Tuesday, September 17, 2019 by April Davis | tiptuesday
Can you think back to a time when an adult taking an interest in what you were doing made all of the difference in how you felt about that activity and how you felt about yourself ?
As the parent of a piano student, if you don't play an instrument yourself it can be hard to know what to say to start a dialogue. I hear from the parents of my students: I don't understand what she's learning, so I have no idea if she's doing the right thing or not; Or, I tell him to practice every night, but it's becoming a struggle.
Friction and bewilderment are the opposite of engagement and relationship building. The following tips will help you shift the conversation and turn this wonderful skill your child is learning into a way to strengthen your relationship. When they know it's important to you, it becomes important to them.
I want to show you more tools to engage with your child as they study. Here is an example of an emailed lesson note that my students get after every lesson. It's real and names have been blurred:
There are words in this note that the parent, who doesn't play an instrument, doesn't understand. Guess who does understand? The student! It's a great opportunity for the parent to engage with the student and ask, "Hey, can you show me what this word arpeggio means? I don't think I've ever heard that word before!" Letting the student play "teacher" is affirming and engaging.
There's also a quick reminder of how to practice at the end. There will come a time when a student can practice solo all of the time, but when a student is a beginner it's really necessary to assist at least a few times a week. They are just figuring all of this stuff out and you might learn a few things too!
Alright, onto the pièce de résistance, insightful questions and words of encouragement you should totally steal:
Can I hear what you learned today?
Did you get a new song?
I'm making dinner now and I would love to have some nice background music.
Why don't we have a little recital after dinner? You can play us some pieces and then we'll all go out for ice cream!
Can you tell me what your teacher wanted you to work on in that piece?
Can I hear a piece you used to play a long time ago?
I noticed you really like that new song on the radio. Can you pick out the melody?
Do you have any insightful questions you can add to this list? I'd love to hear from you!
Davis Piano Studio has a few open spots this fall for Wednesdays and Thursdays. Register to schedule your audition today!
Tuesday, September 3, 2019 by April Davis | tiptuesday
There are many types of piano instructors out there: large commercial studios with multiple disciplines or single disciplines, travel teachers, online teachers, teachers who teach out of a high school theater or church, and in home studio teachers. Across all of those locations, there are teachers with high levels of degrees, teachers with no degrees, teachers who focus on classics, teachers who focus on pop, etc. The one you pick will impact you and your child's experience, so let's dig in and see what would make a good fit for you.
First, let's see what we're starting with:
What is your child's goal with piano?
Is it their dream to start a garage band? Or, play for church?
Do they want to learn multiple instruments?
Do they spend hours at the piano composing their own songs?
Are they competitive?
Are they shy?
Do you live in the neighborhood where lessons are being offered?
What budget are you working with?
Once you have an idea of what goals you have, it's time to take a look at what would work for you. Travel teachers and online teachers require that you have a quiet space in your home with the necessary equipment to facilitate a lesson. If your child is shy or your scheduling simply doesn't make traveling to a studio possible, online and travel teachers are a wonderful option. If creating a quiet space isn't an option for you, I recommend finding a teacher or studio that you can travel to.
Choosing between a private studio or a larger studio will be your next decision. Larger studios often have multiple teachers and can sometimes offer substitutes when a teacher is unavailable. Facility upkeep and having multiple employees will be reflected in the tuition price as well. For private studios, the offerings will vary greatly and tuition prices as well. Here are some questions for you to ask:
Do you teach beginner, intermediate, &/or advanced students?
I highly recommend getting a teacher that focuses on beginner students for a child that's just starting out.
What method do you teach from?
Older methods like Alfred and John Thompson which were originally published in 1922 and 1936, respectively, and updated in minor ways over the years are not recommended. We've learned so much about child development since then!
Do you have experience with students with my child's special need (ADHD, Dyslexia, ASD, etc)?
Do you belong to any professional organizations?
Do you focus on any specific genre: classical, sacred, pop, etc.?
Can we schedule an audition or meet and greet with you?
This is a really great way for everyone to get a baseline to see if it's a good fit!
Now that you've clearly articulated you and your child's goals and received some information from teachers in your area, go to those auditions or meet and greets with a strong sense of what you are looking for and pick the teacher that works the best for your needs.
Davis Piano Studio offers private, in-home lessons as well as online lessons. I'm located near Stony Point High School in Round Rock, Texas, and currently enrolling for the 2019-2020 school year. To learn more about the studio, click here. To schedule an audition, call or text 512-222-7640.
Tuesday, August 27, 2019 by April Davis | tiptuesday
Hi y'all! It's #tiptuesday!
We're going to start with a piano FUNdamental: daily practice. That's right! Daily practice as in every. single. day. Beginner students will see gains in fine motor skill and confidence with just 10-15 minutes a day.
The best time to practice can be anytime of day, but I caution against making it a before bedtime item. As soon as kids get home from school, after chores, after homework, before dinner, immediately following dinner are all good candidates. Consistency in the time of day helps create the routine.
The structure of the practice time will also help create the routine. We teach students to practice in this order: stretch, exercise, play the hard parts of the assigned piece(s), play the piece all of the way through, play for fun.
I get a lot of puzzled looks when I mention stretching. As we grow in our understanding of how to play piano while preventing stress and repetitive strain injuries, it becomes clear that stretching like we do for many other activities is essential for piano as well. Other keys to reducing repetitive strain injuries are practicing proper posture, maintaining relaxation or looseness in the shoulders and wrists, and curving fingers. Students stretch with me at every lesson. Here's a guide for you to help them at home:
Every student has an exercise assigned. Presently, most are working on the C Major Scale at this studio. They are playing the 1 octave scale with each hand separately and then playing it with hands together. Exercises are simple activities used to get the fingers and brain working together. For beginners, they are taught by rote so we are not bound by only the notes the student can read.
Play the hard parts three times by three times
And, play them three times SLOWLY, play them three times FAST, and play them three times slowly again. Isolate just 1-4 measures that you stumble over (beginner) or 1-4 lines (intermediate+). You'll find that isolating them makes them easier to play altogether and focusing on playing them fast means that when you play the piece all of the way through you'll no longer hesitate.
Play all the way
Now that you've worked on the hard parts, play your assigned piece(s) all of the way through. The goal is to play your piece exactly as written: tempo, dynamics, expression, etc. But, who says you need to do that while you're practicing? Play it loud one day, play it softly another, play it in slow-mo, play it super fast another. Just play it once or twice. You'll get better everyday and, once you perform the piece for your teacher and play it as written, you'll sound like a pro.
Play for fun
Wrap up your practice time by playing for fun: play an old favorite (or five) or compose a new song. If you have a keyboard, mess with the buttons and change the sound. Add a beat while you play. Just have fun!
Practice should be routine and having the routine will lead to big gains!