What are the most effective ways to provide your child with a supportive environment for learning to play piano? Try employing these tried and true methods in your home. ESPS teacher Tim Eckert’s tips originally appeared in the December 2011 edition of Twinkling the Ivories.
1. Participate in the Suzuki piano program: The group classes, Fall Workshop, Spring Festival, recitals and graduations are all great opportunities to learn and keep moving forward.
2. Use Supportive language: Put yourself in your child’s shoes in home practicing. “Try that again” and “check your left hand” is better than “that’s wrong” and “your left hand missed a note.” Ask questions instead of making judgements: “What does good hand posture look like?” instead of “your wrist is too low.” Even small words can help: use “oh” instead of “no”. Say “look at your hands”, not “pay attention.”
3. Find inspiration at concerts and in recordings: Edmonton has great music, for all genres, coming through, for any budget. Use the ESPS library and the Edmonton Public Library.
4. Make a practice plan: Figure out when you will practice each day and write it down. Usually, regular times like right after school or right after supper are best. Make sure there aren’t too many other competing activities. Practice brings progress which increases motivation which helps the positive circle to keep going.
5. Demonstrate and verbalize your commitment: Children benefit from knowing and seeing and hearing that their parents care about these piano lessons. Commitment is up to the parents, not the children.
6. Have a good instrument: After all, we are producing sound! A good, tuned acoustic piano produces a beautiful sound, which is also motivating. Pianos generally do not lose their value and last for many decades (unlike keyboards). Get them the best instrument you can afford.
7. Listen to the CD: Make sure your child is hearing the recording adequately. When the pieces are in their heads, it is much, much easier. If the CD is lost or damaged or it’s not being played enough, it becomes an exercise like walking to Calgary: you can do it, but it’s a lot harder than if you were driving!
8. Provide a social aspect to piano: You and your child can visit with others at the groups, recitals, ESPS events, or you can have a piano party. We learn from other people, and benefit from sharing our successes and our struggles, and the music itself.
9. Use technology: YouTube has many piano videos; your children can put themselves on YouTube, or make a CD or DVD for their grandparents.
10. Find more information: The ESPS has books on child psychology, and the teachers have subscriptions to the excellent journal of the Suzuki Association of the Americas. Re-read your copy of Nurtured by Love, by Shinichi Suzuki. Talk with other parents at group class and find out what works for them. Communicate with your teacher about any concerns.