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#2192392 - 12/04/13 12:17 PM Teaching a child piano
Steve Peterson Offline

Bronze Level Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 03/15/13
Posts: 141
Loc: Texas
Hello,

My godson is now one year old. Clearly he's not ready to begin learning piano yet. However, he's around a lot of musical people, has shown an early love of music, and clearly can differentiate between music and musical noise. He's developing a good sense of rhythm also.

A bit about myself. I'm a reasonably good pianist, my repertoire includes some Bach, Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, and Chopin. I'm very strong on music theory from my cello performance major coursework in college way way back when. I only took formal piano lessons from 5 to 12, then switched to cello. I also worked for several as a successful school teacher, so I have developed skills for teaching.

I'm would like to teach Harper piano when he gets old enough. Even before he is old enough to go with formal lessons, I want to start him out learning informally when he's over and playing on my piano. Here are a few questions:

1. Based on what little you know of me, would you think it's reasonable that I could teach a beginning player? I'm only going to consider teaching for a few years. Then I would make sure he gets a more experienced teacher.

2. In general, what is the earlier age one could consider trying to teach a child? What special changes would you make for young children? I'm assuming short lessons at first.

3. What piano method book sets would work well for a younger child, as well as guide me through a good teaching progression? Are there books you can recommend for adults who want to teach children piano lessons?

Thanks for your input!

Steve
_________________________
Cello, Piano, Electic Bass

1967 Baldwin SD-10 - My Baby!

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#2192435 - 12/04/13 01:42 PM Re: Teaching a child piano [Re: Steve Peterson]
piano2 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/26/11
Posts: 82
Here are some thoughts I have on the subject:
1. When he's a toddler, don't teach him anything. Just play with him - he already enjoys music, so play musical games, sing songs, play piano songs that you think he will enjoy, use children's percussion instruments, listen to lots of types of music in the home, take him to age-appropriate concerts etc etc etc.
2. Little kids have varying levels of finger dexterity and some won't be ready to start playing the piano at 3 because their little fingers are too weak. Perhaps children who are encouraged to play with toys and games that strengthen their fingers and fine motor skills will be ready sooner. That is debatable and depends on lots of other factors, like hand size, focus etc,
3. If you plan to start him at age 3, Suzuki lessons would be beneficial. Then you aren't asking a 3 year old to make sense of printed notation, and the child can develop their ear.
4. Little kids usually aren't that's comfortable sitting on a regular piano bench with their legs hanging down. You would need an adjustable bench and footstool for the child.
5. What if the child doesn't actually want to play the piano? Why not wait until he is 4 or 5 and ask him what instrument he'd like to play? There are small cellos, violins, guitars, flutes etc etc etc.
6. Do you have a lot of patience? Teaching small children requires more than a lot of patience - for both their behaviours as well as their speed in learning.
7. There are so many things to say, for now I'd like to close with the question - have you thought that there might be challenges with teaching a child you know so well? A lot of teachers on this forum have had challenges with teaching children of their friends or relatives. It's not easy - there are lots of issues that come up, and it's not always worth jeopardizing your relationship with the friend, relative or godson.

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#2192537 - 12/04/13 05:22 PM Re: Teaching a child piano [Re: Steve Peterson]
dumdumdiddle Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/16/06
Posts: 1264
Loc: California
I notice you live in Texas. There are several programs you should check out that will be a wonderful introduction to music. Lots of singing, playing with bells, rhythm sticks, egg shakers, etc... movement, finger games..... Some of these include keyboard activities that will lead nicely to piano lessons later.

www.harmonyroadmusic.com

www.yamaha.com/ymes/musicschools/home.asp

www.musikgarten.org

www.myc.com

www.musictogether.com

www.kindermusik.com
_________________________
Music School Owner
Early Childhood Music Teacher/Group Piano Teacher/Private Piano Teacher
Member of MTAC and Guild

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#2192598 - 12/04/13 06:56 PM Re: Teaching a child piano [Re: piano2]
Steve Peterson Offline

