Music Teacher's Helper Blog

Parents want nothing but the best for their children, but in order for them to achieve anything they want, they need to have self-confidence. Children who struggle with their self-esteem second guess themselves or are even too scared to try. This is why for parents who want their kids to succeed, the best gift they can give is to boost their confidence.

 

One of the lesser-known ways to do so is through music. Engaging children in the arts will help them have a positive outlook about themselves and their capabilities. When they explore themselves through music, they start to feel confident in who they truly are. You can learn more about the benefits of music below.

 

Builds Confidence To Perform

 

Almost every kind of music class will involve some sort of public performance at the end. This experience might be scary at first, but once they are able to do it once, they will start to feel more confident to perform in front of others, whether at school or at home.

 

Develops A Wide Range Of Skills

 

When learning to play a musical instrument, they will also have to develop other skills like counting beats, keeping in time, and reading musical notes. In fact, research has proven that playing a musical instrument may increase IQ by at least 7 points, both in adults and children.

 

Develops Discipline In Learning

 

Attending regular music classes and practicing at home will develop their discipline when it comes to learning. This is, of course, helpful when it comes to their schoolwork and even in the future, in their jobs.

 

Allows For Self-Expression

 

Music and the arts give everyone a perfect medium for self-expression. Children may choose between different instruments to play, and they can experiment with different kinds of music to perform.

 

Develops Individual Strengths

 

In some cases, children who may not be as academically-gifted may benefit from learning how to play a musical instrument. The learning challenges they face in their music classes will also help them in their schoolwork.

 

Improves Language Development

 

Music is also a way for children to express themselves, and children who may have difficulty in their speech will also help improve their language skills. By singing along with music, they can practice pronouncing and enunciating words.

 

Enhancing Social Skills

 

Being in a music class or playing with other children will help children interact with others. As they build friendships with others, their self-confidence will also grow. Moreover, they will learn to work and play together as a team, which is an important social skill in school and the real world.

 

Encourages Competition

 

Competition is always a good way for children to measure their capabilities and at the same time, learn to deal with both success and failure. Because not all kids can win, it is a great lesson to learn how to manage failure. After all, failing can also drive them to work harder. So it is not just success that can boost self-esteem. Working hard to achieve a goal can truly build self-confidence and taking part in competitions allows them to assess their skills. Criticism and good feedback can boost both skills and confidence.

 

Develops Problem-Solving Skills

 

Learning a musical instrument is not a breeze and as they improve their skills, they get confronted with more complicated musical pieces that require studying and lots of effort. At times, they may feel blocked or stunted, but the secret is approaching the problem systematically, either by practicing part by part or getting some more help. Challenges are always opportunities to build self-confidence, so helping children overcome them will teach them ways to solve these problems. These skills are highly useful in life and once they succeed, they will feel very proud of themselves.

 

Music is not going to solve all the self-esteem problems of your child, but it might help them feel more confident as they learn new musical skills. Along the way, they can build other abilities as well, from socializing with others to approaching tasks systematically. Beyond just helping them be more confident, they will also learn skills they can use in school and in their adult lives later on. This is why enrolling your child in music school might be the best decision you ever made.

Read More

What do you do when a student shows up for the lesson with a friend in tow, and says (with wide, hopeful eyes and a big smile), “Can _____ stay for the lesson?”

It’s smart to prepare for these times. In fact, it can be a huge plus for your business to schedule a friend week or allow students to bring one friend per school year (or semester, if you like). This helps limit potentially disruptive visits and turn them into a positive.

If you need ideas for what to do with a friend at piano lessons, I have some here!

Get Acquainted

This may be the first time you’ve met this friend. To help both of you feel more comfortable, try this.

Ask a few questions from a list of possibilities:

  • what is your name (or age or grade)?
  • do you have a pet?
  • do you play an instrument?
  • are you married (ha!)?
  • what is your favorite (or most despised) food or restaurant, and why?
  • where would you like to visit?
  • what’s your favorite book?
  • what kind of music do you enjoy most/least?

Piano Bring-a-Friend Ideas

Your student could teach the friend a rote piece or a pentascale.

If the friend plays piano, choose an easy piece for them to play together, one reading treble staff, one reading bass staff. Switch parts.

If the friend plays piano, invite him/her to play a piece by heart.

Play a game together:

Give the friend a choice of rhythm instruments to accompany your student’s playing. Have him/her keep a steady beat, play only on beats two and four, only on the rest, etc.

Teach the friend an easy ostinato. Your student can improvise with it. Add a small stuffed critter to keep on the tops of their heads as they play, to illustrate posture. Now add a coin to the backs of their hands. Can they do this with a straight face?

Two improv pieces for the friends to try:

“Game On” by Robin Steinweg

The lower hand plays four 8th notes on each of these: A down to F, down to D, up to E.

The upper hand improvs on an A minor pentascale to create a video game sound.

“Mandarin Oranges” by Alyssa Hawkins

The lower hand plays a pentatonic scale repeatedly up and down (3 black keys, then the 2 black keys, up and back down). The upper hand plunks black keys to improvise a melody. Use the damper pedal.

Improvise a trio!

