Misconceptions about piano lessons - Understanding what they are about

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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Thu Oct 06, 2005 7:54 am

Here's my partial list of lesson misconceptions, gleaned from personal experience with piano studio owners and what I hear from teachers who write me at PEP:

My kid should have prodigious skills in 6 months of lessons - Many parents come into a studio having heard the many "play in a day" claims out there. They can't understand why their kid isn't ready for a concert tour after 6 months.

"An hour of practice a day" is highly flexible in interpretation - Too many people think that, if an hour of practice is required that a half hour is almost as good and that half hour can also be spent watching TV while "practicing"

Since lessons are paid for, the teacher should give any amount of unpaid time for free - Although they wouldn't work for free themselves, many parents, in particular, think that extra time spent preparing a child for a contest or concert should be given free by the teacher.

The teacher's time is infinitely flexible and minutely valuable - It's okay not to show up for a lesson and not to give notice, but expect immediate scheduling of a free makeup lesson.

The piano teacher is getting rich, because the hourly lesson rate is higher than the parent's hourly rate - Most people don't consider that they get benefits (health insurance, paid vacation, etc.) for free as a part of their compensation package, while most piano teachers must pay for any benefits out of the hourly fee.

"Somehow" my children will find time for lessons and practice, even though they are scheduled with activities every day of the week after school - 'Nuff said.

It's okay to start lessons without making a commitment to them - Many people don't realize that lessons taken without commitment to them almost always lead to failure. Lessons take real time and involvement on the part of teachers, students and parents.

This is just a partial list, but I hope it might spur others to add their own favorite misconceptions to the list. :D
All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man's life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom. - Albert Einstein
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Postby Dr. Bill Leland » Thu Oct 06, 2005 9:35 am

One fairly frequent problem my wife ran into when she had a private studio was the parent who thinks nothing of leaving their kid to hang around for an hour or more after the lesson before picking them up, as though the teacher was running a free day care center on the side.

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Postby Stretto » Thu Oct 06, 2005 12:12 pm

:laugh: Dr. Leland, that reminds me of the time my mom was pretty late picking me up from lessons (probably the only time). The teacher must have had a strict policy on this as she directed me to wait outside on the front porch by myself for my mom :( . I wasn't too happy with my mom as it got pretty boring and lonely sitting out there waiting by myself. You'd wonder if kids ever say to parents, "why weren't you there to get me on time!," rather than wait an hour at the teachers house like it's no big deal to them either.
It was so nice once when I had a teacher in the neighborhood that I could walk to lessons and back home without waiting on parents. Also, I loved it when I was old enough to drive myself to piano lessons, no more having to wait on parents to be picked up either.

I just realized the flip-side of this misconception that it's "ok" to keep the teachers waiting on the parents to pick up the kids. That is, it's kind of funny, as a teacher I'm always extremely worried if I keep the students over more than 10 min. too many times in a row that the parents will get tired of me keeping their kids past lesson time. It seems that many parents these days are in a continual hurry to get their kids and get home or get to the next activity. It makes me wonder if the parents ever get disgusted if I keep their kids past lesson time. I'm always apologizing for going over thinking it is messing up the parent's schedule.




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Postby Glissando88keys » Sun Jul 16, 2006 8:55 pm

Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Editor wrote:This is just a partial list, but I hope it might spur others to add their own favorite misconceptions to the list. :D

I'd like to add to your list.

"The student is too young/too old to learn how to play piano."

" All he/she wants to do is play keyboard in a band. "Why does he/she need piano lessons?"

"Piano lessons are not as important as sports or other activities, so it's okay for a student to miss a lesson or a recital because of a football game, or other activity.":(

"The teacher must be doing something wrong if the child shows no progress, but parents must be doing something right when their child progresses without difficulty." ???

"Learning how to play piano isn't practical. You need to learn practical skills to earn a living in the world."

"It's not worth the investment in time, money and effort; He/She will never get anywhere."

And my favorite misconception...

