Piano Lessons for Children and Helpful Hints!


Parents and Guests of the MisterEvan website --

Raising Your Child's IQ

Recently (1997), Dr. Frances Raucher and Dr. Shaw of the University of Wisconsin and University of Irvine, Ca, have definitively concluded that piano lessons raise overall IQ in children 5-8 years 3 to 4 points More though, increased spatial mathematical reasoning skills by 34%. Young beginners score 34% higher than the control group on tests designed to measure spatial-temporal reasoning skills -- those required for mathematics, chess, science, engineering. Computer training in contrast scored no higher than the control group. Conclusion? Piano competency generates the neural connections used for abstract reasoning and understanding mathematical concepts. 

The Art of Teaching Children to Read Music
Most of us want our children to learn to read as part of the piano teaching experience. Here's what it takes.When a student learns their notes, it's helpful to sit in the same position on the chair. This  is of "key" importance.  Learning your notes is more than a memory exercise, it's muscle memory too. It's about where G is, so to speak, as well as recognizing note on the page. Playing the same fingers on each note of the scale at first trains us to associate place on keyboard, with letters of notes.  Using well known songs assists our student to  physically remember where the notes are finger-wise, and  associate them with the written note on the page, then hear --- gaining a positive feeling of security because they are familiar with the song.  Beginning note reading is matched with particular fingers.
Some of us are familiar with the idea of a developmental stage or milestone. We have heard that crawling is a necessary stage we need to go through oddly enough before we can walk. In much the same way, a beginning piano student needs to go through an adequate time period where fingers and finger numbers are matched in a predictable way to note letters. After this time period where a recognition is established intellectually and physically with the notes....then it is time to throw more complexity into the mix and the result will be added understanding rather than confusion!

The most useful method I have found for this purpose is the "Middle C" method-- both thumbs resting on middle C. As a comparison, some methods introduce more than one position within days of each other. These methods create confusion and frustration. If you think that you  might be experiencing this... give me a call.

The Two Belief Systems: To Read or Not to Read
There are two belief systems when it comes to the value of reading and playing an instrument. This is played out in extremes by comparing the Suzuki Method, with the standard Classical Training that most of know and grew up with.
Suzuki came along and innovated the process of imitation. Its just easier to play immitating your teacher's fingering and hand positions when it comes to playing that new song! At the beginning this has amazing results. Children and adults find it easier for a teacher to visually show them how to play. It's a lot quicker than sitting there figuring out notes on a staff, seeing  the piece one note at a time while understanding where each note is physically on the keyboard. That process is called learning to read ! (wink!) Some children and adults have an amazing ability to imitate - and their teachers rightfully encourage this. Yes, it is a great form of learning with any instrument and definitely needs be incorporated into music lessons. Do we really need to read a scale's notes to play it? The other shoe to drop of course is that imitation alone is not sufficient for us to become thoroughly independent and able to play the piano. Our memory is not as dependable as some of us would like to think. By learning to read, we open ourselves up to more musical knowledge, repertoire,and greater skill at the piano.  Most people who have the misfortune of only learning imitation usually wind up with 2 or 3 songs at the end of their piano study...
Those who are introduced slowly and surely to reading come out of lessons with a skill for the rest of their life, entertaining themselves and others, and with a life long potential to explore further musical knowledge.

Mr Evan's Reward System...

When teaching piano to children, my first step is rapport. The goal is for the student to feel that MrE is a cool and a with-it guy that is interested in lots of things...besides the piano. I take a Holistic approach. I really want  to know where their minds are. Sure the goal is for their mind to be centered on learning piano. Yet, in order to get there,  one has to know what else is going on in the young person's life. If young Sally just came back from dance and  soccer, and is going to do a sleep tonight, I want to know about it...because if so, the lesson plan is going to change. 

Asking "How are you?" at the beginning of each lesson helps my students communicate and let me know what is going on in their lives. Sometimes it is quite surprising what comes up. The purpose is to have a really successful piano experience and a relationship with my students encouraging them to love the instrument, spend the time necessary to practice, and raise the value of playing on their list of priorities. The results are quite surprising to parents. "I never have to ask him to practice -- he just sits down and does it" or, "I can't get them off the piano" are phrases that I hear from parents quite frequently. So creating the relationship, praise and encouragement with my students is number one. This is working on the inside-out for my students to really feel good about their progress and their piano accomplishments. Children being who they are and teens, often need more than a relationship and encouragement. For example, when teaching my son words,  at first, he did not want to read...later a different story. My rewards with him included many extrinsic rewards...Stickers, toys, money...these things are part of an external reward system. I often ask myself during a lesson if I were the parent of this child what would I do to show them that playing the piano is of great importance? Students really get to know that their playing piano is very important to me. Without a parent's all important interest though, all efforts that I might make are diminished in value. Sometimes parents expect me to take care of it all...The good news is parents can do so much to enhance their child's natural interest in music.  In short order, we can be successful at completing the triangle power loop between student, parent, and teacher.

In Home Lessons

In-Home lesson are a great way to conserve your time and energy taking the kids to lessons for more important things. This also creates a positive piano experience. Imagine the difference when the piano teacher comes to you...

 (MisterEvan is always available to give  lessons at his very well equipped in- home studio, with playstation, games and waiting room!)


