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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.

 


Does your child have time for piano lessons?

Before starting piano lessons, it is important to ask if the student has mental space for piano lessons. While I, a piano teacher, can accept that most of my students will not choose to dedicate themselves to becoming a concert pianist, it is important for me to know that there is space in their lives for music lessons.

Time of Lesson

Of course, the most basic time required is the time of the lesson. A piano lesson is traditionally 30 minutes, 45 minutes, or 60 minutes once a week. To ensure productivity, parents will want to select a slot that can be consistent, and with the student’s energy level in mind. Since music lessons are only once a week, it is very important for that time to be as productive as possible.

Time to Practice

Research shows that students who practice about 140 minutes a week (roughly 20 minutes a day) are much less likely to drop out of piano lessons in three years.  While serious students will want to practice more, this recommended time allows the student to form a relationship with the piano. With every practice, their fingers get more used to location and weight of the keys. Many students struggle with this habit, and their progress continues at a slower pace.

Time to Enjoy

Lastly, there needs to be time to enjoy piano. A student should have space in their life to create their own music, and to free play on the piano. Without this essential (fun) part of music, lessons can seem dry and irrelevant. While they may progress through the curriculum, their interest can quickly wane without an outlet to be creative.

If the student’s schedule is filled to the brim with other activities already, a tough choice has to made. While I agree that music education is good for brain and personal development, the advantages can not be felt if the student does not have space in their life.

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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
Learn more about lessons with Eric Here