in our ever changing world, music teachers must adapt their techniques as in all other industries. New methods for music education are constantly being introduced and upgraded. Technology provides unique new ways to teach piano by integrating apps, games, timers, all helping to capture to interest of the student. The old tradition of teaching a structured lesson with a curriculum is very rarely effective today. Our piano teachers, and the parents and students that understand these new methods will experience much better results in their music education. Here are some of the “New Methods” essential to reach student and foster a passion for music.
The Music Must Relate
Students must be able to relate to the music they are asked to learn. If the music their teacher has asked them to learn has no relevance for them in their daily life or social circle it’s very hard to motivate practice. Great piano teachers go the extra mile to find a way to integrate the music the student is interested in with the skills they need at that time in their development. This is much harder work for an instructor in comparison to the old way of slapping a method book on the music stand. This means the teacher has to search for a great arrangement, or create their own if nothing is suitable. It requires more care and time from the instructor, and on the parents part, (if its a young student), understanding. Parents need to be patient should it take an instructor time out of the lesson to really find a great arrangement, or even write out a few notes for the student. It’s important that parents and student be aware that the selection of repertoire is so critical, the time spent may be much more valuable than pushing for more scales. The reason for this, is the student may spend 6 months or even a year learning the piece. How motivated they are to learn the music can make the difference between a tired unmotivated student at the end of 6 months, and a budding pianist.
Piano Teachers Must Take a Personal Interest
Time must be taken to get to know the student and show genuine interest without any musical agenda. Some teachers want to see progress so they can be seen as great, or become frustrated when students don’t live up to their expectations, but great teachers know that it’s not about them. In today’s world, perhaps more than ever before, individuals need to feel valued for who they are, and not only their achievements. Our piano teachers ask questions briefly about the life of their students. It’s important for students and parents to understand the importance of this brief conversation during lessons. It may also be used by a wise teacher, as a way to take a break when the exercise is getting tough. Feeling connected with the teacher, and trusting them, is key for learning any subject.. Often a student will persevere through challenges in their music education just because of a personal connection with the teacher.
Reading Music the “Only Way”?
Not every student is going to learn to read music in the way the former generations did. The process can be very challenging for some, especially the very young, and we believe that today’s world and so fast paced it makes it hard for students to sit and focus using only traditional methods. Reading music certainly has its value, however there are many alternatives that have value. There are tutorials that show note to note, there are lead-sheets with chords only, and of course playing by ear. Our philosophy is passion and interest first. What we believe is that the teachers first priority is to foster a lifelong appreciation and passion for music. The means by which they get the student there are of secondary importance. If a child really wants to learn a pop song rather than the prescribed classical piece out of the book, the teacher must consider carefully: Could the classical piece, if forced, within three months cause a lowered moral leading to the child wishing to stop learning? If the pop song is learned, could the instructor combine some technical challenges from the classical piece, get some desired goals, and have the student thrilled about lessons? Then, down the road, when the time is right, more reading and more technical skill can be introduced.
More Rewards, More Often
today’s piano teachers must create short-term goals and set up reward processes in a way prior generations never had to do. In the old days, a kid practiced an hour a day and finally received applause from his instructor and parents at the annual recital. In today’s world, this is not sufficient motivation. With Ipad games, netflix, instagram and all the multitude of distractions competing with piano lessons, the successful instructor must create constant goals and rewards.
Music Education, a Good Meal
Think of the perfect music education a perfect meal. Piano teachers must ensure that their students get the “meat and potatoes”, (technique scales, and reading), but “dessert” as well. “Dessert” might be the opportunity to play their favorite song, write a song, or whatever they love. It’s the job of the experienced and sensitive instructor to gauge how much dessert is appropriate. Every situation is different, and in some cases if the student has been starved for years of the opportunity to explore their desires and interests, (perhaps a bad experience with a strict piano teacher), the instructor may start by giving them more of what they want. Then, gradually over time the lessons may bend more toward a healthy balance of both technique and the music they enjoy.
Music Education is Now Life Education
Piano teachers need to think as life coaches in addition to music teachers. When a student gets passionate about music, begins to see growth and progress, the skills needed for that often translate into all other areas of life. A piano teacher may unwittingly be giving their student the processes of creativity and discipline necessary for that winning stroke in business twenty years in the future. Teachers have the potential to impact the lives of their students in many unforeseen ways. This great responsibility to shape lives makes the work of a teacher much more than the subject being taught.