Is piano class effective (for young children age 5/6)
- Does the student understand concepts, patterns and ideas, and recognize them when they occur in a new piece?
- Does the student know what good practise is, and how to do this at home?
There’s a quick and easy way to judge whether a student is doing well in piano class. And that is whether the student can learn new easy pieces independently from the very first.
Young beginner students who understand and learn, generally start coming to class within a month or two, having learned an new easy piece on their own. Students with learning difficulties, poor exposure to education or discipline issues take longer. However, even with these students, there will be visible signs of comprehension and a slow growth in learning independence over time.
Is it a lack of musical ability or talent?
An inability to learn independently is nothing to do with lack of musical talent, as many parents think. The vast majority of students (even those that parents think have no talent,) develop musicality, when they get the following :
- A teaching approach that meets the students level of musical growth and works gradually, from their level upwards
- Exposure to listening to music daily
- Parents support with piano practise (the level of support needed by each child is different, but all need help with creating a routine and time for practise.)
Rather than lack of talent, an inability to learn independently would suggest either that the teaching approach is not working, or that the student does not get the kind of support he/she needs at home, that is necessary for daily piano practise and theory homework.
What independent playing means at beginner level
- Reading the notes (the pitch or alphabet names and depressing the correct key)
- Using the correct finger to depress the key
- Being able to clap and play with the correct time values
- Correct posture and hand shape (sit straight, at the correct height, with rounded fingers – as taught at class)
- Producing a nice tone (at beginner level this often means playing gently, without banging)
At this age, learning 1,2,3 of the above mostly correct with a new piece and trying to do the balance would indicate comprehension, interest and growing independence. My homework assignments often include instructions to my young beginner students to LOYO (learn on your own), in just a few months of piano class.
Piano class does not just teach a students to play. It strives to go beyond that and teach students how to teach themselves – to understand, learn how to practise, and then learn pieces independently, trying to get as much done, without the teacher’s help.
This frees class time, so that the piano teacher can move on, from just teaching the basics, to the teaching the student to understand the finer aspects of excellence in playing, and to gradually learning higher level music.
So, I’m asking all my students this very important question…