Not So Fond Piano Memories
My post today has to deal with the issue of taking piano lessons when we were kids. I cannot tell you the amount of adults that I meet that share their unfortunate bad experiences with piano lessons when they were kids. The story is all too familiar: Parents force lessons on kids, teacher is scary, makes them practice scales all day, fear of piano sets in for life! My first reaction to stories like this is the same, “how in the world can someone make music and learning the piano a traumatic event?” The truth is that this happens so much more than I care to admit. The great news is that even if someone had an experience like this as a child, it can be remedied and they can still enjoy learning the piano without resorting back to bad memories and practicing scales all day long.
Wanting to Learn
I, luckily, had a great experience learning the piano because I started of my own desire in school. My parents had given my sister lessons when she was younger but since I hadn’t shown any interest, they didn’t force it on me. I always recommend parents to tread lightly the line between forcing a child to learn the piano and encouraging them. I know sometimes that line gets muddy but if a child shows resistance time and time again to the thought of lessons or learning the piano, maybe they aren’t quite ready and it can be revisited the following year. Or even better, if the parent learns the piano, it can be a great example and motivator for kids to do the same.
Since we can’t go back in time to fix anything, the next best thing is to create a fresh start moving forward. The piano is a wonderful instrument in that it rewards those learning it rather quickly from the start. Getting back on the piano horse, so to speak, is not always easy if we’ve gone through a bad experience as a child. But the question is, “how do we start over without remembering the past?” Although this is a heavier question than this post will allow, I will attempt to offer those who recall their piano lessons with disdain, some advice on how to start playing again.
The first thing to decide is if you actually want to play. I know that may seem obvious but maybe the reason you didn’t enjoy lessons as a child was simply because you have interests in other areas in life. If you are among those that want to start playing piano again, then ask yourself why you want to play? Is it to prove something to others? Is it to prove something to yourself? What I can tell you is that if you learn the piano for any other reason except for the sheer pleasure of playing, then you will find yourself frustrated rather soon down the road. What you don’t want is for the piano to become a burden in your life instead of something that liberates you and allows for self-expression.
Play the music you want
I have encountered so many people in my career that have told me that what turned them off the most in their piano lessons was that they were forced to play a style of music they didn’t like. Why would a teacher force a student to play music they dislike? It’s madness! With the thousands and thousands of songs, pieces and tunes available to learn on the piano, there is simply no excuse for having to play something on the piano that you don’t love. It doesn’t mean that when learning you won’t have to play certain smaller exercises and pieces to learn technique but to push certain music, as a whole, on a student is ludicrous. It’s not only ludicrous, but also counter-productive.
Instead, if you are beginning piano lessons again, I suggest staying close to a style of music that you like. Whether it be Classical, Jazz, Blues or Pop, if you focus on the piano music that you enjoy, you will find it so much easier to look forward to practicing and seeing progress. So many students stop halfway through a piece or song because they simply don’t like it! I wish I could say that this is a rare occurrence but unfortunately it happens all the time. adults will have cloudy memories of scales, Mozart and torturous piano lessons from their childhood and in the end, all of that could have been avoided had they simply chose better music.
Whenever I begin teaching piano to a new student in my private studio, my first series of questions is to determine what their specific goals are on the piano. What do they expect to get out of the experience and their journey with the piano? It would flat out ignorant of me to assume that everyone wants to practice four hours a day and learn a Rachmoninoff Piano Concerto. Instead, while still learning the fundamentals of music and proper piano technique, we focus on achieving the style of music that the student enjoys.
So my simple advice is give piano lessons a fresh try and focus on the style of music you like. The entire experience will be a much more pleasant one and one where you are controlling the ultimate goal, not the teacher.
Where does the piano fit in your life?
What has been your personal experience with learning the piano? Whether you had lessons as a child or not, you are here today because you want the piano to be a part of your life in some way. What I can tell you is that it will be an experience like no other. If you still retain not so great memories from your childhood piano lessons, let me assure you that it was not the piano that put you off but the way in which you learned. I have seen so many adults renew their love for the piano in a big way and fulfill a dream that may have been dormant for a long time. Are you ready to play? Don’t let anything stop you!