15 Ways to Prepare Yourself Before Your Child Starts Piano Lessons

Introduction

You, as a parent play a major role in your child’s music education just like in normal school life. Learning the piano is not taken for granted these days when everything matters.

Your child may not become a piano teacher or a concert pianist. But, it will be very valuable to add to his CV as a well accomplished skill.

Let’s look at a parent’s role in piano lessons.

I have come up with 15 things that you must know before your child starts piano lessons.

I have also included a parent’s guide to piano lessons. 

1.You must know that you should have a piano (or at least a keyboard).

Having the proper instrument is important when your child starts learning music.

Here, we are focusing on learning the piano. So you need to know about pianos.

Buying a piano at the start is a big investment for a parent. What if he doesn’t continue? 

What piano should I buy?

What must you consider when you buy a piano? There is a load of information on how to buy a piano.

And there are many useful tips on buying a piano

You don’t have to buy a brand new piano at the start. There are good secondhand pianos available. The digital piano is a good choice too. They are much cheaper and smaller and have touch sensitive weighted keys just like an acoustic piano. 

Thou shalt not disturb thy neighbour when practising! Yamaha Hybrid Piano

And now, there is the latest! The hybrid piano.  It has digital technology but quality is like an acoustic piano. This was mainly developed for the piano player who is living in an apartment or sharing accommodation so that the sound can be reduced when practising.

Otherwise there is the keyboard which is good to learn the basics but won’t be of much use, when it comes to technique.

Another important point to consider is, where you are going to place it in your house. That was the first thought that came into my mind, when we were thinking of buying a house in London. The house we could afford was so small and my first thought was where would my Yamaha (brand new at that time) upright going to be? Then I realised, before that, how could you take it in the main door!

I have two main concerns when looking  for the best place for the piano in your house.

i) Place it against a partition wall in your house. Main walls are subjected to the elements and specially wet conditions are harmful for a piano.

ii) Avoid direct sunlight.

Whether it is a brand new piano or a secondhand piano, you must take good care of it. There are many ways to learn of how to take care of your piano.  You must remember that minimising damage to the piano is minimising maintenance costs.

i) Do not keep the metronome, books, the clock, family photos, ornaments and flower pots on it. It affects the sound, apart from gathering dust.

ii) Do not bring food or drinks anywhere near it. 

Especially when you have a party, people tend to keep their glasses and dinner plates on it. Your guests must understand that it is not a shelf or a cabinet. If you don’t have the courage to tell them so, take them off the piano and keep them in a more appropriate place. Your guests will get the message.

iii) Whoever playing it, must have clean hands.

iv) Keep it clean.

v) Tune it regularly.

There are various reasons as to why a piano needs tuning.

Why does a piano go out of tune anyway? 

Seasonal changes, temperature changes,  relative humidity and certain mishandling are a few reasons.

It is helpful for you to have an idea about the types of pianos before going to the piano shop.  

Other duties of a piano! image from http://www.wetcanvas.com

Other duties of a piano!
image from
http://www.wetcanvas.com

The ultimate piano is an acoustic piano.  As I said before, apart from the cost, there are other reasons to consider when you are buying your first piano.

i)  What would I spend

Shop around and get a fair idea of the price range. You would also realise that the price varies according to the brand and the size as well. Some would be with 88 keys which are more expensive but is better in the long run. When your child is doing advanced piano music, the recommended one would be this.

This does not mean that a piano with 61 keys is not going to be of any use. There are many using these pianos with great results. My niece learnt and practised on a 61 key piano even for TCL Grade 8. And that’s a long time of learning and playing advanced music.

ii) Upright or grand

Any piano needs room and a grand will need more room and more money too! Besides, it is not an absolute necessity.  

iii) brand new or secondhand

Of course, a secondhand piano will be always cheaper than a brand new one.  If you are buying a secondhand piano, it is most important that you get it checked by a professional.

Unusual Pianos

Unusual Pianos

If it is a secondhand piano that is badly used and you have to spend much then it won’t be a good idea to go for such an item. Having said so, there are secondhand pianos in excellent condition which are going for sale because the owner is leaving the country.

My friend bought a beautiful Yamaha upright from such a seller. Watch this to update your knowledge: http://youtu.be/fysDlZ6B8lc

iv) private seller or a dealer

Whom you consider will mostly depend on the budget, brand new, or secondhand factor. If it is from a private dealer, I repeat, get it checked by a professional.

A digital piano is a very good option to consider. I had a  Clavinova (by Yamaha) which is an excellent digital piano; Kawai, Celviano (by Casio), Suzuki, and Roland  are highly recommended digital pianos.

