Why is my child’s progress so slow?

It’s your child’s practise routine – or really, lack of it…..It often takes parents anything from 3 months to a year to realise that their young child needs help with practise – to schedule practise, and schedule the child’s daily routine, so that it’s not overly crowded with too many activities.

Practise for the beginner level student could be anything from 5 minutes to 15 minutes a day, depending on the child’s age, and it builds up very gradually over the years.

The piano class progresses at a pace the child can cope with. It is important that the teacher does not exceed this pace, because young children get very disheartened and often want to give up the piano when they cannot cope.

It’s important that parents make the time to be present in class, when the teacher sets goals or targets for students. Because children often want to reach goals their daily routine, their learning style and practise schedule does not support.

Please read Why young students give up the piano and Coping with the overscheduled child in piano class

When piano playing gets difficult

Dear Parents,

Piano playing is getting to be a challenge.

Your children want to perform and achieve and think they can do this without daily practise. So, they come for class and get disheartened when they don’t play well. They love learning the piano, so you’re realising they need your help.

Many of you are now insisting on daily practise, and helping them remember to use the practise techniques they learn in class (as they forget, if left to themselves)

Some of you knew what music learning was about, but many of you did not. Here is my answer to a couple of your questions..

“Is it always going to be this hard”

Piano playing has always been a challenge. Piano students learn hand coordination, they learn focus and they learn that even when it’s hard and they can’t do something, they simply take a break, read the instructions in the homework book and try again.

That’s why piano students who stick it out, develop maturity, confidence and also learn better and faster than they did before, resulting in their school grades going up, less time spent with study and more independent study at home.

That’s the reason why many parents are spending time and effort – in attending piano class once in a way and getting daily practise done. It’s mostly not because of the piano playing, but because of the changes they see in their children, as a result of piano class.

The level of difficulty goes up, in stages. So your child will find it hard, and then get used to the challenge…until he/she chooses a piece that’s a little bit harder or has something new in it. And it will get hard again for a while.

“Is my child finding it harder that others”

All children find piano learning challenges them, but some do cope better than others – these are usually students who have a lot more time at home.

Firstly, because their practise is scheduled in a more relaxed way, with more flexibility.

Secondly, they often spend spare time at the piano, after practise is done, just fooling around – maybe doing a favourite piece just for fun, or trying out new tunes they’ve heard.

Here are a couple of excellent articles on the benefits of piano playing. Please take the time to read them, because they’ll help you decide how much you need to help your child.

Practising the piano helps much more that musicianship

Scientific studies prove music lessons were the best thing your parents did for you

 

Why young students give up the piano

‘Parents thinking a child can practise alone, is a major reason why children stop piano study’ .. i quote here, from a blog by the Vahl Piano Studio.

The blog makes an interesting point, that students give up, because they can’t progress.. because they don’t practise enough to learn something new every time..

That when parents assume their children will practise on their own, it mostly just leads to a child quitting.

That children need help in scheduling practise and in keeping to the schedule. They also need to be reminded to practise all the homework given, because left to themselves, they often forget to do quite a bit. That it is the parents who help their child, who, i quote ‘cultivate a student who is committed for the long term.’

The blog is worth a read and explains how parents can help their child. I won’t repeat what’s written, simply because its written so well – here it is for you to read ‘Why students stop piano study

 

 

 

 

 

2 Options and the extremely indisciplined piano student

Children (5 to 10 yrs old) who are extremely indisciplined and disruptive in piano class, are almost always the same at home.  And yet, these are invariably children, whose parents are making a steady and constant effort to instill discipline, and, obviously not succeeding.

So, piano teachers have a choice :

 

Option 1 : Do teachers simply tell the parent to discipline the child  – knowing the parent is already trying and not succeeding?

As a teacher who interacts regularly with parents, I usually have a fair idea of what the child is like at home and find that asking the parent to handle extreme indiscipline results in the child being told he or she is badly behaved. Since these children usually have learned how to push their parents to breaking point, this sometimes results in shouting and very rarely, beating the child. And both of these just make a child more difficult.

 

Option 2 : Should teachers talk to the parent and see how both the parent and the teacher can both change our teaching and parenting techniques, and work together to get the child to change

This means that the teacher is looking at a child, who is naughty,  lacking in discipline, sometimes moody and bad tempered or cranky, or even attention seeking in a negative way, and saying  “The child is not the problem – it is just that I the teacher, and the parents, have not yet found a teaching and parenting technique, that works on this child”

This is hard for both the teacher and the parent, because, actually, we have both done nothing wrong. However, if both of us just stick to our existing ways of functioning, which have obviously had no effect on the child, the child is likely to continue being indisciplined and may even get worse.

Why the teacher finds it hard : The teacher sees the child just once a week, so in a way it should be easier for her to be patient. It should, but it isn’t always. There are times when all the students on a particular day come to class and argue, throw, tantrums, sulk, and refuse to learn – any teacher will relate to this. And since discipline is part of piano teaching, it has to be dealt with.

Parents find it hard, because they never get a break!