"I'm afraid my child will become a starving artist.":(

I've even heard a parent make the following very discouraging
comment to a child who had a true passion for music:
"Where is the money I gave you for music lessons? " You must have spent it on something else!" :angry:

(Maybe the above comment should belong in a thread called, "The best things a parent could do to ruin a child's enthusiasm for piano lessons?"




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Postby Mins Music » Thu Aug 03, 2006 7:17 am

I agree with so many thoughts already mentioned.
Here's a few that come to mind ( in point form but in no particular order of importance)

1. Kids (and some parents for that matter) hoping piano is just "FUN" - like rollercoaster fun or shoot-em-up-computer game fun. (These are the ones who haven't learnt that hard work and accomplishment can be 'fun' too)

2. Learning the piano will be 'easy enough' and all I'll have to do is turn up to a half hour lesson once a week.

3. 'Practise' means playing through my piece once - ignoring all the mistakes, then saying "I play it really good at home".

4. Bringing along "The Maple Leaf Rag" on my second lesson and getting frustrated when the teacher says it's too difficult to learn just yet....let's try remembering where middle C is first!

5. Not realising that playing the piano is not just knowledge based, but SKILL based,and skills need to be developed in stages which takes TIME and PLANNING and then IMPLEMENTED with steady CONSISTENCY. (Sorry for the capitals - this really is my biggest pet peeve at the moment so excuse me while I rant a little over this ....) This isn't a misconception believed just by beginners - even my AMEB students who have done exams before, STILL try and leave everything to the last minute because they can 'get away' with cramming for exams at school. So they do great in the general knowledge section but wonder why they don't do so great in their pieces. The ones who do must just be 'lucky' or the other misconception: "TALENTED".

6. You must be given a 'gift' from God to be talented and therefore 'good' at playing the piano - and that's why I haven't progressed - not because I haven't applied myself in a systematic process - but because I'm not 'talented.' ( I can see this raising all sorts of 'responses' and if it does, we should probably start a new thread because it's a big enough topic all on it's own.) Conversely, there's the ole 'I'm so talented I don't need to practise!' (heehee ... that was me as a kid! I see things a WHOLE lot differently now though...)

As already meantioned 7. Me? Involved more than just being a taxi service. Nope. I expect my kid to be enthusiastic but don't make me have to listen or encourage or remind them to play, I'm too busy! (Which sadly, is so true today of so many parents and I really do understand that they'd like to just be able to pay someone to do something completely for their child. But this is a misconception. The teacher sees the child - usually - once a week, and usually half an hour or forty five minutes at a time. A teacher's impact is limited because of this - it is a complete misconception that a teacher be the only one responsible for a child's progress.

8. It's completely okay to have piano lessons and CONTINUE piano lessons year after year on a two or three octave electric keyboard they got for Christmas. ('You know I paid nearly $500 for that, they better be GREAT piano players in a few weeks!)

9. Piano teachers don't need to feed their families or pay their bills, they have more hours in the day than other people and have no need for other recreational pursuits or interests and they only have one child they have to deal with - mine.

BOY! don't I sound bitter and twisted. :D Certainly didn't mean to, just expressing these misunderstandings a bit sacrcastically. Happily, most misconceptions can be dispelled with education - and that can come as easily as telling the parents 'hey it's just not true!' (Others of course need 'proof' either documentary evidence or the learn the hard way through personal experience. There's the occassional one or two that are quite happy to remain convinced of their misconceived notions. )
"I forget what I was taught, I only remember what I've learnt." - Patrick White, Australian novelist.
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Postby Glissando88keys » Fri Sep 15, 2006 1:27 pm

Mins Music wrote:Conversely, there's the ole 'I'm so talented I don't need to practise!' (heehee ... that was me as a kid! I see things a WHOLE lot differently now though...)

Practice? You mean I have to practice? ???

