GUIDING, PLAYING, OR FRIENDSHIP? WHAT SORT OF PIANO TEACHER ARE
These are the
four levels of teaching piano:
of it as the old fashioned "do-what-I say" method.
There's not much leeway for the student, and the curriculum is
the ancient one: read music or die.
guide a student, you must have a goal, and that first goal
should getting the child to like and then love the piano.
Curriculum is secondary, attitude is more important.
musicians play together, there is a sense of give and take.
Judgment is suspended for the sake of pleasure.
Have you ever seen one child show another how to do something?
There is a sense of cooperation that hardly exists elsewhere.
elements of each of the above in a healthy piano teaching
curriculum. Blending them depends on the age and interests of
In a music
conservatory, one accepts the teaching of the master, and hangs
on every highly paid word. But don't expect a child to
student becomes a friend of the master, and the relationship
becomes more equal, with two "students" examining a
children's piano teaching recognizes only the "teach"
approach, anything else being heresy, fuzzy thinking and
lowering the bar.
experienced with children knows that the "teach"
approach works only as long as you have the child's enthusiasm.
When you lose the initial enthusiasm, piano lessons becomes
drudgery for the child, and the piano teacher is relegated to
the uninspiring role of taskmaster. The piano teacher, equipped
only with "teach" tools, loses hold of the thread of
the child's interest, and the lessons disintegrate. This failure
scenario is all but inevitable with the single "teach"
On the other
hand, the child's piano guide assumes that interest will ebb and
flow and that it is pointless to proceed without the child's
wholehearted interest. The guide has to be willing to set out a
problem, disguised as a game, a million times, never letting on
that the child has failed or not lived up to
In other words,
I don't care how many times it takes you to learn the fingering
to Fur Elise, as long as I can get you to keep trying. I have
seen too many kids "get it" on try number 1,000,001 to
stop. But if you let them taste failure and your sour reaction
to it on those million tries, you have created a child who will
always hate Fur Elise and probably the piano.
This process of
setting forth a problem and then seeming not to care if the
child has mastered it is but a ruse. Slowly the child will
realize, "Oh, he wants me to put my finger HERE!" If
you, instead, make the child feel, hundreds of times, a failure
at a task you have clearly defined, you are defeating the
process. Let the child discover the problem by themselves, with
your guidance and assistance, but NEVER your obvious negative
The first goal
is to get the child to play without judging themselves. The
teacher can only appreciate and approve. The least praise I give
is to say, "That's an interesting fingering, all thumbs, hm,
do you have other fingers available today, just asking?"
To the child,
it would appear that their mistakes are amusing and interesting
for the teacher, never bad, stupid, slow and a result of not
practicing. Use humor, never negativity.
A piano guide
cleverly sets out the problem without announcing it as a
mountain to be climbed. And then every time they fail, scoop
them up, laugh and either go on to something else or come back
to the problem later.
Of course they're
going to fail: your job is to get them to try again and again.
Failure is utterly irrelevant. Stop seeing only their failure.
Hone their attempt.
Simply put, if
a child quits, their piano teacher's manner has taught them how
to be a failure. I can make ANY child a pianist with enough
patience and humor.
always the piano teacher's fault.
you can't make music enjoyable to a child. And if that is true,
you shouldn't be teaching piano at all.