Virtual Piano Lessons?

In the last few weeks, we have been exploring virtually everything, virtually!!!  While I am not intimidated by technology, I am not an expert, so getting up to speed on different platforms and devices has provided me with the opportunity to learn something new.  In other words, “Yikes.”  I have now added Virtual Piano Lessons to my resume. There are challenges to this which include: camera positioning, sound delays, extra copies of music available to me, and my favorite… the need to say, “your other right hand.”

When teaching, I have taken for granted some of the everyday givens like being able to point to the music and ask, “What is this note right here?”  I have been forced to explain terminology and concepts unnecessary when teaching in person. It is sometimes best to introduce concepts on a “need to know” basis, but with this virtual platform, they “need to know” now. Happily, we are figuring it out and the students are progressing.

Parents are busy trying to manage their own work as well as their child’s work. Fewer programmed activities means parents often feel responsible for keeping their kids busy. There was a time when kids were expected to entertain themselves. As a child, being bored was an everyday occurrence. You had to get un-bored or your parents would give you some extra chores. Very few kids were starting lawn mowing businesses and amassing a fortune. Most of us were collecting acorns, climbing onto our roofs thereby seizing the high ground that would give us an advantage in the massive acorn war that would commence unless there was a cease-fire because it was time for dinner.

For me, there were other days when I got un-bored by playing the piano. At some point, piano lessons became less of a struggle and more of an outlet, a joy, a way to be alone and not feel lonely. Music allows you to be a part of a community but can also get you through times when you are forced to entertain yourself.

If you have not been able to figure out how to fit virtual lessons into your child’s week, then I would encourage you to ask your child to keep playing: review songs, play old favorites, pick up a new song and try reading the music. Fill your homes with music. You might be surprised at how they experiment and explore the piano. If you know how to play, by all means, take a few minutes out of your day and try a new song or play your old favorites. Weekly lessons keep you going. They give you something new to practice and direction, but if you can’t do that right now, don’t throw out your acorns just because it is time for dinner. Keep your collection safe and check on it. Add a few new ones and cherish the ones that are special.

Playing an instrument and singing are gifts that can stay with you forever. Sing together as a family. Ask grandparents to share some old favorites. Demonstrate for your children that music spans generations. Make sure that they understand that…

… Music lasts a lifetime.

Don’t Panic – It Is Still Summer

When the calendar says August, it is easy to get a sinking feeling. Oh no. Summer is almost over. But actually there is plenty of free time left to enjoy. I can sometimes feel like I did not “do” summer well enough. Each year I look for a new strategy.

In past years I have filled my summer to-do list with lots of projects. I like projects, so that has been fine, but this summer I decided I needed to give myself permission to have a little more “fun”.  I gave myself stickers. No joke – stickers – like the kind your teacher puts on your paper when you do a good job. I put up my paper calendar and any day I did ONLY fun stuff, I gave myself a sticker. All this so that at the end of the summer I can look at the calendar and say, “See, I did have a fun Summer!!”

What is fun stuff for you? There is still time. Here are a couple of ideas related to music:

  • Outdoor concerts – there are plenty of family friendly ones. Pack a picnic and some bug spray and make the most of it.
  • Rainy day movies – in the theatre or in your house – how about a musical you have been meaning to share with your kids.
  • Encourage your kids to give you a concert on the piano with some of their favorite songs.
  • Sing a lot – do you remember any old camp songs? Maybe look up something on youtube and let everyone join in. Singing a “round” (like row, row, row your boat) is a great way to pass some time on a car ride or even an actual boat.

Make music a part of your “fun-days”, because …

Music Lasts a Lifetime

Ready, Set, Practice

By now your family’s schedule is in place. Surely there are cancelled games and last minute birthday parties, but you are organized enough to make that work. The days are about to get shorter which means a little more “inside the house” time. This is the perfect time to encourage your children to get in a little more practice at the piano.

Getting into the habit of practicing is half the challenge. Every day, even a few minutes, is better than a crash course the night before the lesson. Playing the piano is a physical exercise. Your fingers have to get in shape.

Parents have told me that they have many different ways to encourage their children to practice. Some play first thing in the morning and others right before bed. Some set a timer while others have their children play each piece a certain number of times. There is no “right” way. The only sure thing is… practice makes perfect … or at least more perfect.

However you fit practicing into the daily schedule, there are three pretty easy ideas you can implement when encouraging your child to practice.

  1. Remind your child to practice. Truly they forget. Make your reminder as positive as you can.
  2.  Listen to them play. You don’t have to sit right there, but they need to know you were paying attention.
  3.  Say something encouraging after they play. “That is sounding better” “Nice work” “I like that song”

Remember, learning how to “play” an instrument is hard work. It is physically and intellectually challenging. However, once you get into the habit, it is a whole lot of fun.

Spring Fever ??

Sometimes when the weather gets nice out and the days get longer, it is tricky to get your child to practice the piano. Here are some ideas that might help.
1. Schedule practicing for a time just after your student has had a chance to do a more physical activity.
2. It might be time to add a little extra positive comments … let him or her know which are your favorite songs and have them play those again for you.
3. We are getting ready to have our “concert day”. Maybe you can talk about what song will be played and do a little pre-concert playing or end each practice session working on that song.

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