Piano Parents: I know you’ve heard this one before.
“But I don’t remember how this song GOES!”
“I don’t know how to set up my hands!”
… or the great catch-all …
Breathe a sigh of relief, because, NOPE, it’s not just your kid 😉 Today I’m going to give you a few key questions to ask your child to help him/her get “unstuck”.
If your child is very new to piano (less than 6 months) or is a piano readiness (preschool) student, this feels like a very real problem to your student. In fact, in some cases, it may ACTUALLY be a problem: I teach some songs by rote (by ear) in the beginning of piano study, so this can be a roadblock when it comes to home practice. If this is the case, I have additional resources for you as a part of the Piano Readiness program.
However, if your child has been studying piano for 6+ months and is 6+ years old, and is consistently coming home expressing sentiments like these, you’ve very likely got a small situation on your hands. It’s fairly common in early piano study, so it’s nothing to fret about, but it is a problem that needs attention because if it continues, your child is probably missing out on PRACTICE (because she feels stuck!), GROWTH (because she couldn’t practice), and CONFIDENCE (because she feels frustrated by the lack of progress).
Why is this a problem?
So here’s the deal. In grown-up terms, because it’s more fun this way.
Dinner. If you have children taking piano lessons, chances are good you’ve been cooking dinner for a long time. You find recipes, meal plan, check your pantry, go grocery shopping, and then every single night… you cook dinner (side note: UGH!).
So at piano lessons, we find the recipes. We meal plan, check the pantry, and then we go grocery shopping. Your child comes home from lessons with every ingredient in hand. She just has to cook dinner – and yes, she’s gotta cook dinner every night, except maybe takeout on Sundays. So it’s a real thing we’re dealing with here. I mean, hopefully her cooking instructor introduced her to the joy and artistry of cooking and all, but the people gotta eat.
…am I taking this analogy too far?
Bottom line: I never send a child home from piano lessons without full confidence that they can accomplish everything assigned for the week. (Of course, I am not immune to error! If “stuck-ness” is a rare occurrence in your home, I may have missed something during lesson time – or perhaps we’re overcoming a new musical hurdle – but this should be infrequent).
So, what can you do?
Follow these steps. Stay calm and positive, and assure your child that you know practicing can be hard, and that you are there to help.
- Ask, “Why do you feel stuck?” If your child says something like, “I just do!” – take heed. This may be your kid’s version of “I don’t want to/am to tired to/am too bored to follow the recipe, can we please order pizza?” If this is a frequent occurrence, this is during your child’s regularly established practice time, and there are limited external factors, proceed to…
- “Show me the stuck place” – Ask your child to point to the place on the music where they begin to feel stuck. Give your child time to process before expecting a response.
- This is the easiest step. “What would Mrs. Kelsey ask you next?” Again, give time for a response. If your child is still stuck, prompt with the following questions:
What is the letter name of the note that your right hand plays? Which finger plays it?
” ” Left hand
How many beats does this kind of note get?
Can you tap or count the rhythm starting at the tricky place?
Hint: take note of anything circled/written into the music on the page or on the corresponding assignment log! Ask why we wrote it down!
- If you get a blank stare in response to the cue questions above, you get to move ahead to The Magic Question. “Shall we call Mrs. Kelsey and ask her what to do?”
- This is essential. If the answer to #4 is yes, CALL ME. EMAIL ME. TEXT ME A VIDEO MESSAGE. SHOW UP AT MY HOUSE WAVING A WHITE FLAG (kidding, and please don’t, but it would be funny…)
- If the answer is no, go back to Step 3.
So here’s the deal. I am here for your student all week long, no matter what, because I want her to know the joy of making beautiful music. My primary goal is success for your student, so I am not “off the clock” when your child walks out my studio door. Give me a call, and we will walk through the situation together. Be present for the call and observe the way we problem solve.
Then, sit in on your child’s next lesson. Observe, take note of the way we work through things, and take a note or two home about how you can help when your child gets stuck. This way, you know how to help. And – all the more powerful – your child knows… that you know… that he knows how to do it.
🙂 It takes a village, my friends. I’m proud to be a part of yours.