Whenever kids are learning a new activity or skill, it’s common for them to hit some roadblocks along the way. Learning to play the piano comes along with its own set of challenges, but they can be overcome! Below are our suggestions for how to help your children leap over three common obstacles in piano lessons, and to improve their skills as students and musicians.
Attitude is an incredibly important part of learning, and it’s no exaggeration to say that a positive mindset can be the difference between failure and success. It’s not uncommon for piano students to lose confidence from time to time, whether due to a specific instance, like a poor performance, or to ongoing frustrations from lack of improvement. Kids might also compare their piano playing to that of more advanced students, which can lead to further discouragement.
If you notice your young pianist is developing a negative or unhealthy mindset, you can help to build up their confidence and determination. It might help to remind them of all the progress they’ve already made since they first began private lessons. For instance, if a performance didn’t go as well as they had hoped, remind them that there was a time that they couldn’t imagine being skilled enough to even perform in the first place! You can also remind them that even the most advanced pianists were once at their level, and that they had to overcome similar challenges (one example is Vladimir Horowitz, who overcame years of intense stage fright to become one of the greatest concert pianists in history!). Remind them that setbacks are only temporary, and soon your piano student will have their confidence back!
Practice is perhaps the biggest obstacle kids face in learning to play piano. Kids today are busy, and it can be hard to find the time to practice piano while in the middle of homework and other activities. More often, though, there is simply a lack of motivation to practice. Without adequate focus or clear goals, practice time is frustrating and unproductive. However, it is impossible to become a skilled pianist without practice, so it’s important to have a plan to overcome these obstacles!
Practicing piano effectively is all about creating a routine. Schedule a regular time for your kids to practice piano – you might even try writing it on the family calendar! Set a specific amount of time for each practice session – knowing they only need to practice for twenty minutes can help kids feel less pressure, and can help them learn to manage the time effectively.
Motivation is also key in practicing piano. Try creating a system of rewards – for instance, ten extra minutes of video games for each half hour of focused piano practice. You can also set longer-term goals, such as a trip to the movies for mastering a song or performing in a recital.
The best way for a child to learn piano is through lessons, however, not every teaching method works for every student. If your student feels stuck, talk to their music teacher about switching up the structure of their lessons, whether that means using a different curriculum or letting the student choose music that interests them, like pop or Broadway songs. Motivational programs, such as the Powell Academy of Music’s Level Up program, can be very helpful in inspiring students to progress in their lessons by presenting them with clear goals and rewards. Finally, some piano students simply will work better with one instructor than another. Most piano instructors understand this and can help refer you to another teacher if need be!
Every new piano player, especially kids, will experience some or all of these obstacles during
their musical journey, and overcoming them will take decisive effort and patience, from students and parents. Remember that support and encouragement through lessons and practice can go a long way toward getting your young piano player to love their instrument!