Parents want to HELP their kids do well in piano but often don’t know how and are pressed for time. As a piano parent myself, I totally get it. So in the spirit of multitasking, here are 4 simple things parents can do in the car on the way home (or headed to the next destination) after lessons.
Just remember the word
Highlights – Ask your child questions about the lesson
Encouragement – Make a positive statement about their piano learning
Let it go – Laugh about something. Anything.
Play – for the first 5 minutes at home have your child play something they started learning at the lesson.
You can print a copy of the checklist here to keep in your car!
When my son signed up for orchestra at his school a couple of years ago I learned a valuable lesson as a parent. It is a lesson that I believe that piano playing parents who have enrolled their children in piano lessons can benefit from as well. So here it is…
Violin was my son’s instrument of choice that year. He was very excited when we got home from the music store with his brand new violin. I was excited too! I had never played a violin before, but knowing that music is in the musician and not in the instrument, I decided to try playing a simple tune on it. Before my son could get in the house good, I was playing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on his violin. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t perfect technique wise, but it was recognizable. I was proud of myself for being able to demonstrate that an instrument is merely a tool in a musician’s hands much like a pen is a tool in a writer’s hands. It doesn’t matter what kind of pen the writer uses – he can still write with it. Just as I was about to pat myself on the back for my musical genius (lol), I looked up to find that my son was less than impressed. In fact, he was upset.
Why was he upset, you may ask? The violin was supposed to be HIS thing, not MY thing! He wanted to impress me with his ability to play the violin and to show me that he could do something that I could not. He didn’t say this to me, but I realized it just from looking at his response. From that moment on, I did not pick up his violin - at least not when he was home! He went on to qualify for the Honor’s Orchestra by the end of the school year and I went on being grateful that I have a healthy, happy son who is able to enjoy music all on his own!
So, what am I saying to piano playing parents? Let your children take the lead when it comes to whether or not you should play the piano with or for them. Resist the urge to show them that you can play the rest of the song that they just started learning. Give them the joy of inviting you to the piano to play along or sing along, or just listen! They will be much more cooperative because they can own their musical education. Once they feel that sense of ownership, they will be glad to share in many musical experiences with you!
This one is an oldie but a goodie for motivating young students. No surprise here, but it’s worth mentioning just in case it’s slipped your mind. I know I had forgotten about the amazing motivational power of stickers until yesterday when one of my preschool piano players showed up for lessons and her mom said it was difficult to get her to practice last week at home.
Enter the amazing stickers! I took a blank piece of paper, folded it in half and told my preschooler that we were going to see if she could fill up the page with stickers. How were we going to do this? Well for each time she played her piece she’d get to put a sticker on.
But no we didn’t stop there! After she played the trouble spots a couple of times I told her I had a suggestion. Why don’t we get her to see if her mom could play it too? Of course she would have to be her mom’s teacher because afterall, I was busy teaching her! She absolutely loved the idea so her mom joined in the lesson and of course she earned stickers as well. Now we had two sticker sheets going! My student was excited to find out that not only would her mom get a sticker for practicing, she would get one also every time her mom played the piece.
Finally I had another suggestion. Why don’t we get you and mom to play it together? And yes, she loved the idea too. What 4 year old doesn’t want to do something special with their mom? The best part was that we recorded them playing and let them listen and judge their playing. Oh and as a bonus it was a perfect opportunity for a new vocabulary word: duet. Now my preschooler chants “a duet is when you do it together”
So what about home practice? Well the sticker sheet went home with a challenge to fill it up completely with no white spaces showing! When she brings it back she will get a something from my treat box. She couldn’t wait to get home and practice – I mean play!
Teachers, how do you get parents involved in the lesson? Parents, how do you get involved in practice at home? Share your wisdom in a comment below!
The other day I had my son waiting in the studio to answer the door while I ran and grabbed something that I’d forgotten for the next lesson. Shortly afterwards he came to tell me that 2 students had arrived. As I was only expecting one student I was a little confused. When I walked in, there was a parent and her daughter with gifts for the studio! The piece in the photo above is an especially wonderful visual for my studio right now since everybody is working on their CD projects. I am so thankful to Amy and Abby for thinking of me in this way! And this is just one of the gifts they bought. Tomorrow I’ll be posting another pic of a fabulous gift they bought and asking for your ideas on how to use it in the studio!
Yesterday one of my students’ parents called me and told me to listen to the music being played in the background. It was her son playing one of her daughter’s piano assignments on his trumpet! The song was Fireflies by Owl City. Her son had “stolen” his sister’s sheet music so he could learn how to play the song. He also kept saying over and over “It’s not fair! She gives you cool songs to learn! Why doesn’t my teacher give me songs like this to learn?”
So, with a nod to “the piano-assignment-stealing-brother” I write today’s post. Here is a list of the top requested songs in my studio from the past month:
1. Someone Like You by Adele
2. Fireflies by Owl City
3. Dynamite by Taio Cruz
4. Mean by Taylor Swift
5. Fur Elise by Beethoven
Of course most piano teachers know all about Fur Elise, but if you’d like to teach your students any of the other songs you can stop by any number of websites including musicnotes.com, 8notes.com, and sheetmusicplus.com for a teacher cheat sheet otherwise known as sheet music!
The people who made this video have a great website musicianswithapps.com
It has been very useful for me in finding apps kids love. They review apps for all kinds of instruments and give a rating. They make it easy to find out what the best apps are and even let you know how their kid testers voted and how the teacher voted. You’ve got to check it out! Oh and I use the featured app in my studio – all the kids love it!!!
Knock Knock Who’s There?
Recently I introduced a game I call “Knock Knock Who’s There?” in my music studio. When students arrive they see a secret rhythm code posted. To get into the studio they must correctly knock that rhythm. They also earn a gold coin (purchased from Party City) upon entry. Gold coins add up and the student with the most gold coins at the end of the semester gets an award. Oh and if a student doesn’t get the rhythm then I get to do what I do best – teach them how!
I have lots of different rhythm card sets, but with all the focus on candy last month I used the candy rhythm set from D’Net Layton’s site which you can get here.
Knock Knock Who’s There is a great way to begin the lesson by getting them thinking musically from the start. Parents are also getting in on the game. My students and I sometimes catch them standing outside trying to guess the rhythm when they come for pick up. We all get a kick out of it. A great way to end the lesson as well!