Learning how to play the piano is not for everyone. Many parents encourage their children to study the piano because they have heard about all the enormous educational benefits associated with taking part in music making, but there is one fact about this phenomenon that parents often neglect to take into consideration.
A child will only benefit from the positive enhancements playing a musical instrument provides if they are a keen and willing participant in their musical studies. There is very little to be gained from taking music lessons if the student themselves is reluctant to take part.
The student must want to practice the piano and be enthusiastic to do so, if they are to benefit from the experience. The student should look forward to their next opportunity to practice the piano and be motivated enough to practice their music that they choose to play their instrument in preference to taking part in other "important" activities like playing the Xbox, PlayStation or the latest Plants vs. Zombies game on their computer. The student themselves must be keen to become a better piano player.
Without the desire to improve rooted deeply within the child any efforts to musically educate the child will have limited results. If your child it taking lessons on a musical instrument and they are not making the kind of progress you were expecting, take a careful look at the attitude of your child towards practice and playing the instrument in general.
- Is your child motivated?
- Does your child want to practice or do they want to “get it over with” as soon as possible?
- Do they enjoy practicing?
- Does your child get a sense of pride when they learn to do something new on their instrument?
- Does making progress make them feel good and give them a sense of achievement?
- Do they want to take part in musical activities at school?
- Do they enjoy listening to music?
With the best will in the world there is a limit to how effective any music teacher can be if the child themselves does not want to participate in learning an instrument.
The additional educational benefits associated with playing an instrument only happen if the child regularly practices.
Students improve their cognitive abilities by using their brains in the right way over an extended period of time. Playing the piano encourages students to use their brains in the right way and gives them a reason to do this for extended periods of time. As a result of regularly practicing a musical instrument, music student’s benefit from a greater ability to process larger amounts of information in their brain, but it is important to keep in mind that for any benefit to take place at all piano practice has to be done regularly over an extended period of time. This could be measured in years rather than in months. The benefit your child gains from taking music lessons will be limited if the student:
- Does not want to practice.
- Only practices for a limited amount of time during each practice session.
- Wants to get their practice over with as soon as possible.
- Is unmotivated to improve their musical ability.
- Is disinterested in the styles of music that need to be studied to develop necessary musical skills.
- Just treats playing their instrument like any other school subject that they “have to do”.
- Does not really enjoy practicing.
- Would rather play the Xbox or a computer game.
- Only practices a couple of time a week.
- Spends their practice time unproductively rather than completing the tasks the teacher has assigned.
- Does not try to improve or make the pieces they are practicing any better. (There is a difference between trying to improve by applying yourself in a dedicated way and expecting to get better just because you go through the motions of pressing the notes with very little thought.)
- Does not follow the teachers practice instructions.
- The student and parents do not listen to the advice given by the teacher.
- The student has no desire to improve.
If your child is not making the amount of progress you expect on their instrument you need to be realistic as a parent – is your child a willing participant in the lessons or are they reluctant to take part? Do they get home and head straight for the piano? Or is their willingness to take lessons born out of a sense of duty to you, the parent?
Children naturally want their parents to be pleased with them and they actively seek praise from their parents. This is very normal and healthy, but is their willingness to take part in music lessons done for their benefit or are they doing it just because they are trying to please you? It is very easy for a parent to mistake their child’s willingness to do something to please the parent for a love of playing an instrument. If your child is reluctant to learn the piano be grateful to your teacher for continuing to support your child's learning.
Some piano teachers will only take on dedicated and committed students and will refuse to teach reluctant students. Reluctant students may still benefit from taking piano lessons and a good teacher will help ensure that all their students emerge from their course of lessons having had a positive experience. A good teacher will make sure that the reluctant student makes progress in line with the amount of application they have been willing and able to commit, but parents need to adjust their expectations of progress if their child is a reluctant participant in lessons and be grateful for the assistance their teacher is providing to support and encourage their child’s learning.
Top 10 signs your child may be a reluctant piano student This one goes up to 11
- Your child never wants to practice the piano
- Your child is always "too busy" to practice the piano
- Your child has "too much homework" to practice the piano (even though millions of other students do still manage to somehow find the time)
- Your child cant fit practice time around their "busy schedule"
- Even though their teacher reminds them on a weekly basis how much they should practice, they continue to believe that practicing a couple of times a week is enough
- Even though their teacher reminds them on a weekly basis how much they should practice, they continue to believe that 5 minutes practice time per day is enough
- Your child has no interest in making any of their assigned pieces of music any better and thinks the teacher is "too demanding"
- Your child routinely arrives for lessons without having practiced but seems to have plenty of time to fit in the Xbox/PlayStation/other video games, etc.
- Your child does not want to practice because of "exams"
- Your child does not want to practice over the summer vacation and wants to "have a break"
- Your child says they "don't like" the teacher / the music they have been assigned / the lessons / anything else that they can figure out to get out of having to practice
If a student does not enjoy playing piano or does not want to learn the piano it is not always the fault of the teacher and swapping teachers is not always the best course of action in these circumstances, however, in extreme cases a change of teacher may be recommended by the current teacher if it is felt that a different approach to lessons may have a positive effect on the student. If this happens with your child it is important to discuss the reasons for changing teachers with your new teacher honestly before beginning your new course of lessons. My advice to parents has been the same since I began teaching over 25 years ago. Give your children the opportunity to experience many different activities. Find the one your child loves and then dedicate yourself to that. Hopefully this will be learning some kind of musical instrument but if it is not, then the best advice would be to allow your child to put their energy into doing something that they do enjoy.