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#1927799 - 07/16/12 11:39 PM Keeping a child engaged
Elkayem Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/02/12
Posts: 160
Loc: Santa Clara, CA
I'll bet this is a common topic. I started our 7 year old daughter on piano lessons 2 weeks ago, and she is really enthusiastic about it. She has seen me play piano and has been asking for several months when she can learn how to do it. Now she practices several times a day at her own initiative and really seems to like it. However, I know children can be fickle and anticipate the day she will announce she doesn't like piano any more. Are there any tried and true methods to keep children going on the piano for the long term, or does it just depend on the child's temperament? And if she does decide she isn't interested, is there anything I should do? Wait for her to get interested again? Force her to keep up her lessons and practicing for "her own good"? My own parents gave me the gift of piano lessons in my youth and had the good sense to insist I keep practicing even when I wasn't interested. However, I'm worried that if I use the same technique it may backfire. I only get one chance after all.
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#1927803 - 07/17/12 12:03 AM Re: Keeping a child engaged [Re: Elkayem]
musiclady Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/19/05
Posts: 431
Loc: Toronto, Canada
Tell her she has to stick with it until she reaches at least Level 6, preferably Level 8. No ifs, ands or buts. In some areas completion of music exams can qualify for high school credit, where I am, for piano Basic (or Intermediate?) Rudiments with Level 7 Piano is one non-grade 12 music credit, and Advanced Rudiments with Level 8 Piano is valid as a grade 12 music credit. (not sure about CA, I'm in Southern Ontario, though was in SoCal last May visiting a music/piano friend there.) Take her to see pianists having a role in chamber music, to develop a sound concept for other instruments that she may develop an interest in before band or orchestra starts in school. Regain your piano skills and play duets with her, I personally like the In Recital Duets, Book 1 has several that my students love.

One technique to getting students to practice is offering 1 minute of practice time for 1 minute of video game, TV, or computer time. (Several of my student's parents use this one very successfully) Offering them a choice to practice or do a chore that they dislike works really well too. Especially once they are past the first level of a method book, encourage them to play for school talent shows, friends, family, for music class at school. The friends and family ones can be done even when they are in the first book. Give a few days advance notice for performing for friends and family. One of the two pairs of sisters I currently teach sometimes have family visiting from Serbia, and they are always so happy to play for their Grandma, aunts, and uncles who visit (one is coming for the second time since they started in October), both are doing quite well to very well especially the older girl. If you have the ability, audio or video record one or two of their pieces every month, and then show them through a difficult moment what they used to find "hard"! Use goal-oriented practice, which they have to complete what's required, but can take as much or as little time as they need.

Hope this gives you some ideas.

Meri
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Clarinet and Piano Teacher based out of Toronto, Canada.Web: http://donmillsmusicstudio.weebly.com

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#1927832 - 07/17/12 01:57 AM Re: Keeping a child engaged [Re: Elkayem]
keystring Offline
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Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11847
Loc: Canada
Music can be loved for its own sake. If somebody of any age chooses to learn to play an instrument of her own accord, and enjoys it, why make it secondary? In other words, make the goal attaining grades and passing RCM exams? Or make the goal getting a treat? At that point, the music has stopped being the goal. It almost sends a message that music can't be enjoyable because these other things are needed as the "real" goals. You can have cake after eat your liver. Music is liver?

When I first taught, I inherited grade 2 students who had already lost their curiosity and love of learning because they were enticed by rewards. It was still possible to reawaken their curiosity because they were only 7 years old, but it was a chore. I vowed not to raise my own children that way. One of my youngsters did enter music. The first thing he opted out of were the RCM exams, because they would interfere with his pursuit of music. And we do hear of students and former students who would enjoy their studies more, if only they could start concentrating on the music and not have to worry about exams.

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#1927851 - 07/17/12 03:15 AM Re: Keeping a child engaged [Re: keystring]
Gary D. Offline
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Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4814
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: keystring
Music can be loved for its own sake. If somebody of any age chooses to learn to play an instrument of her own accord, and enjoys it, why make it secondary? In other words, make the goal attaining grades and passing RCM exams? Or make the goal getting a treat? At that point, the music has stopped being the goal. It almost sends a message that music can't be enjoyable because these other things are needed as the "real" goals. You can have cake after eat your liver. Music is liver?

