composition


Trust Between Music Students and Teachers

Relationship between student and teacher

The relationship between piano student and piano teacher is built on trust. While method books guide students through new concepts and increasingly harder music, students mainly rely on their teachers to build their sense of musicality. This sense of musicality includes sense of timing, rhythm and pitch.  More simply put, method books don’t have “answer keys”. Therefore students must trust their teachers in order to develop their musicality.

Furthermore, piano teachers are responsible for figuring what the next step is. In a perfect world, one method book would suffice in teaching a student. However, like clothes, piano lessons are not a one size fit all. Some students are more technically gifted, with underdeveloped ears. Some students pick up note reading quickly, but can not improvise naturally. The scenarios and situations are endless. It is the teacher’s job to find the route that can help the student progress. After all, music is about progress, not perfection. 

Mistrust

When I was taking piano lessons as a child, I recall feeling frustrated at my teacher’s corrections. I remember rejecting her teachings as irrelevant or not important. I remember asking why certain things had to be one way. I remember feeling frustrated at the repetition of difficult passages. Ultimately, I was questioning my trust in my piano teacher’s method. This mistrust was damaging in my progress as a pianist.

Throughout my journey as a pianist, I began to appreciate my teacher’s efforts more and more. What seemed irrelevant back then now seems obviously important. Some of the lessons were about music; for example, how rhythm is integral to a solid performance. Some of the lessons were about life; it is important to not give up after the first few tries. The mistrust I felt hindered my progress, when my teacher had my interests in mind.

Now as a teacher, I ask for trust from my students. I promise, with all my heart, that I will never ask my students to do something that I believe is unnecessary. I will not ask my students to play music that I find irrelevant to their progress. I will not push my students to practice in a while that is inefficient. My goal is to build creative spirits, with a solid knowledge in musical grammar. Trust me, so we can work together.

 

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Summer Slide for Piano Students

Summer slide describes the tendency of students to lose learning gains during the summer break.  This generally refers to school students, and their reading abilities.  It is estimated that students in low-income families fall behind, on average, 2 months behind on their reading.

While 2 months of no reading may seem insignificant, research shows that the consequences are cumulative and  are long lasting. As a solution, experts suggest providing children with enjoyable reading material, and encouraging them to continue reading without teacher support.

This discussion is directly applicable to piano lessons. Because music is also a language, progress is dependent on continued reading. If a student does not continue reading music in the summer, it is very likely for the student to lose the gains in their musical journey. Since piano lessons are generally once a week, it is inherently already less ingrained in the child’s life throughout the school year.  By removing these piano lessons in the summer, the effects of the summer slide are even more evident in piano lessons. Imagine teaching your child to read only once a week, in addition to taking two months’ break every year.

Some Suggestions to Prevent Summer Slide in Piano

  1. Have the teacher and student prepare a book of songs at the appropriate level for the student to enjoy reading through in the summer.
    • Research shows that students gain more educational value from material that they enjoy.
  2. Attend live concerts to keep music in the student’s life.
    • Listening is the key to learning any language. First we listen, then we speak.
  3. Keep up with a practice routine.
    • Not only is this important in maintaing progress, it eliminates the hardship of establishing a new practice habit in September
  4. Continue taking piano lessons.
    • A piano teacher provides accountability, support, and creative guidance to the student’s needs.

 


Same Mistakes

A frustrating part of teaching piano lessons, is watching students make the same mistakes over and over again. This is caused by two things: a misunderstood concept, and unhealthy practice habits.

Misunderstood Concept

A mistake because of a misunderstood concept is completely acceptable. As long as the musical concept is not clear, students will likely continue to make the same type of error.  Until the student and the teacher gets to the root of the problem, any progress is muscle memory. Unfortunately, muscle memory may fail the student as time passes, or when stress is induced.

Unhealthy Practice Habits

A more dangerous mistake, is based on unhealthy practice habits. Students can fall into a cycle of attempting to play something over and over again, until they see the teacher’s approval. The issue with this, is that there is very little thought put into why the teacher would approve the new version. To me, this shows a lack of independence in their musicality. While it is the teacher’s role to guide the student, the student must take ownership of where their strengths and weaknesses. Of course, this is easier said than done with young children! However, that is one of the advantages of piano lessons; having a child learn to continually strive for progress with their unique projects.

When a student practices something by playing from beginning to end, they are using the ineffective block practicing.  Not only is this a poor use of time, it builds muscle memory to those mistakes. That’s why students make the same mistakes over and over again!

 

Take lessons with Eric here
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