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#932834 - 10/20/07 01:49 PM The patience of piano teachers
C Lin Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/07/07
Posts: 10
Loc: Houston, Texas

I am curious to find out if most piano teachers are somewhat less patient with children? (Somewhere around 5 years old.)

By asking around locally I have a distinct impression that piano teachers expect (a) the child practice a lot, (2) the child quickly correct any incorrect finger/hand posture, (3) the child can count beats accurately in one lesson or two, and so on. Piano teachers in TV shows also help bring out a certain interesting stereotype regarding them. I am beginning to wonder if it is because that the piano teachers, themselves being master piano players, are unconsciously irritated when the students punch out horrible tones and/or hitting the keys with the fingers in a less than elegant way and unable to quickly correct it?

So I'd like to know, are piano teachers generally lack patience with children? How can I find a piano teacher that's good at teaching children? I know sometimes the teacher needs a bit of pushiness otherwise the child will not learn. But when I am sitting in front of the piano and imaging myself the size of my daughter, I can certainly feel that her tiny hands and fingers will have a lot more difficulty than I am to get it right.

I am on the verge of looking for another teacher. I don't know how to tell from the trial session that the prospective teacher is patient with children. Or should I stick with the current teacher? How can I tell whether I really should start looking for a new teacher?

Thank you in advance for your insight.

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#932835 - 10/20/07 02:14 PM Re: The patience of piano teachers
guest1013 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/13/07
Posts: 1239
I suggest asking other parents or at the school or preschool for referrals. Some preschools and kindergartens offer music. try asking the instructors if they recommend anyone with expertise or a preference for teaching young children. I knew of one teacher who mixed crafts with lessons, like make paper keyboard to learn names of notes, or other silly songs, dancing to learn rhythm, etc. Young children really do not learn in the same way as older children.

My five year old does not have the attention span for a half hour lesson. 15 minutes is about how much she can manage. A local music store prefers to start piano lessons at age 6 - their teachers have full time jobs and this is a side gig, and they just may not match up well with young children.

#932836 - 10/20/07 06:09 PM Re: The patience of piano teachers
AZNpiano Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 7026
Loc: Orange County, CA
A lot depends on the individual teacher. Personally, I don't want to teach 5-year-old students unless they are musical prodigies who can function at the fifth-grade level. But I know many colleagues who enjoy teaching the young ones.

You, as the parent, should spend more time interviewing teachers before your trial lessons. Interviewing other parents for recommendations is also very helpful.

The population of music teachers is quite diverse, and you really can't draw any generalizations about us.
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

#932837 - 10/20/07 07:21 PM Re: The patience of piano teachers
ClaraSchumann Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/25/05
Posts: 73
It is absolutely not too much to expect a teacher to be patient and kind, especially with a younger child. It takes a while to develop the finger strength to hold a proper hand position, and most five year olds will need far more than one or two lessons for this.

I love teaching the little ones, but no longer accept students until they're about eight and have independent reading ability, mostly because parents expected much more progress than was appropriate. Not every child is a prodigy, but every child can learn to play. Also, it seems that for most students, they learn the same amount of skill in one year if they start at age eight as they do in three or four years beginning at age five. Early starters have a more nuanced musical sense, but I think this is just because they have been exposed to more music, which can happen easily without lessons.

If your child is very interested, then by all means pursue lessons. My opinion is to find a teacher who loves small children, spends time off the bench playing games and stretching, and understands how to combine fun with the satisfaction earned by a job well done.

One more thought: I began teaching my daughter formal lessons when she was not quite five, and she thrived until about age nine, when she'd just had enough of practicing (5 days a week for four years pretty much non-stop) and begged to quit. We pushed through a difficult time for a couple years. In a do-over, I would wait for the formal lessons and allow her more time to explore and listen. Live and learn...she loves piano now.

#932838 - 10/20/07 10:34 PM Re: The patience of piano teachers
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7639
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Ah Clara, you're reincarnated! How wonderful. Do you still play on a Grotrian-Steinweg?

Just kidding. Welcome on board. Your answer is spot on. Many of us are kind and patient. Many more, however, are frustrated performers who have turned to teaching because they couldn't quite reach that elusive gold ring. Try to avoid those if at all possible.

