piano studio


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.  Here 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.


Playing for the teacher 

Pressure

Playing for the teacher is one of the most nerve wracking things. There is always a feeling of pressure. When children come to lessons, they are displaying a skill that they are developing. Some students are unabashedly expressive; most students withdraw knowing their skill level.

“Did I practice enough?…can she tell?” (Most likely)

“I practiced!….but I might still make some mistakes and she will think I didn’t practice”

“There is this section I totally did not understand….will she get mad at me if I don’t know it this week?”

Overall, these feelings come from a need to impress a mentor. I wanted to be showered with praise, not criticism

Criticism can be hard to swallow for a lot of people. Especially with a never ending journey like piano lessons, it can feel like the (constructive) criticism never ends.

In this case, we need to remember to focus on the journey, not the destination. We can encourage this with our students

Encouragement

Encouragement from teacher and parents is a critical part of piano lessons.

“I think this section has improved drastically! I can see you put a lot of work into making this your own”

“This composition sounds great so far! I think its time to experiment.”

Even when far from the final product, each step is worth acknowledging. After all, the students are learning. There is no need to demand perfection.

Being Relatable

What I’ve noticed about some of my students, is that they think I am able to play every piece of music imaginable. More importantly, they think that it requires no effort on my end. Although I wish I could say this was true, it simply is not! What the students do not acknowledge, are the years of lessons I’ve had and the grind of music I still am on. Seeing this, I make an effort to show my students what I am working on. It may be a different difficulty level, but I am going through the same struggles.

The pressure of being evaluated never goes away, but we can teach our students that constructive criticism is a part of growth. We can teach our students to view the lesson experience through a different lens, with teachers as mentors and not judges.

 


Tracking progress 

Tracking progress is something that is often neglected, yet so vital to the learning process.

It is important for the teacher to track progress, so he/she may have a more holistic understanding of the students’ musical knowledge. By having the whole picture, it is advantageous in isolating weak areas and celebrating strong areas. Every student is different!

Reflection

It is natural to forget the path we walked on- for example, at one point, walking was our most difficult challenge as humans, yet very few of us recall that journey. Music can feel the same way; I can hardly remember the challenges of reading notes 17 years later. Tracking our progress gives us concrete examples that we are constantly growing, even when we feel as though we are in a rut.

Most importantly, tracking our progress visually/audibly lets us reflect back on our journey. Remember when this rhythm concept seemed difficult? Here I am using it now 3 months later! This is the real power source behind motivation- look…I can do this! It takes time and work but it is possible

Distinctive styles also emerge as we reflect on our music- everyone leans towards particular keys, rhythms and melodic patterns. In documenting our work, we become more in tune with what is authentic about our work. We may also find inspirations in knowing that there are things we have not tried.

Track your progress, because you will enjoy looking back like we do with old pictures.