Mouse Notes by Lauren
Sometimes we hear parents say that they don’t mind if their child does not progress much in piano. They just want her to be exposed to music and have fun.
Those are worthy goals. Nowadays, with school districts cutting back or watering down music programs and with a large number of children being home schooled, parents see a real need for a good fundamental music education program for their children so they will learn to enjoy music.
When my own children took piano, if pressed, I would have to agree that I wanted my children to be exposed to music and to have fun.
So what is the hidden negative of that train of thought?
It is pretty obvious to piano teachers. With that attitude, parents often do not find the time in the day for a quality practice session, no matter how short that session may be. Because practice sometimes is not fun, and if getting the child to the piano is not fun, then piano is not fun, so no practice occurs. Then the child goes to the lesson unprepared and the lesson is painful, embarrassing, and definitely not fun.
The child usually starts off loving piano. From the child’s point of view, beginning lessons ARE fun. The pieces are easy, there are games, fun improvisation activities, composing, incentive programs, and a loving adult, the piano teacher, who devotes an entire 30 to 45 minutes to you and you alone. What else can a child do with such potential rewards?
This lasts about a month and then reality sets in. There are things to remember, pesky things that the teacher keeps asking.
What are whole notes, what is the different in a whole rest and a half rest, how do I remember the names off all those notes, they all look the same to me. Why do I keep playing finger 2 for 4? Why is the thumb a finger? Do other kids learn all these words? Why can’t I? I must be dumb. Why does the teacher keep asking me to count out load while I play? That is so embarrassing. She wants me to play and sing. I CAN’T do that. I would if I could. It’s hard and I can’t do it, yet she keeps making me. I’m frustrated. This is NOT fun. Why did I think piano would be fun. Mom said it would be fun.
The child has a great ability to put piano out of their mind for a week. Then lesson day comes and the child suddenly realizes how uncomfortable she is going to be, sitting there not being able to play anything and making all kinds of terrible mistakes.
“This is worse than I thought”, the child thinks.
Yet, week after week the same uncomfortable thing occurs because the child is not old enough to have the emotional intelligence to plan ahead for the lesson. If the child would spend a short time a day at the piano, he would gradually learn to do all the hard things. But once he gets behind, just like in Math class, every difficult thing is compounded and soon the child can’t do anything. At least in the child’s mind he can’t do anything. And the teacher keeps turning the page and the pieces keep getting harder and harder. Or else, the page never gets turned and the child is on the same piece for 6 weeks.
“I hate this song“, the child thinks.
And Mom is too busy working, car pooling, taking children to activities, doing homework, and all the other things in life, that piano practice does not happen. Besides, who wants their child to sit at the piano and fuss and cry?
Then lesson day occurs and the child gets THE LECTURE from the teacher to practice, and THE LECTURE from Mom in the car. (I’ve given a few car lectures in my day and I’m not proud of that.)
“This is not fun, this is not fun“, the child keeps thinking.
“I want to quit.”
To be continued.