A CHILD'S REAL INTEREST AT THE PIANO: THE CARROT AND THE DONKEY
Children have a
variety of reasons to try the piano.
Here are some
that I've found:
suggests piano lessons.
child has a friend who enjoys piano lessons and wants to
give it a try.
child sees a keyboard in a music video, movie or live
performance, and is attracted to the idea of playing.
child is attracted to the sound of the instrument.
In any case, in
a child's mind there is a vision, before they ever touch the
keys, and that involves being happy at the keyboard, being
admired and making music that impresses people. In their mind it
may be fame and stardom, or simply an intangible desire for
mastery of something.
really what the child seeks, for all childhood is really that
search, to do something well and be praised.
Of course, we
as adults should know that playing the piano, even moderately
well, takes a lot of work, much of it repetitious. To play like
a professional, which is what most children hear in movies, TV
and video, takes Herculean effort over a period of decades. But
this isn't important to the child: they could care less about
the future, they want to know "what is the piano to me
The problem for
almost all children taking piano lessons is that piano teachers
have confused two things:
one side you have the child's pure expectation of music,
specifically the fun that hearing music gives them. They
have never played a note.
the other side you have the teacher's jaded experience:
"I learned this way, that's the only way I can
tend to treat beginning children like cadets committed to the
conservatory, rather than tender reeds interested in the fun of
If you apply
the "cadets" method to a tender reed, all you will get
is a trampled reed.
looking for mastery, and if you needlessly make them fail, they
will soon give up trying. As Stonewall Jackson said to his army,
"Repeated victory will make you invincible." A clever
piano teacher can gauge the skills of a child and properly
present the rudiments of piano in a manner and order that
delights rather than confuses the child, regardless of their
Thus the child's
feelings about themselves and the piano are of paramount
importance, at least at the beginning.
Until the child
has some degree of control with the instrument physically, you
cannot ask them to start scaling the sheer cliffs of piano
technique and musical notation.
first what it is to make simple, enjoyable music at the piano,
however crudely, and then try to embark on the long journey to
acquire musical literacy.
piano lessons, oblivious to child psychology, reverse the
process and start children as disciplined cadets who are then
expected to start enjoying the piano only when they have a few
years of lessons under their belt.
the carrot is placed IN FRONT of the donkey.