Monday, September 7, 2015

Basics for the Parent Teacher

The following questions & answers are geared towards the pre-reader beginner and the young beginner.

* In my opinion, a young beginner is typically 6-7 years old and is classified as one who has successfully completed at least 2 books (not necessarily 2 levels) in a pre-reader series.  As I’ve mentioned before, my pre-reader series pick is My First Piano Adventure by Nancy & Randall Faber.

Are lessons once a week? 

Yes, lessons should be held once a week.  As the parent teacher, aim for consistency as much as possible – same day, same time, week in, week out.  This will help YOU keep piano lessons a priority.  Schedule around lesson time.

How long should our piano lessons be? 

First of all, it’s important to remember that each child is different – we all know that.  Your young beginner does not have to fit into that perfect standard 30 minute lesson time slot.  Work towards it, but strive for 15-20 minutes each lesson starting out.

How long should they practice each day?

Different children have different limits, but without fail, I’ve always found that for the young beginner, a reasonable expectation is 4 times p/week, 10-15 minutes each time.  Break up the minutes throughout the day if necessary.  Sometimes parents are surprised that I don’t expect daily practice, but for the most part, it allows for flexibility, and the extra days can be used as incentive for ‘bonus practice’ which I’ll talk more about later.  It gives them the opportunity to do more than what is required and go the extra mile.

For the pre-reader beginner (typically ages 3-5), I recommend a bit of a different approach since every practice session will be somewhat of a mini lesson.  They’ll need you by their side throughout each little assignment.  Like I’ve mentioned before, I feel strongly that at that age, it’s absolutely best to follow a child’s lead AND let him or her initiate an interest in working on the piano.  It doesn’t have to take a lot of time – 5 minutes each session is reasonable.  Aim for an average of 2 sessions p/week for the 3-4 year old.  Focus on the fact that he/she is being exposed to musical concepts.

5 year-olds can be tricky.  Depending on their personality, some could be ready for structured weekly lessons – others need the flexibility of mini lessons (short practice sessions) throughout the week.  You know what’s best for your child.

How far or how many pages do you think I should do in a lesson?

For the young beginner, don’t think in pages, think in songs.  2-3 songs p/week is a good goal.  1-2 songs p/week is more common.  If your child is flying through their assigned songs in the first practice session, the songs are way too easy, and by flying I mean playing all the notes correctly from beginning to end with the correct tempo - paying careful attention to any musical markings :) – it’s pretty straightforward at this level, but still…

Songs are only one part of their assigned lesson.  I’ll introduce other aspects soon.  This way, when you hear, “But I know it now (the song)…or I’ve played it already…or not again,” you can respond with a great big, “YES!…but what about your theory worksheet…or your simple scales…or (some other awesome practice tool)?”

At the next lesson, do they play what they have practiced all week long?

Yes – at this age, “play back” should take up half of the lesson at most.

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