10 Helps For The Non-Piano-Playing Parent

Help For Non Piano Parent

Parents who have never learned to play a musical instrument often feel lost when it comes to helping their child practice at home. This is a real concern, but doesn’t have to be! Even if they can’t carry a tune in a bucket, couldn’t play their way out of a paper bag, or don’t even know what a treble clef looks like, PARENTS have the tools necessary to help their children learn how to play music. If you’re a parent reading this right now, you might be thinking “There is no way.” Let me assure you though THERE IS A WAY. Neither of my parents nor my grandparents ever played an instrument and nobody in my family ever played the piano before I did. In fact, for many years we could not even afford a piano. In spite of this (or maybe even because of it) I not only learned how to play but have taught many other people to play as well. Here are 10 things the Non-Piano-Playing Parent can do to speed up their child’s piano learning:

1. Listen To Music Out Loud! – Connect your iPod, cell phone, tablet or mp3 player to a speaker and play music that you enjoy so that EVERYBODY in your house or car hears it. Listen to music in the car, during dinner, while cleaning the house, while getting ready for school. LISTEN TO MUSIC ALL THE TIME!!! Make sure the music you are listening to is music that your child is learning to play AND music that you would like to hear them play. Be sure to include music that highlights piano if your child is studying piano.

2.  Make Practicing Like Brushing Teeth – My friend, Derwyn Brown of Childbloom Guitar always says that parents must insist on practice just like they insist on brushing teeth. You wouldn’t let your child go a day without brushing his/her teeth would you? Of course not! Brushing teeth is an EVERY DAY thing and so is PRACTICING! Insist on Practice!

3. Learn to say the word, “AGAIN” – Listen to your child when he/she is practicing and when they finish tell them to play it AGAIN! If you hear something that doesn’t sound quite right – IT’S PROBABLY NOT RIGHT! You might not be a musician, but you are a music listener and your ears know when something is not right. Tell them to keep working on it until they fix the problem or you can simply say “AGAIN”

4. Use The Teacher’s Words– Take time to read any instructions the teacher has written in your child’s book or notebook and repeat this to your child.

5. Be Nosy – This one will come naturally to some! (I couldn’t resist). Ask your child questions about what he/she is playing. If you see things circled on the book or sheet music, ask your child what it means or why that is circled. It is OK if YOU don’t know the answer! You are trying to get THEM to think about the answer.

6. Brag Out Loud– Let your child hear you bragging about how well they are playing or how diligently they are practicing.

7. Be An On Time Taxi – Take your child to the piano lesson ON TIME. ALWAYS. This lets your child know once again that piano is important. It also gives your child the much needed time with the teacher. If you are 10 minutes late for a 30 minute lesson, your child has just missed 1/3 of the entire lesson! That translates to: slower progress, possible chaos in lesson due to rushing. It creates a frustrated student and a frustrated teacher who both just want to make you proud.

8. Be Consistent – Continuous learning is the difference between students who progress quickly and students who are stagnant or are always playing below expectation. Children who continue lessons throughout the summer when school is out do better. If your child takes off lessons in the summer and does not return to lessons until September your child is losing about 6 months of learning due to the time taken off and the skills lost during the time off.

9. Make Them Pay For Lessons– No, I do not mean that you should have your children pay the teacher for lessons. That is your job, but their job is to provide you with FREE ENTERTAINMENT. Once they have completed several days of practice – AND BEFORE THEIR NEXT LESSON – have your child give you an at home concert. My kids often made “programs” entitled “The 1 Song Concert” or “The 3 Song Concert” depending on the number of songs they knew how to play. Repeat this when visiting friends and relatives. My grandparents (non-musicians) did this EVERY time I went to visit them. It became such a routine that I knew once dinner was over I had to play for them. Eventually I learned to prepare for these impromptu performances!

10. Act Crazy – Yes, I said CRAZY! Crazy is making your kids practice when other kids are playing games. Crazy is insisting on practice even if they are crying. Crazy is not letting them get away with saying they don’t have anything to practice. Crazy is EXPECTING them to do better. Crazy is driving them to a place that has a piano if you don’t have one of your own. Crazy is signing them up for every performance opportunity your teacher offers – even if they say they don’t want to do it. Crazy is signing them up for summer music camps and scheduling your vacations around those camps. Crazy is asking hotel staff if your child can play the hotel piano during your stay there. Crazy is letting your kids know that quitting is not an option and that they must “Play To Stay” (in your house). If they want to quit, they can quit once they move out. Crazy is what works.

I know it because

I. Am. Crazy. But. My. Kids. Know. How. To. Play. The. Piano. 

Summer Piano Shorts: Octaves

Here’s another quick and fun piano exercise piano students can learn on their own! This activity shows how octaves in the left hand can be used to make their songs sound better. Try it out! Print a copy of it here. Come back next Monday for another Summer Piano Short!

Summer Piano Shorts: Arpeggios Make Great Intros

This is the first in a series of what I call Summer Piano Shorts. These are  just quick piano experiments for my piano students who are taking the summer off from lessons. You can download a copy of this worksheet to use at home or with a student. They will be able to play a nice intro for songs using arpeggios. Look for a Summer Piano Short every Monday!

Activities for Waiting Students and Siblings

One of the most distracting things that can happen during a music lesson is for a waiting student or a little sister or brother to interrupt and ask, “What can I do now?” To eliminate this problem, or at least minimize it I set up a Waiting Activity Area in my piano studio. Here is a mini tour of it:

For those who like to color, Hello Kitty music coloring pages. Kids can look inside the bag for more coloring activities.

Kids who like puzzles and challenges can choose this.

Great practice on staff notation. Color by Note sheets!

For those who love to build things, LEGOS! Of course they must build something related to music!

A game to practice the music alphabet. Kids can stack the cups in order or build chords!

Each of the activities in the center have something for the kids to show me when they have completed it, so they do get it done. I’ve also made my ipad or iphone available with music apps to play in the waiting center.

I’d love to hear what kinds of things you keep in your studio for waiting students and siblings. Make a comment below!

…Oh and come back tomorrow for the post about the music store field trip that I promised!