10 Things You Should Do Before Your Child's First Piano Lesson
- Buy a piano. If you're serious about piano lessons, you will need one. Your child will make next to no progress if they don't have an instrument to practice on in between lessons. Acoustic or digital? It depends on your preference, I have a digital one because I like the extra things you can do, such as record yourself, use different tones and use headphones so as not to disturb your neighbours if you feel like playing in the middle of the night! If you're not certain about lessons then a keyboard (at a push) can be used instead of a piano, but I wouldn't really recommend it more than 6 months. If your child chooses to do graded exams, they will be doing their exam on an acoustic piano, that will have weighted keys. Digital and acoustic pianos have weighted keys, keyboards do not. There will more than likely be a used acoustic piano on sites like Freecycle and Gumtree so getting a piano doesn't have to break the bank.
- (Piano) location, location, location. Make sure the piano is somewhere that is not lonely or in the same place as the only TV - self explanatory really!
- Acoustic pianos need to be tuned. If you do choose an acoustic piano, particularly if it is second hand, it will need tuning. Search for a piano tuner.
- Have the piano in your house for months, even years before the first lesson. Developing a sense of the everyday about the piano, being a part of normal life, will help instil a love of the instrument and a willingness to play and not just have to 'practice' when they are taking lessons.
- Let your child play and explore the piano before starting lessons. They need to develop a sense of familiarity with the layout (the pattern of 3 black keys and then 2 black keys, what happens when you press the keys, how you can make a loud and soft sound, what the pedal does. This will save time in the first few lessons and will encourage your child to take risks and try new things more readily than one that has never touched the instrument before their first lesson.
- Ensure your piano stool has an adjustable height. When I was learning, my father bought a duet piano stool, so that we could both sit on the same stool to play duets, however, it was fairly high and not adjustable and I ended up getting back ache. My piano teacher saw that it was too high and made me sit on a dining chair with two cushions. I'm much more comfortable nowadays with my height adjustable piano stool, and so are my students!
- Observe how your child explores the piano and talk about their experiences with them. Even if you don't play an instrument yourself, simply talking about the sounds and discoveries your child is making will boost their self esteem and speech as well as developing the rounded musician they are aspiring to be.
Make sure your child knows the difference between their right and left sides. As Elissa Milne put it:
This is a bigger issue than simply knowing the right hand from the left; having your child be aware that they can create an action on one side of their body and then mirror that action on the other develops physical-spatial awareness that will be immensely beneficial when learning new skills at the keyboard. Which is to say: having a child practice jumping to the left or jumping to the right will help them be better pianists. Anything that asks a child to do things with their body in terms of left and right will lay the foundation for physical fluency at the keyboard.
- Ensure your child knows their alphabet from A to G forwards and backwards. The musical alphabet is literally the letters A to G. ABCDEFGABCDEFG and so on. If your child is fluent both forwards and backwards with just these 7 letters, they will fly through their piano lessons
- Show your child a treble clef and a bass clef. Treble is for high notes, bass for low notes. Google it and draw or print one out and have your child trace it with their finger. These two symbols will be on every piece of music your child plays, aside from the first few beginning pieces.