I went through that phase for awhile, as a kid. I hated being embarrassed when I showed up for lessons, unprepared, so I decided to establish good practice habits. While the initial adjustment was uncomfortable at the beginning, it was less than the very uncomfortable feeling of humiliation and embarrassment. I continued to practice with intent, and in earnest. The results were amazing!:D

I never practice. I always play. ~Wanda Landowska




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Postby Emily Wyatt » Mon Apr 16, 2007 7:02 pm

Yup. I blush to think of how badly I was practicing in my teens, having played for ten years or more! Finally the teacher I had come to most recently--a fine and immensely knowledgable man--told me that I was wasting both our time and my parents's money and if I didn't scrape my act together I was out.

Tears. But I practiced. And the next year showed the most incredible increase in my skills! I can't believe how many of my misconceptions he changed.

Like, as was mentioned earlier in this thread, I can get along without practice, or just sightreading, because I'm talented. I don't know about talent now, but I sure believe hard work can do it.
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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Thu Apr 19, 2007 7:47 am

Emily Wyatt wrote:Yup. I blush to think of how badly I was practicing in my teens, having played for ten years or more! Finally the teacher I had come to most recently--a fine and immensely knowledgable man--told me that I was wasting both our time and my parents's money and if I didn't scrape my act together I was out.

Your teacher did you, and your parents, an immense favor by taking this tough stand. It's good that you recognize that favor for what it was.

Another misconception: "My child isn't "talented", so he shouldn't take piano lessons anymore."

As with so many other things, "talent" is 90% perspiration and 10% inspiration. If a student isn't practicing and doesn't work at developing his skills (with good parental encouragement), his "talent" will never have a chance to show through. A student needs to stay in lessons for at least a year before a parent decides that his child lacks "talent." :)
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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Wed Aug 29, 2007 7:04 am

This thread was so valuable that I thought it deserved an article on the main part of the site. You'll find Some Common Misconceptions About Piano Lessons there. :)
All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man's life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom. - Albert Einstein
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Postby parent of a student and a » Fri Oct 12, 2007 5:38 am

I've been reading the posts and I have to say that I am glad that there are piano teachers who recognize the struggles parents have in helping their children learn to play the piano. All three of my kids are learning to play the piano and I take lessons as well. I suppose I would be called an "involved" parent since I sit with each of my kids through their lessons and then work with them at the piano while they practice. This is a huge time committment and I've figured out that if we all practiced as we should that in one week I would spend about 25 hours in piano lessons, piano class, at the piano or driving to and from lessons. Some weeks we get it all in, other weeks there just aren't enough hours in a day. I have taken a long haul approach to my kids learning the piano. If they flatly refuse to practice one day- I don't flip out or punish them. Tomorrow is another day.
I'm surprised at the tone of some of the information contained in this web-site. I understand that if you are piano teacher that some of the things students do would drive you crazy. But just as there are poor piano students that drive teachers crazy there are also piano teachers that drive parents and students crazy. For example we had a teacher who fell asleep fairly regularly during lessons. He would also leave the lesson room frequently to make his dinner or to make or receive phone calls. We arrived on time but our lesson always started late only to be cut short when the next student arrived. We've had teachers reschedule lessons at the last minute, teachers who didn't even show up for a lesson and teachers who changed our lesson time numerous times so they could accomodate new students.
Each of my children has been reduced to tears because of insensitive comments from piano teachers.
Our family puts piano lessons as high on our priority list as possible- but sometimes life just gets in the way. For example, we were going camping for vacation and we took our electronic keyboard with us so we could all get in our practice time. Well it started to rain and we just couldn't fit the keyboard into the small trailer that all of us had to cram into. My little 5 year old was trying to practice on a pretend piano she was so worried about not knowing her piece. At some point as a parent I have to wonder if all of the pressue to practice and play perfectly is helpful or harmful to my kids.
I think working hard to reach a goal is an important lesson for chldren to learn but at the same time I don't want to make music a chore and pure drudgery for my kids. If my kids decide music will play a big role in their lives- I'll do everything I can to support them. If they decide that they want to learn the piano and also play soccer or basketball I'll try to figure out a way to fit it all in.
Thanks to the teacher who has a reasonable perspective on the piano, lessons and practice and understands that today's families have a lot of demands upon their time.
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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Fri Oct 12, 2007 9:06 am