What are the benefits of a digital piano?  

Digital Pianos

 i) cheaper than an acoustic piano  

ii) less bulkier; therefore, easier to find space in a small home 

iii) easy to transport ( incase you are shifting house)

1v) a very good substitute for an acoustic piano

v) has all the features of an acoustic piano and more

When you ponder over whether it should be acoustic or digital, my final advice will be acoustic. A secondhand piano in good condition is just as good as a brand new piano.

An acoustic piano holds its value for generations whereas a digital piano, I must say, will not. The secondhand value of a digital piano won’t be much.

Here’s Chopin’s “Fantasie” Impromptu Op.66 played by Yundi Li. http://youtu.be/tvm2ZsRv3C8

This is the same piece, on a digital piano (Korg Triton ProX EXB-08),with  Concert Grand sound, played by Jair Crawford. http://youtu.be/x4WGVz7Jiqs

When buying a keyboard there are some features that you must consider:

i) the width of the keys;  The keys of some keyboards are narrower than the normal size. Theses would be suitable for very young children; not for an older child.

ii) the key range; if it is smaller,then it is not suitable for long-term learning; it must have at least 61 keys.

iii) it must have a stand; otherwise it will have to occupy your dining table which is not a good idea! 

http://www.keytarhq.com/electronic-keyboards.html

a variety of keyboards

iv) most keyboards come without a stool. You must find the correct stool for your child-ideally from the keyboard store itself.

v) the touch sensitivity; if you substitute a keyboard for a piano, again, it is of not much use the if the keys are not touch sensitive. 

What is touch sensitivity? It is the ability to play loud or soft by applying pressure by the fingers on the keys.

And to enjoy classical music on a keyboard (Casio), Fur Elise by Beethoven, played by 13  year-old Jason W.Gordero http://youtu.be/JUVmGeoQNSg 

2. Your child needs to practise.

Both, parent and the child are keen on learning piano at the beginning. You and your child must have visualised playing the piano beautifully and impressing everybody. But what you must most realise is that without practice it does not happen, however much your child is talented and however much you spend on his lessons.

Encourage him to practise. Here’s something for inspiration! https://youtu.be/7Hdr4TSdtjk

3.You have to partake in his lessons and practising, just like in his school work.

Pracitsing is a demanding activity. It is not a practice session like any soccer, netball or cricket game. It is not a team game.

Your child does it himself. He is alone at the piano trying to play a bit that he finds it difficult and not particularly pretty.

Practising the piano is the worst unlike all most all other instruments. It cannot be carried to his favourite place or near the kitchen when you are making dinner.

When it comes to piano practice  there is only one favourite place… where the piano is! For this reason, it would be a good idea to have the piano in a place where the family gathers.

Pushing it into a room because he can close the door and practise is not a good idea for your child who is starting.

Starting the lessons and buying a piano isn’t the end of your part in your child’s music learning. In fact it is only the beginning of a long, challenging period for both parent and child.

Practising is next to learning. It has to be a habit. It has to be incorporated into your daily life. “He couldn’t practise because… and there will be 1001 reasons, including hurting one of his toes!

Just like you make time for his soccer or tennis practice, you must make time for piano practice.

Make it at the best time for the child. Could be before going to school or soon after dinner etc.

You need to help your child practise.

A good way is to have a chart. 

Download this chart for a start.

A printable chart will be useful.                     

Piano Practice Chart

Free printable practise chart is a good start.

4.Child’s focus must be there.

As piano practising is done alone, getting distracted or “bored” with it is easy.

So, it is important for you to help your child keep motivated.

First, find out why he doesn’t want to practise. Could be due to many reasons: not feeling well, hungry, thinking of a looming school test, or doesn’t like the teacher.

Sometimes, it could be just that the piece he is learning doesn’t sound exciting or difficult to catch a melody. In such cases it is always good to learn what he likes along with.

I do this with my pupils. I teach them a piece of their choice-could be a pop song; this breaks the tedious process of learning a piece that the pupil doesn’t enjoy very much. Learning music is like eating. You don’t always eat what you like! You have to eat what is good.

Sooner you find a remedy, the better. If your child is sick or hungry, he should never made to practise unless he really wants to. 

Be a better piano player.

Practising demands a great amount of energy. Keeping focused for a long time, is difficult for a young child.

Taking in small bites is a better way to practise. Quality is always better than quantity.

Therefore, remember to have small slots of practise sessions. 15 to 20 minutes at a time. It means that you must schedule your time accordingly.

You must be available.

