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!


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. ┬áHere 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.

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.