Should I Let My Child Quit Piano Lessons?

This probably seems like a very odd topic for a piano teacher to bring up.  Some answers do not bear sugar-coating and this is one of them.  There are a couple of variables and you need to measure them out. When I was a kid I BEGGED to quit piano lessons for SIX YEARS.  That is not an exaggeration. But my parents saw talent in me and they also noticed that I loved to play.  I am very glad they did not let me quit.

So first of all, if your kid really: 1. Has no talent, and 2. Does not like to play, then ask the teacher what he thinks. If everybody agrees, then let him quit.  But if you are not sure about either of these, read on.

1st variable = TALENT What does that mean?  If they sing out of tune, don’t notice if they play wrong notes and generally everyone tells them to stop, they probably do not have the music gene.

2nd variable = FUN  Does your child like music?  Look for any or all of these signs.  Do they move when they hear music playing – tap their toe, bob their head?  Do they sing to themselves when doing other tasks – drawing, etc?  When they finish practicing, do they make up songs or play old songs they like?  Are they annoyed going to lessons but come out of the lesson happy?

 IF:  Talent = No;  Fun = Yes      I had a student from when she was 6 years old until she was a junior in high school.  She played the wrong notes constantly but she loved the piano.  I would ask her if she noticed that she was playing the wrong notes but honestly it did not bother her a bit.  Her mother and I chatted when she was in about 6th grade and her mom said she told her daughter flatly that she was really awful and asked her if she wanted to stop lessons. I agreed, but her daughter said she liked to play and liked lessons. She was pretty terrible but always happy to be here. Well the very next year, out of the blue, the girl started playing great. She was one of my best sight-readers and continued to love it.  The point is – the fun factor matters.

 IF:  Talent = Yes;  Fun = No       Try to find out why it is not fun.  Is it the teacher, the studio, practicing, recitals? I am saying this as a student and as a teacher – chemistry counts.  If your child really doesn’t like the teacher, get a new one.  There are lots of us and we all have a different way of doing this.  Find some songs that spark your child’s interest.  Talk to the teacher and try to figure out how you might incorporate some of the student’s favorites. If the student says, “it is too hard” speak with the teacher. Drop back a few degrees on the difficulty or show the student that you are going through a difficult section but once you get through that, it will get easier.  I often do this with my students if they are getting frustrated.  I’ll say, “Oh yes, this is very challenging here. Let’s look at the next few songs.  Tricky… tricky… not so hard… hard, but really cool… here you learn a couple new notes … then easy … easy …fun.”  Show them that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  Validate their concerns. Have them play some old songs that they really like.  If they start to smile, you know they do like to play so do not let them quit.  Just help them get the fun back into the program.

 IF:  Talent = Yes;  Fun = Yes       Add instruments – I am serious about this. If your child is gifted athletically you encourage her to play lots of sports.  If he is gifted musically you should do the same thing.  Shake it up.  Join the chorus. Pick up a band or string instrument.  At the elementary level it is easy and fun. Your piano student will be a superstar. Kids who are musically intelligent have a greater tendency to continue playing music throughout their pre-adolescent and adolescent years if they are actively participating in a group musical activity.  Practicing piano is a solitary activity.  I find my students enjoy my (private lessons within a group) format as it gives them a chance to make piano a little less solitary. Finding a group music experience like band or chorus can be also very satisfying especially through those pre-teen years. Adding another instrument might just be the thing to keep them playing the piano.  They will see that they are becoming fluent in the language of music.

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