Endorphins are brain chemicals that induce a good feeling, and if you’re doing piano lessons correctly, your student’s brain will be full of them.
The obvious goal of piano lessons is to get your child to play the piano, with all the benefits that naturally follow: higher math scores, better handwriting, and better schoolwork in general.
But there’s a hidden secret to an entirely different layer of experience for kids, and that is the mood factor.
There is a reason I use humor so much in my lessons for kids, and the secret is endorphins.
Endorphins are neurohormones that are secreted in humans when they feel good.
One of the easiest ways to raise your endorphin levels is to laugh, or engage in fun behavior.
Thus the first thing I do in the lesson is break the ice and let the child know that I am there to help and support, not judge and denigrate.
I discovered this early in my teaching career, for I noticed that a smiling child is far easier to teach than one with a scowl on his face.
So my first goal is to get the spirit of fun and humor going. In only a few minutes you will discover the child asking you to play songs, wanting to learn more on their own. And if they are not that interested, humor will at least allow them to attempt to stomach whatever “hard” knowledge you can give them that day.
“Back off,” is what I say to myself, and the result is unchanging. If I back off, children are willing to go further. If I push further without backing off, they will take it for a few minutes, but then you can see them, second by second, fading like bored audience members shrinking from a bad play.
What this “soft” approach really does is treat the child like a person, not a vassal as they are treated all day at school. Show you’re willing to bend, bend, and then show you want a simple job done. They will do it.
Perhaps a half hour of being treated like a real person is more beneficial to a child than any music lesson. Combine the two and you have a memorable and educational experience for a child.
In other words, a piano teacher should produce endorphins in the child first, and then engage in brief, intense intellectual work.
I’m not all fun and games, although from my writings I know I’m perceived as a very theatrical teacher. But I am serious as well, in turn, and ask for musical work very firmly. But firm is not negative in any way, it just allows the child no space to argue because they have just had their fun. They begin to understand the trade of fun for work, and a clever teacher will then find ways of making the “fun” insidiously educational as well.
Obviously this approach is slightly different with a child who is committed and talented and practices on their own. These kids I treat like young musical artists: they bring me their repertoire and we work on it together. Still, my approach, within this environment, is largely humorous as well.
Older, talented kids are put at ease by a genial and affable teacher, just like the younger ones. The difference is the older ones are already hooked, whereas we are trying to recruit the younger ones as hobbyists. Hence the different approach.
But never forget that these older, talented kids were once the very kids we spoke of, the youngest ones just starting piano. They will get much further if they are led to believe that there is fun in music, despite the intense work.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull pianist.
All play and no work makes Jack a child.
You’ll have to combine the two Jacks for any chance of success in children’s piano lessons.
Copyright 2008 Walden Pond Press
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