music lessons


Parent Involvement

Parent involvement is an important aspect of piano lessons. In my experience, all piano students that reach any level of success has the common factor of an involved parent.

Why is it important?

Relatability is a large part of why parent involvement is important. Many parents request piano lessons for their children to provide them opportunities that they did not have in their own childhood. While this is great (and admirable!), this often means that the student is the only piano player in the house.

Let’s compare learning piano to learning a language. If a child only hears a new language (let’s say French) once a week, for half an hour, how will he/she pick up the ability to speak and read the language? We often expect our piano students to produce a 4-8 bar song within weeks of piano lessons. Would we expect children learning French to recite short stories within weeks with no home guidance?

Furthermore, having no one to relate to is highly discouraging. Not only is picking up a new language (music) difficult to begin with, having no one going through the same journey adds a level of isolation.

Implementation

There are a couple ways we can implement parent involvement, even if the parent has little music experience! I encourage the parents to improvise together; to learn and grow from each other’s interpretation of music. For parents who have a stronger musical background, I encourage them to learn duets together. This is a great exercise for both musicality and discipline on both parts. Lastly, I encourage parents to practice with their children. Although I understand it is hard to find time to practice in a busy adult life, practicing with your child will give you a different perspective of what the student is going through.  You may even try learning the same songs as the student progresses!

Extra benefits

First of all, two for one piano lessons! By paying the price of one, parents can learn what the student is learning. Secondly, this is a great bonding exercise for child and parent, and encourages the value of discipline. Thirdly, it encourages the longevity of interest in lessons. As piano lessons are a long term investment (often years!), parents should feel the incentive to continue fanning the flame of interest for the student.

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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.

 

 


Grind of Classical Music

Last week, I began working on Chopin’s Nocturne in D flat Major. It was a piece I have heard over and over again in my life but never had a chance to learn. A classic! Beautifully written with a soaring melodic line and rich dramatic harmonies.

Also, not the easiest piece. Not for me at least. After all my music education, I often feel that I should be able to sightread every piece of music out there. In fact, I feel a little embarrassed admitting this!

Even after 18 years of experience, my progress in learning new classical music seems familiar. I break down the piece into chew-able sections that I can work on. I don’t get all the notes and rhythms right every time. Sometimes I don’t even get it right by the end of my practice session. After getting to know the notes and rhythm more, I start to think about dynamics, phrasing, expression. I know that all of this will take me more time. Although I want to be able to perfect the piece in one day, I know that this is the grind of classical music. Classical music is full of technical challenges, complex twists and turns, and potential for creative expression

However, despite the familiarity of the grind, I noticed that I’ve learned concepts that help push me along throughout the years

  1. I practice better. No longer do I play something from beginning to end repeatedly. I employ random practicing, instead of block practicing and see my improvement accelerate
  2. I keep it consistent. Even when feeling discouraged, I schedule 30 minutes of my day to practice.
  3. I celebrate the small progresses. Even if I can’t play the whole piece smoothly, I celebrate the sections that I notice has improved.
  4. I improvise. Besides the classical music, I book off time in my schedule to improvise and create other types of music. It makes me feel that there is variety and options in my journey.