I have never met a single adult who regrets having learned to play piano as a child. As a parent, It not always a fun time trying to persuade your child to practice piano but we know that making our kids do things they do not always want to do prepares them for life. We also know that music education has big cognitive benefits that last a lifetime, but those benefits aren't always easy to explain to your little one who is frustrated with beginner piano lessons.
A friend recently told me that her parents had forced her to practice piano as a child and when she resumed playing, 20 years of later, she called her parents to thank them for making her stick with it. We know that once piano students get over the frustratingly difficult beginning stages, they will likely find more joy in playing. We don’t always feel good about “forcing” them to practice so here are some ideas you can consider employing to encourage your child to practice piano more often.
1. Concert Night at Home
Here is something you can do that can be a lot of fun for the whole family. Let’s say your kids have their lessons on Mondays. Every Sunday night can become Concert Night at your house. Instead of preparing for their lesson, they prepare for "Concert Night." (This way, you will know they're prepared for their lesson). Being a performer with a showtime can take on a whole different meaning as opposed to the mundane notion of getting ready for a coming lesson. Encouraging them to select the pieces they want to play, then applauding loudly for each piece, can instill a sense of pride to "perform" for their family/friends, and most kids do love the applause!
2. Get the Best Quality Piano You Can Afford
Sometimes the price is right on grandma’s antique upright piano but you must consider that a subpar instrument can greatly hinder the progress of a piano student. An old piano with a worn out action and can be unnecessarily challenging to play and simply not sound that great. Try to steer clear of antiques or inexpensive spinet pianos as they are often low quality and the player will quickly outgrow the quality. Now, you do not need a new piano by any means but you will need one that is of decent quality and one that has been serviced regularly because the instrument you play can inspire you just as much as the notes it produces. Even a trip to the piano stores, allowing them try different types of pianos has positive results.
3. Explain the Value
It can be effective to make it clear that lessons aren't cheap and practice makes the most of their money. We can be pleasantly surprised how this knowledge can motivate them as students. Also, it can be helpful to make it clear to the student that not doing the practice assignments or not practicing is as bad as not doing homework in school.
4. Consider a Digital PianoMusic is full of possibilities and something that inspires one child may not do the trick for another. A digital piano can be right for some families because of all the different sound possibilities beyond the standad “piano forte." Also, with modern advances in technology, digital pianos can be a valuable learning tool with onboard lessons and more. Digital pianos also offer the option to play silently with headphones allowing practice time to expand into quiet hours if desired.
5. Take Lessons With ThemTaking lessons at the same time can be a great tool for inspiring more practice time. Even if you are a novice yourself, you can put in the extra effort to become just a little more advanced than your child. Your child may be the type to be may be driven by the competitive nature of wanting to "catch up" with you and then feel proud that they are performing on a similar level as you! Working on duets together is an excellent way to be sure practice time happens and this can be included in "Concert Night."
6. Ask Them To “Teach” You A Piece of MusicYou may try asking them to "teach" you the piece they are supposed to be practicing. Whether you play piano yourself or not, your young “teacher” will end up playing the song a few times at least (depending on their patience) while you are "learning" the piece from them.
7. Keep the Piano In a communal SpacePlacing your piano in a room where your little one spends most of his/her time like a TV can have positive effects in practice time. Instead of keeping the piano in separate room, having the instrument in plain view in a public space can draw the player to it more often and also add an element of accountability.
8. Consider a Player PianoA client decided to get a player system installed with the piano they bought. Once his kids heard some songs they liked on the player, and saw the keys moving with the hammers hitting the strings, they were hooked. Years later, they still put on songs they like and watch/listen. Some will find the it a great motivation to learn a piece of music while alternately playing it on the player and then trying to replicate its nuances.
9. Take Them To Concerts / Music EducationOne of the easiest way to musically inspire children is to take them to a concert. The live music experience can be life changing for a young child and go a long way in adding that extra motivation to add practice time and effort. You can also invite other children over to share their playing, play recordings of great artists and talk about the artist's life and playing. Hopefully the fascination you help instill will last long enough to get them addicted, but after that, we hope their personal discovery of true music takes place and then an altogether different kind of magic comes into play.
10. Make a Musical Contract TogetherEven before embarking on lessons it is a good idea to try and explain what is involved with taking piano lessons. How much practice would be expected. How playing well takes time to learn, even years. If they are still interested, consider drafting up a musical contract, where once contracted, your child would take lessons no questions asked for 1 year. At that point, you and the piano teacher can make an evaluation of whether they have talent for music (not necessarily to be a professional, but just for making music). At the end of the contract the child can be consulted about their desire, but the final decision would be with the adults. If at that point the child continues piano lessons, we may include that they can't quit until they are 16 (or whatever age you choose.) Someone who was in a similar contract as a young student said that numerous times after that first year, they would state a desire to quit, and their mother responded: "OK, when you are 16.” The beauty of this method is that often times by the time the child is 16 (or whatever age you choose) they have gotten over the difficult learning curve and are having so much fun playing they won’t want to quit at all.