Thursday, January 20, 2011

Piano Lessons

My little girl has taken an interest in the old fashioned upright piano in our living room.  The piano was my mother-in-laws, which we hauled from her basement in Winona to our house in Jordan.  After the traumatic experience of moving that beast of an instrument, I have vowed to never move it again.  The thing will be blown up before it gets moved.

The piano has remained virtually untouched for over a year, until this fall.  My daughter discovered that when certain keys are played together, the sound can please the ears.  Her only other experience with this piano is her little brother banging the keys in the most obnoxious way.

I think my daughter is experiencing her first "spark".  A spark is a hidden flame in kids, that excite them and tap into their passion.  I don't want to put out the spark, and want her to enjoy playing the piano.   Playing the piano is difficult, it involves math, coordination, and persistence.  I also want her to know that the most accomplished piano players puts in many hours of practice.  Even though practicing can be tedious, it should still be something she enjoys.

So what has been my approach?
1) I let her dictate the amount of practice time.  She asked if I could give her a few lessons (I took a piano for 2 years and also have a few beginning piano lesson books) and we went through the lesson book.  When she had enough of my coaching and when she became frustrated when her brain was out of sync with her fingers, then we took a break.   Now we practice about once a week for 15-30 minutes. 

2) Make it fun.  We try to play fun kid music she likes, rather than some boring music exercises.

3) Praise the effort, not her talent level.  In Malcolm Gladwell's book, Outliars, Gladwell points out that every professional instrumental musician has put in minimally 10,000 hours of practice.  Were they talented?  Absolutely, but it was the practice that made them great.  If I praise her talent, she may think she can't improve as talent can only take one so far.

4) If she demonstrates an eagerness to take piano lessons.  We will fork over the dough.  However, if piano lessons ever turn into, "I don't want to." Then her piano playing days will be over.

5) Support her as far as she wants to go. 

Will it work?  Who knows?  I'm just trying to turn the spark into a flame.

Anyone out there have any suggestions?

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