When I first taught, I inherited grade 2 students who had already lost their curiosity and love of learning because they were enticed by rewards. It was still possible to reawaken their curiosity because they were only 7 years old, but it was a chore. I vowed not to raise my own children that way. One of my youngsters did enter music. The first thing he opted out of were the RCM exams, because they would interfere with his pursuit of music. And we do hear of students and former students who would enjoy their studies more, if only they could start concentrating on the music and not have to worry about exams.

There is a problem that is basic to everyone:

Self-motivated people will never understand people who have to be motivated. If the desire to learn comes from within us, then no amount of pressure or reward is going to make us try harder. Nothing makes me more angry than being pushed, and I have been that way my entire life. Music was the one place I got to skip the insanity of grades, testing, one-size-fits-all thinking. By the way, I think this also happens in sports. Music and sports tend to bypass a lot of bunk when the aim is excellence that stands on its own. smile

If grades and competitions and certificates are what push people forward, they will never understand those of us who function differently.

My best students are like me. They are fascinated by music, and that fascination drives them. Many of them are additionally motivated by playing for others and receiving positive reactions. There is no reason why people with a competitive nature will not benefit from the additional challenges of ratings and the inevitable comparison that comes with playing in situations that make it impossible not to watch and listen to other people.

But my view is that the "fire in the belly" should be the driving force, not all the other things. If the drive comes from within and there is always a hunger for more music, more musical experience, then I think a lifetime attachment to playing is much more likely - which should always be the goal.


Edited by Gary D. (07/17/12 03:15 AM)
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#1928026 - 07/17/12 10:43 AM Re: Keeping a child engaged [Re: Elkayem]
MaggieGirl Offline
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Registered: 09/18/11
Posts: 493
I think a child's reaction coupled with the parents response will show the outcome. At 7 she has probably done several activities already. Does she still do them? Was she allowed to quit on her terms? Your terms? How did you work through it with her? How does she do when encountering a math problem she gets wrong? Or solve one that she hasn't seen before? I think that these situations set the stage for future endeavors (piano or whatever the select). Some kids get their first bit of difficulty and their instinct is to put up a wall and quit. They are resistant to any teaching and complain it's too hard. Some kids are workhorses and plow through the easy and the hard. Some kids want the hard and have a hard time getting through the basics. So first you have to determine what kind of learner you have and how to support her.

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#1928046 - 07/17/12 11:32 AM Re: Keeping a child engaged [Re: Elkayem]
rada Offline
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Registered: 09/07/06
Posts: 1124
Loc: pagosa springs,co
What works for one student can be completely the opposite of what works for another. I don't think a parent should choose what their child should do. Initially there can be an offering, then maybe a time commitment but untimately a child will stay with what is most engaging to them.

Maybe you could take her to a music store so she can select a book.

I am with Gary on a lifetime attachment to music.

rada

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#1928184 - 07/17/12 05:31 PM Re: Keeping a child engaged [Re: Elkayem]
The Monkeys Online   content
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Registered: 01/13/12
Posts: 441
Loc: Vancouver BC
At what age did you find your true love of music and started to self motivate to work hard?
Were there moments in your life that you felt lost or discouraged to the point that you wanted to give up? How old were you at that time and how did you overcome it?

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#1928232 - 07/17/12 06:59 PM Re: Keeping a child engaged [Re: Gary D.]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7417
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted By: Gary
But my view is that the "fire in the belly" should be the driving force, not all the other things. If the drive comes from within and there is always a hunger for more music, more musical experience, then I think a lifetime attachment to playing is much more likely - which should always be the goal.

Unfortunately for us, most students don't fall into that category. I have no idea what the ratio would be, but I'm guessing somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 in 20 are intrinsically motivated. Pity.
_________________________
"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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#1928261 - 07/17/12 09:09 PM Re: Keeping a child engaged [Re: Elkayem]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11847
Loc: Canada
The child in question:
- wanted to learn to play the piano
- started practicing on her own, and kept doing so for several months
- has had several weeks of lessons, and is enjoying them

Surely this is an intrinsically motivated child.

If, as suggested, this child is now told that she "has" to take lessons up to a certain level "no ifs, ands, or and buts" will she continue enjoying them as before? If she presently enjoys the instrument and music, does it make sense to reorient her toward things like earning credits? Similarly, if she is "rewarded" with t.v. or computer game time for practicing, does that not send the message that t.v. is worthwhile and there is something wrong with music since it needs to be rewarded? Are you not changing the child's goals from learning to play, to a new goal of finishing piano practice as fast as possible because the real goal is watching t.v.? In my mind, these things will hurt the motivation that exists rather than help.