Guest wrote:I'm surprised at the tone of some of the information contained in this web-site. I understand that if you are piano teacher that some of the things students do would drive you crazy. But just as there are poor piano students that drive teachers crazy there are also piano teachers that drive parents and students crazy. For example we had a teacher who fell asleep fairly regularly during lessons. He would also leave the lesson room frequently to make his dinner or to make or receive phone calls. We arrived on time but our lesson always started late only to be cut short when the next student arrived. We've had teachers reschedule lessons at the last minute, teachers who didn't even show up for a lesson and teachers who changed our lesson time numerous times so they could accomodate new students.

Since you seem to be new to The Piano Education Page, let me point out that it is composed of this Message Board, plus over 1000 pages of other, often lengthy, articles, separate from the Message Board. You can find links to the rest of the site at the upper left hand corner of any Board page (and any other on the site). On other parts of the site, we have dealt with the kind of professionalism issues that you have indicated here, most particularly in our Teaching Studio section for teachers and our Learning to Play section for students. Nobody here would suggest that the kind of behavior you describe is appropriate for a teacher.

I'm happy to see your post, since we try to encourage more participation on the Board by students and parents. If the posts seem "teacher-centric", it's mostly because teachers post here often. If you visit again, I think you'll find this is a very friendly, and helpful, place. :cool:
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Postby 112-1182392787 » Fri Oct 12, 2007 10:19 am

I would like to respond to this post as a parent when I have a moment. Should we be doing this in the parent to parent section or over here?

Also, I still see that there is an important parent-teacher-student triangle of communication and interaction. However, the present format of the site can accomodate that within parent-to-parent, with the teacher's and student's invisible presence assumed.

Dr. Ziegler, where would you like to see this discussion take place, since it's now parent-to-parent?
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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Fri Oct 12, 2007 11:17 am

pianissimo wrote:I would like to respond to this post as a parent when I have a moment. Should we be doing this in the parent to parent section or over here?

Also, I still see that there is an important parent-teacher-student triangle of communication and interaction. However, the present format of the site can accomodate that within parent-to-parent, with the teacher's and student's invisible presence assumed.

Dr. Ziegler, where would you like to see this discussion take place, since it's now parent-to-parent?

Your question is a good one; thanks for asking. Since the original post is in this forum and since it relates to the topic of this thread, put your response in this thread. As long as we don't stray too far from the "misconceptions" intent of the thread, it will be fine. :)
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Postby Tranquillo » Mon Nov 19, 2007 5:12 am

I read this article ... somethings I agreed with ... others were questionable ... still it was interesting

http://www.soundfeelings.com/free/piano_myths.htm

It had some ideas that stated that practice should be 4 days a week and therefore our subconsicous minds soak it up for the rest of the time, and practice should be in shorter ten minute incrimantes. ... Interesting ... but not sure if it works
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Postby 112-1182392787 » Mon Nov 19, 2007 9:10 am

Where did you find this, Becibu - it is an excellent and thought provoking article!

I think I know where he is coming from in regards to what you highlighted. There is practice and there is "practice". There is a kind of practicing that goes deeply into how you do things at subtle deep levels. It's hard to explain. When you practice these things, you are making small but profound changes to the workings of your body and mind, so to say. Usualy these are deceptively simple tasks. You will feel exhausted after 5 minutes. If you continued after that, you would be slipping into your old habits, and playing would become relatively superficial. If you practice this way, there may be large gains overall in your playing within a shorter time, because of that kind of intensity and depth.

In regards to the break: we over-control, and don't let the body absorb what it has learned. When you take a break, the body can take over and settle into what it has learned. Then when you return, it has become automatic, you concentrate on keeping what you just acquired but it is different somehow. That is the general gist of it as I understand it.
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