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#1243300 - 08/04/09 01:33 PM 4 year old Suzuki Piano Student
Maynard Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/07/09
Posts: 20
I'd appreciate advice on how to keep my 4 year old child interested in daily practice on the piano. I'm shooting for 15 minutes a day, and lose her attention after just several minutes.

How do you keep things interesting for a kid who just started lessons?

Thanks!

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#1243402 - 08/04/09 03:27 PM Re: 4 year old Suzuki Piano Student [Re: Maynard]
Candywoman Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/14/03
Posts: 824
How to keep your child interested? Wait til s/he is six years old. I know you and many on this forum would immediately disagree, but I had to state it anyways. There is no rush to teaching your child piano. The occasional prodigy demonstrates early talent and interest, but it's really rare.

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#1243432 - 08/04/09 03:48 PM Re: 4 year old Suzuki Piano Student [Re: Candywoman]
Maynard Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/07/09
Posts: 20
Thanks, Candywoman. I guess you're not a fan of the Suzuki method? Have you had good luck with 6 year olds?

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#1243440 - 08/04/09 03:57 PM Re: 4 year old Suzuki Piano Student [Re: Maynard]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7200
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Let's look at this from another perspective. Can your child maintain daily focus on any defined task of 15 minutes? If the answer is yes, then perhaps we can offer some suggestions. However if the answer is no, then piano isn't the problem. Your child just isn't ready for such an intense daily activity.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#1243522 - 08/04/09 05:48 PM Re: 4 year old Suzuki Piano Student [Re: John v.d.Brook]
Maynard Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/07/09
Posts: 20
Hi John,

She thrives at a Montessori preschool, with self directed projects for 45-60 minutes at a time. At home, she will color, draw, or play with her doll house or wood puzzles for extended periods as well.

So it's not that she can't focus on things she enjoys. I'm wondering how to make piano fun. I figure others have confronted this same problem with preschoolers, and may have some ideas that worked for them.

Thanks,
Maynard

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#1243537 - 08/04/09 06:04 PM Re: 4 year old Suzuki Piano Student [Re: Maynard]
Maynard Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/07/09
Posts: 20
Come to think of it, she will "play" the piano on her own as well. She bangs on the keys and sings (cute). However, I can't get her to practice the lessons (e.g. Twinkle songs) with me.

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#1243541 - 08/04/09 06:07 PM Re: 4 year old Suzuki Piano Student [Re: Maynard]
dumdumdiddle Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/16/06
Posts: 1250
Loc: California
One 15-minute session of doing the same thing (sitting at the piano, playing 2-3 pieces over and over again) is too much for a 4 year old. Break your practice sessions into 5 minutes 3x a day. I teach a large number of 3-5's in my studio and we change activities every few minutes, even those that involve the piano.

Children this age do better by experiencing a wide number of musical concepts, not just sitting at the piano playing repertoire. Get some rhythm instruments and tap to the beat of a cd; march around the room. Do finger games... draw whole notes and quarter notes... there are so many things you could do PLUS some piano activities.

Remember... it was only several months ago that they were babies.. then toddlers. Don't rush them.
_________________________
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Early Childhood Music Teacher/Group Piano Teacher/Private Piano Teacher
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#1243624 - 08/04/09 08:48 PM Re: 4 year old Suzuki Piano Student [Re: dumdumdiddle]
Lollipop Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/09
Posts: 820
Loc: Georgia
I think it was Suzuki, when talking to a 3 year old's mother, said "give her a joyful 2 minutes, three times a day" -- or something like that.
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piano teacher

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#1243632 - 08/04/09 09:05 PM Re: 4 year old Suzuki Piano Student [Re: Lollipop]
lalakeys Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/05/06
Posts: 286
Loc: Chicago 'burbs
Have you considered putting her into Suzuki violin? The Suzuki strings program is more socially-oriented than piano (kids play in groups from the beginning and have fun performing with their new friends!), and the violins (violas, cellos) can be downsized to better fit little hands and bodies.

