Advice To A Young Piano Teacher
Lesson 14: Advice To A Young Piano Teacher
(The following are questions from young piano teachers.)
Q: I’ve dropped my demands that they practice 15 minutes, and replaced it with two minutes. They won’t even do that. I get no support from the parents. What do I do?
A: First, don’t involve the parents. Guilt will follow, and after that the kids won’t want to play at all. It’s between you and them for that half hour. Only a very gifted or committed child will practice. It is the rest that make up a piano teaching practice.
Lower The Bar When Necessary
First, lower your expectations. A good portion of your students will be incapable of a musical education in the classic sense. You have to be their conduit to the forgotten world of the piano. To simply sit and listen to a competent pianist for 30 seconds is a rare experience for the child of today. Those that can absorb music at the piano, will. Those that can’t should be offered a chance to be involved with live music in whatever way they can. Piano by Number offers this chance to anyone due to the total transparency of the method.
Q: I’ve dropped my rate several times, but they always quit, anyway.
A: Never drop your rate. Whatever it is, it is too low. People who quibble over the rate are the same ones who cancel and won’t pay, who are late and who can’t find their checkbook. Have a constant and ready supply of new clients, and if the parents and/or child get too difficult, say goodbye and drive off happily into the sunset to the next lesson. Life is too short.
I teach for pleasure as well as profit, and I won’t let any parent get in the way of the pleasure of guiding an unlikely kid towards playing the piano!
Don’t Expect Them To Practice
Q: I am disappointed. It now takes weeks for a child to learn 16 bars of a piece. Their friends, taught by disciplinarians using rote practice, play much more complex pieces quicker.
A: Forget your schedule. You’re dealing with kids who won’t practice under any circumstances. So lessons are really practice. Accept it. Nurture it. Devise systems based upon this real truth: they will learn it when they are good and ready. Find parents who are sophisticated enough to know how difficult it is to teach a child the piano when they never practice.
The kids who play the more complex pieces hate the piano and have been trained to do so by the tyrants who teach them. Forced practice produces hatred of the piano, period. Don’t ask them to practice. You can ask, but don’t ever expect anything unless the child is very talented. If a child does well at the piano, it has almost nothing to do with the teacher. It is entirely the child’s accomplishment. Kids who play well would do so anyway.
Piano Is Not A Gladiatorial Competition
The kids who hate the piano and play the notes well are to be pitied. You can hear it in the playing, and see it in their faces: fear. They’re thrown into a competitive game like baseball, and supposed to conquer. I want to see joy in their faces. I don’t care if they play Scooby Doo with their nose. If they don’t enjoy playing the piano in some way, it is a useless occupation.
Forget piano lessons in the normal sense that we grew up with. You are a paid music counselor, the only human that will ever bother to show them Brahms, Liszt, Chopin, Beethoven Mozart, Bernstein, Jelly Roll Morton and ten thousand other interesting composers.
For now, just get them to try it and not hate it. That’s your gift to them for the future. From the world and school, they are exposed to Disney-fied commercialism and rote drudgery. You have to be the exact opposite. Even if you have to get them to play Disney songs to do it!
COURSE ONE: TEACHING TOOLS
COURSE TWO: TEACHING BACKGROUND
COURSE THREE: PIANO GAMES