Brain Chemistry, Emotions, Children and Piano
A child's brain chemistry has much to do with whether or not they enjoy their piano lessons. There is a lot that a clever piano teacher can do to help. It's well known that when you are happy, your brain secretes a chemical called dopamine. This is a potent neurotransmitter that makes you feel good and perform better.. How a child feels about the piano has more to do with how well they learn than any other single factor.
Teach The Child How To React To Mistakes
I watch piano lessons, in one sense, from afar, and really have two minds when I do so. One mind is taking care of business, watching fingering and getting tasks done. The other mind is like a silent visitor, watching only how the child feels, ignoring the minutiae of the curriculum. This silent visitor side of me observes how children react to mistakes, and devises ways to make the child feel better about these errors.
I find that a happy child who doesn't feel bad about mistakes, yet who is aware of them, will have the energy to try again in the face of almost certain short-term defeat. But a child motivated in any way by guilt and negativity will only create more of that negative emotion for themselves.
Don't React Negatively To Mistakes
The key is your reaction to the mistakes. If you react to such constant events seriously and are upset in any way by mistakes, the child will know it instantly. They will shy away from the activity in an intellectual and emotional sense instead of diving in and embracing it. Kids are very honest in showing what appeals to them. Don't expect children to enjoy an activity that makes the teacher act upset or dissatisfied.
Of course child pianists make mistakes, and loads of them. Your job is to silently absorb the obvious errors and look beyond them to what will make the child move ahead. The mood you want in a piano lesson is that of two children playing, putting all their imagination and cleverness into solving a knotty but fun problem. Think about two kids playing happily in a room together, and you are moving in the right direction.
Laugh At Mistakes To Take Note Of Them
Thus my reaction to mistakes is always comic. We all know when we play a wrong note. There's no need belabor it and make the child feel bad. It doesn't matter how many million tries they have had at the problem. There is no limit to the number of non-judgmental tries a child may have.
Your job is to make it fun to repeat the problem, not shove obvious defeat down their throat. 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.
You Can't Correct All Mistakes
But you must also know when to pull the plug, and stop all effort to "correct mistakes." If all you do is correct mistakes, the child will wither quickly. You want a fresh child, in the same sense that you want a fresh horse: don't ride your mount too hard. Thus after a short bout of intellectual struggle with musical perfection, we change instantly into fun mode. If that means I play a silly song, I do it.
They might say, "I want to learn a Christmas song" or whatever is on their mind. Learn how to musically educate a child without obviously appearing to do so. Following their interest at times says to the child, "This time belongs to you, too." If you give the student this breathing room, they won't feel trapped by the difficulties of music. Instead, they will be re-energized as to why we do music in the first place. Music is supremely enjoyable even though it takes a lot of work.