Just a thought....
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Private piano & voice teacher for over 20 years; currently also working as a pipe organist for 3 area churches; sing in a Chicago-area acappella chamber choir

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#1243980 - 08/05/09 11:50 AM Re: 4 year old Suzuki Piano Student [Re: lalakeys]
Klavierspielen Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/28/09
Posts: 18
I'm sure your teacher has assigned specific tasks (do such-and-such 10 times), not necessarily playing through the whole Twinkle variation 3 times. Do the one specific task at practice time -- high quality practice for about 5 minutes, and then take a break. Just be sure to come back and do the next assigned task, or a run-through of the piece, etc.

Something else that's kind of fun when she has to have a longer practice session (maybe when she gets older) - mix up some brownies/cookies/etc., and put them in the oven. Usually takes about 20-30 min to cook. Practice as long as the brownies are in, and then when they're done, you get a treat!!

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#1244011 - 08/05/09 12:27 PM Re: 4 year old Suzuki Piano Student [Re: Candywoman]
AZNpiano Online   sleepy
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5284
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: Candywoman
How to keep your child interested? Wait til s/he is six years old. I know you and many on this forum would immediately disagree, but I had to state it anyways. There is no rush to teaching your child piano. The occasional prodigy demonstrates early talent and interest, but it's really rare.


I actually think waiting is a good idea. I wouldn't do something that would make the child lose interest in piano.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#1244020 - 08/05/09 12:43 PM Re: 4 year old Suzuki Piano Student [Re: AZNpiano]
Minaku Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/26/07
Posts: 1226
Loc: Atlanta
There needs to be a lot of activity away from the piano. Take a few minutes several times a day to go over what the lesson is. Take 3 minutes to wiggle fingers in the air. Sing the song together. When she goes to play on the piano herself, play a monkey-see-monkey-do game. Find a black and white keyboard chart and let her color the keys she needs to use, then tap them with the right fingers while singing the song. The practice will get done, eventually.
_________________________
Pianist and teacher with a 5'8" Baldwin R and Clavi CLP-230 at home.

New website up: http://www.studioplumpiano.com. Also on Twitter @QQitsMina

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#1244068 - 08/05/09 02:05 PM Re: 4 year old Suzuki Piano Student [Re: Klavierspielen]
BSP Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/03/07
Posts: 209
Loc: Hudson Valley, NY
I would also suggest small short practice sessions of 5 minutes each, like the others who have posted. Maybe just practice whatever your teacher suggests 4 times only (since the child is 4 years old) rather than trying for a 15 minute stretch? I had a 4 year old student, and his lesson time was only 15 minutes. I also agree with the others that you have to change topics very quickly..5 minutes, then on to the next thing.

How about if YOU practice for 5 minutes? If your child sees you practicing and enjoying it, it's more likely they'll want to join in. And, don't forget to reward good practice habits.. maybe set up a chart with stickers on it for each time they practice?

Also, don't forget the listening... the whole theory of Suzuki is based upon the theory of language acquisition. If you're playing the CD as much as is required (which, now, I believe is 3-4 hours a day??!?!?!), the higher the likelihood is that the student will want to recreate what they hear. Just remember to play the CD passively, like ambient music.

Good luck!
BevP

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#1244162 - 08/05/09 04:57 PM Re: 4 year old Suzuki Piano Student [Re: BSP]
Maynard Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/07/09
Posts: 20
Thank you ALL for the helpful suggestions. I'll break up the practice into multiple short sessions each day, rather than one single sit down (as I've been doing, unsuccessfully). I'll try the rewards, as well.

Maynard

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#1260595 - 09/01/09 08:14 PM Re: 4 year old Suzuki Piano Student [Re: Maynard]
Standalone Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 07/27/09
Posts: 16
Hi,

We've not yet gotten lessons for our four year old (though he's ready, we think), but have allowed him to play on the piano from the time that he could reach it. While the ancient piano has suffered damage that's not worth repairing, it was worth it. Just allowing him access to it and making it an available play activity rather than a directed activity led him naturally to love to play. What child can resist making beautiful sounds on a piano?

A major part of what makes the old upright a draw is also a factor in the environment of a preschool: no television in the house.

So there is both constant exposure to music (radio instead of TV) and the ready availability of a piano... playing winds up being as natural as making a mess at the dinner table! smile

I'm a teacher, but not of an instrument or of music. Play is important in learning. We don't "work" the piano... we "play" it!

