Student & Parent Information

When should my child begin learning the piano?

This is a question that all music teachers would get asked often. Theoretically children can start formal lessons as early as age three, when brain circuits for learning music mature. In fact studies suggest that taking music lessons at age three can increase a child's brainpower. However, many piano and other music teachers prefer that children wait until they are older when their hands are bigger and they're more mature and ready to sit still, concentrate, and understand that learning a musical instrument requires a certain amount of self-discipline and daily practise. Starting formal lessons prematurely may cause your child to endure undue stress, burn-out quickly or lose interest sooner than you were hoping for.

As a general rule, most children are not ready to begin formal instrumental training before the age of 6 or 7 for piano. Before that, they tend to lack the size, stamina, and outcome-oriented commitment to make lessons a pleasurable and successful experience. Children are individuals, with a wide range of aptitude, but all children possess the ability to enjoy lifelong music making, and this ability can be greatly influenced by how we choose to approach their earliest experiences.

Kindermusik contains all of the needed elements to develop a child who is musically aware and who has the solid foundation to make lessons a natural and joyous next step. Children who grow up in Kindermusik have had chances to succeed, be nurtured and encouraged in their early creative explorations, and develop a core of music theory instilled through voice, body, and mind. Music for them is a natural part of their environment, and they have gained the language of note, rhythm, and expression to help them as they select which instrument they most wish to make their own. Many experts agree that early musical enrichment lays a foundation for musicianship which may accelerate later progress on an instrument.

Children who graduate from Kindermusik for the Young Child (Kindermusik curriculum for children aged 5-7) have a strong basis in theory, musicianship, and instrumental technique. More importantly, they have been allowed to develop the whole child through music, in a supportive and reassuring atmosphere, which lays the groundwork for a lifetime of positive outlook not only towards music learning, but towards learning in general.

If you are considering to enrol your child in piano lessons, the following questions may be useful to consider first:

1. Are YOU (the parent) committed to it?

Your child's enthusiasm and commitment to music lessons and practice is directly proportional to the enthusiasm and commitment YOU display. You must set aside time for your child to practice, and be sure that your child adheres to the practice schedule.  You must be committed to driving your child to practice every week, and footing all of the costs that result from that.

2. Does your child know the alphabet? Can my child read?

Although this is not a requirement, it makes reading music less of a burden. They should be able to count and sound out words based on the letters of the alphabet.  Again, this is not a requirement, but your child will get the most out of piano lessons if they have this basic foundation of knowledge.

3. Is my child interested in playing piano?

Talk to your child about piano lessons and gauge their interest.  You can make your child to go to piano lessons, but it will not be very rewarding for either of you if no one is having fun.  Not to mention, it is very difficult to force your child to learn something they are not interested in.  Make sure that learning the piano is something that interests your child.

4. Will my child be able to sit through a half hour lesson

Thirty minutes is a standard duration for a beginner piano lesson. Does your child have the attention span to sit through an entire half hour? Many piano teachers who are used to working with young children will have techniques to keep the child engaged for the entire half hour. This can include fun activities such as marching and clapping, jumping up and down to a beat, or games. Before you commit to a piano teacher, ask what techniques they use to keep young children interested.

5. Will my child be ready and able to practise daily?

Practice makes perfect and it should be a regular part of your child's daily routine. Establishing a definite time for practise is important. The consistent adherence to the practise schedule is even more crucial. Practice means repetition. All of the above mentioned requires a significant degree of self-discipline on the child's part, but also a level of commitment from the parents to ensure that time is allocated in the daily routine for practice, and that it is done properly (and perhaps/ideally with some supervision).

Well, if you made it through all of these questions, you can gauge for yourself whether your child (and your family) is ready for piano lessons. The earliest I would ever recommend someone learning piano is at the age of 4, and that is still quite young. Generally, children around the age of 6-7 are in a good position to make the most of piano lessons.

Whatever the age your child begins taking lessons the most important thing is that they enjoy themselves. You should also make sure that the teacher works well with young children and keeps the class fun and fast-paced.

