Did you know that when an aeroplane takes off they use about half of the fuel required for the flight from take-off to level off? That’s an enormous amount of energy in the few minutes at the very start of the flight before they reach their cruising altitude.
Just imagine if you and your child made a massive effort in the first 6-12 months of piano lessons and then your child was able to enjoy ‘cruising’ along the learning-piano process for the next 10 years!
Here is what we did with PianoGirl. Perhaps it could work for your child too!
1.Timetable practice into your daily schedule.
Nothing but nothing but nothing (but nothing) will replace actual time spent on the piano, each day.
With any luck your child will have a lovely time spending 30mins each week with a piano teacher – piano teachers are notoriously lovely people, after all. With the right piano teacher who chooses the right piano method for the student, any child is bound to have fun and look forward to going along to lessons each week.
However, no one is born with ‘piano hands.’ The muscles required to play the piano need to be developed as does the control and coordination required to play.
Make a practice schedule and stick to it. Think of it like getting fit. Buying a gym membership will not make you fit. You need to actually GO to the gym and then while you are there you need to put in some effort!
Timetabling practice into a daily schedule really is the singular most important piece of advice I could give the parent of a young beginner. I would also highly recommend a morning practice session just so you can tick that box and all feel virtuous for the rest of the day.
*Warning: They will not always want to practice, they may even kick, scream and winge for a while, but it will be worth it once a routine is established. Trust me!
2. Sit down with your child once a week for an intensive practice session
With the best will in the world, your child simply will not remember what they are supposed to be practising each week. Sit down with them once each week, go through the notes from the teacher, read the instructions to them and generally be there to answer any questions for them.
Even if you don’t understand the terminology you will be able to assist them a little bit, and the fact that you are making an effort will signify to them that this is important.
3. Lavish praise and encouragement
I thought it might be useful for parents of the non-musical variety (and as a good reminder for musical parents) to have some phrases to use to encourage their piano student. I’ve put together a list of phrases that will help build your child’s confidence. In any case it will be a nice change to you always shouting ‘do your practice’.
Click here to download my 36 ways to praise and encourage your piano student poster. Feel free to print it and hang it somewhere handy so you can shout out a phrase or two during each practice session.
And my last piece of advice…
4. Use bribes
From what I can tell all parenting is based on a series of bribes and coercion (you can watch TV if you clean your room, you can have dessert if you finish your vegetables, you can have 3 stories if you clean your teeth without me asking another 10 times. We’re all in the same boat, I’m sure!)
Here are some of the ideas I have tried with great success.
- A jar of marbles. Reward one marble for every day she practises or each time she performs for someone
(or if it’s been a tough practice session perhaps a marble for each time she plays a piece). When the jar is full award a prize.
- Promise ‘the biggest hug in the world’ – you might be surprised that this encourages a LOT of practice!
- A lunch order once a week if she manages the 75 min practice per week that the teacher now prescribes.
- Putting a piece of chocolate on the piano that she is allowed to put in her lunchbox when her practice is done.
The rewards don’t have to be big or expensive, they just need to recognise and reward effort.
Obviously REALLY learning to play the piano will be the ultimate reward…but there is nothing wrong with rewarding the small victories along the way!