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#1928266 - 07/17/12 09:38 PM Re: Keeping a child engaged [Re: Elkayem]
musiclady Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/19/05
Posts: 431
Loc: Toronto, Canada
I'm just throwing ideas around, using what some of my student's parents have used to get them to practice and stick with it. Some of the kids after a few months practiced a lot but did not use all of their computer/TV/video game time, found it rewarding enough to play, and have done well at both formal and informal performances.

Meri
_________________________
Clarinet and Piano Teacher based out of Toronto, Canada.Web: http://donmillsmusicstudio.weebly.com

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#1928268 - 07/17/12 09:44 PM Re: Keeping a child engaged [Re: Elkayem]
Minniemay Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
You'll see what the intrinsic motivation is when things start to get difficult.
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#1928271 - 07/17/12 09:59 PM Re: Keeping a child engaged [Re: Minniemay]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11847
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: Minniemay
You'll see what the intrinsic motivation is when things start to get difficult.

Yes, indeed. That is when it kicks in especially strongly and shows its stuff. Good point.

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#1928298 - 07/17/12 11:27 PM Re: Keeping a child engaged [Re: Elkayem]
Elkayem Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/02/12
Posts: 160
Loc: Santa Clara, CA
Meri, I really like your advice. Like a lot of other posters on this forum, I am a bit idealistic too, and think motivation should come from within in order for music to truly be enjoyable. However, I am dealing with a 7 year old who can get bored with things quite easily. If I made school or homework optional, she would have dropped out of the first grade within the first month. She likes piano for now which is great, though it will take years before she gets to reap the rewards and I am fearful she will lose interest long before then. Kids don't think long term (or at least mine doesn't). I am looking for practical tips from teachers and other parents on what has kept their young students going (and what doesn't). If my little one has that "fire in the belly" I will consider myself lucky.

MaggieGirl, you have asked some excellent questions. I understand that what works and what doesn't depends on the child. At different times, I see a different style of learner in her. When she wants something, she will work hard to get it. When she turned 4, she wanted to take off the training wheels. Her idea, not mine. After some hard determined work, she was riding within hours. The next day she wanted to learn to start without a push from dad. She fell off her bike many times but kept getting back on, and by the end of the weekend she could do it. Other times, she gives up right away because she is not "good" at something. At times she doesn't grasp that no one is naturally good without a lot of hard work. She does get bored easily with some activities (not all), and I think that is my biggest concern.

We will see how it goes, but I think I am inclined to make it mandatory (with enticements) like homework, up to a point. I just don't want to fall into any common pitfalls right out of the gate.
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#1928310 - 07/17/12 11:59 PM Re: Keeping a child engaged [Re: Elkayem]
Minniemay Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
A good teacher can really help ease the way. If the instruction is solid and the teacher actually teaches the child how to practice AND you help her follow through in an encouraging way, you have a pretty good formula going.

The teacher, if he/she is on the ball, will also figure out what kinds of literature motivates your child to spend more time at the piano. That won't happen right away -- your daughter needs to acquire the basic skills of reading, technique and musicianship -- but good repertoire that she responds to will help a lot.
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B.A., Piano, Piano Pegagogy, Music Ed.
M.M., Piano

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#1928325 - 07/18/12 01:11 AM Re: Keeping a child engaged [Re: Minniemay]
AZNpiano Online   happy
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5590
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: Minniemay
That won't happen right away -- your daughter needs to acquire the basic skills of reading, technique and musicianship -- but good repertoire that she responds to will help a lot.

Unfortunately, a great percentage of students will have already quit piano by then.
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Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#1928342 - 07/18/12 02:03 AM Re: Keeping a child engaged [Re: Minniemay]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11847
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: Minniemay
A good teacher can really help ease the way. If the instruction is solid and the teacher actually teaches the child how to practice AND you help her follow through in an encouraging way, you have a pretty good formula going.

The teacher, if he/she is on the ball, will also figure out what kinds of literature motivates your child to spend more time at the piano. That won't happen right away -- your daughter needs to acquire the basic skills of reading, technique and musicianship -- but good repertoire that she responds to will help a lot.