Bronze Level Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 03/15/13
Posts: 141
Loc: Texas
Originally Posted By: piano2
Here are some thoughts I have on the subject:
1. When he's a toddler, don't teach him anything. Just play with him - he already enjoys music, so play musical games, sing songs, play piano songs that you think he will enjoy, use children's percussion instruments, listen to lots of types of music in the home, take him to age-appropriate concerts etc etc etc.
2. Little kids have varying levels of finger dexterity and some won't be ready to start playing the piano at 3 because their little fingers are too weak. Perhaps children who are encouraged to play with toys and games that strengthen their fingers and fine motor skills will be ready sooner. That is debatable and depends on lots of other factors, like hand size, focus etc,
3. If you plan to start him at age 3, Suzuki lessons would be beneficial. Then you aren't asking a 3 year old to make sense of printed notation, and the child can develop their ear.
4. Little kids usually aren't that's comfortable sitting on a regular piano bench with their legs hanging down. You would need an adjustable bench and footstool for the child.
5. What if the child doesn't actually want to play the piano? Why not wait until he is 4 or 5 and ask him what instrument he'd like to play? There are small cellos, violins, guitars, flutes etc etc etc.
6. Do you have a lot of patience? Teaching small children requires more than a lot of patience - for both their behaviours as well as their speed in learning.
7. There are so many things to say, for now I'd like to close with the question - have you thought that there might be challenges with teaching a child you know so well? A lot of teachers on this forum have had challenges with teaching children of their friends or relatives. It's not easy - there are lots of issues that come up, and it's not always worth jeopardizing your relationship with the friend, relative or godson.


Let me respond by point, and look for additional thoughts...

1. I agree, right now he likes to play on the piano, and I just let him hit notes. I am trying to do subtle things like mirror notes he plays an octave higher or lower, with the idea that he may hear that octaves "sound the same", or playing rhythm games with him. I agree that starting him with lessons before he's ready is a bad idea, hence my question. Is 3 a good age? 5?

2. As before, I don't know when he's ready to start. I started at 5, and that seems like a decent age. I certainly don't want to push him if he's not ready.

3. Personally, I've not been a big fan of the suzuki method. I saw a lot of suzuki students from my time as a cellist and found many of them lacking in some serious skill. If I *did* start earlier than he could read music, it would probably be something less formal, with just learning to make simple melodies.

4. I do have an adjustable bench. Thanks for the advise on the footstool. I wouldn't have considered that.

5. Totally agree there. If he's not interested, I'm not going to try to force him. I spend a lot of time with him, and my biggest goal now is to expose him to as much music as possible, to give him a love of music. He really seems to be interested at this point, and I hope that he wants to play some instrument. But if he doesn't, that's fine too. I'll still love him to death!

I'm also thrilled if he wants to learn different instruments. I could teach him cello or bass if interested, I have friends who could teach him guitar or drums. Or he may take another path. Mostly I want to instill a love of music in all its varieties, and the opportunity to learn when learning is the easiest.

6. I used to teach middle school math. I have lots of patience. I also did some time teaching cello to kids (mostly from ages of 7 - 13).

7. I have thought of this, and from my time coaching tennis, I've seen the perils of coaching your own kids, particularly as they get better. My thinking was that even if I start teaching him I wouldn't consider doing it for more than a few years. I feel I can give him solid beginning fundamentals, including proper hand position, fingering, reading music and simple theory. If he's really interested and starts progressing, I would recommend (and pay for it if necessary) that he gets a more experienced teacher.

Anyway, thanks for your response. I agree there are many pitfalls, and I think (hope) I can keep my own ego out of it!

I realize I'm asking this question very early, but I am still interested in suggests for piano courses for beginning children, or resources to help prepare me to teach piano.
_________________________
Cello, Piano, Electic Bass

1967 Baldwin SD-10 - My Baby!

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#2192640 - 12/04/13 08:43 PM Re: Teaching a child piano [Re: piano2]
malkin Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/18/09
Posts: 2494
Loc: *sigh* Salt Lake City
Originally Posted By: piano2
Here are some thoughts I have on the subject:
1. When he's a toddler, don't teach him anything. Just play with him...


This--And TALK to him! Talk about what he is looking at and what he is doing. Give him opportunities to talk, and listen to him.
_________________________
A good student is one who makes the teacher feel like a good teacher.

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