5. It is costly.

Learning piano doesn’t come cheap. Paying for individual lessons could be quite costly; depends on the teacher, area and if the desired teacher lives far from you, then there is transport costs too.

You might want to calculate your monthly or annual cost before your child starts the lessons; or every quarter or term.

Here’s a calculator in case you need to do find out how much it costs.  http://bit.ly/1lWgXHy

Here are some suggestions to keep the cost down:

i) A good way to cut costs will be to get a college/ university student to teach. They charge much less and teach the same principles and technique as a qualified teacher.

I did this and had enough money to partly manage my weekly expenses. Whatever little you earn is helpful.

ii) Also, discus the payment options with your teacher. Some want it paid for the whole term up front. But you can always negotiate to pay monthly or fortnightly.

iii) Enrol in a group class. Many busy teachers prefer to have group classes to save time while earning a little.

 

My Piano; piano anywhere

In these days when everything is costly and jobs are hard, I am a bit considerate.

I give the parent the payment option. Some prefer to pay at the beginning of the term and be done with it while other in the other end, pays for each lesson.

I don’t mind as long as they pay me! This relaxed approach for payments has built a certain rapport with the parents and no one has ever paid me late or ditched me.

iv) Have shorter lessons. Instead of a 30 minute lesson, settle for a 20 minute at a lesser fee. I have this options with very young pupils (3-7 years) as they are unable to be attentive for a half hour. But if you want to keep the costs down, it is quite all right to settle for shorter lessons, even if your child is older.  After all, the better thing to do is to learn to play the piano.

6. Piano lessons are lessons about life.

To be a good pianist or to be able to play the piano well, your child needs to be focused, determined, disciplined, and committed. He needs a high level of concentration too.

All these qualities will be enhanced with learning to play the piano well or mastering the art. These qualities are the very ones he will

Music Matters for Body and Mind

need to be successful in his academic work, in the sports field and later, at the work place.

If he plays for a band or for an orchestra, it will train him to work together with others and to be considerate about others along with learning to wait for his turn.

More on my blog post on the benefits of piano playing.

 7. You must also know that you have to take an interest in his piano lessons.

You might think, how do I do this? I don’t know any music! Sit with your child ( if he is very young) when he practises; give encouraging comments such as ” that was very good” or if you think he should do it a few more times,” play it again, I like to listen to it again”.

Praise him for good work done but don’t praise him when he doesn’t deserve it.

Here, I will give you some tips about your child and lessons and practising.

 

Teach the Piano

Give an encouraging comment like ” I am sure you can do better” without giving a harsh comment. Also you can say, “Do it again later” and make sure that he does it. 

If you are a mother who knows music, don’t be tempted to criticise him or try to ” teach” him. Just show the correct way is.

Don’t nag him because nagging doesn’t work.

Be actively involved in his piano learning. He needs to understand, set goals and perhaps to memorise. Learn with him; organise a private recital, get involved in the organisation of a concert and other related activities.

Just as much as the teacher should take an interest in getting your child t o learn, so must you, as a parent. http://bit.ly/1uDXqwa

8.Your child may take longer to learn than the others.

There is no time limit to achieve a certain level of proficiency in learning piano.

If your child takes longer than his cousin, don’t nag him about it. Give him the support to learn.

Never compare him with other children.

It all depends on how your child’s brain is developing which involves thousands of reasons.

Stimulation to the brain is most important to its development. 

If your child takes much longer than the others, perhaps you should show him to a doctor.

9.Talent alone doesn’t work.

You would notice that your child is picking up the lessons very well, showing a keen interest. Perhaps he is talented.

It is most important to nurture the talent.

What you must realise is talent alone doesn’t work. He needs to continue to work towards producing good results. Just the lessons alone isn’t going to help him.

Bear this in mind as he grows and gets involved in school and other activities educational and non educational.

He must understand that practising has to be done whether he likes it or not. It’s like going to school and doing homework. There is no choice.

It doesn’t mean that you have to force it down on him. Tell him, if you are not up to it now, when are you going to do it? It’s not a matter of are you going to do it or not, but when.

Dedication and commitment are far more important than talent. http://bit.ly/1jzPmqZ

10.Work smart not hard

http://bit.ly/1nimQeN

You must have heard about practising for hours and how difficult for your friend to get her child to sit down to practise.

Well, don’t worry about it. Your friend hadn’t prepared herself but you are doing it.

Some tips for you to bear in mind:

i) Practise little sections; this way your child will be able to keep his focus well and he is only tackling a single problem perhaps in that section.