Minniemay, that is what I was hoping to read. But above all, I did not want to read that if a child is interested in playing the piano, that the first thing you do is to give the child non-piano goals. I have believed for a long time that skills themselves are motivating.

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#1928345 - 07/18/12 02:12 AM Re: Keeping a child engaged [Re: John v.d.Brook]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4814
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
Originally Posted By: Gary
But my view is that the "fire in the belly" should be the driving force, not all the other things. If the drive comes from within and there is always a hunger for more music, more musical experience, then I think a lifetime attachment to playing is much more likely - which should always be the goal.

Unfortunately for us, most students don't fall into that category. I have no idea what the ratio would be, but I'm guessing somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 in 20 are intrinsically motivated. Pity.

John,

If we are talking about children who feel as I do, as a young person, I would say that is astonishingly RARE.

1) I never had to be told to practice.
2) I never wanted to skip lessons.
3) No matter what I was working on, I was dreaming about getting the skills/experience to move forward to something new.
4) I wanted to be performing pianist within a year or so of starting lessons.
5) I spent HOURS each day listening to music. I bought my own records - yes records, back in the days of the dinosaurs. smile
6) I listened to the radio, and when I heard something new and exciting, I bought the recording.
7) I shaped the musical tastes of my PARENTS, who gradually began listening to MY records. smile

As I keep trying to explain here, if I wanted to do something, I was almost impossible to stop. But if I did NOT want to do something, I was impossible to manipulate.

So no, none of my students are like me.

HOWEVER: they have different degrees of interest, and I would rather work with what they bring me, unforced, than appear to excel more when the "success" is actually the force of my will, working through them, to accomplish what I want - if it is not also what they want.

Hard to describe.

Question: is it possible that all of us, to some extent, attract the people who are like us? My students tend to be misfits, rebels, free-thinkers, skeptics, unorthodox. I have my share of "good little girls and boys", and I'm not saying that they are not easy to work with. I'm not saying that I don't appreciate the students who more or less do as they are told provided that I feel they enjoy working with me.

But it is the rebels that float my boat. They often make me crazy too, but I joke about "karma". They are like I was, questioning everything, and I enjoy them. That doesn't mean that on bad days I don't want to scream at them for being stubborn, willful and so on, but in the end it is rather hard for me to fault people for being like me. wink
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#1928347 - 07/18/12 02:23 AM Re: Keeping a child engaged [Re: Elkayem]
Elkayem Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/02/12
Posts: 160
Loc: Santa Clara, CA
Gary D, you sound like me. Are any of your students 7 or thereabouts? Have any of them quit? What causes one to quit and another to continue?
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Schimmel 130T

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#1928358 - 07/18/12 02:45 AM Re: Keeping a child engaged [Re: Elkayem]
Elkayem Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/02/12
Posts: 160
Loc: Santa Clara, CA
OT, Meri, I clicked on the link in your signature and looked at your music school. Amazing! I want to come study at your school! Too bad I live in California. And have a full time job.
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#1928362 - 07/18/12 03:01 AM Re: Keeping a child engaged [Re: Elkayem]
AZNpiano Online   happy
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5590
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: Elkayem
Are there any tried and true methods to keep children going on the piano for the long term, or does it just depend on the child's temperament? And if she does decide she isn't interested, is there anything I should do? Wait for her to get interested again? Force her to keep up her lessons and practicing for "her own good"?

These are fair questions. I do have some suggestions:

1) If it is clear to you daughter's teacher that she has zero talent, and piano lessons will just be a huge waste of money, then by all means stop the lessons. There's no point to force people to do things they aren't good at.

2) If your daughter wants to quit piano, loses interest, or gets involved in idiotic peer groups who think piano is "for losers" (I actually had a couple of students who hang out with piano-haters), then you need to have a frank discussion with her. Piano is an optional activity, but it is also an investment. If she quits while advancing to, say, level 3 or 4, then it will be important to let her know that you've already invested quite a bit of money, and quitting there will be a big waste of money (and time, and effort) that has already been invested. Do a cost/benefit analysis with her.

3) A large percentage of students quit before they ever made it out of method books. I've come to accept that fact. It is not an indication of "failure" on the part of the parent, teacher, or student. If your daughter falls in that category, you can just tell yourself, "Hey, join the club!"


