarding.
Short attention span will undoubtably be an issue, so keep the ideas short and entertaining.
The books we use for our beginners (usually ages 3-5) are My First Piano Adventure – these are specifically geared toward our Kiddie Keys program. Each page in these books has short ideas that help our youngsters get prepared to read musical notes and learn how to hold their hands and sit at a piano, as well as teaches them fun games and silly songs to sing and rhythms to tap.
Learning to play music needs a secure learning environment. This environment is also a safe place to explore. Let children know they are free to improvise, to create, to experiment. Encourage them to show you what they’ve done. Praise it enthusiastically. Don’t judge it or try to improve it. Accept it as it is, as an expression of the moment.
The most important part of music study takes place at home, not at the lesson.
Parents: If you don’t already sit in on your child’s music lessons, you should begin! Not only will this help your child learn to practice more effectively, but it also will provide you with very important memories when your children have left the nest!
**Important: The main reason children want to quit piano study is that the parent assumes the child can carry out the assignment by herself. They can’t.
It is very important for young students to practice at home in order for them to continue learning and practicing good musical habits. The longer they wait between practice sessions, the more frustrated your child will be with their inability to carry out the lesson assignments at home. This may be because they have already forgotten what to do, or, even worse, has forgotten to do it altogether. Daily practice will help your child progress and will help to keep their disappointment to a minimum.
Research shows us that maximum retention occurs if the informations repetition (or PRACTICE) happens within 24 hours or less from the lesson time. The child’s retention of this information will be about 90%! If your child waits to practice until 48 hours after their lesson (or skip a day of practicing), their retention drops off drastically.
What does this mean for parents? Be directly involved! If your child is young, sit on the bench with them. Your child’s teacher will let you know exactly what you need to do to assist actively in home practice. During lessons, the teacher may ask you to watch the student’s hand position, or take note on how a certain idea is done, to make sure their student maintains the correct one at home!
Sometimes you may have to remind your child to practice. Sometimes, you will have to remind them more firmly. This is the unpleasant side to musical study, but helping to keep a regular practice schedule is very helpful. Try to have them practice every day at the same time to help keep things consistent.
With a young child, you will undoubtably need to be directly involved for their entire practice sessions in the beginning. Don’t expect your child to carry out their practice sessions entirely by themselves until they are almost 10 years of age! Music lessons are a family commitment. Allow your child to play “in home concerts” for you, even if it is just a four-measure piece!
You can also play some fun games with your child, just like the ones your child’s teacher does in lessons. Clap a rhythm and ask them to clap it back to you. Keep it short and simple at first (3 or 4 claps). Lengthen in a week or so if it sounds as if he’s catching on quickly. You can do this at the dinner table, too, with each family member giving the child a rhythm to clap and “trying to trick” them.
For our Kiddie Keys, this website provides insights into lessons you, as parents, might have missed. It discusses the importance of the things we teach our students in lessons, as well as provides a video to watch! http://pianoadventures.com/guide/contents.html
Also, make sure your child is practicing with the CD’s in their books: The accompaniment CD’s are especially motivating and engaging for the beginning levels and provide a fun support system for home practice to spice up the “simple sounding songs”. Parents don’t have to be a piano virtuoso… you just have to press play!
The secret weapon to success in piano study is you and your direct involvement in your child’s home practice!
What is practicing? What is not?
Practicing is not mindless repetition, even though repetition in practicing is involved. Practice uses the repetition of a small portion of a piece, or technical exercise (etude, method studies) WITH A SPECIFIC GOAL IN MIND. Your goal should be small enough to reach by the end of the session so that your student can judge whether or not they have met their goal!
If music study is something you want for your child, you can prepare for that first lesson.
At a very early age (birth-two years):
Make sure you play music for your child! Let them hear it in the car, after dinner, or as your child is falling asleep! Make sure it is good music – classical, jazz – but try to eliminate rap and other pop music because they will get this during their general culture during life – to make sure they are a well-rounded listener.
Encourage your child to move to music! Before your child can move, hold them and walk or sway to music. Later, dance to the music you are listening to together! Allowing your child to have their own interpretation in dance helps to foster their creativity. Allow them to be artistic and let them know what they’re doing is good!
If beginners think that piano study is a satisfying activity, they’ll keep at it and become intermediates.
The more you practice, the better you will become; the better you become, the more you will enjoy playing and the more you will practice; the more you practice, the better you will become; the better you become, the more you will enjoying playing and the more you will practice…
Parents – Although trying to get your children to practice may be hard, don’t give up! Stay the course! Everyone will be rewarded in the end.