Once he knows this section well he can go to the next.

ii) take it in smaller time periods as mentioned before.

iii) join up the sections and practise as one piece.

 iv) he must feel that he is in control over his practise,( earlier blog)

 v) remind him to practise slowly.   This way, he will be able to see the notes properly and get his fingers around them.

He will make less mistakes this way and see what the music is saying.

These days it is advantageous to know how to get more done in less time. Your child will be busy with so many other activities which demands his time.

Practise smarter not harder means practising effectively.

11. Know to solve problems

i) You may have an initial problem of your child not having understood what the teacher said or has forgotten altogether.

Solution: Record the instructions during the lessons—of course with her permission.

I encourage parents of young pupils to do this.

See whether you can download similar instructions or consult the youtube.

There is a week before he goes to his next lesson and to have not practised because he has forgotten the instructions or not understood will make it more difficult for him, which may lead to dropping out. 

Help Me Learn Music is especially written for parents who don’t know music in order to help their children at home with the music lessons. You can either buy the ebook or the paperback.

ii) Don’t want to practise.

This is the most common problem. You have to get him round to doing it, without bribing at its best.

Be encouraging, appreciative and supportive. Don’t ask him,” will you practise today?” Ask him,”when are you going to practise today?” This way, it puts the responsibility on him.

 

Is it hard to get your child to practise?

If he really doesn’t want to do it, you may want to talk to the teacher. He may like a different approach.

I had a young student who was losing interest. When her mother spoke to me about it, I decided to change the book! It completely changed the mood of the child.

Sometimes practising becomes boring for the young because they don’t hear nice music. Well, the music is simplified, it loses a lot of character. Without simplifying you can’t write famous pieces of music for young children.

If you are a piano player perhaps you can accompany him by playing like a duet. This works very well with any sort of student.

But if you are not able to do it, find out from the teacher whether there is orchestrated music CDs. This too would makes the child feel that he is playing great music and develop an interest.

You can also add words to the notes he is learning to make it sound like a song.

Make him feel that he is playing great music.

12. Make sure that your child knows left and the right.

I’ve posted some information about this in my previous blog post. But I’ll include some useful and interesting information here too.

When your child is learning the piano, it is extremely important for him to know the left and the right. This song will make it easier for your child and you both can have a playful time together singing this!

A video http://youtu.be/Vgyer0IauyQ for more ideas.

 

The Basics of Learning to Play Piano

13. Make sure that your child knows A,B,C

This too, I have described in my previous blog post. But I will have some more information here.

This animal alphabet is interesting. 

Here is another fun way to teach your child the alphabet

The good thing is that the musical alphabet is short Remember to tell him that in music that there is only from A to G. 

Expose him to different ways of learning it. He’ll enjoy the variety. 

You can teach Do Re Mi with this video.  http://youtu.be/o6y5o-150wM

Here is another, with more information

14. How to develop your child’s interest in learning the piano

After you start the lessons, this is the next important thing. It will be a good idea to learn about this subject

There are various ways that you can do to develop his interest in learning and appreciating classical music. 

i) First step is to listen to classical music. There are tons of CDs and an invaluable selection on YouTube. http://youtu.be/63zfUU6yoT4

Set a special time to sit with our child and listen and enjoy them.  

Disney's Fantasia Excellent for introducing classical music to your child

Disney’s Fantasia
Excellent for introducing classical music to your child

You can also have it on while you are cooking.

ii) Take him to a concert or two. It can be a formal one or a private one at your friend’s.

You can find out about a private concert from a piano teacher and she will be only too delighted to have you and your child around.

These days the teachers and parents encourage distractions when a more experienced player is training for a performance.

Also, the teacher can expect another pupil in the future!

iii) Read about composers, show their pictures. DVDs and YouTube will provide you with a lot of information.

But please do read to him in bed too.

 iv) Play music all the time.

Different Types of Musical Instruments

In the car, while cooking, going to sleep while doing homework.etc. I used to have classical music on all the time when my children were growing up and learning music.

I am glad that it gave them the training to appreciate good things in life.

It doesn’t need to be classical music all the time but I would advise, most of the time.

( best composers of children’s classical music-examples)

 v) Show him different types of musical instruments.

This could be easily done by visiting your local music store; also, take this opportunity to show him different music books.

After all the hard work, you might find, to your utter dismay or frustration that your child is using interest.

Do not despair for this is common. Besides, there is always a way to keep the interest alive.

My previous blog post on How to Motivate Your Child… would be helpful for a beginner of any age who should continue with the music education.

It is not easy to learn it, I must admit. Practising has to be incorporated to enjoy learning the subject.