I have many students who take piano because their parents made them. Those who "stick it out" tend to score higher on tests and get into better colleges. But that's just a personal opinion based on a small sample of really dedicated Asian-American students.
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#1928363 - 07/18/12 03:03 AM Re: Keeping a child engaged [Re: Elkayem]
The Monkeys Online   content
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Registered: 01/13/12
Posts: 441
Loc: Vancouver BC
If every kid has long lasting intrinsic motivation, we wouldn't be having this discussion here.

If we just follow the child's "passion" of the moment, many kids will try 20 things and end up not good at anything. As a matter of fact that happens, I have seen some people in their late 30's still trying to find out what they like.

The majority of people who learn music don't end up to be musicians, is there a value for the kids that don't have long lasting intrinsic motivation to learn music? I think the answer is yes, below are some of reasons I can think of, beside the benefit of music itself:

1. It teaches that persist work gets the result. For every song, the student will go through the phrase of interested but can't play it, playing with difficulty, getting better, good and finally polished. A piano student will go though many many of these cycles, which teach them the value of persistence.

2. It builds up confidence. When my son was given a piece, many times, his first reactions, no, I can't play this yet, it is too difficult. But after some frustrations, he usually can get the piece into pretty good to polished state in 1-2 weeks. That helps him not to turn back when a task is seemingly impossible.

3. It helps to build concentration. Practice piano requires fairly high level of concentration, hand eye co-ordination, memorizing, timing etc. For beginners, it makes the kids to fully concentrate 30 seconds at at time, when they progress, the piece goes longer, and the concentration goes longer.

4. It helps to build self control and time management. To keep the progress, the kids will need to find time to practice each day. There are days the student don't feel like to practice, the process to overcome the laziness or distractions is a great practice by itself.

If a kid can learn persistence, confidence, concentration, self control and time management, he/she can do well in many areas later on with their life.

For the parents or teachers of kids with long lasting intrinsic motivation of music, congratulations.

IMHO, very few kids are extremely talented, very few kids are not teachable, most of them are somewhere in the middle.

So, for the rest of us (the parents), how can we help?
I don't have a magical answer, but I am willing to share with some of my experiences and thoughts.

1. Let he or she ask for the lessons.
If the kids is old enough (7 year or older?), instead of pushing him/her to the class, provide access to music, recital is a good place go. Most kid will at some point ask to learn.

2. At the beginning, make it clear, it won't be easy and it is a commitment, one year at a time. For my son, this applies to any class he asks for.

3. Build peer support, make friends with piano students, make them show off the new songs they learn. Make them feel it is a socially cool thing to do.

4. No game, no TV before finishing practice and achieving planned progress. If my son is doing pretty good, I gave him the option to play game first then practice. But if he end up not practicing enough or not achieving the result he is normally able to, the option is revoked until he is back on track. I don't do the minute for minute deal, he doesn't get game time or TV time on weekdays anyways, on weekends, he can play game or watch TV, but practice is a priority.

5. Be a nice audience. Don't need to praise every song, but make sure you do listen with respect. Don't interrupt or correct every mistake. When asked, give honest opinions.

Like anything, you can't enjoy it until you are good at it, and the better you are, the better you enjoy it.

Unlike many other things, music as a gift from God, is so beautiful and you can enjoy it at every level.

I don't think my son belongs to the talented group with intrinsic motivation, however, since he found the middle c the first time 6 months ago, he is on level 1B now and can sight read simple pieces and play 2 minute long songs. More importantly, he is building up a good learning habit. Since school work is not challenging for him at all, I found piano, something he is not that naturally good at, help building up and enforcing the good learning habit. He likes it so far, is looking forward to his class every week, and makes sure his pieces are ready before he sees the teacher. To my delight, he plans his practice time. Of course, at age 8, he still doesn't have strong concept of time, still needs to be reminded to practice, but once reminded, he usually just runs to the piano.

I have spend quite some effort with my son on the piano study in the past 6 months since he started. We found the middle C the same time and I try to keep up the pace with him by learning every piece he learns. He learns faster than me know, and it is much easier for him to read the music now. I don't know for how long I can keep up the pace him, but I enjoyed every moment of it and it is nice to enjoy music together with him.

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#1928380 - 07/18/12 04:16 AM Re: Keeping a child engaged [Re: Elkayem]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4814
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: Elkayem
Gary D, you sound like me. Are any of your students 7 or thereabouts? Have any of them quit? What causes one to quit and another to continue?

