Many children throughout the world have taken to piano lessons with excitement and wonder, practicing every day and every evening, yet there are still countless children who dread the day that piano lessons roll around. Part of the reason for this lack of interest is in the music selections. Another reason has to do with the music teacher and the jobs, or assignments the student is given on a weekly basis. Piano for kids must include positive reinforcement.
Music is the language of the soul and in our modern, high-tech, reality TV society, it can difficult to get a child genuinely interested in piano lessons. For beginners of any instrument, the first few weeks and months can be the most trying and difficult to overcome. This is where the enjoyment and lifelong passion for music rests, and it is also the period of time when that passion can be lost forever.
It’s not the student’s job to make a piano lesson interesting and exciting. It’s up to the piano teacher, whose job it is to find the right balance, the harmony, if you will, between the basic earliest lessons and the core and heart of music itself. Most of us at one time or another have seen a movie or a television show that depicts the cantankerous elderly female piano teacher sneering at her student who is merely trying to do his or her very best.
Accomplished musicians hear every mistake, every nuance that doesn’t work, in just about every piece of music that their students attempt to play. The student may come to a piano lesson with hope and excitement, honestly believing that they ‘nailed’ it this time, only to leave feeling dejected and that no matter what they do, they aren’t going to ever please their teacher.
Piano lessons for beginners should be viewed as an opportunity for all piano teachers. There are many roles an instructor must play, but the most important one is mentor. You will find that there are some children who want to learn piano for their own desires and others who are being forced to take them because their parents believe that it builds character and will offer their life even more joy in the long run. While this last statement is completely true, the student will not be able to see that at the time. How many children truly understand the scope of their lessons while they are receiving them?
For piano teachers, it’s important to get their students engaged in the lessons from start to finish. This requires some level of planning for each lesson. One of the most powerful things that any piano teacher can do is practice positive reinforcement. It’s difficult enough to struggle with scales and lesson exercises, but when a student comes into a piano lesson and hears only what they didn’t do right, it can become a chore rather than something exciting to look forward to. And this is where many traditional piano for kids has failed.
Instead of pointing out what the student didn’t do right, which is negative, focus on the things that they did well and reinforce those accomplishments. For example, if the student played the first two bars of a song with precision, but the rest began to fall apart and they lost their place, don’t mention the other parts. The student will know that and that is what they’ll be focused on, not how well they started. Instead, commend him or her on the beginning of the piece and have them play those two bars several times, giving them accolades once more.
Another great positive reinforcement strategy during piano lessons for beginners is to find out what music they enjoy listening to, asking them to give you a copy of it, and learning some of the basic note, or chord, progressions. At their next lesson, you can teach them the patterns and they’ll go home excited to play along with something familiar.
Classical piano is a beautiful art form, but many young children get so caught up in the modern music that they can’t quite appreciate it as you do. Giving them a glimpse into what it’s like to play music they are familiar with and love can open the door to a wealth of possibilities. Soon those students will be counting down the days until they can get back to piano lessons with you.