In the process of learning an instrument the parents role plays a crucial part. There is a triangle formed by teacher-student-parent which requires teamwork and open communication. If one of the pieces of this triangle fails to maintain this structure the process will be much slower and more expensive. Most parents of my students do not know music and believe they can not help their children to study piano but in reality, it is not necessary to have musical knowledge to support their children in their studies.
I have compiled a list of ten things that every parent of a child who wants to learn piano should know. These are not 10 mandatory or strict rules to follow, rather some useful tips that I have compiled after years of experience. I hope they will be of assistance.
1. Choose a good teacher
As mentioned earlier, the triangle formed by parents, student, and teacher has a factor that is determinable: the teacher. So, spend the time to choose a teacher for your child. Even if you do not have much of a musical background, it is true that it is difficult to pick an appropriate teacher for your child; but you can try. There are so many options for you, for example, ask other parents whose child is in piano, internet searches with reviews, learn about schools in your city, or try to meet the teacher before the lessons starts. Much of the progress made by the child with learning the piano will be determined by the teacher. If you keep the following tips in this list, it means you’re a parent who is interested in the musical education of your child; and you are taking one of the first steps in expanding your knowledge and understanding of the instructions your child will receive by their teacher. Despite all this, if you see that the student is not motivated or does not improve or both, it is time to talk to the teacher or replace them with another. Remember, the three sides of the triangle have to work!
2. Set a realistic and daily practice routine
It is very important that a student acquires from the beginning the discipline to sit at the piano every day or a majority of the days in the week. Moreover, it is not so important the time spent practicing piano but rather the quality of that practice time. Five minutes a day in the first stage of learning is more than enough. It is very useful to create a study routine that can be performed every day and preferably at the same time. Parents can help the child to choose the time of day and a daily activity as a reminder in order to better fit it in. Such as practicing before going to school, before their bath, or after dinner. Any time of the day is good and if they associate it with an item in their daily routine, better. At first it will be difficult, but try at for 4 or 5 days of the week in order to gain a feel for the piano.
3. Keep in constant contact with your child’s teacher
The teacher should inform the parents constantly on their child’s progress. Whether talking, by text message or a scheduled update. Through this information the parent will know if the child is on track and if they are studying properly. Additionally, the prospects of what is required to improve and advance properly for your child will be highlighted. It is also important for the teacher to know any vital information from the parents which may have an impact on their child’s focus and potential. Their progress at home with the piano is key, but also their studies at school, sports, work, or any other important aspect in their life. As for the piano teacher, spending 30 or 60 minutes with your child can often help detect a learning (dyslexia, lack of concentration), physical (problems with motor skills, hearing or vision) or an emotional problem.
4. Give piano lessons the importance it deserves
The student’s perceived interest comes partly from the parents interest as it is the key to motivate, encourage, and involve the child. It is essential that you do not miss any class except for dire circumstances. Your child will realize and adopt the understanding and importance of their lesson if you, the parent, give the classes the importance they deserve. If the child sees that you can skip a class because of school obligations, or your child wants to attend a play date with a friend that afternoon; the perception that piano is not as important as these other activities will decrease their interest in the music classes. If, on the other hand, a student notes how their parents are involved in their learning, they will be more enthused and committed to perform the tasks. Equally important factors for a lesson include: punctuality, carrying the required books and sheet music, and finally participating and attending in the recitals.
5. Get involved in the learning process
Normally, a student at the beginning of their studies with an instrument has neither the maturity nor the sufficient capacity of concentration to practice the piano properly. The role of the parent is essential when performing tasks at a satisfactory level. This role is not only limited to the child remembering to practice themselves but how they practice. If you do not know where to start, talk to your teacher and figure out ways to actively participate and engage with your child’s learning. Sometimes teachers write down the child’s homework in a notebook. If this is the case with your child, have them walk you through their instructions. Rarely in practice is it advisable to perform the piece up and down. If you hear that your child does this often as part of their study habit that is a good indicator that something is wrong. During there early years of piano learning, repetition is okay. When the child is very young and has still not developed proper practice and studying techniques at home this will be the case. As the child gets older this practice behaviour becomes unrealistic. Rather than playing the entirety of the piece, breaking it up into smaller feasible sections will allow more depth and ability to work out errors. As the years go on, your child will be ready to practice at home in the same manner as in class with their teacher. If you can sit with your child when they are playing piano to observe, you will help create more awareness in your child’s practice and behaviour. Finally, if the teacher advises, you may be able to attend your child’s classes occasionally.
6. Create a suitable space in which your child can play without distractions
The student needs a quiet and suitable place to practice. A corner without distraction and easily accessible to your child is the better option. If the piano is in the living room, as in many homes for lack of space, you must respect the child’s’ practice time ensuring a quiet and peaceful atmosphere. It will also be necessary from the onset to have a suitable piano for the student to practice. If you do not, talk to the teacher for advice about how to further proceed. Many parents are fearful of making this investment, as is natural. Without a piano at home hinders the child’s ability to practice and improve outside of their piano class. In the worst case scenario, reselling the piano, whether acoustic or digital, is a possibility that will not incur a great loss.
7. Your child will have to start new pieces constantly
It is very important that students in these early stages habituate to read many different pieces in various technical difficulties and styles. When listening to your child play, if you hear them spend long periods of time with the same works, this is something that needs to be investigated. I suggest a lot of repertoire work in these first important years in the musical training of the child. Pedagogues whom I admire greatly, such as Elissa Milne or Julie Knerr, among others, are also in favour of this method. Elissa Milne proposes the 40 Piece Challenge, which I will put into practice with my little students next academic year, to achieve and test this goal. It is ideal to have new material each week and practicing pieces to work more in depth with them..
8. Listen to music with your child
It is highly recommended to play your child music; music of all kinds. It is beneficial for your child to hear different styles of music from different eras. Also, exposure to different instruments and, of course, piano pieces helps train the ear. If there are certain recordings that your child relates to, it is good to listen to them too. The ear is a fundamental tool in a musician, thus, by listening to diverse sounds will help develop it enormously. Another key activity is singing. Sing together with your kids frequently and enjoy your time together.
9. Your child will need encouragement, support, and praise
Playing the piano, or any instrument in general is not easily nor quickly learned. As usual, your child may not want to practice. Your job in this difficult task is to support, value their effort, and create a positive environment whenever they sit down at the piano. Try to involve yourselves in their process by asking your child questions and how you can help them while they practice. Attend all recitals, as being physically there is always a commendable role. If your child feels the support of their parents in this long process it will have a very beneficial outcome.
10. Enjoy the piano together
In the end, the most important factor is that your child is enjoying the piano. The child will not always feel like playing or going to their piano school; that does not necessarily mean that they do not like the piano, we all have our moments. Provide them praise in good times and in bad, and continuous encouragement to motivate them.
The first years of piano study are those that mark the relationship your child will have with the instrument. When the proper measures are taken, success is assured. By successful I do not mean that your child will be a concert pianists but rather they learn to enjoy music and acquire a technique and foundation that allows them to enjoy the piano in the years to come. Some may want to pursue a career in music and while many others will not. The most important thing is that your child has an outlet to express themselves and a companion in the piano. As a parent, that is one of the best roles to be in. Lastly, I understand that it is very difficult to meet the expectations of all these tips. I myself am a father to a girl who studies piano and often I do not realize I should follow these same tips. Overall, it is important to keep in mind and try to carry them out to the best of your ability. Good luck in your adventure and enjoy your piano time with your child, it’s worth it.