I would have to do more work than I want to in order to give you a 100% accurate list, but I have LOTS of kids, right now, who are going into 2nd grade, 1st grade, one going into kindergarten, another just turning 5 years old yesterday.

The reason I loved to play is that it was easy for me. I advanced quickly, and I was able to learn things I wanted to play very quickly.

I think that learning something you REALLY want to play, if it ends up taking forever, may make you hate it.

But if you are not sure you like somethig, then someone "sells" it to you by playing it in a way that makes you want to do it too, even if it is not your "dream piece", if you can get it rather quickly, there is a pay-off.

I link continuing to success, and success to "how long". That's why I am absolutely convinced that learning to read very quickly and thus learn to play things quickly is absoutely crucial to wanting to continue.

Who wants to read a book if it is a struggle to read?

Once you have learned to play many things fairly quickly, even if they are not difficult, if the same ease continues as the music becomes more advanced, if the same learning speed continues, I think you have a good chance of being hooked for life.

I never know why some students quit, and why others do not, but it is rather rare for my young students to quit. I would say that the younger they start, the greater chance they will attain enough mastery early on to want to continue.
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#1928390 - 07/18/12 04:59 AM Re: Keeping a child engaged [Re: Elkayem]
Ben Crosland Online   content
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Registered: 03/11/10
Posts: 421
Loc: Worcester, UK
I agree, Gary. I have noticed a dramatic improvement in retention rate and motivation amongst new students over the last two years, since I overhauled the way I introduce reading skills.
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#1928392 - 07/18/12 05:05 AM Re: Keeping a child engaged [Re: AZNpiano]
Gary D. Offline
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Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4814
Loc: South Florida
I haven't run into this "piano is for losers" thing. If anything, I would think that boys would run into that. When I was young, and this goes back to the 50s and early 60s, in general playing piano was looked at as kind of a "girly" thing to do, the exact oppostive of "cool", and I was so sensitive to that mindset that I pretty much hid the fact that I played from everyone who was not a close friend or another young musician.

But it turned out that when other non-music students heard me play, and this includes some kids who were athletes, the "cool kids", their reaction was the exact OPPOSITE, and I think that came from WHAT I played, not the act of playing itself.

I don't prepare for competitions. I loathe them. I think they are performance factories, and they tend to reward "good little boys and girls" who do exactly what they are told. Mostly they play like amazing wind-up dolls, very impressive technique, but I don't hear any passion or anything original that reaches out and grabs me - except in VERY rare cases, and that is quite another thing.

Instead of the magic world that music was for me, I feel more as if I have stumbled into Dr. Seuss's nightmare world when I see lonely looking kids, stepping up to a grand in a sterile setting, getting nearly no applause, playing in a way that seems to have no joy.

I just don't get it. It looks like torture, it seems to be all to advance an ambitious teacher's reputation, and I do NOT believe most of these kids, playing in this environment, will willingly continue on their own when they escape from this pressure.

But apparently I stand alone in saying this. The whole world of compeition reminds me of this:

The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T.

To me success is all about self-discovery, and the teacher helps the student find his (or her) path. I just can't get this idea through to anyone here.

In high school I refused to read Great Expectations, The Scarlet Letter, The Heart of Darkness and just about EVERYTHING that these idiot tried to jam down my throat. NO WAY.

Swallow and regurgitate until you puke. Then do it again. Get the grades. Be a good boy. Earn those SAT scores. Tests measure intelligence, knowledge, potential. Play the game. Obey.

Then later you discover that the A you got in algebra has not really taught you how to solve an equation in real life, the A you got in Spanish has not even taught you how to successfully ask where the bathroom is, the A you got in American History only taught you how to repeat lies invented by test makers in Texas, and on and on and on and on and on.

Now, obediant young man or woman, sit still while we shove music down your throat in the same way that they shove everything ELSE down your throat in public school - and later in college.

That's the world we live in.

If I had let them make me read what we were told to read in school, I would have become a non-reader. My passion was sci-fi and fantasy, which I read on my own. Following my own path later LEAD me back to Dickens, whose books I came to enjoy later.

And I hated Shakespeare. Just hated it. Julius Caesar was pure torture. I flunked a test requiring me to recite something, no surprise since I have ZERO ability to rote memorize text.

So most of the people who read here will assume that I am ignorant, that I did not "follow the advice of those who knew better" and will also assume that I do not know Shakespeare.

When in fact I have read several of his plays in more than one language.

