Monday, March 4, 2013

Things I Wish I Would Have Learned in Piano Lessons

The Things I Wish I Would Have Learned in Piano Lessons Me, at my first recital (shortly after turning 7)

Going through my old piano lesson book with Hunter (7) has been an interesting experience for me. As we turn each page I remember almost all of the songs, many a times remembering struggling with a certain one or even certain comments my teacher made.

I started piano lessons shortly after my 7th birthday and continued until age 9 or 10 or so, I don't exactly remember. But in all of those years, here are the things I wish I would have learned (and am going to make sure I teach my kids):

1. Sight reading. I can only really sight read the bottom few notes of the treble cleff and the top few notes of the bass clef. The rest of the notes I have to count out the lines to figure out what they are. This has made it so that I can never just pick up a song and play it and I have always had the feeling that I'm not very good at piano.

I was never made to explicitly memorize the locations of notes on the staff and I think the assumption was that I would pick it up over time, but I never did.

When I was struggling with a song and making mistakes with the notes, instead of it being suggested that I should work on sight reading, my teacher would write reminders all over the page, highlighting if there was a skip, writing in the names of certain notes I kept missing, and instead of reading the music I learned to read her reminders.

What I want to do with my kids: sight reading is one of the first things I am teaching them. I want to make sure they are very solid in this, so the rest of learning and playing will come much more easily. I'm using these videos to help streamline and simplify the process.

2. Music theory. I never did learn much music theory beyond the bare-bone basics, which made me feel incompetent once I got to middle school age and, being around the youth group band and choir, I realized I didn't have a clue of what most of anything was.

Before that age, I always felt like I could play piano and was in at least some ways a "musician", but realizing I knew so little was somewhat of a blow to my confidence and made me shy away from it all, convinced that I really knew practically nothing, and for some reason, embarrassed to even try.

After all, I wasn't a "beginner", I had been playing piano for years, so I felt like I should have known more than I did.

What I want to do with my kids: incorporate music theory into our lessons and learn with them as much as I can

3. Absolute Pitch. The ability to identify (through sound alone) and recreate (with voice, or in head) a given musical note certainly would have been helpful, and I wish I would have been trained in some way about pitch and recognizing it.

Even though it's not explicitly a "piano" skills, it would have been useful to be able to look at a piece of music and have some idea of what it would sound like. Being literally clueless about the concept was another big blow to my confidence as I grew older.

What I want to do with my kids: incorporate pitch training into our lessons.

4. More progress in general. I wish I would have applied myself more and progressed more quickly in my lessons.

I guess I mainly see this realization after being a parent familiar with the benefits of accelerated learning and realize the potential those two or three years of instruction could have held.

I certainly don't blame my teacher or parents for not "accelerating" me, as I'm sure they were none the wiser how quickly kids can really learn (and I probably wasn't always 100% cooperative in the lessons I did have, either).

What I want to do with my kids: "accelerate" music learning, so they can learn quickly and efficiently

Now the purpose of this post is certainly not to complain about my piano teacher or what a poor music education I received (which is certainly not the case!).

I am forever thankful to my parents for seeing the value of investing in me through musical instruction. I am sure they spent hundreds of dollars and many tiresome hours on lessons, books, and other costs over the years for the three of their kids who took lessons (all at the same time!). I know that they knew its value and chose to give us that precious gift.

My purpose in writing this is simply to discuss the things I feel are important and can be useful to your child.

I am not a writing from the standpoint of a music expert by any means: rather I am writing from the experience of someone who had a brief music education, and sharing the things I wish I would have learned (in retrospect of course: at the time I was not exactly chomping at the bit to learn piano, and was likely a bit apathetic about it. I didn't necessarily dislike it, but I wasn't absolutely thrilled about it, either. I probably would have gotten a lot further even in that short time if my own work ethic and enthusiasm would have been keener!)

Learning to play the piano - even at a basic level - did give me many great benefits, both that I recognize and likely many benefits that I have not recognized.

Perhaps one of the greatest benefits that learning piano did give me is the confidence to be able to start teaching my own children piano. I am sure they will go much further than I did, and I am enjoying "relearning" along with them.

Did you take lessons as a child and is there anything you wish would have been different? What do you hope to teach your children about music? 

1 comment:

  1. 2013/03/04 at 6:16 am

    I am teaching my 25 month-old via BrillKids LittleMusician just because I know nothing about music and I always wished I did. I tried learning guitar and flute when I was older kid, but it was so difficult for me that I never persevered. So I am hoping that my daughter can benefit from the advances in technology. She’s already sight reading (not all of the notes, somehow she has problem with SO), and developing perfect pitch (only on separate notes so far, not on Chord Recognition) The program was developed with Doman, Schichida and other methods thrown in for good measure. I’m quite happy with the way things going so far, and after we finish that program – I guess the only thing for me to do is Music School for her, as I wouldn’t be able to contribute myself.


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