Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Teaching Piano: Myself vs. a teacher.

I dreamt long ago that I would lovingly sit beside my daughters at my grand piano and teach them the joy of playing. The piano was always my first joy, so passing this to my children was really just a matter of timing. When they were young, they would crawl at my feet when I played and dance when I would play some upbeat piece. They enjoyed this, why not start teaching them?!

Their first lesson was when they were 7…their second lesson was when they were 8. I realize that some students are just not ready. When this second lesson ended in tears, I put this to the test. I hired a piano teacher that was willing to delve into our home during prime busy hours. She sat down with her quiet voice and calm manner and taught a whole month of lessons. She was a fantastic teacher, but they really just weren’t ready for the pressure of piano lessons and all the other stuff they were asked to do. Closer to nine years old, I tried once again to teach them. It went something like this:

“{Daughter} that was really wonderful! How about we go back to this note and play it with your
3rd finger instead of your 4th.”
{Daughter} plays note with her 2nd finger.
“Oh remember {Daughter} that our fingers are numbered your first finger is your thumb…
that’s right…now let’s count all our fingers.”
{Daughter} holds up fingers and counts 1, for her thumb all the way out to her 5th finger.
“OK, now place your 3rd finger on this note (pointing to the right key)”
{Daughter} puts thumb on note.
“You need your 3rd finger on this note…your third….your third…”
Insert a much more frustrate voice.
“That’s it! Now let’s start here and play it again.”
“No, start here…here…”
Insert perhaps the word Really? Or, Come on!

I realized shortly after many incidents like this, that teaching my daughters piano was just one more power struggle with them; one more situation where I was asking them to listen and follow my rules. Perhaps it was just me, however, either way - they weren't learning anything and they simply couldn’t handle mom telling them how to play the piano – who knew? Music is important in our home, I wasn't giving -up! 
I hired the same in-home piano teacher at their now appropriate age.  This allowed me to be the person they come to for pats on the backs – not, you have to play it this way and practice my way. I told the girls that it was completely up to them at how much they had to practice as long as they follow the teacher's times.  Instead of teach them, I ask, “have you practiced yet today?” they say no or yes; sometimes they play and sometimes they don’t.  I sincerely wished I could have been the one to teach them. Perhaps, my role in all of this was simply to put the idea in their heads and an expectation and to support them. 

How were you taught?

Are you teaching your children?

Is it hard to find a balance?


Chrissy, said...

This is a great topic. I cant wait to hear what others say.

My 11 year old twins play the piano. They turn 12 next week. They started taking lessons the beggining of second grade. They have easy going personalities. We live in utah where everyone takes piano. 8-10 friends all started taking at the same time. After sorting through teachers and learning all good ones have a wait list. I got them on with a well respected one. I dont know if my girls just dont have natural talent or what but most any of their friends that started at the same time are much better at it than my girls. They were dilligent at practicing until about a year and a half ago. They started to really dislike it. Their teacher was very stern and formal and they did not like her. She is a very popular teacher. I took them out and put them with a fun bubbly teacher. Everyone said id regret moving then. They love piano and music now they arent the best at it but they like it. They play for the joy of playing. I know of od kept them with the other teacher they would probrably be better but hate it. They printed off christmas song on sunday and have been playing them all week. It might take longer for my girls to get where the othet kids yheir age are but in the end they are playing and enjoying it.

I have to add that i still have to remind them to practice most days and they get discouraged and i have to cheer them one.

Hopefully it will be worth it. My goal and mygirls goal is not to be concert pianists but sight read most lds music for family and church use.

Good luck!

a.k.a happy heart mom said...

Chrissy - Figuring things out can be difficult! Age is such an important factor - especially if they (like my girls) were frustrated with their teacher and piano. Finding a teacher that works well with your child's personality is harder to find then it may seem. I like to think that I am good teacher -but, my girls just don't learn well with my instruction. You must feel good about your decision though, printing and playing music on their own - that is inspiring. Good luck to you and your daughters! Michelle :)

Natasha said...

I think this is like Kim is a speech pathologist but we have two children in speech therapy with another professional! For us, it was too difficult to do with our own. She also plays guitar but we pay someone else to teach Griffin. I know it works for some families but for us we decided to go with outside help!

Lene said...

I don't play the piano and we don't have a piano in our home. But a few years ago we were given my step-grandmothers cheap casio keyboard. Well my 13 yr old has taught himself how to play. Some songs he can play by ear and other times he gets the sheet music and just teaches himself. I am sure someone that someone might cringe watching him play, but I love that he has a love for music and nothing is standing in his way.