The point is that I was not at all precocious in my reading tastes, just the opposite. I liked reading comic books, graphic novels, authors who won Hugos, and I got lousy grades in English.

But later, in MY time, I got to all the other literature.

If it had not been for my love of music, which gave me a path out of this enslavement, I would have ended up in a minimum wage job - because I did not fit into this world I hated so much.

Most music students approach music the way I approached literature. They need time, lots of time, to grow into the music that is - and I repeat the phrase - jammed down their throats at the WRONG time.

That's where the piano-hating comes from. Something goes horribly wrong in lessons, students are not allowed to follow their own passions, and their peers at school pick that up.

These passive, brain-washed piano geeks get a reputation for being brain-washed piano geeks because there is no PASSION in their playing that makes people listen and come awake to new things.

The answer to this is to make sure that all students have a few "encore-like" pieces that are show-off-get-instant-recognition pieces.

Which is exactly what all the most succesful artists, professional, DO have.

If each student can play two or three things that have wide appeal to people who know NOTHING about music, once they grab the attention of listeners, they can slip in all sorts of music into the mix.

Which is ALSO what highly successful performers do.

Am I the only person here who did not love school? Is there no one else who felt in prison? Is there no one else who thinks that more than half of the people who quit taking lessons do so because of US, the TEACHERS, because we do not care whether or not their goals and dreams, very different from ours, may be just as valid?


Edited by Gary D. (07/18/12 05:10 AM)
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#1928405 - 07/18/12 07:11 AM Re: Keeping a child engaged [Re: Gary D.]
landorrano Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/26/06
Posts: 2472
Loc: France
Originally Posted By: Gary D.


Am I the only person here who did not love school? Is there no one else who felt in prison? Is there no one else who thinks that more than half of the people who quit taking lessons do so because of US, the TEACHERS, because we do not care whether or not their goals and dreams, very different from ours, may be just as valid?


No you are not the only person, you could have been writing about me.

The curious thing, with the years I have gained a deep respect for the kids who did read the Scarlet Letter and Shakespeare and who were able to understand something in it. And I think differently about the teachers too, who I mocked and quite hated; today I think that in general they had something interesting to say and that it wasn't their fault if I was not able to hear them. And for the kids who played piano too, or whatever.

Originally Posted By: Gary D.

These passive, brain-washed piano geeks get a reputation for being brain-washed piano geeks because there is no PASSION in their playing that makes people listen and come awake to new things.


I think that many of these kids, perhaps all of them, do have something genuine in what they do, but they don't dare to express themselves. The cruelty in the regard of other kids when, as you say, studying piano has something of "sissy" attached to it, can be crushing.

As for competitions or SAT scores, the thing is, I think, that you have to know that they are not the only thing in life. Looking back, I think that most of the kids that I knew who got great SAT scores and who went to "top" colleges, who seemed just to play the game and obey as you say and to have no question or impulse to the contrary ... were (and are today) much more interesting than I thought, certainly more open, more interested in what was going on around them, perhaps more sensitive to many things on an artistic level. I don't believe that they were as obsessed with grades and scores and admissions as I thought at the time.

Originally Posted By: Gary D.


To me success is all about self-discovery, and the teacher helps the student find his (or her) path.


Couldn't agree more. But I also think that self-discovery comes largely through discovering what is outside of yourself, through listening and learning and participating and building yourself. This European tradition of classical music has a lot to say in this respect, and I think that "piano teachers" have a kind of responsibility to convince a student, a child, of this, so that the child understands the importance of what he is being taught and learns early on to relate it to himself.

I remember talking years ago with a black American guy about Shakespeare. He discussed the idea that black kids oughtn't be bothered with Shakespeare, that they should be given things to read that "they can relate to". He was strongly opposed to this idea, he insisted that this literature is of great importance for everybody, that it was no less relevant for "underpriviledged" people or "minorities", and that it must be taught and in a very insistant fashion.

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#1928598 - 07/18/12 03:15 PM Re: Keeping a child engaged [Re: The Monkeys]
keystring Offline
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Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11847
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: The Monkeys

For the parents or teachers of kids with long lasting intrinsic motivation of music, congratulations.

IMHO, very few kids are extremely talented, very few kids are not teachable, most of them are somewhere in the middle.

