The Long Term Kid's Piano Strategy
The long term kid's piano strategy is to find the right teacher and stick with it. With the right teacher, your child cannot fail if you wait long enough. The usual, unspoken strategy for kid's piano lessons simply goes, "Let's get a piano teacher and see if Billy likes it."
That's a short term recipe for disaster. Better to get the right teacher and think of the long term. Forcing kids to read music at a level above their skills and brain development is short term thinking. Imagining the same child ten years from now still interested in and tinkering with the piano is long term thinking.
How much piano learning can the patient stand, Doctor?
Does The Child Enjoy Being At The Piano?
If you really think in the long term, you're trying, at first, to get the child to enjoy sitting at a piano. Don't attempt to indoctrinate some group of skills set forth in a National Piano Teachers Association blog.
All that matters is your child's reaction to the piano teaching. As long as they are not turned off to the entire process, you are making progress.
Time Is On Your Side If You Are Gentle
As a child ages, their brain is acquiring the "software" to deal with increasing levels of difficulty. If you make this level of musical difficulty too high the child will shut down, and the piano lesson process grinds to a halt. But to succeed, the lesson process must proceed.
Thus the purpose of the first five piano lessons is to make the child want the sixth. The piano is learned over the long term, and the child will never see the long term if you push them too hard in the beginning.
Emotion First, Not Drudgery
The beginning of piano lessons should be, for the child, an almost intoxicating introduction to the emotional aspects of music, and what can be done simply with a few notes and chords. Compare learning the piano to eating sausage.
If you want someone to like eating sausage, you don't take them to the slaughterhouse to see the pigs dying. You serve them delectable bits of the end product.
Sample The Rewards Of Piano First
Similarly, with piano lessons you want the child to sample the sweet fruits of music making at the very beginning. Unless they learn that music is something worth doing, you'll never get them to enthusiastically embrace the work necessary to get there. A brief history of one of my child students illustrates the long term strategy.
A Story Of Extreme Patience
Laura (not her name) started at seven, and is now twelve. She is a bright, gifted child, verbal, imaginative and charmingly headstrong. She never followed my instruction much unless she was interested. A conventional piano teacher would have broken her spirit or bored her until she quit. I taught her visually until she was good enough at reading music. Her mode of operation was to listen to me.
She understood the task perfectly, but then she would do something else entirely. The trick was to follow her into that "something else," (a song, a chord, an idea, a game.) Every time I followed her, we did not waste time. In fact, she was very cooperative when I cleverly turned her train of thought to a related musical skill and began work.
This went on for years, as she learned song after song. Some she played indifferently, some she played remarkably well.
Most Piano Teachers Hate Catering To Beginners
Most teachers would have given up on her. She was following no curriculum other than what I was able to cobble together out of her interests. A disciplinarian would be horrified. But over time, this began to add up, and she was confident about whatever she did at the piano.
Her music reading skills kept growing because she found pop songs that interested her, and wanted to be able to explore them. I became more of a guide in her travels than a strict teacher, although I kept insisting on reading music a little bit at every lesson. The rest of the time was her show. She played what she wanted, learning what she wanted to know.
Patience Breeds Enthusiasm
Now, at twelve, she plays with articulation, not just the notes. Each note has intention to it. Short, long, sharp, soft, every sound needed to make her performance convincing. And all I had to do was ask, suggest, and she would do exactly as I suggested, perfectly and much to her satisfaction.
I now have a twelve tear old student crazy about the piano. Does she read music perfectly? No. Does she practice enough? No. Do I bother her? No. She could have quit after five lessons and had her parents make the biggest mistake of all: "Thanks but piano is really not for her." The piano is now part of her life. That is the "long term."