YOUR CHILD WON'T PRACTICE PIANO
Children do not
practice the piano for two reasons: either the music does not
interest them, or they are simply too young to understand the
concept of a "task."
If the music they
are asked to play does not interest them, it is the teacher's
fault. If they are too young to understand the concept of a task,
you can try gently to make a game out of completing a small bit of
reason kids won't practice is the music assigned them is dry,
dull "cardboard" music. You know the stuff. Bastien, Alfred or
Faber, all the major methods have the same exercise pieces that
teach the various permutations of the first five white keys of the
I use these books
every day, but never as an assignment, unless we are engaged in a
game to read several pages as a contest. For example, I offer a $1
prize to a child after a few months in the following manner: I
select about 20 pages in a book like Bastien, and tell the child
I'll pay them $1 if they can sight read through the pages with no
major trouble. Children, at least once, are excited by this idea,
and go out and applies themselves to the work to earn the
But I never
assign a piece from a music reading book as their "song."
Their song is a piece of music they know from a movie or TV or
life that they have heard and want to play. For one child it's
the theme to GOOSEBUMPS, to another it's WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS
and to another it's MOZART'S 40TH SYMPHONY.
You have to take
their enthusiasm for a song and use that as fuel. Any song can be
used to teach the concepts of note finding and fingering. You may
have to rearrange the song for them, simplifying drastically any
complications that interfere with their ability to make it through
the song easily.
In the beginning
I assign a song a week, so they are exposed to many songs they
like and try to play all of them. It is a hit-or-miss program,
wherein we work a few minutes on each song, trying fingerings,
making games out of repeating it, moving on to another favorite
when they get bored.
One of my
favorite pastimes is developing a sense of fingering choice in the
child. It is one thing to slavishly follow the fingerings in the
book, which any child can be taught at length. But real pianists
are constantly inventing fingerings to fit their hand and
So it is a great
pleasure when you see a child start passages in the correct
position, or at least one that has some chance of success. My
guideline is groups of fingers. I give great praise when they
start instinctively use groups of fingers, even if it is the wrong
with different fingerings and they instantly understand how
different each one feels. The real result of these games is to
make them aware of their fingers in a way they were not before.
This does not bore a child; rather, they are fascinated with their
fingers. It is a game of keys and fingers, and we play at it
CONCEPT OF A TASK
The other reason
children do not practice is that they are too young or immature to
understand the concept of a task.
Rather than keep
assigning them tasks that they must complete outside the lesson, I
start making up brief tasks that they can always complete and
succeed at, showing them that a task is just a short job or game
that has a beginning and end, and they know something better at
the end. We do this every lesson, in short units, the entire
Thus by example
you can lay the seeds for learning to practice, but I suggest at
first you expect very little and you will be pleasantly surprised.
Don't expect a
child to voluntarily sit by itself and engage in an intelligent
discourse with the keyboard, unless you have properly prepared
them by exciting their imagination enough.
If they are
excited enough by that fingering game in STAR WARS, or just STAR
WARS itself, you have a chance that they will sit down at home and use
their mind to explore the music for a moment or two.
All those moments
add up, and after a while you have a happy, natural young
pianist, who plays for the love of it, not to avoid the anger of
the piano teacher.
Isn't that what
you were looking for?