summer piano lessons

Trust Between Music Students and Teachers

Relationship between student and teacher

The relationship between piano student and piano teacher is built on trust. While method books guide students through new concepts and increasingly harder music, students mainly rely on their teachers to build their sense of musicality. This sense of musicality includes sense of timing, rhythm and pitch.  More simply put, method books don’t have “answer keys”. Therefore students must trust their teachers in order to develop their musicality.

Furthermore, piano teachers are responsible for figuring what the next step is. In a perfect world, one method book would suffice in teaching a student. However, like clothes, piano lessons are not a one size fit all. Some students are more technically gifted, with underdeveloped ears. Some students pick up note reading quickly, but can not improvise naturally. The scenarios and situations are endless. It is the teacher’s job to find the route that can help the student progress. After all, music is about progress, not perfection. 


When I was taking piano lessons as a child, I recall feeling frustrated at my teacher’s corrections. I remember rejecting her teachings as irrelevant or not important. I remember asking why certain things had to be one way. I remember feeling frustrated at the repetition of difficult passages. Ultimately, I was questioning my trust in my piano teacher’s method. This mistrust was damaging in my progress as a pianist.

Throughout my journey as a pianist, I began to appreciate my teacher’s efforts more and more. What seemed irrelevant back then now seems obviously important. Some of the lessons were about music; for example, how rhythm is integral to a solid performance. Some of the lessons were about life; it is important to not give up after the first few tries. The mistrust I felt hindered my progress, when my teacher had my interests in mind.

Now as a teacher, I ask for trust from my students. I promise, with all my heart, that I will never ask my students to do something that I believe is unnecessary. I will not ask my students to play music that I find irrelevant to their progress. I will not push my students to practice in a while that is inefficient. My goal is to build creative spirits, with a solid knowledge in musical grammar. Trust me, so we can work together.


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Every Note is Beautiful

The most common bad habit I see in piano students is the desire to rush through the notes. They play as though the goal is to reach the end. Like I previously discussed, music is about the process, not the product. Although, I can understand why the students feel this way. In our lessons, we move on from a piece when we have learned the notes and the rhythm. We also learn notes from the beginning to the end. This gives the students a perception that if they can hammer out all the notes in order, then the task is complete. Unfortunately, this kind of task completion mindset bypasses of what makes music beautiful.

Every note should be played as intentionally as possible. Every note has a place and a reason. Every note means something.

Using English to replace Music.

When we give a speech to an audience, is it most effective if we try to speed through our words and get to the end? It might be most effective in trying to get out of the spotlight, but the meaning of the speech will be lost.

In any given English sentence, placing a different emphasis on a word can drastically change the sentence’s meaning. Try it with the sentence “I love you.” (i LOVE you, I love you, I love YOU, I love you?)

If we omit a part of the sentence, the sentence also drastically changes.

EX. I think the piano is a beautiful instrument with lots of expressive qualities.
EX. The piano is a beautiful instrument.

The sentences are similar, but the second sentences omits much of the meaning of the first sentence

Like words in a language, every note and rhythm has its own role in the overall music. To blow past these notes like they are unimportant, is to discount the overall music.


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Imaginative Play



What is Imaginative Play?

Imaginative play, or pretend play, involves the child role playing situations that they have seen before. By doing this, they experiment with behaviours, problem solving, and empathy. For example, a child might pretend play to be the parent of their teddy bear, and has to deal with topics like feeding the bear and cleaning the bear. There has been substantial evidence of increased intellectual and emotional development through this method of learning.

Can We Have Imaginative Play in Piano Lessons?

Andrea from Teach Piano Today has advocated for the use of imaginative play in piano lessons. By introducing music knowledge in themes that kids are familiar with, they are more comfortable in asking questions. Andrea also notes that there should be a balance between imaginative play lessons, or “traditional” piano lessons; instead of building a curriculum on pretend play, piano teachers can strive to incorporate this kind of play once in a while to add excitement and variety.

Bridging the Gap

Serious music education can be very daunting for young kids. Quarter notes? Half notes? Pivot? Allegro? All of this with the challenge of coordinating their fingers.  For students who are beginners, it may feel like every concept introduced is impossible to understand. This is where imaginative play comes into play (no pun intended). While children may not understand (yet) why a strong solid tone would build their technique, they absolutely do understand that if they will fall if they do not grip on to the monkey bars tightly. While children may not understand rhythm is the blueprint of music, they absolutely do understand when someone is talking too fast for them to understand.  By using imaginative play, we let the children know that same knowledge they are learning everywhere else is applicable to music, so it is not so scary!


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