Thursday, May 25, 2023 by Elena Papavero | Lessons
"Key" Questions for the Beginning Student
Is My Child Ready for Piano Lessons?
Though times have definitely changed, many questions remain the same. Here are some common questions about lessons that parents (even parents who were music students themselves) often ponder.
Here are some things to look for to determine a happy piano lesson experience for a beginning student and their parent. 🎹 😀 🎹
🎼 Mental readiness 🎼 Emotional Readiness 🎼 Physical Readiness 🎼 Parental Support
🎼 Interest in Learning to Play the Piano
Readiness for piano lessons is not necessarily defined by the age of the child. Some children are ready to begin lessons at three, four or five years old, while most children make rapid progress at the later traditional starting point of six or seven years of age or older. This studio uses an innovative, special and fun curricula (WunderKeys Preschool, Tales of a Musical Journey, and Piano Safari Friends) for the pre-reading and younger child to make learning easy and fun!
Many parents are familiar with franchised group music classes for younger children which are structured as tune-filled play-oriented sessions and can introduce many musical concepts in fun, active, and pleasant ways, but they are fundamentally different from formal instruction which builds a special relationship between teacher and child, provides for individual development of foundational techniques, and assumes regular home practicing and parental support to ensure progress and continuity over time.
🎼 Mental Readiness
A good first sign of piano student readiness is the ability to tell the difference between left and right hands! But for young children and even some older children, wearing a wrist bands on one hand (their dominant hand) or even two bands (Right Hand Red, Left Hand Blue) can help build associations. ✋
Patience is also another important aspect to consider in terms of mental readiness. Typically, a child must be able to sit still and follow instructions for at least 15 minutes at a time. Besides being able to sit through a lesson, they will also need to sit at home and practice for some amount of time. With parental support, however, practicing builds attention span and focus and need only be a small amount of time every day for this skill to develop! 🕰️
In my lessons, I change activities often for young children, play games or do movement exercises, switch to written or coloring activities, or play with music manipulatives, which helps with keeping attention and making for an enjoyable experience.
Another helpful readiness factor (though not essential) for very young children is reading readiness or knowing the letters of the alphabet. Only the first 7 letters of the music alphabet are necessary A-B-C-D-E-F-G! 🔠
Knowing how to count to at least 10 is important as well! 🔢
🎼 Physical Readiness
One of the most basic indicators that a child is physically ready is if they can sit up straight and hold their hands parallel to the ground when seated. If they can do this, it indicates that they can reach out to the piano keys without strain.
Finger strength, independent finger movement, and the fine motor skills necessary for playing an instrument can be developed over time - coloring and drawing are good activities to help develop these skills. Children age five and younger, do not necessarily have the coordination and strength to create a proper finger or hand position. Modified finger techniques are used to help manage this developmental time period. For older children or serious musicians, finger strength and proper technique is a function of the instrument - a weighted (and graded hammer-action) keyboard is important whether your child is playing on an electronic keyboard, digital piano, or acoustic piano. 🎹
Young children sometimes find sitting to play an instrument uncomfortable because they don't have a lot of natural padding and a softer bench or seat cushion (and depending on their height, a foot rest) can makes sitting and paying attention much easier.
🎼 Emotional Readiness
Interest and enthusiasm is the best indicator of readiness. If there is an instrument in the house and the child already enjoys playing, picking out tunes, or copying patterns, this should be encouraged.
All lessons, whether they are sports, dance, school subject matter, require listening skills, the ability to follow instructions, and the ability to understand and make corrections and adjustment. These skills are developed continually over time and differ from child to child. Lagging skills in these areas do not prevent a successful piano experience, but as a parent, you know your child best.
Even children who love playing the piano may benefit from waiting until they have the emotional maturity to take direction, instruction, and correction from the teacher which is a natural part of lessons of any kind.
The best indicator for readiness is if a child asks for lessons and is eager to get started. Parents can best support an enthusiastic beginner by setting expectations regarding listening to and following the teacher's instructions and monitoring and supporting practicing during the lesson week. Progress and recognition of effort helps build pride in achievement and helps to maintain enthusiasm. 🎼 🍎 🎹
🎼 Parental Support
Both young and older students thrive when there is parental support for both the student and teacher and the right amount of oversight.
Parents should expect to help create an environment conducive to lessons and practice and for younger children, establish a routine and assist the child in establishing good habits - organizing materials, preparing for the lesson, doing any written homework, practicing good piano citizenship when interacting with the teacher, applauding progress, and encouraging the student to play for personal enjoyment and the enjoyment of others. 😀
Over time, the student should become more responsible for their own lessons and assignments, but young students may need the parent to sit and help them with the assignment and establish a routine until they are accustomed to the structure of lessons and practicing. Building this discipline is both a musicianship skill as well as a life skill.
Real-time parental support is especially important for online lessons which may require adjustment of equipment or audio during the lesson. And of course, very young students may need assistance with reading and interpreting their assignments given by the teacher. This studio employs online lesson notes making this part easy for the busy parent.
Keeping all these things in mind contribute to a rich and rewarding positive experience for everyone!