Brain gym in piano class
Playing the piano needs different parts of the brain to work together simultaneously.
Young piano students in their first year learn to :
- Read written music and play the correct pitch & rhythm, at a steady pace with an appropriate tempo.
- Play soft, loud, legato (joining the notes) or staccato (with notes detached).
- Sing so they learn phrasing, and can identify mistakes in pitch.
- Listen and hear what’s good and what needs to be worked on.
- Accept correction even when their work is excellent. This is because standards of achievement need to move higher over time, for progress.
- Practise on their own at home with parent support, growing more independent as they grow up.
Then, there’s the physical aspect of how to depress the piano keys, playing with relaxed shoulders, good posture & hand position, and fingers which are firm, not floppy.
Here’s a related post : A guide to buying a suitable piano bench
One of my adult students has been learning the piano for a little bit over a year. Here’s what she said to me yesterday.
Playing the piano has changed the way I think. I can’t really identify the difference, but I can feel it in the way I get things done.
I get feedback similar to this from parents of young children after a year or two of piano class. It’s the reason why many of my busy piano parents who started out just mildly interested in piano class later became extremely supportive of their child’s piano practise.
The role of the piano teacher with young beginners
A child’s first year at piano class sets the pace of his/her future learning. Quality piano teaching needs to be supported by daily practise at home.
The attitude of parents to home support for music education, and their understanding of what playing the piano involves matter a great deal. The piano pieces at this level sound very easy, and parents new to music education can and often do make the mistake of underestimating the job of the piano teacher.
- Teachers who teach beginner level piano need a very secure knowledge of piano playing technique upto an advanced level. So that they teach good playing habits from the start and correct problems before they set in.
- Piano class needs movement as young children often have difficulty sitting still. Rhythm exercises on the floor alternated with playing at the piano are great for young children. Piano teachers need to be physically fit with a high energy level.
- Each child learns differently and piano teachers need a repertoire of varied teaching techniques and fun activities that will appeal to children with different learning styles.
- Parent support at home is essential and teachers need to be able to work with parents and help them understand how to support their child at home.
- Piano teachers need the ability to make piano class fun and yet keep the learning challenging enough for progress, all at the same time.
- Piano teachers often need to teach children to think, explore ideas and ask questions. This is very important here in India where ideas on what is respect for teachers and large classroom sizes often make school teachers clamp down on questions.
Teaching beginner level piano is a challenging and exciting job. Piano teachers need to invest both time and money in learning and studying, to keep their teaching skills up-to-date, as learning styles of each new generation of children are different.