A CHILD SEES THE PIANO KEYBOARD
observations are largely conjecture, to be sure, but so many
years logged watching kids try the piano leads me to the
Kids don't see
the black keys, really. They are a set of controls that aren't
obvious to them, since you can do so very much with just the
white keys. They don't understand why the black keys are raised
above the white keys, or that the black keys are consistently
organized in 2's and 3's.
realize that the piano's controls are less than a foot wide,
repeated seven times over the distance of the keyboard. To them,
it's five feet of confusing buttons, no pattern or reason to it.
One hand is
enough to consume the average child's brain. Two hands is
nuclear physics. One finger is a reasonable controller for them.
dimension do not exist. It is muddled semantics to them that the
piano keyboard turns up and down into "sideways."
"Why would you do something that crazy?" they ask
When an adult
plays something complex on the piano, it is magic to a child.
There's no other explanation, because clearly humans can't move
their fingers that fast, can they?
understand the relationship between skill at the piano and
practice/deferred gratification. To a child, your skill was
acquired instantly, magically, mysteriously. Telling them that
if they practice they will acquire your level of skill sounds
like a lie and a fairy tale to them. They cannot comprehend time
in the sense of developing piano talent and skill.
intimidate the child with your demands, the piano is a torture
device. If you delight a child with the piano, it is a mutual
toy. And if you delight them, eventually you might be able to
demand a little and get it.
For a child, it
is difficult to summon the simultaneous skills required. Piano
requires hundreds of little skills that must be dispatched
simultaneously. Few children's brains can segment their
concentration, as the piano requires, constantly.
When you ask
for too many skills at once, the child becomes overwhelmed and
soon discouraged. A better ploy is to build certain skills while
ignoring others until later. With some children, this is the
only approach possible.
Of all the
skills at the piano, rhythm is the hardest for kids. They may be
able to dispatch several skills admirably, but if you add the
constraint of time, the whole piece may easily fall apart.
That's why I
give the widest latitude to rhythm, at first, so that the child
is not pestered with a constant stream of corrections, as would
be the case if you insisted on rhythmic perfection or anything
close to it.
A child sees
the piano as an fun opportunity to make music, and if you let
them do that, they may learn your more serious version of the