Music Education

Parents who approach me about music education have a number of well justified anxieties (by how much will the SAT scores increase? is scholarship to Julliard guaranteed? which piano will best match the new Ikea bookshelves?). These concerns notwithstanding, I would like to offer my answer to the Top 5 Parents’ Questions about the music education.

1. How will music education enrich my child’s life?
Music education improves overall intelligence, decreases learning problems and enhances brain functions. Piano lessons develop concentration, self-discipline, responsibility and ability to work intensively and achieve results.

Through piano lessons children experience real creativity, and participation in regular recitals helps develop self-confidence. They enjoy being artists and perform for the audience. What do we want them to remember about their childhood? A lot of good memories. And among them – a pleasure of making music.

2. At what age should I consider the music education for my child?
There is no generic answer to this question. But there are unmistakable signs that your child is ready for music lessons:
* Your child loves to sing and listen to music and has favorite songs or instrumental pieces.
* Your child starts to play and experiment with the musical instruments the same way he would play with other objects. Children with good musical ear often try to play their favorite tunes or compose their own music.
* Children who express desire to study music are more likely to succeed than those who study under parental influence. If your child asks for music lessons, you should give him a chance. An introductory free lesson will help identify the child's music potential.
* Children whose hands are still small and fingers are thin will not be able to extract a rich and deep sound from the acoustic piano. In this case, it may be best to start with a general music education classes and wait for the piano lessons until the hand develops.
* Reading skills are not necessary for the music study. There are special methods for younger children that successfully teach them to read music even before they can read ABCs.

3. What is the role of a parent in a successful music education process? Is it necessary to have a musical background in order to help a child with the homework?
You don’t have to be a professional musician in order to help your child succeed at piano studies – just make sure that the following is in place:
* right practice environment - no interference from TV, telephone, games or siblings
* a well balanced schedule which leaves time and energy for lessons and practice
* encouragement – don’t be shy about noticing achievements during the lessons and home practice
* regularly invite a tuner to tune the piano
* provide the necessary sheet music, notebooks and study materials recommended by the teacher

4. What is the minimum time required for practice?
In order to make significant progress, practice time must be very productive. Children - even young beginners - have to know exactly what do they want to achieve during the practice and how to do it. I prefer to write down the homework together with the student and always explain everything very precisely. Young children will need parents to read them the homework, but not to explain them how to do it - that work is done during the lesson. Practice should be intense, rather than long and done without distraction.

Most importantly, the student has to set specific goals and achieve them during the practice – for example, master a complicated phrase or a passage. A long practice without any progress will be a time wasted.

5. Do I need to get an acoustic piano or will an electrical keyboard suffice?
The sound is the result of the right motion, and the most difficult and tricky aspect of piano instruction is the correct hand stature, or proper application of the arm weight. If the sound is deep and full – not ‘thumping’ – then the hand is relaxed and positioned correctly. Electrical keyboards, even the most advanced ‘touch sensitive’ models, do not react to the touch the same way the acoustic pianos do. I strongly encourage the parents to consider buying an acoustic piano - a used instrument in working condition can be obtained for as low as $300.

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