I was looking for the Rio Olympics on my TV and just scanning the stations when I came across a program with a new method for learning to play the piano almost instantly. Being curious as to the method, I watched the program. In my opinion, the method was only good for instant gratification, because it took away the value of learning. Everything was watered down. You didn’t even have to learn the names of the notes on the piano because you taped the names on the keys. I recently made a film of what I considered to be a first lesson. Most of the time in my video is spent in learning the names of the notes and what they look like.
Yes, each note has a special look and that is what I want the student to remember. In my teaching I want to lay a strong foundation. To me, learning to play one piece is not as important as learning to be able to play many. He then went on to give the names of the lines and spaces in the treble clef. But you didn’t need to learn that wither, because in his books, the names of the lines or spaces were written into the middle of the notes. I would say that once this is done the student will not learn the names of the notes but rather read by the crutch.
It is very difficult to get a new student to have the patience to learn slowly, but correctly. I try to make it as easy as I can and within a short period of time they are reading music, a skill they will have for the rest of their life.
I just got back from a visit to the Corning Museum of Glass. We went to several demonstrations on making items of glass. One of the things we learned was that those working in glass worked for three years and then were considered beginners. My son in law and I both made something, he a flower and I a pendant. I do NOT consider myself a glass artist having made one piece nor do I think you can consider yourself a pianist by being able to play one piece.
One of the great side effects of playing the piano is the gaining of patience. As one gets into the complexities of study one learns that it takes time to perfect ones performance. You can’t force the issue, but you have to work and be patient. This is a great lesson in life. I love plants. I recently purchased an amaryllis. I love to watch these plants grow. They grow about an inch a day. It takes several weeks before the flower finally opens up and blooms, but it is such fun to watch the progress. And that is how it is with playing the piano. You make progress. Each day you get a little better. That is the importance of having patience … it doesn’t happen all at once.
I always play a piece for my students before it is assigned for them to learn, because I want them to enjoy the process and if they don’t like the work to begin with then the journey will not be pleasurable. And it is the journey that is so important. Life is a journey and we need patience for so much of it.
I try to have a warm, welcoming atmosphere when I give my lessons. I have students who come and bring all their problems with them. This doesn’t make for a good lesson. I had one boy who used to have problems in school. I had him go out and come in again. I told him he left his problems OUTSIDE my doorstep. It seemed to work. After a couple of times of doing that he got the message. Attitude is so important and lessons should be pleasurable.
I have a boy with me now who has a glorious smile. It makes me happy just to see him. He has been studying with me for about 5 years. The early years weren’t that easy, but the smile was always there .. Until one week when it wasn’t. I knew something was wrong but it took a while for me to understand what the problem was. It turned out that he was afraid to put his hands together. At home, he could practice them separately, but he knew I would make him play them together and he seemed to be dreading it. When I saw his fear, I started to work with him very slowly on the problem. By the end of the lesson he felt better, but not great. It took about 2 weeks for him to get over the fear and I have not had that problem with him again and the smile returned.