Sometimes a piano parent will surprise me by sharing a really negative experience or association with piano lessons.
“My teacher used to yell at me all the time if I didn’t get something right.”
“My teacher insisted on hour long lessons when I was 5-years-old and it was so difficult for me to sit still I would end up in tears.”
“Piano lessons were just so serious.”
There are many students who thrive with intensive study under strict, no nonsense teachers.
But I think it’s important that we don’t ASSUME that this is how piano lessons MUST BE. Because I think if we do, we have the potential to lose out on a lot of gifted musicians who will never continue on with lessons — or who will go on to associate piano lessons with negative memories.
Here’s the thing: piano lessons can be fun. Yes, there will be elements of learning to play the piano that your student doesn’t always enjoy and yes your student will probably resist practicing. But that doesn’t mean your child can’t have plenty of fun along the way.
As a piano teacher, I’m always looking for ways to add playful components to my lesson set-up. Here are some ideas for implementing some FUN into your child’s musical studies:
- Use rhythm instruments! This is pretty much my favorite thing to do with students. My studio includes rhythm drums, egg shakers, triangles, wood blocks, bells and tambourines. We often play the rhythm of songs using these instruments, and I also have special bonus lessons in my online programs where students can practice accompanying skills using a rhythm instrument. They LOVE it — and it really helps strengthen counting skills.
- Apps can be helpful. I’ve shared a post about my favorite note-naming apps to help students review note names, and I’m currently working with a game developer to include some games to help students review theory concepts in my online programs. Apps are a fun way for kids to do theory…without really feeling like they are doing theory.
- Incorporate gross motor activities. Sometimes marching to a beat can be helpful for students who are struggling with a steady, even tempo. Take the piano bench away for a few minutes and have your student play while standing. These things help wake up your child’s body a bit so that sitting at a piano bench doesn’t feel quite as long!
- Include fun music! Yes, your student needs to learn scales, chords and probably plenty of songs that won’t be all that exciting to him in order to become a more proficient musician. But this doesn’t mean he can’t learn some favorite showtunes, theme songs or radio favorites along the way! If your child loves Harry Potter, pick up a collection of songs from the movie. If Disney Princesses are her jam, grab an arrangement of “Let it Go” the next time you’re at a music store!
- Learn the stories behind the music. So many composers have super interesting things about their childhood or the music they wrote. Did you know J.S. Bach had 20 children or that Rachmaninoff’s fingers could straddle 13 keys? Do you know “Moonlight Sonata” can be played on the electric guitar (and sounds pretty cool!)? With the internet at our fingertips, you can have so much fun exploring your child’s piano homework together.