So many parents ask about their kids and how to get them to
play music that we've started an advice column dedicated to kids and the parents
that want them to play.
You also might want to read an article excerpted from
Newsweek magazine about the amazing effect of music study on kid's math scores, Music
on the Mind.
Piano kids score higher on math tests. Get your child
Here are this month's selected questions, and answers from
Emmy Award winning composer and teacher John Aschenbrenner, author of
We answer all email advice questions, but we select the
most interesting to be published here.
My eight year old son is taking piano lessons and really
likes it, but I can't get him to practice more than a few minutes a day. What do
I do to make him practice? Mrs L.V.
Dear Mrs. V: Your son likes piano lessons and
worried? Any kid who plays voluntarily a few minutes a day is on the right
track. Leave him alone, but encourage him, and don't be militaristic about
practice. If you really want results, Mrs. V, you should take up piano. I'm
serious. An eight year old is easily influenced by your actions, so why not take
up piano together? Also, have you sat with your child and asked him to play a
song for you? I haven't met a child yet who doesn't want attention and praise
from their parents. Turn off the TV and start making music ten minutes a day.
And read the Newsweek article Music on the Mind. A few calm minutes a day with
you and the piano is what your child needs.
My eleven year old daughter hates piano and I have to drag
her screaming to the lessons. What do I do? She says the teacher makes her do
the same thing over and over again 'til she's ready to go crazy. She used to
like it, but now she hates
Mr. Bob K.
With all due respect, the teacher sounds
like a disciplinarian unused to teaching children, and your daughter is right. Get her
away from this dogmatist or she'll end up hating piano. There are very few
teachers creative enough to make piano study palatable for most kids. The
teacher's mistake is failing to disguise the repetition as a game. Perhaps what the teacher needs to do is give the
child MORE music, not less. Lower the bar a little and let the child learn to
read sheet music by exploring through piece after simple piece, however
imperfectly, until she gains confidence and learns to read sheet music. Variety
is all she's asking for. Under such a program, your daughter would probably
enjoy playing. But unless you can find a brilliant, creative new teacher, let
her go, let her quit.
My son is ten and took lessons for two years, but when we
went to try a new teacher, we discovered that he couldn't read music at all. He
had memorized the songs and the piano keys he had to push, but never really
learned to read the notes. What should we do? We want him to have the experience
First of all, your son is obviously smart: he managed to push
the right piano keys in spite of the fact that he was never taught to read music
properly. There's a reason for this. Most piano teachers don't really know how
to teach reading sheet music, so they concentrate on getting the student to
memorize a small group of pieces. The kids hate this boring, repetitive
approach, but the parents think the kid is learning because those few pieces
seem to be getting better and better. It takes a creative teacher to devise a
program that fights the boredom of repetition. But it's really not that hard:
teachers should have the child master reading sheet music by constantly
presenting the same set of problems (the notes) in different forms (different
pieces.) The "variety" approach works on even the most obvious "quitters."
Kids quit piano for a reason and, I hate to tell you this, the
kids are almost always right.