Generally speaking, I try to encourage parents of 5 yr olds to work on music appreciation and not start lessons until their general reading skills have developed, which will probably be age 7 or 8. I have had exceptional 5 yr olds, but for the most part, they are few and far between. And 7 yr olds can grow and develop into 1st class performing artists, if that's their goals and they have the ability and drive.
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

#932839 - 10/20/07 11:50 PM Re: The patience of piano teachers
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 15405
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
I love teaching the young ones! They certainly can learn, but developmentally, they need to learn differently, with a lot more movement. One cannot expect a 5 or 6 year old to sit at a bench for 30 minutes non-stop. C Lin, I would keep looking around until you find a teacher that will do large muscle movement (such as dance or walking) with your child. At this age, they cannot possibly listen to an exciting piece of music and not react with their bodies, so using their bodies to help them establish as sense of steady beat and rhythm is key. Also, the teacher has to have a lot of tricks up their sleeve to keep the child's attention. One cannot focus on one measure for the entire lesson trying to perfect tone. Keeping it fun at this age will ensure anticipation for the next lesson.
private piano/voice teacher FT

#932840 - 10/21/07 01:19 PM Re: The patience of piano teachers
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
C Lin,

I think the skills you use in watching human behavior around you, will tell you when your child is being having a positive experience.

The teacher speaks - does he or she have the child's attention? Does the teacher speak in a pleasant but affirmative voice with just enough word to convey ideas? When she asks questions does she wait to hear the response of the child? Little ones take a little longer to say it - they really think of the answer - it doesn't pop out unless they are "reciting" and know the answer.

Are there enough smiles to go around? Look at the eyes of the teacher and the student - what do you see? What is the comfort level between them? When your child goes in to lessons, how does she behave? When she comes out, how does she behave? Are you able to occasionally observe the lesson? Is it a group lesson, or a private lesson?

Teachers should also be helping kids learn to structure their time and efforts in practicing and use them at home. Teachers can help turn on certain attitudes to create a picture of what it is like to be a piano student at this age of life. What are helpful habits for children this age to have? How can the parent be supportive to this child? Are we paving the way for a successful outcome, or are you simply taking piano lessons? What do you think is missing?

Teachers should have some idea of how children develop, what the individual student's physical and mental capacity is, and what interests them so far in life. Knowing about the learner individually is finding their best learning style to structure their piano learning experience. And, overall, the instruction needs to be (in a gentle, patient way with children) based on playing to their strengths while developing their weaknesses.

It is the teacher who is joining the child's world to teach the child than it is the child coming up to the piano world as adults know it. That should not be happening, in my opinion. Teachers need to teach to the child's understanding.

Patience is a necessary characteristic of formative piano teachers - those who are developing basic skills and reading notation with the child. In the artistic area of piano study - advanced - you will find all sorts of personalities and attitudes about learning and accomplishing.

C Lin, you need to follow this subject for a while to gain enough insight, but do trust your instincts.


#932841 - 10/22/07 11:31 PM Re: The patience of piano teachers
C Lin Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/07/07
Posts: 10
Loc: Houston, Texas
Thanks everyone for helping out with information. Reading your posts make me wonder if I should stick with the current teacher. I don't think she's doing any of what you have suggested, and occassionally she will use words and concepts that I really doubt if a child can understand. Those things are making me a bit uneasy now.
Thanks again. At least I know there are some teachers that are willing to teach young children. I just need to find her.

#932842 - 10/24/07 02:35 PM Re: The patience of piano teachers
ctc Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/04/07
Posts: 50
Loc: canada
CLin, most 5 year olds (average) cannot sit and concentrate completely for 30 minutes, one on one.

Personally, our eldest daughter started when she was 4.5 years old and we sent her to a group lessons but chose a teacher who is a full time teacher instead of someone just doing it on the side.

She enjoyed herself because she was with other kids her age. They were taught rhythm in a more fun way ... and yes, complete with clapping and some dancing. The notes were taught using songs to help them remember ..... so this helped them remember it better.

It also depends on your child's personality of course.


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