Setting up a child’s piano practice regime is a result of trial and error.
If the child likes the music and teacher, they will play.
If they don’t like the teacher, or find the music boring, you might as well be herding cats.
“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”
That saying applies to kids and piano practice, as well as the proverbial horse.
Setting up a child’s practice regime correctly means that you accept the fact that your horse will drink the water if they like it, and when they want.
What To Expect
Buying a child piano lessons is like a farmer making sure his horse has water to drink. The rest is up to the horse and trainer.
You can set a length of time, say, twenty minutes, for piano practice, and enforce it rigorously.
The result will be much like the horse. They’ll sit by the pond for twenty minutes, but they’ll only drink the water if they’re thirsty.
Guilt Is The Average Teacher’s Weapon
The average piano teacher’s solution to this problem is to instill guilt in the child, hoping that will make them work.
My view is that fear and guilt are not proper associates for a child’s exploration of music via the piano.
If a piano teacher buys a child’s attention with guilt, the truth is that they are unsuited to be a child’s piano teacher.
What Does The Horse Want?
Let’s go back to the horse.
Find out what they are thirsty for. Kids are thirsty for fun, period.
Fun is one element that children will unfailingly respond to.
Thus, one’s success as a piano teacher is measured by the ability to disguise routine music learning tasks as games.
Games are inherently fun, and almost any musical task can be hidden within one.
Are the Lessons Boring?
Next, consider the lessons themselves. If they are dry, slow, full of talk and endless illustrations of things that have no meaning to a child, the child will zone out, and take that empty feeling home with them.
Don’t expect them to build on that empty feeling of failure in their home practice sessions. It won’t ever happen.
If the lessons are dry and lifeless, they will not willingly approach the piano by themselves.
Such kids will only play when pressured to by an adult in a position of power.
Are the Lessons Enjoyable?
Assuming that the lessons are enjoyable, you have a chance of getting the child to play on their own.
My view is to not force practice as an issue at first.
Allow them to interest themselves in the piano as they would with a new toy.
If you insist on practice, the piano is no longer their toy.
Next, the music the child is practicing must be recognizable songs that everyone knows. For all of my affection for the Bastien Series of piano teaching books, a key failing is that almost none of the songs in the very beginning series are recognizable melodies. I use them only for music-reading.
A child needs the self-esteem boost of playing a song they love and want to learn, and that they can play for everyone, announcing, “Hey, look, I can play piano!”
If, as sometimes happens, they ask for RHAPSODY IN BLUE, be clever enough to arrange it in a language they can readily understand. Here is the Rhapsody in Blue set in Piano by Number:
10 11 12 5 6 7 8
Give The Kid A Reason To Practice
The point is to give the child some reason to practice. Here are several things conventional piano teachers assume, to the detriment of their students:
Conventional piano teachers assume that kids have some grasp of deferred gratification. They don’t.
Conventional piano teachers assume kids like repetition of things that are not fun. They don’t
Conventional piano teachers assume that kids will practice to please the teacher. They won’t.
Conventional piano teachers assume that kids will practice to please the parent. They won’t
Can you see it coming? Who is the one person that kids want most to please?
Until you convince kids with actual deeds and experiences that piano is fun for THEM, they have no reason to practice at all.
And if you have given them no reason other than guilt and fear to practice, don’t expect them to practice those emotions willingly at the piano at home.
Sample Song Suggestions
Make the song appropriate to the child:
For a 5 year old, TWINKLE TWINKLE
For a 7 year old boy, STAR WARS
For a 9 year old girl, TAYLOR SWIFT
For a 12 year old boy, ROCK SONGS
Finding the song the child is wild about ensures practice. They will play their fingers off if they love the song.
Look To The Teacher
If your child doesn’t want to practice, look to the teacher. They may well be spinning their wheels, going from page to page, unable or unwilling to be creative enough to interest the child as an individual.
If a child does not play piano on their own, they are not interested.
Find a teacher who makes the piano interesting, and then worry about practice regimes.
I bet the practice regime will take care of itself if the child has music they love.
Copyright 2008 Walden Pond Press
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