ericngmusic


Perspective

Piano lessons is generally based on the long term one-on-one connection between a teacher and student. Through time and music, teacher learns about the student’s unique abilities, challenges, and personality.

One of the issues that arise out of this paradigm, is the lack of different perspectives of the child’s learning. Usually, there are three perspectives: one of the teacher, one of the student, and the parents.

So at the minimum, most piano students get 3 perspectives on their musical journey. This is not too shabby! However, in a long term journey in piano, 3 perspectives are not enough to provide guidance for constant growth and change.

Why is Perspective Important?

Perspective is important because it provides context to our journey. Let’s begin discussing by challenges in music. When a student is struggling in a piece, there are several different perspectives a teacher can take in solving the issue. Is it strictly an unfamiliarity problem? Therefore, can it be solved by more practicing? What comes first? Technique or musicality? What should be practiced first? These different routes drastically lead to differences in student’s musical journeys. After all, teacher are mentors and provide their philosophy as a guide.

 

On that note, it is important to identify what the goal of the teacher is. If the teacher is aiming to cultivate composers, the perspective on what steps to take differ widely from cultivating a performer.

Even when considering the above views, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. As a teacher, I can not guarantee that I have the perfect idea of music. Art is open to the public’s interpretation and criticism. That being said, it is important to have other people’s opinions on their observations.

How Can We Add Perspective?

Switching teachers for student is equally disruptive. When you switch teacher, you once again have to take time to build a relationship. In our next blog, we will discuss how to add the benefit of different perspectives in piano lessons.

 

 


Analogies

Analogies in piano lessons are inevitable. Unless a child has prior training in music, most terms and technical skills seem alien. Arpeggio? Finger pivot? Legato? Consonant and dissonant harmony? For a child just beginning to learn piano, these terms are foreign.

All piano teachers generally use a flow of analogies to connect what students know and what they don’t.

My personal favourite one came from my university teacher. She often equated hand and wrist movement to baseball. Her point was that our arms and wrists work together to create movement. While I have little experience with baseball myself, I certainly have seen people bat many times. For me, the concept clicked- I can use that image of batting to enhance my piano movements. With the correct use of my arm movement, I can express myself through the piano better.

For Sporty Kids

In Victoria, I had a 7 year old student that was heavily involved in hockey. He participated in early morning practices, speed skating sessions and tournaments. When I first taught him, he knew very little about music.

When asked about why we have to do scales (he said they were boring), I asked him how he learned to skate so fast. Immediately I saw him put together the connection between the skating drills he did and scales. Essentially, they are the same- exercises designed to practice increasing agility and strength. We also used the hockey relationship to talk about practice. How often does he miss the net when he practices shooting? How long does he practice a particular shot for? Sometimes we delved into more specifics- a staccato is that same quick attack as when you make the puck go really fast across the ice

For Visual Kids

Another favourite from my University days is the “roses” analogies. It is common for musicians to not pay as much attention to rests (pauses in music); it is logical to think that they are not as important as sounds. However, they are definitely a part of the music! My teacher often asked me to “stop and smell the roses, enjoy and feel the breeze”. One particular student of mine enjoyed drawing stick figures smelling roses on top of rests to remind himself of their function.

Analogies are not only great in communicating messages, but also make piano lessons fun and creative!

 


Too Young for Piano Lessons?

One of the most common questions I get asked, is if any age is too young to begin piano lessons. On the basis that child development can be so vastly different, the answer to that is complicated. Adding to that complication, is the expectation of piano lessons in regards to the child’s developmental stage. ┬áHere are some guidelines of how I assess a child’s readiness for piano lessons.

Eric’s Guidelines

  1. Piano students are able to maintain basic sanitary needs. As lessons are short, students should be in control of their toilet habits so that lessons can be focused on music and piano. In addition, piano students are asked to refrain from sucking on thumbs, and understand basic cough/sneeze protocols.
  2. Piano students are capable of separation from parents for the duration of the lesson. While the parent is welcomed to watch, private piano lessons is based on the one on one connection between teacher and student.
  3. Piano students have an understanding of fragility of things. The studio piano is not a toy, but a tool for students to learn and grow on. That being said, actions such as hitting, spitting, or slamming shut the piano lid are prohibited. While expectations of this will be taught to the student and parent, it is expected that the child has a developing ability to self-regulate their actions.
  4. Piano students have a growing interest in the piano and music. While it is not expected for children to develop a flaming passion overnight, teacher and parents should see a growing flicker of interest from week to week. If a student is actively expressing discomfort and refusing to participate in lesson activities, parents and teacher will meet to discuss further actions.

Guidelines above are meant to be just that- guidelines. All cases are unique due to student interest, relationship between student and teacher, and parental expectations. Throughout the year, I will check in with parents and students to discuss. These discussions are an opportunity for parents to speak on their expectations and their observations. Remember, the mandate of EN Music Studio is to foster creativity and honour the authenticity of students.