Did you know that September is National Piano Month? What better time to get your kids started taking piano than in the month that celebrates it! Not sure where to start? How about right here at Hip Homeschool Moms? Here are some tips to get you started down the road.
First, Have a Piano
This may seem obvious, but it’s amazing how many families start piano lessons with no place to practice. If you don’t have a piano of your own, but have a kind neighbor who is happy to let your young ‘uns slip in for a half hour practice session daily, then that’s awesome – go for it! But, if you’re like most families, a piano in the home is the best idea.
If you don’t have a piano, choosing one can seem quite daunting. So break it down – digital or acoustic? Digital is often cheaper and more transportable. Choosing one that has weighted keys means that your child gets to experience the weight of the keys of an acoustic piano while still enjoying the benefits of a digital piano, such as the portability and the earplug feature (Yes, this is a bonus for you, too!). But an acoustic piano is a beautiful piece of furniture and does not depreciate if well looked after. It also has authentic sound and responds to the fingers in a beautiful manner. To help you decide, do a little googling first – topics such as best names in piano manufacturers, prices, and so on will give you a good head start. Then, head to a number of different music stores and speak to the sales people. Just ask questions, initially. You’ll soon learn the things to look out for and what is just “sales” speak and what factors are, in fact, important. It’s also useful to take an experienced pianist with you to help you make your decision.
Second, Allow the Piano to Attract the Child
Put the piano in a part of the house that gets a lot of traffic. It doesn’t have to be in the main part of the house (That can be quite frustrating if you’re trying to have a conversation with others in the home.), but it should be in a place where it’s visible and inviting. Make sure that it’s not in an area that is freezing cold or too hot. Lighting is quite important, too. Ideally, natural light should give the area enough illumination, but if there is not enough natural light, make sure that the room’s main light switches and lamplights are easily reached. It also helps to make sure that the piano seat is easily adjustable so that they can reach the keys with ease. All these factors combined help to create an environment where the piano will call to the child – inviting him to sit down and tinkle a little. Don’t start lessons straight away, but allow the kids to play and experiment. Let them experience the piano as a part of the family and not a strange and foreign instrument – a place that is relaxing and enjoyable.
Third, Start Looking into Lessons
There are a plethora of options out there, ranging from uber-expensive private lessons to free lessons online. You will need to examine your own budget as well as your child’s age and temperament to decide what will fit best.
Ideally, interacting with an actual human teacher is first prize. Every teacher brings a certain style of teaching to the piano. Do you want your child to learn in a more relaxed manner, or do you want her to follow the typical path of the “greats”? Hip Homeschool Moms reviewed a fantastic program last year called Simply Music. It’s a more natural approach to learning that has rave reviews worldwide. It’s available as a style that is taught by teachers as well as through fantastic video lessons.
Prefer a more traditional approach? Then programs such as the Thompson, Bastien or Suzuki methods are worth looking into, and there are usually many teachers who use these methods.
Not all teachers are the same, however. Because of the closeness of the relationship with the child and the teacher, it’s really important to find someone with whom your child will gel. Usually, these teachers are engaging, gentle, kind, and very very patient. Diane Hidy is a piano teacher who offers excellent advice for selecting a great teacher. Following her tips will stand you in good stead as you choose your child’s teacher.
If you can’t afford a teacher, then by all means introduce your child to online lessons. These come free or at a small fee. We love Simply Music for this, but programs like Piano Wizard Academy are also highly recommended. Even your youngest can join in the fun and lessons with very simple, fun online games such as this one: Rainbow Piano.
Fourth, Keep at It!
All too often, the hard work of piano lessons and practice results in a few moans and groans. While ideally it’s awesome to have kids who naturally take to an instrument and love every minute of it, the truth is that most kids do not fit into that category. Should we dump it then? Again, it depends on your own child and only you will know whether it is wise or not. But, generally, I would counsel that you persevere. Sticking at a hard task and the discipline of doing it daily is a lesson worth learning. And seeing the fruit of one’s labors is rewarding. Added to that are the benefits to the body, brain and soul – countless studies have shown that weekly lessons in music have a great impact on the child’s IQ and general intellect. Also, as I have experienced with my own kids, getting through a frustrating stage and then seeing them soar with excitement is simply wonderful! So do what it takes to keep them at the task. For some the best method is the oldest – bribery! Some leave a little bowl of candy at the piano with a piece of candy exchanged for every 10 minutes of practise. I say, if it works, go for it! My own kids haven’t needed bribery so much as discipline, so we’ve established a “no breakfast until you’ve practiced” rule. It’s helped them remember as a marker in their day, and they’re quite keen about keeping each other accountable (or getting breakfast first!).
So there you have it – a few simple steps to get you on the road of starting piano lessons for your child. Drop back here next September and tell us how it’s been going!