 Rapport and Laughter with my Students

How serious is the average 5 year old? Not very.The number one goal of any teacher should be and needs to be rapport. Every student is different.One of the great joys of teaching is to find out how each young person relates, then reach to that level where they can say to themselves "Hey, I get this! "How is this done???Well, building confidence for starters. Truly, a lot of parents have had a neighborhood piano teacher who seemed overly concerned with accuracy and holding hands in a certain shape and even using a ruler as a knuckle rapper! I ask you...how much confidence can be built using a yardstick? So my goals are different: Building confidence and enthusiasm is everything in this teacher's mind. The learning will happen when the confidence precedes Praise to the sky, stickers, and sense of humor, are an important part of my teaching tool box. Fun is an integral part of my teaching style...no matter what age my student might be!....and I am serious about this! My adult students know this the best of all. Just can't believe how much fun we have together!

The Importance of the Recital...

Recitals bring together a group of students who have been working by themselves for 6 months. It is great fun to be part of a group with a common mission: to become good at music and piano. When students hear others play, they see that they are not really alone, that there are musical goals that others are accomplishing, and it serves them to set their sites higher on the piano performance ladder. Their efforts are valued by other students and parents! That is why it is a powerful experience and significant and you want to make every effort to be there!! Each recital interestingly enough, has a personality of its own. It is the celebration of my student's efforts and have found it to be very exhilarating..if it doesn't go on too long!!! :)

The Importance of Fingering....
It has come to my attention that some students have been taught using hand positions and have become stuck in that mode. Certain books that are very popular introduce middle C and C below middle C position at once. This is too much material. These books are written to make money for their authors and not with students best interest in mind. This is written as a public service so that parents and teachers might avoid this method. You are welcome to call me about the name of these books so that you can identify if you are going in the right direction.
Hand positions are used at the beginning to create a touch anchor that feels right. When the touch anchor is established, from there it can be expanded. This sense of what feels right, develops with guidance, into proper fingering at the piano. The beginning piano teacher guides this touch sense -- this 6th sense of fingering. "Hand positions" are taught to give the easiest understanding of position, location and fingering at the keys..Later, students need to feel comfortable with any finger on any note..regardless of positions. If your student is stuck thinking about hand positions, call me -- we'll talk. 


Why Note Reading is So Hard to Learn
Most of us believe that learning notes is a mind exercise. We get the flashcards from the music store thinking this will solve everything right?. Quickly we find that maybe it  doesn't work for some reason....that's because it is 50% of the job - the other part is the muscle memory that  goes along with the mind exercises. HintMake sure your student says the note, then plays the note when drilling with cards. Better than cards, I use the Wright Way Notefinder because it's quick and easy to drill notes. A minute a day is so much time using this tool. Students should be seated  in the same location --- belly button aligned to the center of "Middle D" , and fingers in Middle C position. Associating the same finger with the same note  helps alot to reinforce the short and long term memory of the note location/note name. This creates a secure foundation to note reading/piano playing for a young beginning student.

 Piano Lesson Quotes from MisterEvan:

1.  "Middle C is the same on the page for both hands...stem goes up for one and down for the other!

2.  "It took me thirty years to figure out that fingers of the C scale going up, are the same exact finger numbers going down!"

3.  "The C scale fingering is: 123  HOP   12345"

4.  "pinky goes on g"

5.  "It takes 3 chords to play 90% of music."

 6.  "Heart and Soul is a great way to learn 4 of your chords"

7.   "There are 7 letters on the keyboard....ABCDEFG...that's all!."



Frustration Level in a Child when Learning the Piano
Frustration is Communication. It tells a piano teacher when something is not working and correction must be made-- instantly! That telltale sign...quiet, slight head bend, a slight watery eyeball, these communications are very very important. Sometimes you get lucky.. the other day, I asked my student about her eyes. She told me she had allergies. I breathed a sigh of relief. If a teacher catches frustration early, huge changes can be made in the attitudes of students toward piano. The famous teacher Suzuki, said music making needs to be approached with JOY. Does Frustration equal Joy?  Without a doubt, 90% of piano dropouts are caused by inexperienced teachers that are not attuned to the warning signs of frustration and the need to make adjustments at the lesson. When you hear someone say about piano lessons.."I wish I had continued"...that is a product of a teacher who needed to know much more about paving  the road for their piano student. A teacher trained in performance never hurts...A  teacher who plays beautifully will add inspiration to your child's lessons. You want to have meaning and inspiration in your lessons...otherwise piano practice can be drudgery. Is your student reaching for the sound-beautiful?  Frustration does not equal Joy. On the other hand, if your student is one of the 10--20 % that has a high frustration threshold, be sure that your teacher is paving the road with pieces that they can be successful in.  Little by little, building success with positive happy feedback, they will go just as far and  learn confidence, persistence and self esteem in their accomplishments! 

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Sing to MrE's America the Beautiful

What's in a Song?

What would it be like to have shared song with a neighbor in the community?
Well, just 50 years ago piano bars were the mainstay in a variety of public places and we did just that.  The general public sang these songs together, danced these songs together. 
Now it would seem that most young people have little idea of American Music.
All the songs once known, are lost. 
For example, I ask my students whether they know Oh Susanna, and they say... "No".
That something missing is part of the fabric that holds our uniquely American culture together.
When there was common song
there was...well there just was more in common.
The piano was the instrument that represented that togetherness as a culture. 
People would sit around the piano bar an request songs. Usually the musician was someone of real ability and talent...Our culture had a real respect for performance and good music.
I think what we might be asking ourselves is... "How can we bring some of this back?"
Perhaps these questions shed some light, from a pianistic point of view, on some of the challenges we face today as a society and culture.