Piano Lessons – How To (If You Have Not Already)

Thinking About Piano Lessons?

Biggest Considerations

As a parent…

Are your music reading skills up to scratch? Yes Score 2 No Score -2
Did you learn to play? Yes Score 2 No Score -2
Can you support your child in music making? Yes Score 2 No Score -2

Has your child requested lessons? Yes Score 5 No Score -5
Are you deciding for your child? Yes Score -10 No Score 2

Your home…

Is there a quiet time for practice? Yes Score 3 No Score 1
Is there a piano to play on? Yes Score 4 No Score 0
Are the neighbours sympathetic? Yes Score 5 No Score -2
Do piano lessons fit all the other activities? Yes Score 3 No Score 0

About your child…

General reading skills need to be good Yes Score 5 No Score 2
Postivity about playing piano: Yes Score 3 No Score 1

Score out of 36

Now use your own initiative…

Some advice:
01 – Try to avoid lessons in the school holidays…
02 – Try and have lessons during the school terms only…
03 – Try to avoid a lifetime commitment…
04 – Show interest in your child’s playing…
05 – Avoid forcing or pressurising your child to play for family…
06 – Be sensitive that piano lessons can be a lonely activity…
07 – Children who learn can be the subject of unkind remarks from classmates…
08 – In a two parent family, consistency from both parents is required.

Things to avoid…
01 – Never say “I pay good money for this and you never…”
02 – Never say “Why don’t you play things we all know?”
03 – Never say “You’re not as good as xxxxxxxx we heard on the TV….”
04 – Never say “You will practice because I am paying…”

Be prepared to seek out a good and sensitive teacher – and to pay for it.
…Remember though: Most expensive is not necessarily the best…

Be prepared for tears…
– Be prepared for “I don’t like it”….(usually after a lot of practice)
– Be prepared for “I don’t like my teacher” (children are often brutally truthful about the reasons for this, so ask them and then temper any explanations carefully).
– Be prepared for “I don’t want to practise…”

Having piano lessons involves teachers doing these things:

01 – Sitting close alongside your child
02 – Having some physical contact with your child in respect of posture; height at the piano; hand positions and finger difficulties. There will be contact. All musical instruments involve contact.
03 – Teaching the written theory of music

Not every teacher is an oil painting
Many teachers and their homes smell unfamiliar. This is normal.
Nearly all teachers try and avoid things like bad breath and nose hair. Your children have not gone to these houses to do a nose test or to see if the teacher has the ‘colgate ring of confidence’. They have gone to learn music.

Piano pupils do the following things:

01 – They tell on their parents
02 – They let slip things that happen at home
03 – They chatter to their piano teacher about their difficulties at school
04 – They often confide in their teachers
05 – They trust their teachers.

Good piano teachers do these things:
01 – They listen to their pupils
02 – They will suggest alternative ways of doing arithmetic; remembering spellings and other things
03 – They will provide pupils with a note book containing the intricacies of the day’s lesson
04 – They will make their pupils laugh sometimes.
05 – They build good relationships with their pupils
06 – They treat their pupils with respect
07 – They are not rigid in their approach to pupils.

Bad piano teachers do these things:
01 – Laugh at their pupils when they make mistakes
02 – Call pupils by other than agreed names
03 – Make odious comparisons with other pupils
04 – Behave insensitively towards their pupils
05 – Make pupils play music that they would not play themselves
06 – Don’t inform parents when money is being wasted

Remember that piano teachers need to eat and pay bills too
and that time is money.

You may be asked to sign a binding contract for so many lessons. Think before you sign.

You may be asked for money up front. By all means, pay it but keep a record and get a signed and dated receipt.

It is reasonable to be asked to pay for a lesson if your child cannot attend at short notice.

The most expensive lessons are not always the most appropriate or the best.

Try and find a teacher that parent and pupil both like.
Ask if you can stay for the lesson until your child is confident.
Ask other parents and children about their experiences. Remember, this is an exercise in honesty rather than sycophancy or character assassination.
Ask a teacher who plays piano at your child’s school if they know of anybody locally.

Lots of letters after names are seldom the best indicator of success in teaching or pupil satisfaction.

Christmas is a hard time for pupils learning the piano:
parents and relations can often be insensitive and say things like “What about such a song….why can’t you play that for us?”

Children need to learn about music making. It is an inclusive activity. That means listening to others in the family and immediate social circle who play…it means sharing the piano sometimes…it means playing duets…it means partenering friends who play instruments…these are all new skills and take time…years infact

Learning to play an instrument is not like making coffee…you cannot pour water on a pupil and turn it into an entertainer…these things take years…

…Years of loyal and unswerving support through thick and thin; tears and laughter; giggles and hysterics; arguments and agreements; encouragement and the occasional cajoling; it means that you have to teach your children to accept one-to-one tuition; to accept value systems and beliefs from people outside the family circle; …Years of listening, joining-in, singing, asking for repeat performances, clapping in time, applauding, game playing and rewarding, smiling and enjoying, even when you feel you can’t…Years of socialising your child and family and their friends to accept that this is important – even when it is not a career choice.

It also means that you have to allow your child to play by ear; to play without music, to play from memory and to have fun doing so and never forcing them to do anything that you would not be prepared to do yourself. (Like if you wouldn’t drink after being led to water or practise every day, or get up and play or sing for the extended family, then don’t expect your child to!)

Now go find that special teacher – and go together!

Let me know how you get on!


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