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supporting piano lessons

(11 Posts)
lunar1 Tue 19-Jan-16 11:56:29

Dh and I are completely musically illiterate. Ds1 has started lessons and is loving it, he practises every day. What kind of support can I give him when I have no clue if what he is doing is right or wrong?

His teacher is really pleased with him and shows me what he should practice. But honestly it's getting harder every week for me to help him now he's started doing two hands at the same timeblush.

Any tips greatly appreciated!!

Fleurdelise Tue 19-Jan-16 12:25:36

Hi Lunar, and welcome to the club of little pianists. DD is 8 yo and has been having piano lessons since she was 6. We are not a musical family.

First thing that helped a lot is the fact that I am staying in her piano lessons but I understand not all the teachers will allow this. Dd's teacher is happy with me being there so I can say that even though I still can't play the piano I try to keep up with the knowledge of it, so I learnt the notes with DD, how to recognise them, how to recognise time signatures and the language used.

I also know what exactly she needs to practice as most of the time DCs would think that playing a piece through on and on is practice. So for instance her teacher would ask her to practice a certain bar, or practice slowly to achieve a staccato or legato movement. DD would most probably ignore that and try to play the piece through exactly like she previously did so I can remind her what the teacher asked her to do to improve the piece.

Also practising is the most important part so I found that creating a daily routine of practising takes away any arguments, DD knows that every evening after dinner she is practising piano and she never tried to avoid it.

I hope this helps smile

MrsLeighHalfpenny Tue 19-Jan-16 12:49:53

Get DS to teach you what he's been taught. Learning to read music isn't that difficult, in the early stages anyway. He'll enjoy being the teacher, and it will re-inforce what he's learned for him too.

lunar1 Tue 19-Jan-16 14:31:46

Thank you for the advice, I should have added, I am dyslexic. I have been learning along with him, getting him to teach me what he has learned. This worked well when it was one hand and one at a time, but I can't see the notes properly when you have to look at both together.

I know this probably sounds mad to everyone on here but as much as I try I just can't read the music. Ds on the other hand is doing really well, this has been the first week of using both hands together and he's managed the exercises he's been given weakly well.

Fleurdelise Tue 19-Jan-16 15:42:48

You don't need to learn to read music but learn the methods that enables you to remember how to read a note. So for example DD has learnt mnemonics to remember the line/space notes in treble clef and base clef. I know the mnemonics also and while DD has moved on and now recognises the notes without using the mnemonics if she ever gets stuck I have the "key" to help her.

Or the fact that I have learnt the key signatures at the same time with her makes it easier, sometimes she'd play the wrong note but wouldn't realise why it is wrong so I can say "remember, you are in D major, you should probably play a sharp there".

So I would say that rather than waiting for the next lesson to correct a wrong note which could become a habit by then I support her by reminding her about the tools her teacher gave her.

MrsLeighHalfpenny Tue 19-Jan-16 17:34:39

Good advice Fleur

OP, you can learn the mechanics and rules of music, even if you can't p!at the piano. For examplele, you can learn the scales. You play those one note at a time (until you advance the grades somewhat anyway).
How about teaching yourself a woodwind instrument at the same time as DS is learning piano. Woodwind us just one note at a time, so the music is easier to read. You and DS can play together then!

Ferguson Tue 19-Jan-16 19:50:39

I always tell people that reading music notation is not REALLY terribly hard, but I realise you do have an additional difficulty.

I also say not to worry too much about the NAMES of notes at this stage. It is better to try and associate the note (on a 'line' or in a 'space', between two lines) with the appropriate finger that plays the note.

People often think that Treble Clef (right hand melody, usually) and Bass Clef (left hand, accompaniment, usually) are TWO different things, but really each is a continuation and extension of the other.

I will PM you sometime with examples that may make things clearer for you.

Meanwhile, can you tell me what music books DS is working from, and how far he has got.

howabout Wed 20-Jan-16 13:57:48

Good advice from Fleur. I believe you about reading the music. I have DD1 who can do it without thinking about it and DD2 who has really, really struggled (as she did with learning to read). I would say don't be too concerned about having to keep up with your DS as you don't want to be slowing him down or cramping his style - mine are teenagers and any interference beyond enforcing regular practice schedule is frowned upon.

The other advice would be to give him as many opportunities as possible to play for you and other friends and family members and always encourage positively.

ealingwestmum Wed 20-Jan-16 16:47:33

The fact that your son loves his piano and readily practises without being pestered is great. All children are different and some children welcome close parental involvement, my DD was left to get on with it!

Not completely true, but I did not get involved in the lessons (door would be open so I can part hear which I would in early days), but would get her to read/talk me through her teacher's notes (they forget otherwise) and remind her to rotate her time with sight reading, scales as well as the pieces. Including playing non-lesson stuff for fun. If the pieces are not going to plan (you can tell, even if you are not musical), then get them to drill problem areas.

Unless you really want to learn/play alongside him and he's really happy to continue to teach you, the danger of being too hands on is keeping up when they start to fly. It's the reinforcing the habits of regular practise, being supportive when it gets a little tough and keeping them motivated and happy to learn that helps them to turn into competent pianists.

Sounds like he's made a great start!

lunar1 Thu 11-Feb-16 09:48:57

Sorry I haven't replied to this sooner, the advice has been really useful! Ds is still really motivated and seems to be learning new things every lesson. There is no way I can keep up with him and I would slow him down without question!

He is currently working on John thompsons book 2 and more tunes for ten fingers.

The one thing I have done is photocopied the pages from his book and his teacher has written the notes on and where he has to change finger positions so I can help him if needed. He's not needed it yet!

EarlyInTheMourning Mon 15-Feb-16 08:37:53

lunar1, I am the most musically inept person there is and yet, both my DC play instruments, several of them, and my 11YO is currently preparing Grade 7 piano. All I have ever done from day one is encourage them to practise, comment on their pieces, always being honest about the fact that I cannot tell whether they're technically correct or not, but I say things like 'today it flows better than yesterday', 'I enjoyed that', you really put a lot of feeling into that one', 'I can tell a massive improvement from last week'. Basically by showing an interest and loving what they do.

When they have to practise, I sit with them. They like having me there even though my purpose is not to correct them as I wouldn't know how. I have also placed the piano in a prominent part of the house. My DS knows perfectly well I do not know anything about playing the piano and he still likes it when I sit with him throughout his practise sessions and I comment.

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