dos and don'ts of piano parents : LUSENET : Everything About Teaching and Learning the Piano : One Thread

I am doing a presentation for a piano pedogogy class in college on what parents should and shouldn't do as far as helping their kids as they learn piano as well as in dealing with the piano teacher. A couple questions I have are: how long should parents make their kdis keep participating in lessons if they do not enjoy the piano, and should the parents reward or punish their children if they do not practice? As far as interacting with parents, how do teachers respect the parent's concerns but at the same time do what they know is best with the student? What are some things that parents do that clearly oversteps their bounds during their child's lessons?

-- Jenni Rachow (, November 30, 2004


Well, begin with WHY the child is taking piano in the first place. Early exposure to music? To instill a sense of discipline (one reason why parents put kids into martial arts, for example)? Something to do (exposure to different activities to see what their child shows an interest in)? Because the PARENTS secretly want to be pianists and are living their lives through their children? Because the child actually asked to take lessons (I know, what a concept)?

The answer to that first question will really answer the rest of the them.

If the child shows no interest, or loses interest, stop the lessons, or, if they're just tired of all the seemingly endless drill practice, scales, etc. involved in classical piano, maybe switching to a "chord" or "pro piano" method, will rekindle the fire, because they'll be able to play "real" (to them) music much more quickly.

I don't advise overspending on an acoustic piano in the beginning if the purpose of the lessons is something "fun" to do. Check out pawnshops for used keyboards. Some on this forum have said you can recoup your investment on an acoustic piano, by selling it, but if there is not much difference in price between new and used, why not buy new (and get your warranty and so forth)?

-- GT (, December 01, 2004.

Hi Jenni, I just saw your question on another teacher site, and posted a lengthy reply there. So forgive me for hi-jacking your thread here, but I have a couple questions to GT about her answer to you. GT, I've read other answers of yours that mentioned "pro-piano." I've never heard of that anywhere else. What is that exactly? (feel free to start a new thread if you'd like). And since I'm the one who frequently talks about recouping one's investment on an acoustic, let me explain briefly. At any given time, a person can buy a used piano for less than a similar new one, but the person who is selling it used is probably able to sell it for approximately the same price as s/he paid for it back when it WAS new, IF (big "if" here) the piano has been well-cared for. For example, the first piano I bought cost $2000 back in 1980. I sold it in 1998 for $2000 (but by then my buyer could not have bought a good quality new one for $2000). My second piano cost $13000 in 1998; I sold it in 2003 for $13000. My current piano cost $24000, and if I ever sell it (don't intend to) I expect I will be able to get close to that amount (due to the rising cost of new ones). But the 3 keyboards that I have bought (to use for group classes I did), well, I'd be lucky to get a fraction of their original cost. (because unlike acoustic pianos, electronic keyboards keep having more features for the same or even lower cost than previous models). Plus, keyboards just aren't designed to last for decades like a piano is. Hope that helps you understand what I was saying about re-couping one's investment.

-- annie (, December 01, 2004.

Hi Annie,

"Pro Piano" is just a general term for piano lesson methods that teach essentially chords/rhythm patterns only, perhaps how to play a melody line, perhaps not (if you're singing the melody, you don't really need a piano melody too).

Are you learning to play Mozart with this method? No, but lots of people, while they may well appreciate someone else doing it on stage, don't want to put in the hours it takes to do it themselves. They just want to play pop music, or Christmas carols, or be able to pick out the melody notes of a new song, have some fun with the piano.

The better chord methods do teach actual reading of music, so that later on if you do want to add a melody line, you can (they pretty much ignore the bass clef completely), but others operate on the "put your fingers here and do this and you get this sound" method--no music reading necessary, just know your chords. If you are playing songs you know, this isn't a problem anyway, since you know how they are supposed to sound.

In other words, these methods teach what you see in those "Fake Books" (that is a real name for them by the way) that have like 100 pop (Broadway, wedding, whatever) songs in them and so forth. Chords and a melody line for singing. You learn the chords for each song as you go along.

Guitar is often taught this way (chords/rhythms), especially at the Park and Recreation/ YMCA level, as opposed to Spanish style finger-picking (Frederick Noad was on PBS for years with his video course, and his books are still used in college guitar classes today).

Speaking of PBS, there is a show called "Play Piano in a Flash" that initially aired as one of those "pledge time specials" we know and love, but according to the website he now has a weekly series carried on many PBS stations--if you don't get it in your area, you may have a relative/friend who gets multiple PBS feeds who would tape it for you to check out. I've seen the special, but not the series. His book is carried in many bookstores (his DVDs and CDs are also on Amazon), I was not that impressed with the book, and I didn't care for the show, but that's just my opinion (as in, some like Oprah, some don't). Here's his website, if you care to look at it:

With videotapes/DVDs now commonplace, it is really geared towards people who want to teach themselves, although the method lends itself well to group lessons, 1-day seminars, etc.

Look at it this way, this is a large, relatively untapped student market. When most people think of piano lessons, they think of long hours practicing scales and other exercises, but not making "music" for years and years, even though paying $$ for lessons (not including gas, wear and tear on the car, etc.). They also think pianos/lessons are expensive for what may be a minor hobby, as opposed to a major hobby, and are reluctant to pay that money. This type of piano/keyboard method makes learning piano more accessible, and definitely less expensive, with faster results, if all you really want is to be able to do what I mention above, pretty much play for fun.

Thanks for explaining about the recouping of the investment. I was looking at it more like buying a used, well-cared-for Honda or buying a new one--difference between new and used is very small, so if you are going to keep it, you may as well buy a new one.

I feel that if you don't know whether you or your child will stick with piano, or really like the idea of all the cool sounds you can make as well as being able to use it/take it anywhere and wear headphones, then the keyboard is the way to go. You can always buy an acoustic piano later, when you have more money, or the room for it. And, as you point out, used keyboards are pretty cheap.

Hope this helps.

-- GT (, December 02, 2004.

A child's success at the piano can be tied to several things. The quality of the piano upon which he practices can be a factor. If it is out of tune, old and tinny or doesn't work well mechanically, the child can easily lose interest because he doesn't sound good and he can't make pleasurable sounds. Many people forget that. I always tell parents to invest in the best piano they can afford because it will help the child do better in their piano study and maintain their interest longer.

The parents' job in a child's piano study is to see that a decent, well-maintained instrument is available for practice in an area free of distractions. They are to make sure that practice takes place on a regular basis and that the student follows the instructions and practices the entire assignment. They are to be the child's cheerleader and offer lots of praise and encouragement. Occasional help is OK, but just like homework, if they give too much help, the teacher will have skewed view of how the child is actually progressing unless the parent communicates what help has been given.

The parent also needs to make sure that the child attends all their lessons and brings all materials to the lessons and that they make payments when they are due. That helps maintain a good relationship with the teacher.

I've known parents who overstepped the boundaries and it is invariably the child who suffers. Too much help is usually worse than no help.

I do not believe in reward systems in general. Encouragement, yes. Rewards have really warped childrens' minds to the point where they can't find inner motivation and discipline. They, of course, are not old enough to know this and lose out as adults.

Piano students will, generally, enjoy piano study if they learn how to read well and learn how to express themselves at the piano. That doesn't happen without A) a good teacher, B) supportive parents and C) regular practice.

-- Arlene Steffen (, December 04, 2004.

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