Parent Involvement

  1. Your child's enthusiasm and commitment to music lessons and practice is directly proportional to the enthusiasm and commitment YOU display. Show by your actions that music lessons for your child are important and that her/his efforts are important. If you do not listen when your child practises you are giving a clear message that those things are not important to you.
  2. Make the same commitment to music lessons as you would to the swim team or football or any other activity, and your child will follow your example.
  3. Encourage your child to play the piano/keyboard/organ for the family and/or guests at home.
  4. For an absolute beginner or a young child, short practise sessions of 5 minutes 3 times a day, are better than one long practise session.
  5. Try for positive feedback only. Be creative in avoiding the word “no” in any form.
  6. Praise, encouragement, or criticism should be directed to the child's efforts, not the child (not “good boy”, “good girl”). You can always say “good try”.
  7. Precious moments between parent and child for making music should not have to be shared with a younger sibling. Arrange a special time for practice at home, if at all possible.

Practice Tips

Practice makes perfect! There are ways that you can help your child make the most out of their practice time.

Top tips for parents:

  • Practice should be a regular part of your child's daily routine. Good times may be when they get home from school before homework or before school.
  • Of equal or greater importance than the actual time of day may be the consistent adherence to a schedule. Whatever time is selected, the important thing to keep in mind is consistency, not only in terms of daily practice but in establishing a definite time for practice so that it becomes a routine!
  • Don't push young children into long practice sessions –ten or 15 minutes will probably be enough (if young beginners). Quality of practice, if of course, far more important than quantity.
  • The use of several shorter practice sessions rather than one long session is beneficial. This is because for the brain to process information and accurately store it requires not only practice, but time.
  • It helps if you listen to them and encourage them as they practise especially with younger children.
  • Don't make practice a punishment, or your child may start to see it as a chore.
  • Use the practice record book to fill in, with comments on whether they have enjoyed a particular piece, or found a scale or exercise challenging. This encourages the pupil to be involved and reflect on their motivation and progress.
  • Encourage your child to practice slowly and to take difficult passages apart to try and find out what the difficulty is. Things don't get better by just playing the music over and over again with the same errors. Practice is wasted if you rehearse your mistakes.
  • Remind your child that they have been given a practice plan in their practice record book (exercise book).
  • By keeping your piano well tuned, you're helping your children to learn to recognize and to produce beauty in musical sounds.
  • The practice room should provide an environment where full concentration is possible: a place where the student will not be disturbed by radio, television, conversation, street noise, other persons practicing, telephones, and other potential disturbances.

Remember, if you want your child to get the most from their lessons, develop the correct technique, and enjoy listening to the music they produce, it's important that they practice on a good quality instrument. Otherwise, you will find that they will get bored and lose interest sooner rather than later.

Top tips for students:

  • Don't start at the beginning of a piece each time you sit down to practice it. Work on the passages that are giving you difficulty first. Play them slowly, so you can see where the problems lie. Break down a hard section into small bits, perhaps even to the point where you are playing single notes, and practice each several times until the music becomes easy to play. Then put the piece back together and gradually bring it up to tempo.
  • If you can't play a measure or phrase, you shouldn't go on to play the rest of the piece until it has been mastered. Practice means repetition. Whether learning the notes in the early stages of a song or mastering new techniques to help with playing of the notes, repetition is required.
  • If a young student is having trouble with a particular bar or passage l will often play the “three times game” . If presented like a game l find the student enjoys it. The idea is that the passage or bar is played. Each correct performance is counted…the idea is that there must be three perfect playings in a row!!
  • Take time to figure out the fingering of passages note by note. Write this information directly into the music; don't rely upon your memory.
  • If you are having problem with tempo, practice with a metronome. Set it at a slow count at first, then gradually increase the pulse until you arrive at the final tempo.
  • If you are making mistakes, it means that you are playing too fast. Slow down! Remember that if you play a passage wrong several times in a row, you are actually teaching yourself to play it incorrectly! Slow accurate playing is much better than inaccurate, faster performances.
  • It is often easier to master difficult rhythmic patterns if you first play the passage on a single note. Add the melody after you have mastered the beat.
  • Make good use of a pencil/ markers to indicate places where you keep making the same mistake.
  • Work on the musical aspects of a piece as you practice the technicalities. What is the piece all about? How can you convey this message to your audience? Try to get a sense from the first of the overall message of the work.
  • Think about your posture as you play and check your arm, hand and finger positions regularly during practice. Bad habits can be hard to break and may lead to injury and pain.
  • A tape recorder is a great tool to use when practicing. Use it to record yourself so you can hear problems, particularly regarding to tempo and interpretation, that you might otherwise miss.
  • End a practice session by playing beautifully a piece that you know well.
  • When choosing a suitable practice time find the time(s) of day that are best for you.
  • The use of several shorter practice sessions rather than one long session is beneficial. This is because for the brain to process information and accurately store it requires not only practice, but time.

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