On Teaching Younger Children
As a piano teacher, I am often asked how soon a child could or should begin taking piano lessons. The answers vary, and the following is a guide to help in the decision making process.
When a very young child begins to take piano lessons, there are several things to be considered. First of all, his or her progress will depend greatly on the parents’ faithfulness to help him practice every day. In order to do this, the teacher should write instructions in the student’s notebook at each lesson. The parent should help the child in following the instructions, being careful not to go beyond the current concept, or above the child’s comprehension and ability level. This may cause frustration if the child is asked to do more than she understands. Sometimes the parent should let the child just practice; let him make mistakes at times. At young ages, it is especially important that the child continue to love music, so it does not become a chore.
Secondly, the young child needs to be able to pay attention to instructions, and follow directions. She should be able to hold relatively still for five minutes at a time. Steady eye contact will promote good communication between teacher and student. It is very helpful if he knows his letters and numbers. The student should know which hand is his left and which is his right. She should be able to comprehend directions such as “up” or “down.” Being able to say the music alphabet forward and backward from G-A will enable him to move his fingers and think either forward (up) or backward (down) on the piano.
When the child reaches second grade (or in some cases first or third, depending on the child’s maturity level); the student should be able to practice independently of Mom or Dad’s help. However, parents should still check maybe twice a week to see that the student is practicing according to the teacher’s instructions in the notebook.
For the most part, even when instructing the youngest of children, my goal as a teacher is to give them assignments they can do on their own. Each weekly lesson builds on the previous lesson, with a lot of repetition. Hopefully they will pass their song each lesson; but if not, that song’s concepts are reviewed. The objective is that they will remember what to do and how to practice it correctly.
Liberty Martin teaches young and older students at her Shrewsbury Piano Studio located at 27 North Main St. in New Freedom, Pennsylvania. She can be reached at 717.515.1037.