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DISGUISING REPETITION IN CHILDREN'S PIANO LESSONS

A clever kid's piano teacher knows how to disguise the repetition of short passages so that the student is not fatigued by the repetitive effort.

In piano teaching, a short portion of a piano piece is usually called a "passage." A passage has to be worked on, like tilling a field, until it is smooth and may be recombined with the rest of the piece.

Younger children require more creative effort on the part of the teacher in order to make the repetition of passages palatable to their shorter attention spans.

But first we should ask, why repeat passages at all?

The answer is, of course, continuity. Music is most pleasurable when it is continuous, not broken up by the stumblings of the inexperienced performer. For example, if you listen to a pianist or a band or sing in church, the group doesn't stop if there is a mistake: that is musical continuity.

And continuity comes from familiarity. If you are familiar with every part of a song, it is reasonable to assume you can play the music continuously, so that we, your listener, can enjoy it.

So the object of repetition is to familiarize your brain with every little wrinkle of the piece. Think of it as driving a thought deep into your subconscious, into the BACK of your brain.

Glenn Gould, famed concert pianist and iconoclast, remarked that sometimes he looked down at his hands and thought he wasn't playing: the music was so ingrained in his brain that he was not aware of the efforts required to play Bach fugues without really thinking about it!

But that's what you're after, a kind of out-of-body experience where you know the piece so well that your fingers almost play it by themselves.

So how do we disguise repetition for the younger kids?

First, teach them the rudiments of six short piano pieces they know outside of piano lessons, like Jingle Bells. It doesn't have to be a whole song, it can be a passage or fragment. Then, write the names of the songs on a Post-It in a numbered list. Take a pair of dice and let the child throw and see which song they have to play. This takes the tedium out of playing one piece over and over. Besides, the dice make it a game.

Second, bait and switch. Work on a passage a little, then say, "Oh, let's drop that for a while," especially when you see the first signs of fatigue. Work on something else for a few moments, and then suddenly come back to the first, abandoned task. It will seem fresher to the child the second time if there has been a break.

Third, make a game of it. Ask them to bet their mom's sofa that they can't play that song again perfectly. Make the basis of your bet something utterly ridiculous, like their washing machine, but act very serious. They will play along. As they repeat it, maybe point out a thing or two, a fingering here, add a part there, and work on it a few seconds, then move on.

Take all three of these ideas and combine them, and you have a child-friendly way of "practicing," repeating short passages over and over without the child feeling exhausted.

Offering a child a piano game in equal measure to hard work is a recipe for a happy student who proceeds at their own, comfortable pace.

By John Aschenbrenner Copyright 2010 Walden Pond Press All Rights Reserved

PIANO IS EASY includes a 107 page song book with 44 songs. It is identical to the print version.

PIANO IS EASY DOWNLOAD wcs018DL $9.95 Includes download of printable 120 page illustrated song book with 50 songs in Adobe PDF format plus printable stickers. Identical to the printed version

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BOOKS

See also: PRESCHOOL PIANO PACKAGE: A selection of books for the youngest kids

See also: CHILDREN'S MULTI BOOK PACKAGE: Includes books for older AND younger children

See also: ADULT PIANO PACKAGE: A selection of books for adult beginners

REFERENCES

See also BASEBALL, KIDS AND PIANO

See also FUN PIANO GAME WITH A PAIR OF DICE

See also SETTING THE MOOD OF CHILDREN'S PIANO LESSONS

See also BUILDING A CHILD'S CONFIDENCE WITH NUMBERS

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PIANO IS EASY BOOK PACKAGE INCLUDES:

PIANO IS EASY (ISBN # 0-9718936-1-6) Sturdily bound, durable, colorful 120 page illustrated song book with 50 songs such as Jingle Bells and London Bridge, Play Along Audio CD and removable numbered stickers. 

Every book package order of PIANO IS EASY includes a copy of I CAN READ MUSIC. This fun, easy-to-understand music activity book is the best way to start children reading music. Click here for sample pages.

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 PIANO IS EASY book package includes a 120 page song book with 50 songs and removable stickers, plus a Play Along Audio CD, free DVD and copy of the book  I CAN READ MUSIC.

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