How many books does a piano student really need?
And why should students need more than one book? Student families often hesitate to invest in piano books. Some question the need to purchase anything other than the lesson book or the examination book. And some even think that the examination book is the lesson book!
This post answers common questions new piano students have about the need for many books when learning the language of music. Continue reading
Families new to piano lessons can find the search for a new piano teacher quite confusing. I write this post to help these parents and students who have difficulty assessing which piano teacher or lesson format is the best for them.
Your child’s first piano teacher will set the foundations of his/her musical growth. The quality of learning at beginner level is important, as it determines whether the student will stay motivated enough to continue learning more. Continue reading
Would you study Geography to prepare for History paper?
This is exactly what a couple of my students did, and the parents were upset. Really upset! That their child was so irresponsible and did not take the trouble to check what was scheduled before revising.
Something similar happens frequently with piano practise at home and piano parents often don’t understand the subject. So they think things are going well, when they might not be.
Students sometimes spend quite a bit of time at the piano experimenting with new stuff, or playing through pieces they enjoy. This is wonderful as it means the student it exploring and enjoying the instrument and this is necessary. Continue reading
No more Make-ups when students miss piano lessons
I recently switched from 100% Make-Ups for missed lessons, to No-Make-Ups with ‘Flex Slots’. Each student who practises regularly qualifies for un-charged extra class time each month during my ‘Flex Slots’.
In this post, I discuss my decision to make this change and tell piano students and their families a little more about what piano teaching means. I hope this post helps other piano teachers who are starting out teaching in this locality, where the role of the piano teacher, and the role of the teaching community in general, is vastly underrated. Continue reading
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.
There’s a huge value to those early years in piano class, even for the child for whom learning goes slow. For the average child, the best age to start preschool piano lessons is 4 years old and the best age to start regular piano class is 6 years old.
“You teach the piano? That’s wonderful! What do you do with the rest of your time?”
Many piano teachers hear variations of this. From friends, relatives and even parents of new students, who think piano teaching happens just at class time. They see the joy that a teacher feels when students do well, and don’t seem to see what goes into helping a student get there.
So, for families who are totally new to music education and piano playing, here’s what piano teacher’s do outside of that once-a-week piano class.
Making the time in my daily schedule and committing to learn new pieces had always been a struggle. So, in April 2015, I decided to make a change. I started small, with just 5 minutes a day, 20 days a month spent on sight reading a new piece.
My first piece was a Bach 2 part invention – just a few bars on day 1, and I kept adding 1 or 2 more bars each day. I started out recording the results each day, so I could see progress, however small, and feel a little motivated to continue.
I also decided that I would record that first rough run-through of each piece, the first time I could play it completely, upload it, and post a link online.
My goals were small – to learn one piece a month and keep in touch with the pieces I had learned earlier.
Related articles :
Month 6 of “My Personal Sightreading Challenge”
The impact of 100 minutes of practise