The path of least resistance in kid’s piano is a path that will lead to much quicker progress by the child.
Constrained by a method they hate, kids wilt.
After they wilt, they resist with every fiber of their being. I’ve seen it.
People often ask how I achieve such good results in my piano lessons.
I’ll tell you: kids like my lessons because they want to be there.
It’s as simple as that: I make piano lessons an enjoyable place to be.
It doesn’t matter if the child is inept, inattentive and untalented. I can still get them to play and enjoy it.
Here’s my secret: the Path of Least Resistance.
When the child enters the room, I am attentive to their mood, and their mood only. Children are quixotic creatures, and a bright, sharp child may be dull and listless on another occasion.
I‘ve learned to read a certain expression on kid’s faces, and this expression says, “I don’t want a piano lesson, I won’t resist you, but today I’m not interested.” Even my very best, super-talented, accomplished kids wear that face occasionally. We’re all human.
In such a situation, would you….
Proceed as usual, with the same expectations
Tell them to straighten up and pay attention
Ask them if they’ve practiced as I asked
None of the above. The answer is to immediately occupy the same emotional space as the child.
For example, if a child doesn’t want a lesson, you should immediately create an environment totally unlike a normal lesson.
Sit down and start playing interesting music and talk to them about it
Say, “Have you ever looked inside a piano?” Proceed to do so.
Say, “Here, you be the teacher. I’ll play and you tell me what to do.”
The first result will be that the child’s expectation of boredom is immediately dispelled. Whatever assignment they had can be forgotten momentarily.
To myself, I pretend I am the child, and ask, “Hey, what’s so interesting about the piano?”
That’s a question a piano teacher has to constantly be prepared to answer, and sometimes it may take some mild clowning and Jerry Lee Lewis to get the correct mood going. But what is so interesting about the piano, to children?
In the right, light hands, the piano is instant charm, music and fun. I’m asking piano teachers to keep in mind what made them want to play in the first place. One doesn’t become a piano teacher or pianist without an epiphany somewhere, wherein they realize they are drawn powerfully toward the sound and experience of the piano.
Thus, your job as teacher is to facilitate the child’s sense of being drawn to the piano. If you don’t do that, piano lessons are already over. You can go through the motions of lessons together, but you may never get the child to adopt the effort on their own.
No one in their right mind is drawn to something that is all drudgery, no matter how beautiful. There has to be a reward, and to a child, that reward has to be stated immediately and frequently.
So, when your student isn’t in the mood for pedagogy, take time to show them how great the piano can be, without asking anything of them.
Show the child why the piano interested you when you were their age.
If you can’t do that, you can’t really teach children the piano.
You might teach them to play a few notes, but you’ll never get them to love the instrument. Most piano teachers have that backwards. They think that they first must get the child to play correctly in order for the child to love the piano.
But the fact is that you must get the child to like the piano first, and then get them to play in however humble a fashion they can. And it is impossible to get a child to love an experience (the conventional piano lesson) that is full of corrections, interruptions, guilt, embarrassment and fear.
So first establish the correct feeling in the lessons, determined according to the child. Then, you can try to see what can be learned that day.
If the child asks about chords, you go with chords. If the child wants to hear a certain song, you play it. If the child wants to make up a song, you compose with them.
Any basic concept of the piano can be taught using the idea the child has, or is interested in. Abandon your curriculum, ostensibly, to explore the child’s current area of interest. I say “ostensibly” because you will find a way to teach some valuable element within the direction the child is leading you.
Sometimes, the path of least resistance in piano lessons leads to the best results.
Copyright 2008 Walden Pond Press