Children’s Piano Motor Skills Defined By Age
Lesson 18: Children’s Piano Motor Skills Defined By Age
There are patterns in children’s motor skills, as defined by age and maturity. For example, suppose you are attempting to teach a child to play a song with both hands. Some kids do this readily, some do not. But if they cannot, there is a simple explanation. Each hand is controlled by a separate half of the brain, and the ability of a child to distinguish between the two hands is unique in each child.
Brains And Age
Younger kids have more trouble controlling both hands at once. It is, to some degree, age dependent. Thus, when confronted by a child that has difficulty with both hands, I immediately stop teaching them any pieces with two hands. Instead I concentrate on playing enjoyable games in which the two hands must work together.
Since the root cause of their difficulty is lack of coordination between the brain hemispheres, it makes sense to hone the root skill. Clarify the distinction between the hands first, and then later approach a formal song that requires that skill.
Making a child play with both hands before they understand it, is a recipe for frustration that is easily preventable. The point being that it is useless to force a child to learn skills for which their brains are not ready. You have to be observant enough to see what the root problem is.
For that child alone you have to surmount the difficulty by gently finding the cause and remedying it.
Brain Hemisphere Test
Here’s a simple test to see what shape a child’s brain hemispheres are in, and how well they talk to each other. Ask a child to play the following, chords (letters) in the left hand, numbers (melody) in the right hand:
Left Hand: C F C
Right Hand: 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
If their left hand holds down the chord easily, without mimicking the rhythm of the right hand (the numbers) then their hemispheres have begun to act independently. If their left hand automatically mimics what the right hand is doing, they need remedial training in connecting the two brain hemispheres, using fun games.
It’s like when you scratch a dog’s belly, and their leg moves. Don’t use formal pieces to teach this, or they may feel they are failing. A game has a fun, throw-away quality to it and has less stress attached than learning a formal song. Later, when they have built this skill, try the song again.
The Fingering Test
A more usual example is fingering. Some kids take a long time to master fingering, and need wide latitude in getting it under control. Teach a child a song, using a simple fingering. Try the first four bars of Mary Had A Little Lamb, where the fingers are all in a row.:
Mary Had A Little Lamb
Allow the child to play the song with their index finger. They will instantly not only see the underlying pattern of notes better, but will also play the song perfectly. If they play the song perfectly without fingering, then their brain is telling you that they do not quite get fingering yet. Go slowly with this knowledge in mind.
Also, inform the child of their accomplishment, so they are aware of the victory they have just had. They know how to play the song, and are just having trouble with a very hard subject like fingering. They will feel better about themselves, and try even harder to “get” fingering.
The point here is that most piano teachers would be frustrated by the child’s inability to navigate fingering, and would communicate that frustration subconsciously to the child.
Use What Kids Offer
Piano teachers are notoriously disdainful of using the index finger at first, if that is what the child instinctively offers. Forget what the “method” says the child should know by now, at this stage in the lessons. Forget what other teachers do, forget everything except solving the puzzle of this child and this skill. Make sure a child is ready, capable and willing to learn something before you attempt to teach it to them.
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COURSE ONE: TEACHING TOOLS
COURSE TWO: TEACHING BACKGROUND
COURSE THREE: PIANO GAMES