Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting/Should I stop my child's piano lessons?

Advertisement


Question
My son, born in 2009, has studied piano with a private tutor for the past 5 months. It is a 30-minute lesson every week.

However, it seems there is no progress and joy on his part. We find it very hard to ask him to practise at home.

Yesterday, sitting in our teacher's home and watching him, it was very painful for me. He refused to play and did not follow his teacher.

Afterwards, I talked to the teacher. Even though she said she is willing to teach him, I did not feel any confidence to continue.

Should I stop the lessons, hoping my child will be happier to learn in the future?

Thank you

Answer
Hello Liam,

I remember you from last year - you asked me my opinion of the Suzuki method.  Look, I appreciate you really want your little boy to love music but you're going entirely the wrong way about it.  Any attempt to force a child to study anything that he's not 100% enthusiastic about is ultimately doomed to failure, whether it's a musical instrument, a sport or a language.  "100% enthusiasm" doesn't mean "You'd like to play the piano, wouldn't you?" "Alright, daddy" - that's acquiescence and the child hasn't the faintest idea what learning will involve or how much work he'll have to put in, so even if he starts off reasonably well he's not going to continue.  If he doesn't practise he won't progress, it's as simple as that.  I tell my potential students that if they practise for half an hour each day, they won't improve but at least they won't go backwards - if they actually want to improve they have to do more and the more they do the faster they'll improve.  (I expect 45mins each day, minimum.)

On the subject of practice, the parent's role is to encourage the child, remind him (or her) of opportunities ("it'll be 15mins before dinner's ready - why don't you play through all your scales?") and ensure that they have uninterrupted quiet in which to practise, which means clearing any siblings out of the room.  Then they should be happy to get on with it.  Any attempt at forcing the child or to turn the whole practice issue into a battlefield will only end in tears, literally.  If a child knows they can give up music lessons without repercussions, they're more likely to take them up again later - if they're forced to continue they'll stop once they're an adult and will never ever, under any circumstances, have anything to do with music again.  (Often their children won't be given the opportunity to learn music either, because "I remember the sheer hell I was put through as a child and I'll never ever put my child through that".)  That's if they don't have a nervous breakdown or commit suicide the moment they get away from the family environment, and then everyone's shocked and can't understand why it happened.

Of course the teacher is happy to sit through half an hour of misery while you're happy to pay her for it, but your child is telling you as clearly as he can that he hates his lessons, so for goodness' sake stop them now.  Let him have fun with music in his own way - singing, dancing, listening to what you as a family enjoy and trying out new experiences.  Provided he can say "I tried that but didn't like it much" without repercussions, he's more likely to say "I really enjoyed that", and the more opportnity he has to try things out the more he's likely to find an unexpected passion (for the euphonium, or korfball, or Latin ...).  Then he'll come to you demanding lessons, and after that your biggest problem will be persuading him to stop practising to come and eat, or to go to bed at a reasonable time, because he won't want to stop.

Hope this helps.

Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting

All Answers


Answers by Expert:


Ask Experts

Volunteer


Clare Redfarn

Expertise

All aspects of the academic/theoretical side of music, including harmony, counterpoint, elementary composition, history, harmonic analysis, aural training, sightreading - the lot! Please note I'm not primarily a composer so I can't help with composition beyond what's required for Grade 8 theory or A'level. And don't ask me about psychoacoustics or music psychology as I have no knowledge of, nor interest in, either subject.

Experience

57 years as pianist (soloist and accompanist); 42 years as harpsichordist (soloist and continuist); 10 years as violinist and 6 years as bassoonist (youth orchestras/chamber groups); 45 years as piano teacher, coach in performance/interpretation (all ages, instruments and levels) and private tutor (mainly the old O'level, Grade VI+ ABRSM theory/practical musicianship, A'level and undergraduates); 20 years as ballet pianist (Cecchetti syllabus).

Organizations
Member of Musicians' Union in Britain 1978-1989 and 1991-2009.

Publications
I've been writing professionally since I was 20 - too many programme notes to count over the years and a number of articles. Additionally, from 1996-2000 I was a Music Assessor for London Arts and as such regularly wrote critiques of concerts given by recipients of Arts Council funding.

Education/Credentials
MA in European Cultural Policy & Administration (Warwick University, 1994)
B Mus with Honours (London University, 1977)
Postgraduate Diploma in Arts Administration (City University, 1982)
Licentiate of Royal Academy of Music in Piano Teaching (1976)
Licentiate of Royal Academy of Music in Harpsichord Teaching (1978)

Studied RAM Junior School (1966-74), then as full-time student (1974-78).

©2016 About.com. All rights reserved.