What Sort Of Piano Teacher Are You?
What sort of piano teacher are you? The disciplinarian? The pedant? The lecturer? The pal? There are four practical approaches to teaching piano.
Think of it as the old fashioned "do-what-I say" method. There's not much leeway for the student, and the curriculum is the ancient one: read music or die.
When musicians play together, there is a sense of give and take. Judgment is suspended for the sake of pleasure.
Have you ever seen one child show another how to do something? There is a sense of cooperation that hardly exists elsewhere. There are elements of the kid's interactions in a healthy piano teaching curriculum.
Blending the childish and the educational depends on the age and interests of the student. In a music conservatory, one accepts the teaching of the master, and hangs on every highly paid word. But don't expect a child to understand that.
The Ancient Student-Master
Eventually the student becomes a friend of the master, and the relationship becomes more equal, with two "students" examining a mutual problem. In contrast, conventional children's piano teaching recognizes only the "method" approach, anything else being heresy, fuzzy thinking and lowering the bar.
But anyone experienced with children knows that the "method" approach works only as long as you have the child's enthusiasm. When you lose the initial enthusiasm, piano lessons becomes drudgery for the child., The piano teacher is relegated to the uninspiring role of taskmaster.
The piano teacher, equipped only with "method" tools, loses hold of the thread of the child's interest, and the lessons disintegrate. This failure scenario is all but inevitable with the single "method" approach.
The Child's Piano Guide
On the other hand, the child's piano guide assumes that interest will ebb and flow and that it is pointless to proceed without the child's wholehearted interest. The guide has to be willing to set out a problem, disguise it as a game, a million times, never letting on that the child has failed or not lived up to "expectations."
I don't care how many times it takes you to learn the fingering to Fur Elise, as long as I can get you to keep trying. I have seen too many kids "get it" on try number 1,000,001 to stop.
But if you let them taste failure and your sour reaction to it on those million tries, you have created a child who will always hate Fur Elise and probably the piano as well.
Don't Seem Insistent
This process of setting forth a problem and then seeming not to care if the child has mastered it is but a ruse. Slowly the child will realize, "Oh, he wants me to put my finger here!" If you, instead, make the child feel, hundreds of times, a failure at a task you have clearly defined, you are defeating the process.
Let the child discover the problem by themselves, with your guidance and assistance. But never let kids see your obvious negative judgment.
Teacher Is An Innocent Bystander
The first goal is to get the child to play without judging themselves. The teacher can only appreciate and approve. The least praise I give is to say, "That's an interesting fingering, all thumbs, hmm, do you have other fingers available today, just asking?"
To the child, it would appear that their mistakes are amusing and interesting for the teacher, never bad, stupid, slow and a result of not practicing. Use humor, never negativity.
Try Again, Failure Is Inevitable
A piano guide cleverly sets out the problem without announcing it as a mountain to be climbed. Every time they fail, scoop them up, laugh and either go on to something else or come back to the problem later. Of course they're going to fail. Your job is to get them to try again and again.
Failure is utterly irrelevant. Stop seeing only their failure. Hone their attempt. Simply put, if a child quits, their piano teacher's manner has taught them how to be a failure. I can make any child a pianist with enough patience and humor.
Failure is always the piano teacher's fault. Failure means you can't make music enjoyable to a child. And if that is true, you shouldn't be teaching piano at all.