The Monkeys, you are mixing two things together that don't belong together: intrinsic motivation, and talent. In the same vein, intrinsic motivation in music and a career in music. The ONLY thing that intrinsic motivation means is that somebody wants to do something. When it involves learning, then it means he wants to learn to do something or find out about something. He may have no talent in it, may never have a career or be brilliant at the thing. It doesn't mean that. However, since he is interested and keeps at it, of course he displays the type of "good study behaviour" that we try to instill in children otherwise because that does lead to some amount of success.

Every child is born with intrinsic motivation. Children don't learn the difficult task of standing upright, walking, talking and the rest, only because parents cajole them into doing it. They want to, and we help them.

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#1928608 - 07/18/12 03:38 PM Re: Keeping a child engaged [Re: keystring]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4814
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: keystring
The Monkeys, you are mixing two things together that don't belong together: intrinsic motivation, and talent. In the same vein, intrinsic motivation in music and a career in music. The ONLY thing that intrinsic motivation means is that somebody wants to do something.

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#1928623 - 07/18/12 04:06 PM Re: Keeping a child engaged [Re: keystring]
Elkayem Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/02/12
Posts: 160
Loc: Santa Clara, CA
Originally Posted By: keystring

Every child is born with intrinsic motivation. Children don't learn the difficult task of standing upright, walking, talking and the rest, only because parents cajole them into doing it. They want to, and we help them.

I understand what you are saying here. At the same time, our daughter has required a little cajoling to do her math homework. Math is hardly considered optional in our house. Some days she claims to like math. Others, not so much. She needs to do it regardless of whether she likes it that day.
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#1928626 - 07/18/12 04:18 PM Re: Keeping a child engaged [Re: keystring]
The Monkeys Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 01/13/12
Posts: 441
Loc: Vancouver BC
Originally Posted By: keystring
Originally Posted By: The Monkeys

For the parents or teachers of kids with long lasting intrinsic motivation of music, congratulations.

IMHO, very few kids are extremely talented, very few kids are not teachable, most of them are somewhere in the middle.

The Monkeys, you are mixing two things together that don't belong together: intrinsic motivation, and talent.


Although I still think the intrinsic motivation and talent usually go hand in hand in terms of music.

I take you point, the are 2 different things.
I should rephrase my statements as:

IMHO, very few kids are extremely self motivated, very few kids are not motivated at all, most of them are somewhere in the middle.

That doesn't really change the rest of my view.

Originally Posted By: keystring

Every child is born with intrinsic motivation. Children don't learn the difficult task of standing upright, walking, talking and the rest, only because parents cajole them into doing it. They want to, and we help them.


Not so sure we can compare with the natural skill like walking and talking with the acquired skills like art and science. Most human baby will talk between the age of 1 and 2, doesn't matter how much or how little help the parents provide. On the other hand, people get very different level of skills on art and science depends on the upbringing.

My point is, strong, long lasting intrinsic motivation of kid in art or science if of course a good things and we should support, but it can be the *only* thing we rely on.

Or in other words, each child has intrinsic motivation of music in some degree, and how should we cultivate it and let it flourish.

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#1928639 - 07/18/12 04:45 PM Re: Keeping a child engaged [Re: Elkayem]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4814
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: Elkayem
Originally Posted By: keystring

Every child is born with intrinsic motivation. Children don't learn the difficult task of standing upright, walking, talking and the rest, only because parents cajole them into doing it. They want to, and we help them.

I understand what you are saying here. At the same time, our daughter has required a little cajoling to do her math homework. Math is hardly considered optional in our house. Some days she claims to like math. Others, not so much. She needs to do it regardless of whether she likes it that day.

That's not the point.

The point is about developing the love of something, which then becomes a passion and does not need to be pushed, reminded or cajoled.

Granted, that can be all but impossible, for some people, in some areas.

But in the long run, if you daughter does not develop an interest in and at least an appreciation for the logic BEHIND doing math, she will end up in the same boat as one of my closest friends who always made straight As - but remembers NOTHING about algebra, geometry and does not understand ANY mathematical logic.

Now, this friend just happens to be someone I taught for years and was an excellent elementary school teacher - she is now retired. Because of the "discipline" of always having to get the grades, without understanding WHY she was learning math, she later had a block in learning fear. Math-panic.

So what did the cajoling from her parents give her? Anxiety and walls.

I'm not sayng that some pushing is not necessary, at times. I'm just saying that in the long run all the pushing in the world does not work unless there is understanding of what is BEHIND the pushing.
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