Posts tagged perform
I’ve been asked numerous times by parents what the secret to success is for keeping their children interested in the piano. Over the years i have noticed five common threads amongst the students who excel. Invariably most if not all of these are neccessary ingredients in the music learning process with successful students.
1. As parents – be present. Small story: my dad had a lazyboy recliner right beside the old grand piano i would practice on. When he would come home, he would love to read the newspaper. No words were exchanged. He would just read the paper. It’s AMAZING how much more focused a child is by just having a parent sitting beside them. You don’t even need to be musical! You just need to be within earshot. It can be the kitchen, the living room… just so long as it’s close. It prevents kids from daydreaming and makes them get down to work. The end of the story with my dad… he would quite often fall asleep while i was playing and the newspaper would fall to his face – the condensation and ink would turn his nose black. I would gradually play softer, softer, softer…then BANG! into the Beethoven! He would just about jump out of the chair. As a teenager i would laugh and laugh and he would give me the not so approving look and then smirk.
2. Repertoire inspires. There HAS to be some form of music that you enjoy at the piano or else you might as well be sitting at a typewriter (do they even have those anymore?) Again, my father would buy books for us not related to our studies in piano that we would read through – jazz, blues and ragtime. In the dry seasons of practicing – feeling like there is no end in view, I would often end my piano session with some sort of fun piece. Truly, this was one of the motivating factors in writing these six books for my boys to learn how to play. I wanted to combine entertaining (and at times challenging) music with good piano skills. (There’s my shameless plug for my books). So find what inspires your children and go out there and get it!
3. Be consistent. I know this sounds paradoxical, but I have this saying “You can’t love it ’til you hate it”. ANY student who has broken through the barriers of forcing their fingers to learn piano technique knows that it’s frustrating. But the key here is consistency. All too often i hear parents say “we want our kids to just have fun at the piano”. I’m translating in my brain “ok… this means non-enforced practicing”. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and state for the record that those students just won’t excel. PERIOD. Reason being – as soon as it’s not ‘fun’, the practicing stops. I tell parents over and over and over: Make piano a part of daily routine. I used to ask my kids “did you brush your teeth, make your bed and practice piano?” It was part of the fabric of the family. That said, i also needed to come to grips with allowing children to make their own decisions about piano – a fine line to walk for sure.
4. Speed of the turn. Why is early music so exciting for kids and as they progress, quite often that enthusiasm wanes? In part it’s due to the fact that as you get more advanced in music, the songs get more complicated and subsequently take longer to complete. There’s a danger here on both the part of the student as well as the teacher. Teachers want the song to reach perfection. Students get bogged down and sometimes drown in a song they feel they will never finish. The longer that song(s) take, the more the fire goes out of the student. As a teacher, i don’t expect perfection from each song. In fact i would much rather play through more songs and take them to the 80% mark than play only a few and try and perfect them. In addition, i would allow each student a ‘drop’ token – they were allowed to just drop one song per year and say “i don’t want to finish this one”. I’m a HUGE advocate of finishing what you start, but even i know that there are times to put songs to rest. But here’s the thing… the faster the rate songs are learned, the more energy it creates in the student. It’s almost like an appetite… they want to consume more when they realise they have the capacity to learn more. And so it should be.
5. Finally, perform. As an adult, the most fun i have had playing is with others while performing. When i was a kid, it was one of the most horrifying experiences. Now somewhere in the middle of those years, a lightbulb went on. I think it was during performance in jazz band in front of my peers. It was the incredible sound of a big band that i loved and at the same time i received admiration from my friends. It somehow bolstered my fragile teenage ego. I realised i had a feather in my cap – i realised i had skills – i wasn’t just some kid practicing, there was actually a REASON i had played all these years. Isn’t one of the reasons we play music for social benefit? We interact and communicate through sound. How weird would it be if we were taught to speak in public but never had the opportunity to do it? If music is the means through which we speak, why then do we sit sheltered in a corner? Back to reality – we still need to hone the skills – learn the chops – do the woodshedding… but the greatest feeling is to finally peform. As a drummer friend always says (and in this context – regarding performance) “don’t hate, celebrate”.