“I can’t help my child with piano lessons–I don’t know anything about music!” As a San Antonio piano teacher, I have heard that statement more times than I can remember. While it can be useful to a beginner piano student when their parents have previous experience in music, there are many things a parent can do to help their child thrive at piano lessons–even if you don’t know a single thing about music.
CONSISTENCY IS KEY
The best thing you can do as a parent to help your student progress at piano is to make sure that they practice regularly. Think of music like learning a new language. Learning a new language takes constant repetition. Memorizing new words, their meanings and how to pronounce them does no good if you don’t do it regularly. In order to become fluent at the new language, you have to use it often or you forget everything you just learned. The same applies to learning the language of music. How often you practice is often more important than how long you practice. Although longer practice sessions are beneficial, if you have the choice between a few long sessions, or many shorter sessions, go with more often. Practicing often, even in smaller increments, helps reinforce what you just learned and ensures that you remember it. Try to set aside a regular time everyday for your child to practice piano (before or after dinner for example). Start a solid routine NOW and it will definitely payoff in the future.
A LITTLE PRAISE GOES A LONG WAY
ANY PROGRESS IS WORTHY OF A REWARD (HUGS AND PRAISE CAN GO A LONG WAY)! Once a regular practice routine has become a habitual way of approaching new music or difficult passages, most of the basic concepts of how to read, learn, and play music will be mastered. Don’t let watching the clock be the measure of a good practice session, try saying that each song must be played 3 times with the rule that it doesn’t count unless it sounds better than the last time it was played. My goal is not to teach one piece at a time, but rather to teach students how to learn; to acquire practice techniques that can be applied to any music (with the assignments for the week serving as current examples of how to learn a particular concept used in that particular piece of music). I am laying the foundation for a lifetime of enjoyment in music. After this foundation is firm, students will be able to explore their own individual interests: jazz, rock, blues, classical, praise and worship, gospel, etc., while using the same practice techniques mastered during this piano study. All musical questions should have been answered by me during the lesson, but any questions which come up during the week may be written in the book or on a note, or shoot me an email. I am happy to answer questions that might come up during practice. Please be specific. Children’s overly broad statements such as “I don’t understand” are best answered by backing-up in the book one page at a time, until there is no difficulty playing a song. Then resume forward motion in the book until the current assignment is reached. “This is too hard” really means, “this is new”, and will be “easy” (meaning “not new”) by next week.
DON’T GIVE UP!
All the best things in life require perseverance. Every student comes across a song that gives them trouble or that they don’t like. Hang in there and don’t let them quit! Even finishing songs they don’t like will give them a strong sense of accomplishment (a life lesson that applies to anything they choose to do). When they move on to a new song they do like, you will often see a 180 degree change in their energy level! Music is a discipline, but it gets exponentially more fun the longer they stick with it. Once they truly learn to read the language of music fluently, their confidence will truly blossom and practice sessions will turn into jam sessions and what used to sometimes feel like work will just be “playing”!