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Tips for helping your child.


Learning to play the piano can be an exciting adventure for your child, but it is an adventure that you should be part of too. Your child will succeed best with active help, support and encouragement. Here are some of the best ways you can help your child to succeed.

Choose a good teacher – one who is professionally qualified to teach the piano, not just general music or another musical instrument. Don't be afraid to ask about the teacher's qualifications and experience, ask them to play for you – a competent and qualified piano teacher will be more than willing to let you hear them play the piano themselves! If they are not comfortable playing for you it might be wise to question their ability to teach your own child to play.

Make sure you talk to the parent's of other children who have lessons with the teacher. Ask about the progress these students are making, and if they enjoy the lessons. Is the teacher happy to let you sit in on lessons, especially in the early stages? This can enable you to supervise your child's practise at home. If possible try to find the opportunity to hear some of the teacher's students perform, and talk to them about their learning experiences.

When you have chosen a teacher remember that learning will be most effective when teacher, student and parent work together.

Position the piano in a warm, well-lit room away from distractions like the television and other family activities.

Establish a routine of short, regular practise sessions. If possible organise a short, supervised practise session before school when the student is fresh (family requirements permitting) and another one after school that is given the same importance as the child's homework.

Take the teacher's advice on the amount of practise that should be done each day, and expect the teacher to write down at each lesson exactly what is to be practised for the next lesson.

Motivational tools - use a weekly planning chart, stickers or a reward system to help to keep the student motivated.

Praise success and reward hard work and good progress.

Encourage every opportunity to perform – for friends, family or even the family dog! Children usually love to show off what they can do, and their success becomes a great motivator.

Graded Examinations can be a valuable way to measure progress and provide structured goals to aim for. Discuss this subject with both teacher and student. The teacher should be more than happy to let you see their examination results and will help you decide if taking an examination would be helpful as part of your child's learning programme.

As the student progresses many teachers will encourage students to explore sight-reading, duet playing, improvisation, playing by ear. All these activities contribute to a child's musical understanding and development- do your best to encourage them. Duet and other ensemble playing also adds a valuable social aspect to learning the piano!

The study of music theory is important and can usually be incorporated into the piano lesson, at least for the first year or two of study. Thereafter it might be wise to consider a separate weekly or fortnightly lesson.

Enquire whether music theory is taught at your child's school – you might find it is available as a lunchtime activity or club.

Provide the best instrument you can afford You would not expect a learner driver to learn in a car with faulty brakes, a stiff clutch and steering that pulled to the left. You should not expect your child to make good progress at the piano when they are practising on an instrument that is out of tune and badly regulated.

When you are buying a piano do plenty of research and take independent professional advice from a qualified tuner/technician. Have your piano tuned at least twice a year and talk to the technician about maintaining it in a properly regulated condition to ensure that each key responds exactly as it should do. Contact the Piano Technicians Guild to locate a qualified piano technician in your area.