PARENTAL SUPPORT FOR YOUNG PIANISTS
courtesy of rolandslakis on flickr
Learning music should be fun to do but there are processes along the way that can seem like an uphill struggle, especially to a young beginner. If these are persevered though, a student will gain more freedom at the instrument and, therefore, more fun and a greater ability to express him or herself, which is why they come to the piano in the first place. After a number of years teaching it has been very apparent just how fundamental parental support is to the development of a student's progress, not just with regards how far that student will go, but even whether they will get off the starting block or not.
These notes are offered to parents so that they can harness their child's enthusiasm for music, encouraging positive progress to emerge as a result of curiosity and fun. Then, the home sessions and the learning process itself becomes creative and expressive and a young student's goal to be able to play the piano is achieved a lot quicker than thoughtless time spent 'going through the motions'.
I try not to use the word practice. A couple of the many dictionary definitions are 'habitual performance', and 'repeated or systematic exercise'. You cannot do either unless you KNOW what it is you are doing! So a session at the piano is about LEARNING until such a time when KNOWING is reached. Then follows playing, and perfecting, both with a curious and enquiring mind. At no time do I advocate unmindful repeated 'drilling'. All time spent at the piano should have attention and concentration so as to incur clarity of the text and freedom of muscles. (See my article on Piano Playing and the Alexander Technique). Unmindful practice doesn't make perfect, unless you can include perfect mistakes and a perfectly awful technique! Engaging absorbing and attentive study at the piano makes perfect, takes a lot less time, and is a darn sight more interesting along the way!
Using the drop down menu you can find specific ways to help your child in each area of his learning at the piano. On top of that you can support him/her in other ways that widen the experience of music learning. Play a wide variety of music around the house; attend concerts (there are lots of concerts aimed specifically at children where they can play the instruments etc); check out the internet for interesting bits of information about composers they are studying or listen to fragments of other pieces by the same composer; write stories or draw pictures while listening to (any) music; listen to tapes of stories of the great composers.
Just to reiterate, this is about making music and learning the piano fun, as well as providing a solid technical and musical foundation. Whether or not a student goes through the exam structure, or takes it to GCSE/A level, it is a skill and pleasure that is with them for life, so it seems worthwhile to offer them the best support we can.