A lot of people are often interested in having their kid start music lessons, and then put it off because they are unsure if he or she will be able to stick with it long enough to get anything out of it. I usually suggest a trial lesson for any new student, because, even if the child is a good candidate for starting music classes, he or she might not be a good fit for me as a teacher, in which case , I recommend someone else.
When I do a trial lesson, I start by asking a lot of questions.
What type of music do you like?
Why do you want to play the piano, or guitar?
Do you know anyone who plays an instrument? Does it seem difficult?
Have you ever heard music with just guitar or piano?
What other things do you really enjoy doing?
The answers to the questions are somewhat important, but the way kid child answers is more significant. This is the first step in finding out how the child thinks.
The next step is hands on. When I begin with any child on the piano I ask if they can see the pattern in the piano keys. I have seen everything from 3 year-olds seeing a keyboard for the first time plunking their fingers on to the black keys and saying two then three, two then three to older kids looking blankly at me and saying ummm some are black and some are white? What this says about the kid is not as simple as saying whether or not they see the pattern. It can speak to their self-confidence and a number of other factors. At this point, they with a lot of self confidence will tell me all about and demonstrate other things they have noticed about the piano, while some other children will wait quietly with hands in their lap for me to say what's next.
I go on with many activities during which I find out the following things about the child:
Learning style and sensory orientation-some children are very visual, some auditory, some tactile , mostly it'a combination with one thing dominant.
Attention span and how much it varies by type of activity
Experience and understanding of music
Physical coordination and manual dexterity
Ability to see and imitate something physical
Ability to imitate something musical
Ability to translate verbal instructions into something physical or musical, i.e if I (say) line up 3 fingers on 3 black keys in a row, do you know what to do, or is it better if I show you?
Within a few minutes, I will know if it is better to use a book, or just keep doing exercises. Some kids really want to have a book to orient them to the task and the sequence of learning. Others really want to connect to the teacher, the music, or activities rather than a book. Every child I teach WILL be working from a book within few weeks, and a portion of every lesson will be sight reading, but it varies from child to child.
Of the ones that work better with a book, some seem to fast get it and become the ideal piano students of days of old who learn to read the notes in a predictable way , and learn new concepts happily in the order presented by the book. Some go through 2 months of pre-reading, and some ( even 5 year-olds) are on staff at the first lesson. Some take a month to stop looking at their fingers and some seem to just know (maybe from big sister or mom) that eyes should be on the music while fingertips stay on assigned keys.
I use a variety of different books depending on the child and what motivates them. I will talk about this in a separate post.
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