THE KID A REASON TO PRACTICE
If you put a
standard piano book on the music stand and expect enthusiasm
from a child, you are living in a pedagogical dreamland of
talking about prodigies. Prodigies take care of themselves, for
their talent attracts the best teachers and backing for a
I mean average
American children, brought up on a diet of indulgence,
television, Disney and video games. These kids are simply the
product of the parental input they have received. And then you,
the piano teacher, get to teach them the piano, if you're
So if you put
such a regular text in front of a child at the piano, you may
realistically expect boredom, perhaps not the
first time, but eventually. The child will tire of the mind
numbing process of learning to read music, and unless you've
also shown the child how much fun the piano can be, piano
lessons will come to a crashing halt.
algebra, calculus or trigonometry. Do you remember any
enthusiasm for these subjects? It was like pulling teeth, and as
soon as you could avoid such courses, you did so unless you were
dead-set on being an engineer.
difference between reading music and playing music is the same
as between a real building and architectural engineering. You
could probably interest a child in the Eiffel Tower, but not a
course in the details of nineteenth century French architectural
The only reason
a child ever practices the piano with enthusiasm is because they
are playing music they love. Give a child a song they like, and
you will find it difficult to get them to STOP playing that
The trick is to
give them songs, even snippets of songs, to play rather than
dull exercise pieces. Anything that can be learned from a
Bastien or Alfred book (popular conventional piano methods) can
be learned from a real song.
is for you, the teacher, because you will have to rearrange the
music at a moment's notice to the child's tailored
abilities. This takes a lot of work and many piano teachers are
too lazy to do it.
If you've got
a nine year old who wants to play the theme to Super Mario,
you'll have an enthusiastic candidate as soon as you satisfy
this kid's musical tastes, whatever they may be. The child
will absorb whatever you say more quickly and deeply if they are
working on something they care about.
So you can
choose as a teacher to hammer home your curriculum, boring the
child and turning them off, or find the route to their sense of
joy about music. If that route involves Chopsticks, Super Mario
or the theme to a Disney cartoon, you better find and deliver
that song quickly.
example, is loathed by conventional piano teachers, but loved by
kids. What does this tell you? That kids have no musical taste?
No, it tells you that piano teachers have no idea how to engage
kids on their own level.
Chopsticks IS a loathsome song, but what it does is magic: it
allows a child to play a recognizable melody easily, becoming
part of the club of those that "play the piano." And in
addition, any good piano teacher can use Chopsticks to teach a
thousand lessons about rhythm, timing and memory.
Don't turn up
your nose at the corny little ditties children latch onto. They
are the gateway into their musical imagination.