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On Which Side Of The Piano Do You Teach?

On Which Side of the Piano Do You Teach?

On which side of the piano do you teach? You have to sit to one side or the other. Something about the left side of the student seems to be best for me. I have noticed that different piano teachers adopt a different style in terms of where they sit during a piano lesson.

I prefer to be as close as possible to the student, in case I need to take their hand, or point to a finger. The left side appeals to me because I can instantly add detail to their rendition that is low enough to be disregarded. Some kids are confused by accompaniment during their performance. 

Piano Is Easy

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It's my philosophy that mistakes should be gently pointed out at the moment they are made. There are exceptions, such as when a child is doing well with just one minor mistake, for which I do not stop or interrupt. But if they are stumbling badly, we stop. I start to break the problem down into manageable bits, disguised as a game.

Teacher As Sheepdog

All of this takes proximity, although several of my favorite teachers sat at a distance. This, however, was in very advanced lessons in a music conservatory. Beginning child pianists need closer attention, sheep-dog style. Thus I sit right next to them. I prefer the left side, so that I can play an accompaniment if needed. Many kids have to work out a song one hand at a time.

Sometimes it's fun to add my little accompaniment to their musical efforts. I find that, in this close position, it is easy to play along with them. Sometimes I have them look at my hand and then try to imitate it. This position also makes the child feel like you are in it with them. The only other position is standing at a clinical distance and judging their efforts.

Left Side Is More Helpful

Of course, there are living rooms in which it is impossible to sit on the child's left side due to other furniture and space considerations. I don't mind sitting on the right side, but since most children are right hand dominant, sitting on the left side allows the child to concentrate on their right hand, building skills and habits that both hands will need.

I allow children to play with the dominant hand, and favor it indefinitely, because it builds confidence with their strongest tool, their right hand. It's better to have them build the skill in the right hand and then try to translate that skill to the weaker hand. For left handed kids, it is the opposite. The left hand is trained to be the simple accompaniment to the "star," the right hand.

Tips For Both Hands

Playing with both hands is a hurdle that younger children find difficult. To help them over this hump, you should allow them to learn pieces with the right hand alone. Then, when the right hand is almost automatic, introduce a small element of the left hand, perhaps one note.

Let them play one left hand note at the beginning of a bar, or one chord at the beginning of the song. If you dilute the frequency and complexity of the left hand until they have mastered the right hand, you will find that children start to accept the left hand as a sort of "helper." Once again, it's knowing when to back off.

Children's Fear Of Failure

Children are very afraid of failure. Since adding the left hand is confusing in two-sided brain terms, they shy away from it. Accept this fact, and work with it. I try to keep the music flowing, with as few stops and talking as possible, so sitting on the left side allows me to keep playing and demonstrating.

In addition, kids need to see your hand at the piano as an example. Monkey see, monkey do, with apologies to the monkeys.


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