What kids like about piano lessons is, I believe, the one-on-one time with a caring adult.
Making music is fun, but the real attraction is the interaction.
Thus there are aspects of piano lessons that children enjoy outside of the music teaching itself.
First and foremost is the one-on-one time a child spends with a piano teacher. The famed Shaw study points out that children have a rise in IQ simply by spending happy, useful time one-on-one with a sympathetic adult.
Kids like attention. And a creative piano teacher is nothing if not an attention-paying machine, watching their fingers, their mood, their posture, and their skills.
Think of a piano lesson as an educational and emotional spa for children.
A piano lesson should have the relaxed, regenerative effects of a spa visit, if it is done correctly.
It is easy to make learning the piano into drudgery, and many piano teachers have perfected this pointless specialty on countless millions of willing victims.
A better approach is to engage the child directly, at their emotional level. This is absolutely necessary to establish a teacher-student relationship that has aspects of both friendship and apprenticeship.
By this measure, it is perhaps more important to greet the student and find out what their “weather” is like today, than to leap into the next aspect of your method at the beginning of a lesson.
In fact, I’ve found that very interesting avenues of conversation can be opened up by simple questions like, “What music have you heard lately that you like?”
A child might answer that they like the music to a commercial, or ask if you can play it. If you can, do so. If not, steer the conversation to some song that both of you know, but for which they show a demonstrable enthusiasm.
Many children will say they have a CD with a track from a band, perhaps from an older sibling. If you are smart, pop the CD in the player and see if there is any recognizable portion you can figure out, and play it for them, even if only with one finger.
Then teach them that song, or a portion.
This “transparent” approach to a piano lesson does two things.
First, it gives the child a musical experience with a song they like and will want to play.
Second, they are party to a collaborative search for music, its arrangement, and performance. The teacher really acts more as a guide than an unstoppable, infallible master, demanding specific achievements.
There’s time enough for reading music and other pursuits, and the child will be satisfied that they have had a few moments of interesting talk and playing the piano.
Perhaps there’s time enough for a tiny bit of reading music, which they will be willing to do now that they have had fun.
Give in to the child’s mood, and use that mood to help them find ways to enjoy the piano.
Copyright 2008 Walden Pond Press
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