THE CHILD APPEAR TO LEAD THE PIANO LESSON
Since so much
of k-12 education is force fed these days, it is a pleasant
surprise to ask a child, "What shall we do today," even if
you have a secret teacher's agenda in mind.
I find that
almost all kids can actually make music at the piano if you make
it simple enough. I'm referring to improvised music which has
a rhythmic basis, and in which a child can join and be part of
the musical fabric.
This is the
essence of music making, even at its highest levels, and
children relish it just like adults.
like Chopsticks are the proof of this, and Heart and Soul as
well, songs you'll find that 90% of children have heard or
played on the piano.
The essence of
Chopsticks is a simple tune that is enjoyable to play, and not
very hard to do either. Like a toy, children get happily lost
within the song, and repeat it until they are bored with it.
teachers disdain such songs as "beneath" them, but watch a
child's enthusiastic reaction to it. My point is that a clever
piano teacher will see the following lessons being taught
through playing Chopsticks:
you can't play Chopsticks unless you play evenly
even two index fingers involve many important muscles and
Form: the song repeats from the beginning very neatly, like
a circle that keeps rolling around
there are two parts to Chopsticks, and you'll have to
cooperate with the others in the band
Chopsticks has three beats, and you'll be nodding your
head in that fashion, 1 2 3, 1 2 3, 1 2 3
Keys: the first two notes of Chopsticks are on either side
of the lowest of the group of three black keys. To start the
song, you'll have to be able to find it
Thus I don't
necessarily have an agenda unfurled every lesson. The child's
abilities and deficiencies are obvious, and one could start
anywhere in an effort to expand their musical education.
unchangeable item on the piano teaching agenda is that the child
progress, and progress without a loss in enthusiasm. How this is
accomplished varies with the day, and the mood. Like a ship in
the wind, if you push in the wrong direction, you will get
And, like a
ship in the wind, if you learn to really gauge the child's
mood (the wind) you will sail as far and fast as you like.
I can't tell
you the number of times that a subject, properly introduced, is
first rejected by the child only to be accepted later as "interesting."
When a child
rejects something, usually because it seems too difficult, they
are telling you that they have not been properly prepared. They
don't know it, but this is what their rejection indicates.
many children reject fingering outright as "absurdly
complicated," only to embrace it utterly after you have made
their fingers into a game, both on and off the piano.
The lesson is
to pay more attention to the child's reaction than to your
Your method is
irrelevant, and only the child's understanding of it matters.