1. Your children will need help – Up until about age 11, children need hands-on help with home practice. And even though you yourself may not read music or play the piano, your assistance is still very much needed! Parental help can take the form of reading lesson notes, organizing practice time wisely, providing encouragement through difficult sections or situations, and seeking out answers for “I’m stuck on this” problems. Asking a young child to be in charge of something as important as piano practice is often asking too much. Your help at home will make a substantial difference in your children’s progress.
2. Your children need you to establish a routine – Piano practice that happens every single day is by far the most effective practice structure. 30 minutes three times a week is just 90 minutes. 20 minutes seven days a week is 140 minutes. The total difference is 43 hours of missed practice per year if your children are only at the piano three times a week!
Short, focused and regular visits to the piano help your children retain and understand what they are learning while making the most of generally short attention spans. If practice is enjoyable, rather than arduous, your children will naturally (and unknowingly!) increase the time they spend on the bench… eventually reaching that 30 minute mark.
Setting a regular time of day when piano practice happens “no matter what” will ensure a daily practice routine is easy for your children to maintain.
3. Your children needs lots of encouragement – Learning to read music and play the piano can be difficult; it can be discouraging… it can feel overwhelming. Your children (no matter what their age) need loads of encouragement.
And not just verbal encouragement. You can show your children that you value their efforts by attending their recitals with enthusiasm, inviting friends and family to listen to them play, and taking the time to sit and listen to them practice with your undivided attention.
4. Your children need a home instrument that is enjoyable to play – Much of the pleasure from playing the piano comes from one’s ability to emote feeling, nuance and expression through music. Even young beginners will experience great satisfaction from making beautiful sounds…. so choose an instrument that gives them the best opportunity to make beautiful sounds. Guidance from your children’s teacher will help you find an affordable piano (don’t worry, there are many great and affordable options) that will give your children the tool they need to truly experience piano lessons. An investment in a good instrument protects the investment you are making in your children’s musical education.
5. Your children need a positive practice environment – Aside from providing encouragement, your children need you to create a positive practice atmosphere. Help your children avoid “cramming” the day before lessons. Stick to your daily routine to avoid weeks of forgotten practice (which lead to feelings of inadequacy on the part of your children). Music is joyful… and so practicing music should be as well. This is, fortunately, something that you are able to create easily with a commitment to regular practice.
6. Your children need you to communicate with their teacher – Working as a parent/child/teacher triangle is the optimal way to ensure progress and success in piano lessons. Be sure to communicate often with your children’s piano teacher. Check in on how lessons are progressing, ask for help if something is difficult for your children at home, let your teacher know when practice weeks have gone extremely well (or not so well). Working as a team means your children are supported equally on all sides at all times.
7. THE PLEASURE OF BEING A PIANO PARENT…Learning to play music is a life-changing experience. And, as a parent, the process is a thrill to watch. Being a major part of this accomplishment is incredibly rewarding! The profound pleasure of being a “piano parent” far outweighs the required extra efforts; and this is, by far, the most important thing that piano teachers want parents to know about piano practice.
1. Recitals provide a tangible goal to work towards. In having a set date and a pre-planned performance selection, your child learns how to manage their practice time and what it feels like to polish and perfect a piece.
2. Recitals provide an opportunity to feel successful. Learning the piano requires many, many hours of solo practice. Performing gives your child the recognition they deserve for their hard-work.
3. Recitals provide an opportunity for you to show your child that you value their involvement in music. Setting aside time in your busy life to attend a recital supports your children and their peers and shows your child that your family values music.
4. Recitals provide a chance for your children (and you!) to reflect upon where they’ve “come from” when watching beginning students. Progress at the piano can sometimes feel slow, but watching younger students perform reminds your children of the gains they have made and motivates them to continue to progress.
5. Recitals provide a chance for your children (and you!) to see “where they’ll go” when watching more advanced students. There are few things more motivating to a piano student than watching their peers perform. They get to hear pieces that they will enjoy playing in the future, see more advanced technique first-hand and experience the pride that comes from becoming proficient at the piano.
6. Recitals provide a chance for your extended family to be involved in your child’s piano education. Athletes get all the glory… everyone comes to watch soccer games but no one really heads over to watch a piano practice session! Involving grandparents and aunties and uncles in the recital audience gives your child an opportunity to share their hard work with the ones they love.
7. Recitals provide a chance for your child to experience nervousness… and to realize that those feelings are okay. We like to protect our children from feeling uncomfortable, but in “real life” these feelings are part-and-parcel of being human. Early experiences with successfully conquering nerves gives children confidence.
