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#955764 - 05/02/04 08:44 PM How much progress should my 6 year old make?
pete Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/28/03
Posts: 796
Loc: port washington, ny, us
I am a frequent poster on the Piano Board's other forums, but I have a question for the piano teachers in this forum. My son, who will turn six in a few days, has been taking piano lessons for about a year. I myself started taking piano when I was five, so I didn't think he started too young. However, I am disappointed with the progress he has made. I don't want to sound like a stage father, because I am not pushing him at all. But he still seems to struggle to identify the notes on the clefs, and he really has not developed any sense of note rythym values. He needs to be encouraged to practice, and when he does, he looks at any mistakes he makes as an excuse to give up. My wife and I are really on the horns of a dilemma, as we don 't like seeing him so frustrated, and yet we don't want to send a message that he can just give up on anything that he doesn't want to try hard with. We are thinking of giving him the summer off. He has a very nice teacher, a young lady whom he likes very much, but they seem to spend most of their weekly lesson talking, and not playing very much.
Any suggestions? I am not trying to force him to learn piano, I just know how much pleasure it has given me in my life, and I don't want him to miss out on it. I realize that he may not have a tremendous amount of musical talent, but there's a lot to be gained from music lessons even if a kid is not going to be a professional musician. I would appreciate any advice.

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#955765 - 05/03/04 12:30 AM Re: How much progress should my 6 year old make?
RKVS1 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/07/01
Posts: 3192
Loc: Topeka, Kansas
That's a tough one because you don't want to push him too hard nor let him give up too easily, as you said.
-----------
I am not trying to force him to learn piano, I just know how much pleasure it has given me in my life, and I don't want him to miss out on it.
----------

Do you play now? Does he hear you play, and see that you DO enjoy it? Seeing a parent do something can be a powerful influence....either way I suppose, but its the old "actions Vs words" adage. If you notice him perking his ears up to a song on the radio or TV or showing some preference to a particular song,(knowing the words, or humming the tune) perhaps you could pick out the melody for him or score the melody. Or point the song out to his teacher.
Or learn the song yourself as a way of letting him know you have an real interest in his likes and dislikes.


Have you ever played any of the songs that his teacher has him working on? This could be a double-edged sword too, as he might be put off by you "showing him up" or getting into his "turf, but it could also be a way for you to guide him into the music.
Maybe some simple duets, with you furnishing most of the Secondo and ALL of the patience. (maybe a dab of Bravado)
If your wife plays she could join the act as well,either by playing or by singing or clapping the rhythm out. Or following along on another instrument if she plays one.

I'm not a teacher, and I've forgotten when I learned what as far as theory goes, but I do remember brushing the rust off an old metal clarinet so I could screech along with Dad and my brother and sister. Sounded probably not too good, but it was fun. (and the clarinet was more tarnished than rusty....I was exaggerating for effect.)

I'm not sure what the situation with the Suzuki method is now, or in New York, but we had very good experiences with it. Our son's teacher was very kiddy-friendly anyway, but the little "games" and rhythm-lyrics (Miss-is-sip-pi Hot Dog = four 1/16ths followed by two 1/8ths for instance) kept our 5 year old son interested. (This was in 1985.)

He's young, keep it fun.
Bob

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#955766 - 05/03/04 08:53 AM Re: How much progress should my 6 year old make?
pete Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/28/03
Posts: 796
Loc: port washington, ny, us
thanks. I am going to take up some of your suggestions. It is very much a double edged sword that I am a proficient player. We are going to keep trying to keep it fun.

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#955767 - 05/03/04 09:17 AM Re: How much progress should my 6 year old make?
RKVS1 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/07/01
Posts: 3192
Loc: Topeka, Kansas
Well I certainly wish you well with this.

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#955768 - 05/04/04 08:22 AM Re: How much progress should my 6 year old make?
AlCar Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/03/03
Posts: 43
Loc: Massachusetts
Have you considered supplimenting the lessons with some computer software?

There are a number of programs out there that can be used to teach the basics of music to children. A lot of them include games that make the learning experience fun and easy.
_________________________
- Al

http://www.carnali.com

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#955769 - 05/06/04 08:37 AM Re: How much progress should my 6 year old make?
pete Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/28/03
Posts: 796
Loc: port washington, ny, us
Al, are there any specific ones you would recommend? By the way, since my last post, my son seems to be doing a little better. We had a talk with his teacher, and one of the things she suggested is he keep a journal of songs he wants to learn. So far this has helped him stay at the piano a little longer.

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#955770 - 05/06/04 09:30 PM Re: How much progress should my 6 year old make?
starmender Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/06/03
Posts: 461
Loc: Australia
The method has to be right for the child. perhaps your son doesn't have the maturity in visual processing to read music yet, but that doesn't mean he can't play.

He is so little, that a holiday until he is a bit older would not hurt, as long as you keep up the musical stimulation.

Investigate Suzuki, Dalcroze and Kodaly for this child.

