Why Kids Need Freedom To Learn Piano
Young minds need room to roam, and that is why kids need freedom to learn piano. Piano is inherently difficult for everyone, especially six year-olds. It’s especially difficult for a six or eight year old to figure out how to physically carry out the teacher’s commands. Where do my fingers go, which one, when, which hand, what note, how long?
The older the child, the easier the list of tasks is. But it’s always rather difficult to get the hang of it at first. The list of interlocking tasks and skills necessary to learn the piano is endless.
Piano Strategy Should Be Minimal
The strategy of a children’s piano method should ideally be to reduce the beginner’s list of tasks to the bare minimum. A good kid’s method repeats a minimal skill in creative ways until the child has firmly mastered the physical act of playing the keys. The concept of freedom comes in at this point. Children learn piano in different ways, and the teacher can go with the flow or against it. Some kids are ready for certain concepts, and some aren't yet. For example, take fingering.
A child today was just beginning to learn fingering and was having a slow time with it. But he suddenly said, “Hey, I wrote this song!” and proceeded to play a perfectly logically-patterned ditty in the key of C. What was remarkable was that this little melody was comprised of almost all stepwise motion, perfect for showing the ideas of fingering.
So we played a game with his song, trying it with different finger combinations, in which he delighted because it was his song we were using. He readily understood what I was trying to say about putting the fingers in a row. He adopted the idea immediately into his song, playing it in perfect C position (right thumb on Middle C.)
We went on to other things, and then I slyly came back to his song, played it twice, and then sprang a book of sheet music on him, a simple Bastien exercise piece. He had been having trouble with the idea of fingering with it the last time he had seen the book.
But now, with his own “fingered song” under his belt, he had no trouble putting his hand in the correct C position when sight-reading. The reason this happened was because I waited and saw an opening in his interest. A child who feels comfortable enough to offer up a song he has written is a student to be followed.
Listen to that: I follow the student. What music teacher does that?
It takes tremendous creativity and patience to teach this way. Often it is the repeated impatience of the teacher, not the incompetence of the student that spells the end of the student’s enthusiasm for piano. Relax, and watch the student. They will show you an opening where you can gently get in and teach. If a student seems interested in a certain concept, then follow that enthusiasm at that very moment. Show them that more good things lie underneath.
Follow your student’s spark of enthusiasm wherever it goes.