“Triumvirate” Put the friend on a repeating bass pattern in A minor and the student on an upper A minor pentascale. You, the teacher, improvise in the middle. Make sure the students know what triumvirate means. From the Cambridge English Dictionary: “a group of three people who are in control of an activity or organization.”

If improvisation seems scary, read this.

To make a week-long event of friend visits, check out Teach Piano Today’s “Bring a Buddy Day” package.

You can make this a Promo Opportunity for your Studio!

Photograph the visit. Post pictures on your Music Teachers Helper website. Consider videoing or audio-recording the friends making music or playing a game together. Send it to your student’s parents, and ask them to pass it along to the friend. Let them decide whether to post it on social media, but be sure to ask them to tag you and/or your studio if they do!

If something the friends tried sounded pretty good, you might want to invite them to perform together in your next recital.

Create buzz for your studio, and give your students even more fun– making music with their friends.

If you need ideas for bring-a-friend to guitar or voice lessons, see my article from August 21st at Music Teachers Helper.

 

Read More

Dear readers,

Throughout my teaching career, I have been blessed with many different kinds of students: the young, the old, the good, the bad, the amazing, the astonishing, the talented, the hardworking, the lazy, the slow, the ones that practice and the ones that don’t… Each has made me a better teacher and I am the teacher today because of every single student I have ever taught. Today I am writing about a very special student whom I have had the pleasure and privilege to work with for the last two years. His name is Kodi.

Kodi is a 22 year old student. He is blind and autistic. He is a musical savant. Before Kodi came into my studio, I had not even heard of the word “savant.” It means he has exceptional ability and memory. He can hear a piece of music once, and basically play it back to you.

Prior to Kodi, I did not have any experience teaching blind students. I had very limited experience teaching students on the autism spectrum, although none as severe as Kodi. Kodi can not carry a conversation. He understands everything I say, but he can not communicate with words. His speaking vocabulary is very limited. However, he is a great singer, and he is basically a human jukebox, he knows the music and lyrics to just about every song under the sun. 

Not surprisingly, like many autistic students, Kodi has perfect pitch. His piano technique is unique. It is a combination of years of self exploration around the keyboard and limited formal instruction. Because he can not see, he has basically memorized exactly where each key is in relation to one another. The black key groups are his “landmarks.” It still amazes me how he can go from one register to another with extreme accuracy. He can play many of the classics, for example Beethoven’s Fur Elise, because he has heard them from somewhere. His versions may not be perfect, not because he can not play them perfectly, but mostly because the versions he heard were imperfect to begin with.

People who know about Kodi often ask me how he learns the materials to begin with, since he can not see the score. I do not teach Braille music. Everything Kodi learns with me he learns by ear. I play absolutely everything for him at first, and he copies. Because of his extraordinary ears and memory, he can learn very complicated pieces relatively quickly and easily, much quicker than if he had to learn it through Braille. (That’s an entirely different topic, and since I am no expert in Braille, I will not attempt to go into that further.)

I am writing about Kodi, because there must be other teachers like me who teach blind students, autistic students, or students with other differences, that we can share our experiences. I belong to the amazing Facebook page The Art of Piano Pedagogy, and every so often, someone would ask how to go about teaching such students. Every autistic student is different, not all blind students are autistic, and certainly not all autistic students are musical savants. I want to share what I have found from my experience with Kodi, and hopefully this post will find others with similar experiences. 

Last November, Kodi performed at Carnegie Hall. He is going again this November, as a First Prize Winner of The Golden Classical International Music Awards Competition. Last year his winning piece was Schubert’s Impromptu in E flat major, this year he won with Chopin’s Fantasie Impromptu. These are advanced scores for any student, and for Kodi they were major accomplishments, since he did not come to me with the usual classical training and foundation one would need in order to play these pieces. Because of Kodi’s prodigious ability, memorizing was the easiest part! Here were some of the challenges:

  1. Fingering – Because Kodi had been largely self taught, his fingerings were all over the place. He did not like to use his thumbs! I think it’s because the thumbs are shorter fingers than the rest, so subconsciously he avoids them, especially on black keys! He still does not trust his thumbs, and often will use other fingers first, but whenever I say “I love my thumbs” he will know what I mean. Kodi is also an expert in redistributing. He will sometimes play certain notes with the other hand than what the composer intended, because for him it is easier to find that note with that hand. Sometimes this is ok, but sometimes the resulting sound is different. 
  2. Unnecessary stretching – Because he can not see, he often stretches to find the next note. He has amazing span between every finger. He can play very large intervals between any adjacent fingers. This causes tension to my eyes! I am not sure if it causes physical tension for him, probably not, because he is so used to it. I do remind him not to stretch when there is another solution. 
  3. Arm and Wrist movements – vertical movement involving the wrists going up and down are very difficult for Kodi. He keeps his hands and fingers on the keyboard, he changes registers by moving horizontally and the idea of lifting your hand in the air is hard for him. I guess if I could not see, I would not want to leave the piano keys, either. This is the most challenging aspect. 

Every time I see Kodi, I am in awe. We often record our lessons live, so he can go home and listen to them again. Recently I shared one such clip on the Art of Piano Pedagogy, and the response was phenomenal. If you have a moment, take a look. If you have any experience teaching students like Kodi, please comment below!

https://www.facebook.com/Yiyikupiano/videos/1859466117502748/

Read More