The need for parent support
Parent support for piano practise with young piano students is a huge issue. With teachers, because they know the likelihood of any student actually progressing beyond the beginner level depends on this. Even the musically talented student.
For piano parents it’s time and commitment and something more for them to add to their already busy schedules.
As I write this post, I’ve been teaching the piano for roughly 15 years. During all of these years, I’ve had less than a handful of students who practised without parent support.
Learning the piano is very challenging for children of any age and my experience has been that the child who sticks almost always is the child who has parent support.
Taking the ‘lonely’ out of piano practise
For most children the biggest issue during the first couple of years is getting into a routine and making practise a part of their daily lives. The piano can be a lonely instrument and children who don’t have company often don’t practise. Children need a parent around – initially to remind them to read the homework book and practise accordingly, to listen and mostly so they have company.
Children who have opportunities to perform and belong to schools or communities where music is encouraged tend to be more motivated. As are children who have friends who play an instrument. Participation in group classes or concerts arranged by the piano teacher is important as this provides performance opportunities and helps students make ‘piano friends.’
That hardworking child who practises WRONG
If you’re a parent with a child who loves practising the piano, who practises daily and keeps getting poor feedback, then this paragraph is for you. It’s quite possible, that you can’t understand why – because you hear playing that sounds good to you, you can see how sincere your child is and how much effort your child puts in.
Taking a look at the homework book, will tell you a lot. You will find :
- Homework assignments not done
- Section practise requested by the teacher is not done
- Your child ‘plays’ taking very long to work on something, when all was needed is to use the practise techniques outlined by the teacher and spend less effort achieving the same result.
Children who enjoy practise often get so lost doing practise homework they enjoy, they forget to read the homework book. They practise what they like and what they remember and simply forget the rest.
Learning 'how to practise' is important for progress. This is the area in which beginner & intermediate level piano students of any age pay poor attention.
For parents who need a class where children work without support..
If you are a piano parent with a student who does not practise regularly (and by practise, I mean doing the homework that the piano teacher has assigned) and this goes on for sometime, it’s worth looking at the kind of class you’ve enrolled your child in.
Piano teachers generally ask these students to take a break from piano class and enrol again when they’re ready to practise, because a ‘regular piano class’ simply does not work with erratic practise.
What your child needs is a different kind of class, with more frequency – maybe 2/3 classes a week. A class which is mostly a ‘practise’ class, where there’s a lot of repetition. New topics need to be introduced very slowly, so that erratic practise works. It helps if one of these is a group class which includes music activities and work on rhythm. Piano playing will progress at a slow comfortable pace and your child will find it easy to cope.
Parent support for ‘regular piano class’
The term ‘regular piano class’ is how I describe class that teaches piano playing techniques, reading written music, how music theory goes into playing, the chord approach to piano playing & how to practise.
This is a lot to do in a 1 or 1&1/2 hour weekly class, and daily practise and completing homework assignments is essential. This almost always needs some level of parent support and involvement.
It’s not forever, as children grow up habituated to regular practise – with the resources to organise their practise, and use practise techniques to make their practise more effective. This usually happens between the ages of 14 to 16, depending on the personality of the student and the kind of goals the student has chosen to work towards.
To all you piano parents who are making the time to support your child, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Children gradually learn independence until they finally take responsibility for their own goals.