If you want to grow healthy trees, you have to start with healthy seeds. But you also have to find good locations, prepare the soil, and keep up with long-term water and nourishment needs. You may also have to help the tree in difficult times, such as unusually hot Summers or battles with disease.
If you are thinking about piano early, there are things you can do from birth to make the soil very fertile. Before they are old enough for lessons, they can be given exposure to, participation in, and opportunities for discovery of music. Listening, going to concerts, singing, musical tapping & clapping games, and child-accessible play instruments are all means of musical preparation. These don’t have to be formal or organized. In Ancient West Africa, men initiated boys into drumming when they were still babies. The means was playful. When a man noticed a boy making a rhythmic sound, he approached the boy and imitated him. Babies love to do that, so this made sounds and rhythms something the child played with since before he could crawl. So if you realize a way to play with sounds or rhythms with your pre-piano lesson child, have fun!
If you wish to pursue early preparation activities further, you’ll find more detailed discussions at parentmap.com. A little more formal, but short of classroom or lesson formal, are classes for preschool kids, such as Kindermusik.
Before committing to me as her teacher, we will have an in-person interview along with at least one parent. The interview is free of charge and informal. This is where I can clarify various things about piano lessons, I can evaluate the student’s musical aptitude and other relevant characteristics, and all involved can determine if the student, the parents and the teacher are all a good fit.
The interview serves as finding a “good location,” but it is also part of “preparing the soil.” Another very important part is getting an adequate instrument. Lessons cannot begin until the student has an adequate instrument. Ideally, this instrument will be in the house for some months or years before the child is ready to begin lessons. Even if no one plays, its presence generates interest, curiosity and desire. For a discussion of acceptable instruments, see my Pianos & Keyboards post.
The student will need to get her own book bag, but all other materials will be purchased by me, paid for out of her Book & Events Account (see my post Tuition & Fees). Keeping up with books and other materials is why I recommend a book bag. A piano book bag does not have to be piano themed, although children usually like it if they are. Bags should be at least 15″ x 15″. Most books will fit in a smaller bag, but the fit may be tight, making it less convenient to remove them from and return them to the bag. It is a good practice to keep books in the bag at home unless they are being used.
Protection and Nourishment
The protection part of piano lessons has to do mostly with time. The lessons are where new things are learned, wrong things are corrected and old things are deepened. Lesson time is important to growth and success. The practice time is where learning gets worked out—where familiarity grows and skills develop. It is important time, as well, but also more time. It is time absorbing the nourishment from the lesson and growing. Strive to regard the lesson time as something to be preserved and maintained because it is the nourishment of your child’s “piano tree.”
For practicing, find a consistent daily practice time. For kids, immediately after school or in the morning before school are usually effective and relatively easy to maintain. Later in the afternoon and evening there will be dinner, homework, tv shows—more competition for attention. Later times can work, though. As with any time, they just require sticking to it, 5 or 6 days a week. Choose what seems best in the contest of everything else. As with meals, you’d prefer what you eat to be good for you and good tasting, but you’d still rather have something less nourishing than to have nothing at all. So make the first goal be attendance: Attending every lesson and practicing at every practice time.
A Stream of Growth
The most important key to all of the above is consistency. When lesson attendance & practicing consistently happen, and when practice is consistently quality practice, then growth is very noticeable, and can be rather exhilarating. The regular schedule of lessons and practice, the cycles of activities of teacher & parents to facilitate lessons, practice and progress, together they create a kind of stream of growth. We don’t know what it’s path will end up being, but we do know that we can help to keep it flowing strong.
As we’ve seen, doing this is surprisingly simple—at least in concept! The other issue is finding the joy and fun and meaning in music and musical expression through the piano. That is an ongoing issue that will be the subject of another post!