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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. 


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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Pedalling in Piano Playing

The sustain or damper pedal is a fun addition to piano playing. Commonly referred to my students as “the brakes”, the pedal mixes the colours of the notes being played as long as the pianist holds it down with their right foot.

Quick Facts about the Pedal

The sustain pedal is great for:

  1. Continuing the sound of a note while the pianist has to shift their hand position to play another note.
  2. Creating a resonance with many notes
  3. Creating the classic sound of romantic piano songs.

The sustain pedal is NOT great for:

  1. Playing many fast notes that are not meant to be mix with each other
  2. Mixing together notes from clashing chords
  3. Making every note be heard clearly.

Ultimately, a pianist’s  goal is to use the sustain pedal as little as possible. The sustain pedal is like adding salt to food. While some is often (maybe always!) necessary, you don’t want to over do it. To minimize overusing the pedal, pianists train to have their fingers hold notes and transition through notes slowly. To move back to the food example, if you have cooked your ingredients right, you shouldn’t need too much salt to add flavour!

Students begin to use this new tool once they have adequate control over their hands. The reason for this is that multitasking with both hand and foot can be challenging for beginners.

The most common hurdle when a student is first learning to use the pedal is figuring when to switch the pedal. Essentially you want to have zero break in the quality of sound! Imagine if your food was salty in some chunks and bland in others. Coordinating the foot changes with the movement of the notes is both a physical and intellectual challenge.


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Imaginative Play



What is Imaginative Play?

Imaginative play, or pretend play, involves the child role playing situations that they have seen before. By doing this, they experiment with behaviours, problem solving, and empathy. For example, a child might pretend play to be the parent of their teddy bear, and has to deal with topics like feeding the bear and cleaning the bear. There has been substantial evidence of increased intellectual and emotional development through this method of learning.

Can We Have Imaginative Play in Piano Lessons?

Andrea from Teach Piano Today has advocated for the use of imaginative play in piano lessons. By introducing music knowledge in themes that kids are familiar with, they are more comfortable in asking questions. Andrea also notes that there should be a balance between imaginative play lessons, or “traditional” piano lessons; instead of building a curriculum on pretend play, piano teachers can strive to incorporate this kind of play once in a while to add excitement and variety.

Bridging the Gap

Serious music education can be very daunting for young kids. Quarter notes? Half notes? Pivot? Allegro? All of this with the challenge of coordinating their fingers.  For students who are beginners, it may feel like every concept introduced is impossible to understand. This is where imaginative play comes into play (no pun intended). While children may not understand (yet) why a strong solid tone would build their technique, they absolutely do understand that if they will fall if they do not grip on to the monkey bars tightly. While children may not understand rhythm is the blueprint of music, they absolutely do understand when someone is talking too fast for them to understand.  By using imaginative play, we let the children know that same knowledge they are learning everywhere else is applicable to music, so it is not so scary!


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