Parents will often find that their parenting technique, which works on getting one child to be very well behaved, has the exact opposite effect on the other child. And yet, the parents are the biggest influence on a child .. much much more than any teacher can hope to be. So, the parent still has a choice :

 

  • To continue using the same parenting techniques on both children, and accept that one child is just plain difficult

 

  • To accept that the indisciplined child simply needs a different kind of parenting, and try to experiment and learn what works

I see progress, and I see change, with the many many open-minded parents who interact with me, and are taking the time to give their children what they need, in order that  they learn better. It’s not always easy for the parents, or for me the teacher (since we both often have different ideas and sometimes strongly disagree with each other on how to discipline the child – though we both agree that discipline is needed). But, since we persevere, we eventually find some common ground and are able to work together to make a difference.

 

 

 

 

Success at last with distracted piano students

Some of my piano students were very very distracted in piano class and otherwise too. They just wouldn’t pay attention during class, or while practising, so they’d practise enthusiastically – but wrong.

Piano class was an effort for me, because i needed to repeat a question many times, patiently, before they were able to get it and answer. They knew the answer and would always answer correctly, once they paid attention. The difficulty was in getting them to do so.

I had to be very very patient and be sure i remembered to boost their confidence, by pointing out when they did well, because i noticed that these kids got very anxious that they couldn’t get it at one go.

I also, had been noticing, that these kids were not always this distracted and had been trying to figure out what it was that made them this way. I noticed they all had something in common :

  • They skipped class a lot
  • They took vacation breaks of a month at a time
  • They all came from families with working mothers, who had recently had a lot of work pressure and were themselves, struggling to cope with their daily schedule
  • Some of them had weak eyesight and needed to get their eyes checked

It was too early to tell whether this was just a temporary phase or whether it was something more serious, but i realised i needed to change the way i teach.

So,  I’ve made changes in the way i teach and talk to these kids and their mother’s are rearranging their work schedules, to get more time with their children and it seems to be working!

My other blogs on distracted kids have more, on what worked.

We have a keyboard at home – why should we buy a piano?

Digital Piano with X Stand

Non-weighted keyboard

Many students in Mumbai & Navi Mumbai start off in piano class, with a basic 5 or 7 octave keyboard to practise on at home, realise they need a piano & then invest in a digital or an acoustic piano as soon as their budget permits.

There are 2 important reasons why piano teachers always recommend students buy an acoustic piano – Weighted keys and Responsiveness to touch, with a a capacity to produce variations in tone. 

How key weight affects playing technique

Students who practise on an instrument with weighted keys learn to keep their shoulders, arms & hands in a relaxed position while playing.

The weight of the keys allows them to do this, as the keys are heavy enough, that they can transfer the weight of their arm (this is done in varying degrees, depending on the tonal effect required) to the piano keyboard.

Students who go for piano class and practise on non-weighted keyboards often struggle to adjust. They realise very quickly that their playing technique is being affected by practising on an instrument that is so very different from the piano, that it hinders their learning. And they start budgeting to buy a piano.

Acoustic vs Digital

Digital pianos have weighted keys. The degree and quality of the key weight as compared to an acoustic piano vary with different models & budgets. Digital pianos have the following advantages over acoustic pianos :

Yamaha Clavinova Piano

Digital Piano

  1. Digital pianos are budget friendly – you can get a reasonably good digital piano at Rs70,000/- to Rs 1,50,000/- approximately (Refer * below), depending on the quality, brand & functionality you choose.
  2. Headphones for practise. This is really great in small homes.
  3. Recording to MIDI or recording audio directly to a USB or computer, without background noise.
  4. They don’t need regular tuning the way an acoustic piano does, and don’t get affected by temperature fluctuations. It is advisable however, to keep them away from moisture and the direct heat of the sun.
  5. Easy & reasonably priced dismantling, moving and re-assembling. This is an advantage for families who live on rent & have to move every couple of years.

There’s one major disadvantage to having a digital piano, and that is that the responsiveness of the instrument to touch & the capacity to produce variations in tone is limited. So, piano students who wish to move beyond Grade 4/5, & eventually to advanced level pieces, need acoustic pianos to practise on. 

The cost of buying an acoustic piano

 

  1. You can get a very basic level acoustic piano  Rs 2,50,000/- budget (Refer * below). An instrument with reasonably good tonal quality suited for an advanced level student costs between Rs 4 to 5 lakhs.

    Acoustic Piano

    Acoustic Piano

  2. Acoustic pianos need to be tuned 3 times a year. If you live in a smaller town, check whether there are piano tuners available in your locality & what they charge. And whether they will be regular with appointments, because that can be an issue. Check out whether your piano dealer offers a service contract for piano tuning.
  3. You will need to install a de-humidifier to keep the inside of your piano free of moisture during the monsoon. Price & buy this when you buy your piano.

I hope this post is clear and helps you make a decision on which instrument to buy. Good luck!

*  Images provided by Furtados Music, Jer Mahal, Dhobitalao. Approximate budgets are based on their showroom prices as on May 2017.