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#955771 - 05/09/04 08:52 AM Re: How much progress should my 6 year old make?
pete Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/28/03
Posts: 796
Loc: port washington, ny, us
Can't seem to locate any info on Dalcroze or Kodaly. Any suggestions as to where I can find info?

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#955772 - 05/11/04 12:15 AM Re: How much progress should my 6 year old make?
katie_dup1 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/27/03
Posts: 1838
Loc: Canada
I echo what starmender said, especially the part about keeping up the musical stimulation, b/c I sense what you and your wife really want is for your son to develop a "love for music".

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#955773 - 05/11/04 08:57 AM Re: How much progress should my 6 year old make?
pete Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/28/03
Posts: 796
Loc: port washington, ny, us
Thank you very much for your input. My son had a good lesson. I think he is having a lot of anxiety about his note reading skills. He enjoys a lot more songs where he already knows the melody. The teacher has made some adjustments as well. We are also going to give him a short break in the summer.

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#955774 - 05/11/04 02:08 PM Re: How much progress should my 6 year old make?
iyi bir piano Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/02
Posts: 664
Loc: USA
Pete,

Teaching music to children required special training.
The techniques available to teach children are not complex but they need to be adjusted based on the personís ability to learn. Besides that requires certain capabilities from the teacher.

There are several approaches to help children understand rhythm and music notation.
Iím sorry probably is time to look for a different type of teacher.
Ideally try to find a person with experience in your sonís age group.
An experience teacher will evaluate the student and give you details about his teaching plan and techniques.

The instructor should give you a whole six months plan. The plan could be achieve more or less within a time frame from five to eight months depending on the studentís ability.
The six months plan must be divided in monthly goals and it is important to know how those goals will be reach.

Notes and rhythm are an abstract concept for children. These two topics need to be taught with exercises that will make the children re-act with the right tempo to the notes.
Just reaction at the beginning, logical understanding of rhythm and notation will come together as the piano student develops in the process of learning

That is why children master so well video games; execution comes from reaction to objects on the screen.
Same with the piano, exercises must be based on reaction to symbols, where right execution bring the student to different levels.
These exercises must vary every two lessons and new exercises must have the same goal.

Instructors for children need to be energetic. Teachers canít be passive when it comes to teaching a six years old.

Lessons must be dynamic and well planned
What is important is to keep the childís interest while he/she learns. Is also important to get strategies from the teacher to help you, get your child practicing in regular basis.

Best regards,

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#955775 - 05/13/04 07:02 AM Re: How much progress should my 6 year old make?
pete Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/28/03
Posts: 796
Loc: port washington, ny, us
good news to report-- my son seems to be playing more these days. A big part of it is he is a perfectionist- so he only feels comfortable playing stuff he's already mastered. He was that way when he learned how to walk, too; very cautious, and very upset when he fell. I guess its inate. One of the things about parenting that can be so confounding is that every kid is unique. also one of the blessings. thanks again to all for your advices.

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#955776 - 05/14/04 08:45 AM Re: How much progress should my 6 year old make?
obrother Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/07/04
Posts: 182
Pete, I'm a full-time piano teacher and have taught probably close to a thousand students over twenty years.

I have a different perspective than, say, Ibi, and I say that respectfully.

I teach, have taught, many six year olds and even some younger. Granted, when they are too young (don't know the first letters of the alphabet), I suggest holding off..at least for lessons from me.

Part of what has made my teaching succesful, is the series of beginner books...I use it for beginners and adults. It's called Edna Mae Burnham step by step. It almost teaches itself and starts in Middle C position. It moves at a slow pace, teaching ONLY one note at a time...not a position. Sure, I segue into other materials, especially for adults as soon as they get some basic notes/books down.

But my point is, the lessons 'should' be easy and fun for a six year old. And I, personally, wouldn't worry about expectations six months out or whatever. My first concern is to have a good rapport with the child, make them look forward to the lesson, keep it simple...and most important...avoid unnecessary songs and instructions that will bog down the experience.

If your instructor gives your 6 year old son a book that lays out a whole position of notes and expects him to memorize the names right off the bat...it may, I repeat 'may' be detrimental. Please look into my book and see how it progresses.

As far as rhythm, I, personally, never expect such a young child to get the concept of rhythm exactly. Do I even teach them what the bottom part of 4/4 rhythm means? Absolutely not. Some adults can't even understand that. Do I teach them that a quarter note gets 1 and so on? Yes. Do I care if they don't keep perfect time or hold the note for excactly the right time? No. Do I count for them, under my breath, to help them see how the beats go..yes.

In regard to a six month plan, especially for a six year old, I have none. My plan is to teach them as I teach anybody...get them to learn their notes (sightread) in a fun and easy way. With the Edna book, the parent, and usually the student, will see improvement with 'each'lesson. Then I go at the child's pace. This is all over-simplification on my part, admittedly. But my point is that a teacher needs to have a 'great' book to work with, a good rapport with kids..and to not have an insistence on teaching every song in a book or every skill shown in a book. There is time for everything down the road - first keep his interest and keep it simple and fun.

