Welcome to a year full of music opportunities! Your child may not fully appreciate it at this point in time, but you are giving them a wonderful gift with lessons! I am hoping this guide is helpful in getting off to a good start in ensuring the success of your child in learning to play. My goal as a teacher is to give each student enough knowledge to be able to sit down and play anything they desire. What a great form of self-expression! That being said, there are some tips I would like to share with you.
FACT: Your child will gain much more from the time and money invested in piano lessons with help from you, even if you know little or nothing about music.
FACT: Consistency in three areas will contribute to one’s success in learning to play: consistent lesson attendance, consistent completion of assignments, and consistent daily practice.
FACT: Most children do not “feel” like practicing, much as they don’t “feel” like doing homework.
Inconsistent practice will result in slow progress, which leads to increased disinterest in lessons and playing the piano. Piano study is not easy. It requires discipline, focus, attention to details, thought, determination, and perseverance, especially when things become challenging. These traits are no longer common in our society with “fast” food and “instant” results. It takes at least 6-8 years of committed study (at least 5 days each week for their goal amount of minutes) to reach a level where students are able to play for pure enjoyment. Making practice a part of their daily homework assignments (requiring that homework and piano be complete before playtime) is a good first step toward this goal.
FACT: The value your child places on their piano lessons, piano playing, and their progress will depend on the level of your commitment.
Spend time with him/her at the piano on a regular basis (daily for students age 5-8; a couple of times a week for older students): listening, helping, reading from the assignment book. As most of the improvements students make happen during the six days between lessons, I ask parents to closely monitor practice at home.
FACT: Children need assistance in learning HOW to practice.
Even if you have little knowledge of music, you can help them by following steps similar to learning any new skill:
1. Play through the entire piece or a large section.
2. Have the child identify a small section that is giving them difficulty and play it.
3. If it is correct, ask if they can play it three times in a row without errors; challenge them to prove to you that they can do it.
4. If errors persist, try some of the practice tools listed on their assignment sheet.
5. Some problem areas will have to be addressed repeatedly during the week before
mastery is achieved.
Other tips for assisting with practice:
Check your child’s assignment sheet each week and have them play for you; the goal for each week’s practice is to be able to play their assignments demonstrating proficiency with the following points:
1 Correct Notes & Fingering
2 Correct Rhythm
3 Accurate & Steady Tempo
4 Expressive Dynamics & Balance; Mood
5 Correct Articulation & Phrasing
Follow the assignment with your child and teach your child to proceed with an organized approach. Check off accomplishments as you go and track the number of minutes practiced each day. (Minutes are not as important as is the accomplishment of assignment goals. It is just a way of monitoring the endeavor.)
All exercises and pieces are to be presented and practiced with a steady beat. Encourage the use of the metronome. For added experience and review, each piece may be played at different levels of the keyboard. You could also suggest playing softly or loudly for additional repetitions. Other repetition suggestions could include: “Play as if you are sad/happy/mad/tired/excited.”
Two shorter practice sessions in place of one long session may be a good alternative for some students.
I hope the above information is helpful. Being a parent of two music students myself, I realize how hard it is to find time to assist and monitor practice time. ANY time you give is helpful, so don’t feel pressured if you can’t give as much time as you would like. Please give me a call if I can be of assistance; I’m always available to answer questions about assignments and other concerns.