8. Recitals give you the opportunity to provide genuine and heart-felt praise. Bring on the photos and videos and big hugs and flushed-face smiles. Clap enthusiastically. Let your child know just how much you recognize their efforts and watch their commitment to piano lessons soar.
9. Recitals provide a chance for your child to practice public speaking and to gain confidence in front of a group; two skills that will serve your child well in many other areas of his or her life. Speaking and performing in a safe environment means that your child gains important experience in front of a crowd. The earlier these experiences happen, the easier it becomes for your child as they enter adolescence and adulthood.
10. Recitals provide an opportunity for your child to get to know his or her peers who are also taking lessons. Making these connections helps to build community within a studio and helps your child to feel as though he or she belongs which results in increased interest in lessons.
11. Recitals give your children the chance to hear live music. Young children rarely attend a lot of live concerts… and piano recitals are a wonderful place for your child to hear a wide variety of music. Nothing can replace the “live music experience” and when your child is an active participant in the event it’s even more rewarding!
12. Recitals provide an opportunity for you to sit back and marvel at the pride-inducing sight of your own child making beautiful music! Piano practice is often done amongst a busy household with siblings, pets, vacuums, dishwashers and doorbells. It’s rare that you have the opportunity to focus only on your child and the music they are making. These moments matter.
Some great ideas to help at home! Print it out and keep it handy. Number 2 is especially important and can help avoid struggles down the road.
from www.teachpianotoday.com blog
Some cool ideas to help you get involved with your child's practice time. All you need to do is sit with your child for the first five minutes or so and use a question or two from the cheat sheet to get started!
Your child has a piano practice tank. It’s usually about 3/4 full; fun pieces, enjoyable lesson activities and a love for music keep your kiddies motoring. But occasionally that Piano Practice Tank dips below half… and the indicator light comes on telling you that a fill-up is in order. But how do you fill this Piano Practice Tank? How do you avoid finding your child stranded on the side of the piano bench with an empty tank and 4 flats?
The key is in having your child truly see that you value piano; that you understand the commitment it takes to learn an instrument and, most of all, that you are proud of his or her efforts. And while kids who are involved in sports get a lot of “proud parent moments” to boost them as Mom shrieks encouragement from the sidelines and Dad is ready with a enthusiastic pat on the back… piano kids don’t get this as much. But let’s change this!
You’ve invested in piano lessons. You believe in the benefits of music education. You love to see your child enjoying music. Ramp up your involvement each time you notice that Piano Practice Tank running close to empty and watch his or her tank swell immediately! Try these 15 ideas…
1. Surprise with Piano Pancakes – On a Saturday morning, surprise your child with Piano Pancakes topped with chocolate chip “quarter notes”. For each pancake on the plate have your child perform a piece for your family while you all watch in your PJ’s.
2. Balloon Surprise – Fill your kitchen cupboard with balloons that will spill out as soon as it’s opened. On each balloon, write something you love about your child’s piano playing (i.e. “I love hearing your music when I’m making dinner” or “You play your piece with so much expression”.). Ask your child to help you with dinner and wait for the cupboard to open. Read each balloon message aloud together.
3. Monday Morning Mirror Message – Use a white board marker to leave a surprise message on the bathroom mirror for your child on a Monday morning before he or she wakes up. Write “It makes me so HAPPY to hear you play the piano!” or something to that effect.
4. Sneak a Practice – Leave your child a note on his or her pillow on a weekend night that says“Tonight you get to stay up late! When everyone else is sleeping you and I are going to sneak downstairs so I can listen to you play the piano.” Serve warm milk and cookies in the piano room and light it by candle light only. This will be a memory not soon forgetten.
5. Take it to the Highway – Kids who are involved in sports get a lot of glory. Piano kids.. not so much. Make your child smile by writing a message on the back window of your car that says “My Kid Rocks on the Piano! Honk if you love music!”. Roll the windows down and let your child wave to the honking fans.
6. Build Excitement – Before recitals or performances, build excitement with a countdown. Use a blackboard or white board (or a piece of paper on the fridge) that says “___ More Days Until Max’s Piano Performance!” Showing you value involvement in performances ensures participation well into the teen years.
7. Surprise Sheet Music Shopping – Pick your child up from school and head out on a surprise trip to your local music store, offering the chance to choose any music book or piece of sheet music. The key is in looking with your child… spend enjoyable time browsing the books and finding just the right thing to take home.