Finally, you have to be realistic about the discipline of practice for a 6 year old. I never suggst a student 'don't practice, that's not my point. But the practice time should be kept reasonable ...15 minutes for a six year old is like an hour to us. Above all, I believe you must keep the experience fun and palatable for a six year old ...if he equates learning piano with a regimented dose of whatever...he may be turned off when he otherwise could've loved it. It's not that I let kids get away with murder...but I teach them to their particular temperment...not mine.

A lot of teachers, I presume, teach little kids the piano with the thought of preparing them for being rather accomplished. At that age, I care not about that..I just want them to have a good experience so they enjoy music...and of course, as I said...they will learn each and every lesson because of the excellent book..and they have a wonderful teacher (achem). Glad to answer more questions.

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#955777 - 10/25/04 08:32 AM Re: How much progress should my 6 year old make?
alfredo Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 09/26/04
Posts: 10
Excellant thoughts "obrother", thanks.

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#955778 - 11/01/04 05:52 PM Re: How much progress should my 6 year old make?
PianoMum9 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/19/04
Posts: 19
Loc: Surrey, BC
Good thoughts "obrother". You cannot adhere to a schedule with any child, especially a young one. I haven't taught thousands in my twenty years of teaching, but I have taught quite a few and one of the first things you learn is that they all go at their own speed. I'm glad you gave your little guy a summer break. I teach some students over part of the summer, but never the whole summer. The only times I've given in to parental pressure to continue through the whole summer, I've regretted it about October when they fade ...We all need breaks.
I have two "new beginner" in September 6-year-olds this year. One of them is having trouble concentrating on practice. (I think part of that might be because his parents both work full-time, are tired, and are used to their older son who practices beautifully on his own for over an hour a day at age 9, though.) I'm getting them to let him play each book at a different time of day this week. Hopefully that works.
My other 6-year-old is practicing so much that his older sister is having trouble getting the piano back from him to do her practice!! He's just more "ready" or mature or something.
Hope practice is improving and he's enjoying playing the piano more now.

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#955779 - 11/02/04 08:18 PM Re: How much progress should my 6 year old make?
pete Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/28/03
Posts: 796
Loc: port washington, ny, us
I am so pleased that this thread which I started months ago is still going. Here's the good news, my son is doing much much better. It got really bad for a while, with every practice session ending in tears, and my son insisting that he hated the piano. My wife told me to call up the teacher, and stop the lessons, but something stopped me from making the call after I dialed the number. I know that music lessons are very helpful to a child's development, and also I did not want to give my son the message that anything he wasn't good at, he could just give up. Believe me, it was very agonizing for me and my wife. But here is what turned the tide; first we started writing the names of all the notes. Second, my wife made a deal that my son would have to practice only four days a week, and we let my son pick the days. We also keep the practices short. The result-- he is enjoying playing, and his playing sounds much more musical. I don't think he'll ever be a great pianist, but I could care less. The important lesson he learned is not to give up. And we have told him he can change instruments when he is 8 years old, which should change some of the jealousy issues. I am very relieved. And thanks to everyone on this website for their input.

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#955780 - 11/17/04 04:12 PM Re: How much progress should my 6 year old make?
james_cc Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/04/04
Posts: 99
Loc: Chino Hills, CA
You might try to join group lesson for example at Yamaha Music school if available as a start. Normally kids will learn many things: ear training, singing, sight reading, theories, and learn in relaxing and less pressure atmostphere.

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#955781 - 11/17/04 07:46 PM Re: How much progress should my 6 year old make?
ArtsOhio Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 11/08/04
Posts: 5
I would suggest not writing out the names of the notes. I think it hinders note-reading in the long run. I'm new with piano-teaching, but I've taught wind instruments and the kids that learn this way learn to also rely on that crutch.

I teach a 5-year old and there are a couple of games that we play that might help. I made a stack of "Memory" cards. Instead of identical matches, the pairs consist of the note written on the clef and the corresponding key (marked with a star) on the keyboard.

I also have a metal staff board with little magnet notes. I let the student (or do it myself) arrange the notes, then read them, then play them.

I think that writing the notes out is a bad idea. I would recommend backing up and taking care of the problem (in a fun way) instead.

About practice, I like kids that little to practice in 5 minute spurts a few times a day. It is not so intimidating or boring and less likely to lead to tears and frustration. Maybe you could set up an incentive sheet, with a stick for each 5-minute practice session. That way your son can earn a reward for practicing everyday and/or racking up a certain amount of stickers.

Lastly, 6 years old is very young. After a long day of school, your little one does need an added frustration. I think at that age, forming a good attitude about music is most important for later musical growth. Your son might not be ready for structured private lessons. I agree that group lessons might be a good option. Also, you might want to look into the Kindermusik Young Child program where the children play simple instruments and learn to read music through creative movement and play. An Orff program might also be more appropriate.

It's supposed to be fun, not a hardship... that will just cause resentment and a dislike for the instrument.

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#955782 - 11/17/04 08:12 PM Re: How much progress should my 6 year old make?
pete Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/28/03
Posts: 796
Loc: port washington, ny, us
Thanks for the input. My son is doing much better these days. We are going to wean him from written out note names.

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