What The Piano Means To Your Child
What the piano means to your child is a very individual thing, made of gossamer and dreams. The piano is not just a piece of furniture. The piano is either a fun object, or a dreaded device, depending on the experience a child has with their teacher. Almost every piano teacher is convinced they are here on this earth to teach children to read music, and nothing else. To do anything differently, they surmise, would be bad for the child, and would be a dereliction of their professional duties. 90% of the children taught piano this way will resist, rebel and then quit. They will never look at a piano again with anything but revulsion.
The Old Method Produces Failure
These industry statistics doom the average child to failure even before they begin trying the piano. This is especially true if they are taught by these arcane methods based only on reading music. Even the simplest movements at the piano are excruciatingly difficult for most kids. This is because their brains are not yet fully developed. Thus they have little problem solving ability outside of generic math problems.
The Teacher Makes The Difference
The piano, when taught properly, is a tremendous mental proving ground for children, but it must not appear that way to the child. It's the piano teacher's job to make the process of solving problems, physical and mental, as easy and as enjoyable as possible. Have you ever seen a child with a puzzle? They don't want to put it down. The piano is easy to make into such a puzzle-like device, if you are willing to listen to the child and their needs.
What A Child Needs From Piano
Here are some of the needs of a child within a piano lesson: Children need to feel happy and secure, not judged and evaluated. Enjoying judgment and evaluation requires maturity in excess of what children possess. Children need an atmosphere of collegial exploration. You may think you're in charge, but if you have any horse sense you'll let the child think they are in charge. Children are over-managed these days. Let them blow off steam if required. Encourage it.
Concentrate On The Song
Don't focus on the child and their performance. Center the lesson on The Song, that desired object they wish to possess and play. Focus on The Song and the child will perceive your efforts as helping them get what they want. Don't focus on the abstractions of reading music. Teach them a song they know and love, and you will have you have given them something. If you only show them how to read music, you have enlightened them on a subject that has absolutely no childish interest for them.
Teachers Shouldn't Be Too Serious
Don't be serious. When I look at my students during a lesson, I almost always see a beaming face. It's as if the child is thinking, "You know, I've had a hard day at school, and I'm a little tired, but this guy is so friendly and funny that I think I can enjoy trying to make music for a few minutes. It's really kinda fun." Here's an example. I teach a nine year-old, headstrong girl who never practiced at first, mostly because she is so smart that she gets things the first or second time. She started having fun because I was so relentless in my positive approach. I didn't care if she didn't practice, and focused on getting as much done in the lessons as possible. She learned dozens of songs that she chose for herself, and became instinctively correct in her fingering. Her natural intelligence led her at her own pace to start playing the songs she liked.
Piano Becomes A Social Tool
But here's what her Mom said to me, that will tell you what the piano now means to that little girl who began piano lessons so indifferently: "Last week she had friends over and she sat with them and they all 'jammed' at the piano. She showed her friends how to play parts so they could all play pop songs together. They played at it for an hour. And she does that with all her friends. She wants to share how much fun the piano is to her now." Given a diet of patience, the piano now means expressive, musical fun to this child. How easily it could have meant drudgery.