piano 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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Planned Improvisation

Planned Improvisation is a important part of EN Music Studio’s curriculum.

What is planned improvisation?

It refers to the planning before an improvisation session. The student and teacher may plan what the key, rhythm, articulation, ending, beginning, themes, dynamics are. The list is expansive! The more advanced the student is, the more we can plan the improvisation. The result, is a much more cohesive project, rather than free exploration.

Why is it important?

Planned improvisation requires student input. Essentially, it’s their project! By giving the student creative control, students develop their independent ear for what sounds good and/or correct. This type of creative control also allows the student to be authentic. What music concepts are they familiar with? What music concepts are they not? All this would show in the planning stages of the improvisation. Furthermore, it allows the students to explore music concepts in a meaningful way; it is incorporated into a piece of their art.

Effect on Written Piano Learning

Planned improvisation allows the student to apply standard musical concepts to their written music studies. For example, once the student has explored what double eighth notes are in their creative project, they are more likely to be able to execute the technique and rhythm in their written studies. This is because they have been able to explore the same concept in multi-modally; This is similar to the random practicing concept.

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Free Exploration

Natural Free Exploration

Children love the potential of the piano. Within minutes of having an empty piano in a space, I see children gravitate to the bench. I see them hit the same key repeatedly, observing that the pitch doesn’t change. In addition, I watch them vary their strength (usually to the upper dynamic level!), to test out the power of the piano. Even further, I observe them go up (right) and down (left) with joy, experiencing the huge range of notes.

The piano is unique, in the fact that it’s easy to make pitches. In fact, you could literally slam your fist down, and create a cluster of pitches. Compare this to using pencil crayons! Pencil crayons are easy to use; press the tip against the paper…and ta da! Colour.

Some instruments are not this easy. Have you ever tried to play the flute or trumpet before? Think back to your first time trying to blow a solid note. How did it go? For me, it was a huge mess! I mostly sputtered all over, with no discernible pitch. Those instruments add tremendous value to how our body relates to the instrument to make music. However, for a beginner, it is much harder to explore before that basic technique is achieved.

EN Music Studio truly believes free exploration is important to the student. Just like when a child learns to draw, we can not force them immediately to draw an apple or tree. They are more likely to scribble! To explore the different effects one can achieve depending on the weight of the pencil, the pencil type, and the different drawing strokes.

Piano is no different. Before we create fine art, the student needs time to explore the canvas of the piano freely. If stifled into a strict exercise only routine, piano students will view piano as an academic subject, and not as an artistic one. There is nothing wrong with the academic side of piano! The question is: what are you intending for the piano lessons to bring to the children?