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!