Piano Benefits Are Not About The Piano
Some piano benefits are not about the piano, but about the child themselves. These benefits fit into the child's larger intellectual development. Look at a child’s piano lesson and ignore the piano part. What you have is a problem solving laboratory. Everything at the piano is a problem to be solved,
A performance of a piano piece is really nothing more than an assembly of many different problems into one whole. It’s very important for kids to get the feeling of trying things out, failing, and trying again with almost no pressure to succeed. Get back on the horse.
Develop Problem Solving Skills
So much of their lives at this point are about accomplishment and mastery, and it’s easy to overwhelm them if there is a sense of pressure. How does one solve any problem? First, the problem has to be defined. This is the teacher’s job. To a child, you would do well to make the problem to be solved as easy as possible.
One does this by breaking things down into tiny actions that any child can grasp. Once the problem is established, you need to make sure that the time spent solving the problem is both interesting and entertaining. If you cannot make problems fun, you really cannot teach children.
Enlightened repetition is often the only way to get a child to solve a problem. Remember that each subsequent attempt is difficult for the child if they repeatedly fail at it. If the child repeatedly fails, it is a sure sign that your “game” is too difficult for this child’s particular needs. You will need to break it down even further.
For example, suppose you are teaching fingering to a child, and they cannot grasp the idea of habitually starting out with the right thumb. Since the dominant finger is the index, they need work and experience with the thumb.
In this situation, I would simply ask them to have a race with me, and the first person to play Middle C with their thumb wins. Make it a silly race, with jostling and cheating and uproarious fun.
Use Fun To Teach
A child made aware of their thumb in this fun way will never forget it. Why? We made it into a game that was fun. Then we let them play it long enough to be certain they have the idea. Finally, we move on to more difficult tasks.
Name the thumb, call it Mr. Splooky or some such ridiculous name. Each time they fail to use it, say, “Mr. Splooky forgot to play!! Let’s try again.” To amplify this idea, now move to other notes and make the child play them only with the thumb. The result is a child who is prepared to use their thumb.
But the real point is that we now have a child who is solving problems. They are at a level that is comfortable to them. The child is ready for more problem solving, even at a ridiculously simple level. If you think of every problem as a potential game, you are on the right track.