Tips for Parents with Kids in Piano Lessons
As a parent, and a piano teacher, I know what an important role parents play in their child's piano lessons. The following recommendations are for parents who want to ensure their child is successful in piano lessons.
Choosing a Piano Teacher
One of the most important factors in the success of your child's piano lessons is finding a piano teacher who is a good match for your child. Every piano teacher has a different personality and teaching style. Some piano teachers are strict, while others are more laid back. Some piano teachers make competitions and public performances mandatory, while others don't even offer recitals. It is important that you read your piano teacher's policies very carefully and ask questions about their teaching style before your child begins taking lessons. It is such a shame when a child ends up quitting piano lessons just because of a personality conflict with their teacher.
Provide a quality piano
Piano students should not be required to practice on a broken or out-of-tune piano. A free piano off of Craig's list isn't such a good deal if your child refuses to practice on it because of its horrible tone. Why pay for lessons if you aren't willing to provide a proper instrument? Students should be playing on a full-size good quality piano, not a small electronic keyboard. If you are not able to invest in a full size piano, look into the possibility of renting a piano from your local piano dealer.
Have a set practice time
Practicing is just like exercise. If you don't have a time set aside to do it, then it probably won't get done. Choose a certain time every day for your child to practice. I realize with today's schedules that can be difficult. But students who have a set time to practice tend to progress faster than those who don't make it a priority in their schedules.
It is important to provide a practice setting which is free from distractions. As a parent, it is your job to keep siblings, telephones, and televisions out of the practice area. I recommend keeping the piano out of high-traffic areas such as living rooms and entryways. Piano student need to have peace and quiet when concentrating on their music.
Check Assignment Books
Most piano teachers will write your child's assignment in an assignment notebook. I recommend looking at their notebook at the beginning of the week to see which songs your child is supposed to be practicing. Many children will practice their favorite songs and "forget" to practice any songs which don't appeal to them. At the end of the week check to see that your child has finished all of their written assignments and can play their assigned songs.
Parental involvement in the actual practice sessions is usually very helpful. But be careful that your child isn't becoming too dependent on you to provide the answers. Children need guidance, but they also need to become independent in their learning. Be available to help, but make sure your child is actually learning the notes on their own.
Teach your child how to practice
Practicing is more than running through a musical piece. Instead of encouraging your child to run through their songs multiple times, try to encourage your child to work on the piece in smaller sections. Have your child work on each section slowly, while counting aloud. If they make a mistake, they should work on that section until they can get through it mistake-free. Once your child is able to play all of the sections without mistakes then they can increase the tempo and run straight through the piece.
Use your child's imagination
Music is a story that is just waiting to be told. Encourage your child to use their imagination by asking them what sort of pictures or emotions they think of when playing the piece. Is it funny, sad, scary, exciting? Your child's music will sound much more musical if they are imagining a scene or story while they are playing their songs.
Bring all of their books
Make sure your child brings all of their piano books to their lesson. I recommend that students have a piano bag to keep all of their books organized. Many times students will try to get out of playing a piece by conveniently "forgetting" their books. Check their assignment notebook to make sure your child is bringing all of the books necessary for their assignment.
The number one mistake that parents make with piano lessons is over-scheduling their child. Piano lessons aren't just a half-hour commitment each week. It is at least a three hour weekly commitment with daily practice times. Do not stress out your child, or waste your time and money on piano lessons if your child does not have three hours a week to devote to practicing and lesson times.
Communicate with your teacher
It is very important to communicate with your child's piano teacher. Does your child want to quit? Are they struggling with note reading? Do they wish they could play a certain style of music? Does your child have a learning disability? Is your family going through something such as a death in the family or divorce which is affecting your child emotionally? Your child will be much more successful at piano lessons if you keep the communication with your teacher open.