Supporting your Child’s Piano Lessons at Home
Behind every child musician is a group of cheerleaders at home, making sure that practicing is done, assignments are completed, and the student arrives on time for the weekly lessons with all of the music books! Now that my oldest son is five and beginning a practice routine, I am realizing even more how invaluable the daily help and support of parents is in developing a musician who loves and supports the arts for life.
Here are some suggestions for supporting your child at home:
- Set a daily time to practice the piano. Make the piano practice part of your daily routine. Children thrive on routine and if piano practice is scheduled, they will be more likely to remember to practice. With younger children, try to supervise their practice at least once at the beginning and end of the week to ensure they are completing all elements of the assignment. Are they following practice steps? Have they practiced their warmups? Keep in mind that some students will always need a reminder to practice. Several of our NSMS faculty members recall needing reminders from their parents to practice through high school!
- Invest in a good quality instrument and keep it regularly maintained. There are a variety of instruments available these days, and one must consider the wide range of qualities of these instruments. Acoustic pianos provide an edge in terms of facilitating a good hand position and developing a wide range of sounds and colors. If a keyboard is absolutely necessary, it must be full-sized and touch-sensitive. If you feel your piano is not the best quality, consider an upgrade. It is also important to have the piano tuned regularly. Twice a year—fall and spring—is best. During the regular tunings, be sure to ask the technician if any further repairs are recommended.
- Check your space. Is the piano in a well-traveled, well-lit space in your home? One of our faculty members tells the story of a diligent student who suddenly stopped practicing regularly. When questioned by the teacher as to whether anything had changed at home, the answer was, “Well, we did move the piano to the basement.” Once the piano was moved back to the main level, the child’s regular practicing resumed. When your child is practicing, be cognizant of distractions. For instance, it is not a good idea to have other family members watching TV in the same room as the child who is practicing. He or she will be unable to focus.
- Posture and Hand Position. Is your child sitting correctly at the piano and using a good hand position? This is a great thing for parents to assist with because it really does need daily reinforcement. If you aren’t sure if your child is sitting correctly at home, take a picture and send it to your teacher, asking for feedback. Keep in mind that the children need to sit differently as they grow so you should reevaluate their seating arrangement yearly (or even more frequently if they are growing quickly). Ask your teacher how you can help to reinforce a good hand position. All of our students are always working on technique, hand position and posture. We strive to have students play with a natural and relaxed hand, that is rounded with sturdy fingers.
- Enjoy live music. Children benefit from hearing live music. It is inspiring for children to hear others play, and they are able to learn a variety of music through active listening. Consider a wide variety of genres: orchestral, opera, chamber music, and choral concerts, in addition to solo piano recitals. We hope that you will join us for our next faculty recital series on Sunday, December 7 at 2:30 p.m. (Nassau Presbyterian Church).
- Play music and sing at home. Keep music a part of your daily routine at home! Find times when your child is playing or doing homework that they can also be listening to music in the background. Sing along! Encourage and broaden their tastes. Help them as they explore new pieces of music to add to their own music collections.
- Encourage frequent performances. One of my student’s has a regular “Friday Night Family Performance” group. The children hold an informal concert of the pieces they are studying for their parents. Another student would often give a recital with her brother as a gift to her parents. This performance was complete with programs, bowing, and concert attire! These events can be formal or informal. The most important element is that your child feels celebrated at the piano! There are times when playing the piano feels like a lot of work; difficult and solitary. Encouragement from family and friends go a long way in helping the student feel successful and inspired to continue.
Music is a transformative experience. It is an outlet for creativity and expression. And, as NSMS Faculty member, Marvin Blickenstaff, eloquently says, “Music nourishes the soul.” As we work to raise children who love and support music for life, we are reminded daily that this is a lifelong goal. Do you have other suggestions for helping to support your child’s musical endeavors at home? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rebecca Mergen Pennington has been on the faculty of The New School for Music Study since 2007, and currently serves as the Administrative Director. Dr. Pennington holds a doctorate from the University of Kansas, where she studied with Jack Winerock. Dr. Pennington performs as a solo and collaborative artist and enjoys teaching students of all ages and levels.
The New School for Music Study is one of the country’s leading centers in piano education and provides a variety of programs and classes for piano students. Our school is conveniently located in the Princeton area of central New Jersey, offering piano lessons for students from Princeton, Plainsboro, East Windsor, West Windsor, Kingston and other surrounding communities.