Have fun playing with your child on the piano at any random time you find available, model what you want them to do. "Oooo look. Come see, I'm making sounds on the piano. Listen, here I'm making it sound happy. Want to hear it sound sad? OK. Here are some silly sounds..." etc.

enjoy!


Edited by Standalone (09/01/09 08:15 PM)
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#1260801 - 09/02/09 02:03 AM Re: 4 year old Suzuki Piano Student [Re: Standalone]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4649
Loc: South Florida
One thing that has not been talked about.

There is a huge difference between a child who has just turned four and one who has just turned five.

Parents often just tell me an age. I ask for the exact birthday.

For instance, if a child is four, but very close to his/her 5th birthday, I'm open to doing a trial lesson.

I wouldn't rule out starting a four year-old, but I would be much less confident about it working out, and I would bail out very quickly if it did not feel right to me.
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Piano Teacher

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#1260924 - 09/02/09 10:03 AM Re: 4 year old Suzuki Piano Student [Re: Gary D.]
dumdumdiddle Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/16/06
Posts: 1250
Loc: California
Then there's also the difference between a 4 year old boy and a 4 year old girl. Boys are usually less mature; I like for them to wait until they are actually 5.
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Music School Owner
Early Childhood Music Teacher/Group Piano Teacher/Private Piano Teacher
Member of MTAC and Guild

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#1260931 - 09/02/09 10:20 AM Re: 4 year old Suzuki Piano Student [Re: dumdumdiddle]
Mr. Peabody Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/13/09
Posts: 120
Loc: Philly suburbs, Pennsylvania
For what its worth, my sons were very wiggly, so they didn't start Suzuki Piano until a little past their 6th birthday. They've been fine with it since. I don't know if they would have been ready earlier. Every kid is different.

Mr. Peabody

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#1740824 - 08/26/11 06:20 AM Re: 4 year old Suzuki Piano Student [Re: Maynard]
elizabee3 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 07/17/11
Posts: 2
Loc: Boston/ north shore
I'm a Suzuki piano teacher, great to find this thread! Until now, I started kids at 5 or 6. This year, I had 2 4yo's wanting to start. The leaders in my field agree - 4 is the best age, so I just took 2 four's.

At that age, they absorb sounds without paying attention. However, the teacher must only assign incremental tasks. We had a breakthrough on just the 2nd lesson, John was playing 3 notes but started on the wrong note. When he heard the first tone, he quickly corrected!

At age 6, that window is closed. About practice, John didn't like the first week. I told the mom, only do an activity that results in finding all the 2 black keys. If he doesn't want that, ask him to practice the bow. Also, I gave the mother his assignment to practice while he is in the room. We have to accept what he is willing to do.

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#1740963 - 08/26/11 11:40 AM Re: 4 year old Suzuki Piano Student [Re: Maynard]
kck Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/04/10
Posts: 261
Originally Posted By: Maynard
Thank you ALL for the helpful suggestions. I'll break up the practice into multiple short sessions each day, rather than one single sit down (as I've been doing, unsuccessfully). I'll try the rewards, as well.

Maynard


I have a Suzuki violin and piano student. In the early days we used anything and everything. Even my younger child still likes games (just turned 7).

We use puppets that request things and serve as an audience. We string beads for repetitions. When we get 100 beads on a string we might go out for ice cream. Right now my 7 year is highly motivated by pennies - she earns a penny for each review piece or repeition. Keep it light, fun, and short. Keep a good sense of humor - laugh often. Multiple times a day is good if that works for you!

The first year (or so) of Suzuki is really about learning to be a student, learning a practice habit, getting to know the teacher. Try not to get frustrated - many of these kids just take off. My son started at 5, but after about 8 months in where I just felt like we were banging our heads against a wall he magically started putting late book 1 pieces hands together on his own. He finished book 1 in just over 1 year. Something just clicks for most of these kids eventually if you stick with it.

This is a GREAT book if you can get your hands on a copy ...
http://www.amazon.com/Helping-Parents-Practice-Making-Easier/dp/0976785439

Good luck!
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Amateur musician, piano and violin parent

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