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What Kids Need In Piano Lessons

What Kids Need In Piano Lessons

What kids need in piano lessons is not the proper curriculum, but  the discovery that piano lessons are fun. At first. You need to drop the dry, boring lecture-demonstration. It's not going to work. Perhaps such an approach will work with a kid who has had years of lessons, but it will never work with a beginner.

They'll run screaming from the room, because what kids really need is a positive half hour experience with an adult. You can choose to make it a lecture, or you can resolve to increase that child's enthusiasm by any means. 

What The Child Finds Enjoyable
Many children have difficulty with piano lessons because they are not getting what they need. What kids need, at first, is music making, not theory, not notation or any other pedagogical nonsense. To a child, music is as easy as banging on a drum. Yes, piano is more difficult than banging on a drum, but you can't go wrong starting with what the child expects.

Piano is easily simplified. So piano lessons should be designed around what the child finds enjoyable, rather than the rigid curriculum taught since the 1830s. Yes, they will need to learn the standard curriculum eventually. But to start with it is a bad move.

The Right Teacher For Your Child
If you're a parent, you need to consider if the teacher is right for your child. It is a pairing that must be complimentary. As a parent, I would rely on my child's reaction. If they don't like the lessons, it is the wrong teacher for them. The usual cause is a disciplinarian teacher.

The Manner Of The Teacher
Of course there's a place for discipline, because piano is an exceedingly demanding and unforgiving art. But not in the beginning, when you are trying to get the child to adopt the piano as a treasured toy. Put simply, enthusiasm is more important than curriculum any day. The piano curriculum is quite set, so you can learn it from almost any approach.

What is the teacher like? Gruff, warm, cold, distant, a lecturer, a pedant? The manner of the teacher has everything to do with how well your child accepts the lessons and can thrive and learn.

What Kids Need
So let's examine exactly what the average child needs in order to succeed:

  1.  A piano lesson has to be more than a pre-arranged viewing of a set of skills that need to be learned. This means that the teacher cannot simply go from page to page. The child must be engaged, at their own level, at that moment. Don't expect a child to an adult, expect them to be childish. Let them be themselves.
  2. Kids need to play music they know and love. It's up to the teacher to find out what songs appeal to the child, and arrange them appropriately. This takes a lot more effort on the teacher's part than simply going from page to page like a robot. Beginning piano books include fake, "cardboard" pieces. These are made-up exercise pieces created to introduce concepts, and not to make music. Kids hate this cardboard music if it is all they are given to play.
  3. Not every lesson is a winner. Children can be tired, sick, or uninterested no matter what you do. In this case, I review things that they already know. More repetition, cleverly done, never hurts. Or I just tell musical jokes. You have to be clever enough to mask routine tasks as games. Also know when to stop pushing unless they seem to be ready to be pushed.
  4. A lesson can't be all reading music. That is too tiring for almost all kids. Learn to make the proportion of fun to work more liberal, say 7 parts fun to 3 parts work. Adjust as needed.

Not One Size Fits All
Each child needs a different approach, since people are such individuals. If the teacher has a one-size-fits-all approach, you are fairly sure this is a lazy teacher. They go from page to page, making it easier for themselves. Seek out a teacher who wants to unlock your child's enthusiasm for music through the piano.

This takes much more work on the part of the teacher, an effort that most piano teachers don't want to make. The lesson belongs to the child, not you or the teacher. Find out what they are willing to learn that day and present it to them in a fun way.

Forget your curriculum, and think of what the child needs that day. If it is "nothing" that they need or want, be clever enough to disguise a simple skill as "nothing."


We've turned notes into numbers for happy beginners at the piano!


Our PLAY ALONG SONGS are produced by Grammy Award winner Joe Castellon of Sesame Street. They're such an important element in making the piano fun for kids!



Our books and videos are created by Emmy Award winning composer and leading children's educator John Aschenbrenner. Get your child happily started at the piano!



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