By Jessica Petrus Aird
I understand her approach; she had a disciplined method that worked for many of her students and she stuck by it. Unfortunately, I was just one of those kids with which it didn't really work. I needed a more emotional and creative approach; I needed to first love the music I was playing. I was not really a "10 minutes a day, every day" kind of kid; I did better with less structure. I would go days without practicing (worrying my mother endlessly), but then spend an hour listening, singing, and playing dress-up to all kinds of music in our CD collection. As much as it probably drove my parents crazy, I'm grateful they let me find my own way in piano through various creative expressions. It was through these processes I found the spark to love some of my songs in piano and want to play them.
As you can guess, finding that spark in students can be a real challenge sometimes. My work in private teaching has shown me that the best way to help kids develop a healthy practice habit is to first identify what motivates them naturally. This is where parents' input is invaluable to me. Does your student really enjoy movement? Singing? Patterns? Problem solving? Poetry? Composing? Something else? Let's find a way to build on those natural motivators in their music learning! Below are some ideas.
Find your student's motivators!
- Are they wiggly? Try playing the music in the recordings (download the "PA Player App" for Piano Adventures series books) and have them move, clap, or make up a dance routine to the song.
- Do they enjoy math and/or patterns? Have them identify patterns on the piano and/or in the music (1. "Are there measures that repeat throughout the piece?" 2. "Where are all the "C's, or "A's in the song?")
- Are they visual? Have them draw a picture of the music they are learning. Flip to a new song and ask them to identify 5 things they notice about the piece without even having played it before. Or, try these cool flashcards and add a few every day to your pile. Makes for a fun pre-dinner activity!
- Do they love competition? Have them play their song with either a metronome or the PA Player App and increase the tempo each time to see if they can keep up!
- Do they really like words? Have them listen to the recording and memorize the lyrics. See if they can learn to play and sing along together. Bonus points if they write their own lyrics!
- Do they noodle around on the piano a lot? Ask them to compose a song for you, or another family member. Grandparents especially love to get new compositions :)
- Do they like to sing? In addition to learning the words to their piano song, encourage them to sing another song they enjoy. If there's one they can't get out of their head from the radio or a movie, let me know! I can look for a score online.
- Do they love to perform? Consider having a weekly or monthly home "concert series" where they prepare a song or two from their lessons to share with you all. Dimming the house lights, printing small programs, or hanging a small curtain for a "stage" are totally encouraged!
Jessica is a voice and piano instructor for Note-worthy Experiences. To learn more about Jess, please visit her Teacher Page.