Making practising interesting is major concern for both teacher and parent in learning piano.

How can you support your child?

1. Ensure that your child is “old enough” to approach piano playing http://bit.ly/1iS424T

Some advise that you have to wait till your child develops the ability to read and firm in manual behaviour. This means that you have to wait till he is about 6 or 7.

Learning music does not mean that you have to start reading first. He can be introduced to other forms of learning music such as learning the rhythm, learning a simple song etc at a younger age; as young as 3 years.

There are many ways and methods that music is taught to young children these days. And there are a lot of material available too.

He can learn at his pace according to his ability.

2.Determine the type of music, your child will be most interested in     

How to Teach Young Children Piano

Introduce him to different types of music; classical, jazz, oriental, blues etc. Then the teacher will be able to take the path that he most likes to take. If he likes jazz, then he can develop his music education in that line. There are exams to qualify, in case you are thinking of that.

Teaching him what he likes will keep him more easily focused and interested; practising will be a more pleasurable activity around the household.

3.Hire a private piano teacher

The best would be to have lessons from a private teacher. Even if you are a piano teacher, it is better to send your child to another as he will be more inclined to meet the goals under someone else rather than his own parent; he already knows your rules and may not adhere to them.

4. Play along with your child if possible

This is only possible if you can play the piano. Most music books for children have a part for the teacher or an advanced pupil, in their pieces. You can play those

Mother helping child practice piano

like a duet which is a very good of learning as well as practising. It makes it more interesting.

But if you are not, you can always clap according to the rhythm or sing the words while he plays. Your child will enjoy this very much.

5. Create a system of rewards and milestones to encourage your child

Young children like the idea of a tangible reward. You can maintain a chart on practising and achieving a certain goal. 

The idea of an external reward is not advocated by music psychologists especially for older students. Our idea is to create that initial interest in learning.

I was in this situation with my daughter when it came to getting her to practise. When she started receiving little rewards for good practising and doing well at her exams, she naturally started enjoying learning and practising. And after a while didn’t need the rewards.

Tell your child about the benefits of learning the piano. I have seen many parents giving into the child and shifting from one instrument to the other. The child develops no interest in any instrument because he doesn’t commit to learn any. This will have a drastic effect on his academic life too. He will not focus or settle to do anything “difficult”. 

What I tell my pupils is that anything is difficult until you learn it.

Should you force your child to develop an interest in piano playing?

 Scientific studies show that there is no harm in that.

Don’t take the word ‘force’ in its face value. It is about creating the interest, giving a gentle push upwards when everyone else is pulling him down and helping your child develop his own character.

As researcher Suzanne Hidi notes, “Teachers often think that students either have, or do not have, interest, and might not recognise that they could make a significant contribution to the development of students’ academic interest.”

A study conducted with more than 250 professional musicians show that parents and teachers are the ones who can create the interest , especially at the beginning, by communicating well, being friendly, loving, and encouraging.

Also passing down their love of music and the ability to play well.

If he is not exposed to music in the first place, and not helped to develop the interest, he will never reap the benefits that it brings.

What about the mistakes that he will be making with his music lessons?

Avoid harsh criticism.

Note the word ‘harsh’! Yes, tell him that the work isn’t up to standard. He needs to realise that he needs to get better.

Make him understand that mistakes are opportunities for learning.

Tell your child that correcting them is the best way to learn. Getting frustrated about them is not going to help at all.

Patience is a virtue.

You must also bear in mind that you should not test your child.

Children don’t like to be tested. It is a question of trusting him.

If you are in doubt that he has not practised, don’t tell him,” ok, play it , I want to hear it”.

Make sure that you sit with him at the next practise session and give him encouragement; don’t refer to our earlier doubt about him not having practised.

What is important is that he does it anyway.

15. Be prepared to hear the truth from the piano teacher!

The lessons will be fun and exciting at the beginning but the truth comes out very soon.

All this while it was a sugar coating; no one ever told you that your child needs to practise and you have to be with him.

Your music teacher will, kindly but blatantly will tell you that your child needs to practise. She will tell your child that too.

If she says that your child needs to practise, then he must.

Learning piano (or any other musical instrument) needs all those things I’ve said before. 

The Truth About Piano Lessons

I’ll tell them again: focus, concentration, commitment, dedication…

The truth is, this does not suite or fit into most parents of today.

Most of them are used to quick fixes and getting it NOW.

The plain truth about learning music is that you cannot ‘copy and paste’ it.

It takes patience and time from both you and your child.

And that’s truth.

Have you been in a similar situation? Let us share your experience so others can learn.