8. Exclaim with Pleasure – You don’t always need to be fancy. Sometimes a genuine, enthusiastic and unexpected “Holy smokes that was AMAZING!” mid-way through his or her practice is all it takes!
9. Buddy Practice! - Piano practice can be lonely, but if there’s a buddy on the bench it can be a lot of fun. Even if you don’t have an ounce of musical knowledge you and your child can easilycomplete the activities found in this book which are designed to make piano practice fun, motivating and unique.
10. Make Piano Practice Time “Tech Free” – Whenever your child sits down to practice, turn off the TV, the cell phones, the computer, the Nintendo… everything. Allow your home to be filled solely with the music they are creating and allow yourself to be fully present.
11. Start a Warm Fuzzies Bag – Hang a pillowcase from the top of your piano. Each time your child practices during the week, handwrite a note about something you noticed was done well, a favourite song he or she played, how it improved your day to hear music etc. At the end of the week your child can open the bag and read your notes.
12. It’s UnBEARable – Find some Teddy Bear stickers and, using post-it notes, attach a bear sticker to 10 post-its. Write “It’s UnBEARable without your piano music! Play for us!” and hide them around your house in unexpected places. Your child will delight in finding these in the oddest places.
13. Host a Piano Picnic – Invite the entire family to a Piano Picnic Dinner. Spread out a blanket on the floor beside the piano. Serve cheese and grapes, yummy crackers, and tea and cookies. Have your child provide the dinnertime music in between bites. Drink your tea with your pinkies raised and speak in a very dignified manner (“Ohhhh… that piece was simply splendid my dahling… simply splended I say.”).
14. Check In – When you’re on your way home, call your child from your car (using hands-free of course!) and make a special and heart-felt request for some driving music as you make your way home.
15. Post-Office Piano Package – Create a small package of treats and a note about how proud you are of your child’s piano accomplishments. Mail it to your child and allow it to be discovered it in the mail box.
Full Tanks = Happy Piano Kids. Do these take a little bit of effort? Yes. Does it take a whole lot of effort on the part of your child to master an instrument like the piano? Absolutely! By demonstrating just how much you care about their involvement in piano you lay a very strong foundation for years of musical enjoyment. Beyond that, you also help to strengthen self-esteem and self-image. So pick a “tank filler” and give it a try!
This is how you can help your child be successful in piano lessons!
1. Provide a good in-tune home instrument
Having a decent instrument at home is paramount to the success of your piano kid’s lessons. Without a way to properly practice at home, your child will feel inadequate come lesson time and will rapidly lose motivation and interest.
2. Attend lessons regularly with all needed materials and a well-rested child
Regular attendance ensures that your child progresses. Progression leads to feelings of self-confidence and achievement. Piano students need their books at every lesson as well as any other materials suggested by their teacher. Keep books organized at home and teach your child learn to be responsible for their
Children learn best when they are well-rested (not only in terms of sleep, but also in terms of “extracurricular over-load”) and when they are healthy. Sick piano kids don’t retain very much… and result in sick piano teachers!
3. Establish a consistent and daily practice routine
Piano lessons are one of the few extracurricular activities that require daily attention. Choose a specific time of day that works for your family (before school, after dinner, after the bath etc.) and make piano practice a regular and consistent event every single day. Avoid times that are hectic or rushed, remove distractions (like the TV or smaller siblings) and try to be in the vicinity to offer encouragement and/or help with piano practice.
4. Be Positive… provide constant encouragement
Comment often on your child’s progress. Remember the names of the pieces they are working on and make requests as you go about your day to encourage regular visits to the piano. Show your pride by sharing videos, photos or musical phone calls with friends and family. Help your child to identify themselves as a “pianist.”
5. Stay involved! Show that you value music by providing live-music opportunities, encouraging your child’s participation in recitals and performances and being a part of their daily practice in some way (even if it’s only as a happy listener). Seek out opportunities to involve music in your daily routines (some great ideas here!)
Successful piano lessons require a “triangle” effort made up of parent, teacher and student. By being an active member of the “Piano Teaching Triangle of Success” you ensure that your child gets full advantage of the many, many benefits of piano lessons.
1) Teach an Old Dog New Tricks -
One of the most powerful learning tools is teaching someone else. Ask your child to teach you, and make a point of truly taking an interest. Be an attentive student. Enjoy being in the position where they (for once!) know more than you do about something. Ask pertinent questions, and watch them delight in sharing their knowledge with you. It’s okay if you don’t learn much… it’s about the process not the product. Make this a regular event – choose a day of the week where it is your regular piano lesson time with your child. They’ll love it!
