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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Music Part 2 - Piano lessons

When I was about seven years old, my parents signed me up for piano lessons.  I was so excited!  I could picture myself sitting down at the old, black upright playing beautiful music!  Imagine my surprise and dismay when I learned that all my teacher wanted me to do was repeat little two finger exercises that didn't sound like music at all.  The third day of lessons, I locked myself in the bathroom and refused to come out and take my lesson.  That was the last I saw of my piano teacher and the last lesson I took.

I had that memory with me as my husband and I were deciding how to go about providing music lessons for our kids.  We both felt that music lessons were an important part of our children's education and wanted to make it a good experience for them.  Our income was tight and we couldn't afford lessons from a teacher so we searched around for a self-taught program that would meet our needs.  My biggest requirement for a program was that I wanted them to be able to play real, recognizable music from the beginning.  We found one that met that requirement, a five book series entitled The Complete Piano Player by Kenneth Baker.  With our oldest daughter as guinea pig, we embarked on our newest adventure.

I had read that learning to play an instrument was easier if you waited until the child is about ten years old.  I know, everyone else starts when their kids are about five or six.  The theory is that children's bodies mature and develop unevenly and it isn't until they are about ten that their brains and eye-hand coordination work well together.  Our daughter was 12 so we started with her and her 10 year old brother.  They thrived on the material in the books and quickly mastered the beginning songs.  Each week, we would have a little "concert" where they could perform their music and their dad would pass it off so they could move on to the next pieces.   The key to success was regular, consistent practice.  For the first two books, that meant 1/2 hour a day, every day.  After that it was one hour a day, every day.  Years later, someone told my daughter that she wished she could play as well.  My daughter's response was that she could...if she put in as much time practicing.

Now it's been many years since we bought those first books.  The kids "graduated" from the beginning series, moved on to an intermediate series and then advanced.  All eight of them are excellent piano players who are in great demand as accompanists and solo performers.  Not bad...


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