30 August 2010

how-to make piano lessons successful with children

by Lesa from Notes About Music Notes

The piano has been a part of my life for over 35 years. As a teacher, I am consistent and try to make it fun. When I taught lessons, I learned a lot about kids (and their parents). Here are my best kept piano secrets...

1. The best age to start a child, in my book, is age 7-8. They are learning to read, they still think learning is fun, and they still think piano teachers are cool. They have a capable attention span and they love piano keys.

2. As a parent, be involved.

3. As a parent, be involved.

4. As a parent, be involved.

5. My best advice to a parent is to "house" the piano in the room closest to where the Mom is. Kids want to be by the mom. If she is in the kitchen and the piano is close by, kids will practice more.

6. Learn with them. What a great chance to get a two-for-one. Go to the lesson with your child. Don't let the teacher catch you watching and learning. Then when your child goes home to practice, practice the same things after them. What a great chance for an adult to learn if they have never had piano lessons.

7. Sit with them while they practice. It is hard to do but it will increase the chances of your child loving the piano.

8. Award them. Even if the piano teacher has some kind of of reward system in place, make up your own reward system at home. Then award them and let your other children see the award system in place.

9. Go to as many lessons as you are able to if it works into your schedule.

10. Talk to them about piano things. If you see someone playing the piano in church or at a concert -- talk to your child about the person playing the piano. Dialogue: "Look at that child playing the piano!" "I bet they practice everyday!" Something like that. In other words, point out piano players.

11. Take your child with you to the music store when you buy piano music. Have them see you talk to the employee at the music store. Communicate to the employee what your piano book needs are. Don't just walk into the music store and try to figure out your piano book needs on your own.

12. When you go to the music store, be prepared to spend money. Don't show your concern about the cost of piano books to your child. They will pick up on it, and it will affect their desire to play the piano. (Side note: I have found some of my favorite, best piano books at the Deseret Industries and most of them were only $1.00!)

13. Even if your piano teacher holds a recital, have a home recital. Make it a big deal. Plan in advance, a home recital. Make an invitation and invite Grandpa and Grandma. Have the student dress up. Set up chairs around the piano. Have treats after.

14. Before your home recital or regular piano recital - have your child practice introducing their piano songs. Dialogue: "Hi my name is Stephanie and I'll be playing Come, Come Ye Saints and Mozart 13th symphony. Then when they go to their real piano recital (and if the teacher has them announce) they won't be thrown off by announcing themselves.

15. If you don't have your child take lessons because you don't have a piano, check with music stores. Some of them have great rental plans to rent a piano monthly.

16. If you are playing the tug-a-war game with your child about practicing, tell them that if they will practice then you will do something that you don't like doing. Dialogue: "If you practice the piano, I will clean out the hall closet that I've been meaning to do for 3 months." They won't really get much benefit from the hall closet being cleaned, but they will learn that parents have to do things they don't want to do either. Then when the practicing is done and your hall closet is clean, go out for a DQ ice cream dilly bar.

Do you have any good tips on teaching your children to play a musical instrument?

image via flickr.

the how-to series was created to encourage confidence in the creativity and skills we each have to offer. i am excited to showcase your talents and unique ideas. if you have a specialty (and i know you do), please submit your how-to guest post by emailing me: marta at martawrites dot com. i will be delighted to feature your how-to in the future.

"Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do." - John Wooden


Kendra said...

Lesa is my mom and she taught me to play the piano! She is very talented!

jane said...

This was a super post. The ideas are great!

brooke said...

Lesa read my mind. My kids started piano lessons this summer and I've been trying to figure out who to ask how to make the lessons more meaningful and make my kids excited to practice.

These were great tips. Great post.

Unknown said...

I'm a piano teacher as well :) This is a great post!

Travelin'Oma said...

This is an area I would love a do-over. I took lessons for eight years, and can't play well. I wasn't a great piano-lesson mom, either. (Luckily some of my kids were self motivated.) Great post!

cropfoto said...

Great ideas.

I have to add 2 things because I have A LOT of experience in this area.

1) Get a good piano teacher! Seriously, take the time to find a good teacher and invest in the value of quality lessons.

2) Don't let your kids quit even if they beg you. Believe me! They will thank you later... it may be 20 years later but they will definitely thank you!

ps- thanks mom for making me stick with piano lessons!

Lesa said...

Thanks for the comments about this post. Since writing this how-to, I have thought of more things...along with some suggestions (all very good ideas) from other bloggers.

Stop by my blog, and contact me, if you are interested in a few more ideas.

Thanks again Marta.

Rachel said...

Thanks for posting this! My kids are still young, but I look forward to the piano days coming ahead!

Dansie Family said...

we just have a keyboard to practice, but it works for now.

i let my kids play/invent/compose their own (piano, violin) music after they have practiced the required stuff.

Ivy & Mae said...

My son is 7 and just started piano lessons. I go to all of his lessons, sit with him while he practices, but lately it is like he just shows no interest in doing what he's asked. Today resulted in a MAJOR blow out between us. I feel so bad for my explosion, I just can't handle the fight. I think I'm going to have to do some in home reward system. He is "bored" because he isn't playing songs yet is what he says, but no matter how I word and remphasize the importance of learning the basics well he just seems so uninterested. Anyway, my blow out experience resulted in me finding your blog. Thank you! I live in ID too! YAY ID!

Katie said...

My most successful practice incentives:

Creative practice charts. For example. Draw an outline of an alien and say they can put an eyeball on it for every 15 minutes practiced. I use snowmen for winter, cats with multiple tails, and other even sillier things.

Let them choose their music. I tell my students they can have one special song to learn along with their regular book work. This song is a "privilege" that they earn by practicing consistently. I suppose you have to run that by their teacher first.

Turn practice into a game. Make a score chart. They get a point if they play so and so measure correctly, you get a point if you play so and so measures correctly. I usually take out a book of higher level stuff for myself and they get really excited to see me mess up!

This is just to get them through the "tough" times. After that hopefully they will be willing to play on their own.

Emily said...

Great post and ideas!! Lately I'm thinking 7 or 8 is a great age to start lessons. I find that my students are more motivated to practice when they get to play songs they know/want to play rather than just songs from lesson books. :)

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