2) Gather around the piano –
Bring back the days when there was no TV, iPods or Playstations and instead gather around the piano for your entertainment. Ask your child’s teacher to give them some music to learn that you and your family can sing along to. Rock out to the Beatles, Herman’s Hermits, Cindy Lauper… anything that you all know the words to. Christmas time is an especially wonderful time to do this. Sing carols while your child plays… this is the definition of family togetherness!
3) Include Younger Siblings -
Young children are naturally drawn to the piano. Encourage “piano playtime.” Prepare to get out your ear plugs… but resist the urge to shut down the piano play session. Experimenting with sound on the piano is a great way to nurture creativity and musical exploration. Sit younger siblings beside your child on the bench (after normal practice has taken place) and watch your children’s imagination take off.
4) Plan Mini Recitals -
Plan weekly family recitals on a certain day every week. Help your child create a program with the pieces they are currently working on and/or reviewing. Bake treats for the reception afterwards. Dress up. Be an attentive audience with enthusiastic applause and plenty of hootin’ and hollerin’. Invite Grandma and Grandpa, Aunties, Uncles and Cousins. Make it a special occasion and your child will look forward to preparing for it… can anyone say increased practice minutes?!
5) Download this free activity –
Check out “Calling Aunt Gladys” taken from our book “Shhh…Your Piano Teacher Thinks This is Practice.” Several of the 88 fabulously fun activities are geared towards including family in piano practice. Join us in thinking outside the box, and use this unique e-book resource to boost the motivation factor for at-home practice in a way that encourages good practice habits.
1. Location, location, location
It’s true in the real estate world, and it’s true in the home practice world. Having your piano in the correct place in your home is of paramount importance for successful home practice. Find a balance between shoving the piano in the basement vs. putting the piano in the centre of your most-used room. Your piano should be located in a comfortable room, close to where the family is, but away from major distractions. Your child does not want to be isolated during practice time – but they also do not want to compete with your range hood and washing machine.
2. Cramming is Not the Answer
Nothing stresses a parent out more than helping their child practice when they have 10 minutes before leaving for the piano lesson. Keep the peace at home by beginning home practice immediately after you return home from their piano lesson. They will still remember what they covered in their lesson, and the piano books will actually make it to the piano… setting you up for a good start to the piano practice week. Cramming creates feelings of inadequacy in your child as they struggle to perfect what should take 7 days to percolate. Cramming makes you sweat and wonder why in the world you are paying for these lessons. Cramming is not the answer.
3. Mistakes are Okay
We promise! It’s our job as piano teachers to sort out the mistakes in lesson time. Your job at home is to be the support – to remind them to spend time on the piano, congratulate them on their efforts, revel in the joy that is your child creating music, and show that you value music in your home. Avoid the following statements and watch peace fall over your home immediately: "Is that right? I don’t think that’s right”…
“That’s not how it’s supposed to sound.”… “Are you watching your music?”… “Your sister played that piece and it didn’t sound like that.” … “Wrong note!”… “Try it again.” etc. Your child will get their back up immediately and the practice wars are sure to ensue.
4. ”But Mrs. Jones Said!”
How many times has your child shouted a statement similar to this? ”Mrs. Jones said I only have to play
the first page!”… “Mrs. Jones said to play it up here.”… “Mrs. Jones said to play it this fast!”… What your child is actually trying to say is “I want to be in charge of my learning.” So let them! Whether or not Mrs. Jones actually said these things is beside the point. Resist the urge to argue (and resist the urge to call up Mrs. Jones to ask what the heck she is teaching) and trust that your child will sort it out themselves. This is often a knee-jerk reaction on your child’s part – they so desperately want to be right and in charge and it’s their way of saying “Stay out of this, I’ve got it.” If you allow them this right to direct their own learning you will help to create a confident piano student.
5. Be Present…
You and your child will enjoy piano practice time so much more if you, the parent, are not multi-tasking.
Your child thrives on one-on-one quality time, and if this is combined with their piano practice it is an activity that you will both grow to cherish. Take away the distractions – the cell phone, the baby, the dog, the dinner prep… and focus on just your child. Soak up the experience of watching your young one learn such a complex skill. Find a time to practice that isn’t restricted by deadlines. Just enjoy making music together. It’s impossible to start a practice war if you are truly “bonding on the bench.”
Piano practice is a commitment – it’s a daily event that can either be gloriously wonderful… or horribly stressful. Keep these 5 tips in mind when you start out this new practice week and welcome
peaceful piano practice into your home with open arms.