Many teachers share the same frustration as me: I am not sure if my child is interested in piano. Why should I spend more on beginners piano lessons? Here are my responses to the parents:
- Piano is a complicated activity
Here is the list of things to do before a note is played: rhythm, notations, keyboard layout, posture, hand position, firm fingers, AND if that’s not enough……LISTENING. It’s impossible for one to grasp all of these in a few piano lessons. Good teachers know what and when to focus. Inexperienced but a responsible teacher will ask all the elements met prematurely and create frustration early on. The complexity is like driving an airplane. The only difference is that no one is hurt if it’s done wrong when it comes to piano teaching.
- Show the child that you care and trust
I had one parent who keeps on delaying on the purchase of the piano/keyboard. The child had to practice on a toy-side keyboard that is just uncomfortable to play for even 5 minutes. Mom insisted that unless she can practice on that keyboard for certain time, she won’t consider buying a full-size keyboard. I had to tell her that it’s a leap of faith. She has to make the move first or she will never know why the student doesn’t practice. When you put in the effort to acquire the best resources you can get, you are showing the level of commitment toward your child’s learning process. Your child sees the trust and will send a positive feedback. If you give the minimal resource to just “try-out,” then the child is under the impression that it’s ok for the goal not met. Many times how we address have a huge impact on the outcome.
- Timing & interest
The majority of students don’t commit to becoming a pianist or musician as a child. Many of us ask for lessons because of some songs we heard of sang. The request comes at a spark of inspiration. A good piano teacher can prolong that interest and curiosity well into puberty until a good habit establishes itself.
- Don’t over anticipate the outcome
This is for the parents who 99% says: “I don’t want my child to Mozart or Beethoven.” Mozart’s dad was just getting him interested in music. The shows in front of the emperors and counts came later when the talent manifested itself. It’s better to encourage the student to give their best effort and to develop their potential as their priority. The path will be ready when one chooses to be in the field of music. Unlike other careers which can be changed with the intense effort of 3-4 years, this is the field that requires years of study and working and cannot be done through intense work. Many times it also requires talent (yes, it’s unfair to some of us). I always say enjoy a good time with music.
- Beginning habit is everything
The beginning habit takes a long time to build and acquire until it’s part of your second-nature. Habits like firm had position, fingertips, observing music and signs, postures all have to be learned over a long period of time. Bad habits take the same number of years since your first piano lesson to undo. Then it will take more years to learn the new ones. Assuming a 9-year-old who has been taking piano lessons for 3 years. To build the new habit, it will take at least 3years to undo (the child is 12) and relearn the habit by the age of 15. That is a huge loss of time because teenagers are the most vulnerable to drop out in lessons due to shifted priority in their lives.
- Ability to filter and prioritize information
Beginners are harder to teach because there are many levels of information that needs to be filtered and organized. The more the teacher knows, the more difficult it is. Good teachers always do the weighing game at each lesson: how much information to give without drowning the interest? And it’s a plus if the concept is related from one to the next so the student can understand in a coherent way. It may appear that there are only 2 concepts at this lesson, but it’s usually a conscious decision on the teacher’s part. We all experiment at each lesson how much to push. So it’s important to allow the teacher do this experiments and trust. Always give feedback to your teacher so he or she can pace differently next time. Remember, your child is unique. Even the most experienced teacher has some learning curve, compounding with the factors how the habits were reinforced at home.
If you would like to start beginners piano lessons with an experienced and accomplished piano player, call to make an appointment with Doris Chiang (562) 537-7548 .