PIANO GAMES THAT LEAD TO "PRACTICING"
A piano teacher
is faced with a difficult choice. Much like a prison warden, you
have to decide whether to be strict about practicing and risk
rebellion, or devise other methods to get the child to repeat
the piece and keep peace in the barracks.
warden approach is laden with drawbacks and is, in my opinion,
suitable only for people who have decided to take up the piano
And a child of
six does not take up the piano seriously. So don't expect them
In fact, a
better approach is to never mention practicing. You can say,
"Play that song over a few times before I see you
again." If it's a song the child likes, it might happen.
The only game I
have found that works is to totally discard feelings of
resentment about not practicing.
In fact, expect
them not to practice. Don't say, "Don't
But most likely
they won't, and you'll save yourself and the student a lot of
needless stress if you assume that and move on from there.
If a child
assumes you will help them even when they don't
"practice," they will be more open to trying things
during the lesson.
amounts to practicing during the lesson, but the point is that I
have taken a multitude of kids through that stage, and seen them
come out on the other end with skills and the desire to
practice. All because I didn't insist they practice. I always
appear amused when they don't practice, and I never ever ask if
they have because I know the likely answer.
This is, of
course, piano heresy to piano pedagogues from Shanghai to Steinway
Hall. The standard view is that a child must be forced to
practice or they won't assimilate all the skills needed to be
Vladimir Horowitz .
The view is that, even if such forced
the child quit, it is still needed and important. That view is
not piano heresy, of course, but it is insane. That's why nine out of ten
kids quit, and that's why pianos are being dumped in landfills.
You want a
future for the piano and piano music? Then you better start
finding ways for people to enjoy the piano in the present day,
on their own terms.
So the game I
play is to have them "practice" while they are at the
lesson. And it is fun for them, because I disguise it so
skillfully that the kid never knows it's work because it seems
Instead of it
being a rote experience, they learn HOW to practice, and as they
get better at a piece and feel good about it, they begin to
realize WHY we practice.
So before you
ask a child to practice, make sure they know what you are
talking about, and have experienced practicing in a way (with
you) that eventually teaches them HOW and WHY to practice. It
A large part of
the lesson is finding WHAT part of the piece to practice. I never let a kid play a piece
all the way through unless we have decided to give it a
run-through. Unless it's a run-through, we are picking it apart,
laughing at the hard bits while we try to figure them out.
I am always
aware of the fatigue factor in playing this game.
You have to
know when enough is enough, and that is usually when their
eyeballs start to do circles.