PATH OF LEAST RESISTANCE IN CHILDREN'S PIANO LESSONS
If you've a mind
to herd cats, try imposing your piano teaching regime on the average
six year old.
I've seen piano
teachers foolish enough to teach the first two piano lessons without
letting the child touch the piano! You can imagine how fragile this
teacher's mind is, unable to relinquish control long enough to let
the kid try the piano.
Such piano teachers
need to have the child obey EXACTLY what they say, for if the child
steps out of line, the teacher has no way to deal with it except to
get angry. They have no idea how to adapt a teaching idea to a
specific child: it's
"one-size-fits-all" and your
individuality be damned.
The dogmatists have
not learned the first law of children's piano lessons: you're
not trying to teach the child to play perfectly, you're trying to
excite them enough to get them to pursue it with their own interest.
If you get them interested, you have a much greater potential for
longevity in the lessons, and without longevity piano lessons fail,
for there is simply too much to absorb and learn for reluctant,
Kids don't always
follow exactly what you say, and conventional piano teachers are
very threatened by this behavior.
Kids are often in
their own world, and a smart piano teacher has to have tools other
than anger, resentment and rigid control to bring the child out of
that world, unless, of course, you are willing to enter the
child's world to teach the lesson.
In fact, you will
find the best opportunities for learning are in that child's
world. Insisting that the child be serious and inhabit the adult
world is often a recipe for disaster. You may get the child to not
be a child for 30 minutes, but you will find they don't retain
very much and want only to get away and play. Their memory of that
"serious" lesson is likely to form the lasting impression that
learning the piano is a painful, laborious and oppressive process.
You might instead
try letting the child be a child, and see what happens. Yes, you
will find more than half the lesson time is wasted, unless you think
bonding with the child is a useless waste of time. I find that any
time spent with the child is valuable.
For example, a
child that jokes with you is a child that is willing to straighten
up and get a little work done too, for children understand the idea
of give and take: give me a little fun and I'll take a little
Thus I never have a
set agenda for a lesson. I test the waters for a moment and see what
can reasonably be done. Obviously, I have a secret agenda and
curriculum, and I keep close track of each of their skills, but I do
not wear this curriculum "on my sleeve." Piano lessons
involve a set group of skills, but in what order and manner you
teach them is best fitted to the individual.
When the child
veers off in a direction, I see if following them will lead to an
opportunity for learning.
In essence, I
cleverly turn the tables by appearing to follow them, when in
reality I follow them only to find their direction. Once I find
their direction, mood, or interest, I feed it as fast and as much as
suppose you were intending to teach fingering today, but the child
is interested in a Michael Jackson tune that day. This happened to
The child was wild
about THRILLER, an exciting rock song by Jackson.
I quickly show the
child the bass line to the song, and we began to experiment with the
best way to finger it so that it sounded like the record.
This in itself led
to intense interest on the part of the child. Fingering now had an
actual use: it could help them play a song they love.
At the end of the
lesson, the child understood much more about the use of fingering,
and was starting to be interested in the idea of finger
child was always interested in fingering, and never found it
That is the path of
least resistance in children's piano lessons.
Teach what you
insist, or find what the child insists on learning.
Either way, you
cannot force-feed the piano to children, unless you want to wind up
with a musical anorexic.