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
(MisterEvan is always available to give
lessons at his very well equipped in- home studio, with playstation, games and waiting room!)
Here's the Point!!
Music is communication. So if you are not
saying something with your music, what's the point? I like to ask my students what does the piece that they are playing
mean to them. If it means something to them that is the start and continuation of a vital interest in music. Through
louds and softs, crescendos, accents, stacatto and expressive markings, the piece begins to express something that's important.
It's important for children and young adults (and the rest of us too) to be aware of what we are thinking and feeling and
to express it appropriately. Some of the things music expresses are deep level communication. We like to hear our deeper thoughts
and feelings expressed through music... The great thing about music lessons is that we connect with the thoughts and feelings
of the great composers and ourselves.
Rapport and Laughter with my Students
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!
Most of us want our children to learn to read as part of the piano teaching experience. Here's what
it takes after 35 years of teaching experience:
When a student learns their notes, it's helpful to sit in the same position on the chair. This is "key"!
Learning your notes is more than memorizing flashcards. It's muscle memory too. Playing the same finger on each note at first,
assists our student to physically remember where the notes are as well as name them.....beginning note reading is matched
with particular fingers. The most useful method 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, please give me a call. See also the Wright Way Notefinder
Two Belief Systems: To Read or Not to Read
There are two belief systems when it
comes to the value of reading music 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 innovated the process of imitation. Thousands of Japanese children in stadiums
across Japan learned to play the violin in unusual positions - by imitation. Its just easy and fun to
play imitating a teacher's fingering, body posture and hand positions when it comes to that new song! Imitation
creates amazing results. You can get a lot farther, quickly. Is it definitely faster than figuring out notes
on a staff and understanding where each note is physically on the piano? Of course. This is called learning
to read ! Some children and adults have an amazing ability to imitate - and their teachers rightfully encourage this.
Yes, it is a great form of learning and needs to be part of teaching strategy. The other shoe drops when we realize that
imitation alone is not sufficient for us to become thoroughly independent and able to play the piano. Our imitative memory
is not as dependable as some of us would like to think! Learning to read, we open ourselves up to musical possibilites, composer's
repertoire,and great skill at the piano. Students who have the misfortune of only learning imitation usually wind
up with 2 or 3 songs at the end of their piano study...or worse ...forgetting everything they know!
Those who are introduced carefully and surely
to reading music 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 adventures.
Mr Evan's Reward System...
piano to children, my first step is rapport. The goal is for the student to feel that MrEvan is a cool guy that is interested
in lots of things...besides just 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
over later, I want to know...because if so, the lesson plan is going to change.
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 encourage 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: "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. 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.
The Importance of the Recital...
Today, one week after the recital,
I went to a home as usual. There I met a young man (7 years old) who wanted to do the song from Harry Potter...all because
he had heard another student do it at the recital. Previously the student's motivation level was on the wain. Today he was
really excited about learning. Does this tell you the importance of the recital to piano lessons? 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 and hear and admire and that there are
musical goals that others are accomplishing. 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 an effort to be there, Each recital 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
it is about memorizing the notes on the page -- yet, it is also about WHERE those notes are on the piano!
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. Hint: Make
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 and
note name -together. This creates a secure foundation
to note reading/piano playing for a young beginning student. Put another way, all the note memorizing in the world will not
help if at the same time, you do not feel and do not know where the notes are!
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
"It took me thirty years to figure out that fingers of the C scale going up, are the same exact finger numbers going
"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"
"There are 7 letters on the keyboard....ABCDEFG...that's all!."
the Theory of Music to Children...
Adults frequently have a concern that their children learn music theory. Music Theory is defined as the science
of how music is put together. At the beginning, I like teaching chordal patterns in songs like Heart and Soul. This fun exercise
introduces chords as part of the art of playing. I avoid learning the more complex types of chords ...diminished, augmented,
7ths, 9ths 11ths and 13ths, until we are studying rock and roll or jazz. At that time we are "beginners no
longer"! The need for music theory grows as we become more skilled. One of the basic goals at the elementary level is
to learn the difference between major and minor chords and to tell them apart by sound. I give the explanation that
major chords are happy chords and the minor are serious/sad chords. Children then connect ... how major and
minor relate to the emotions of music. Theory needs to be meaningful and connected to emotions...like the music it attempts to explain! A program like CERTIFICATE OF MERIT given by the Music Teacher's Association is just one way to cover Theory
adequately. Theory can also kill a student's interest in music so it is best to consult with your music teacher exactly how
to approach the learning of Music Theory!
Frustration Level in a Child when Learning the Piano
Frustration is Communication. It tells a piano teacher when
something is not working and correction in approach 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 not attuned to warning signs of frustration... and the need for the teacher to make adjustments
in the moment. When you hear: "I wish I had continued"...that person is a product of a teacher who needed to know
more about paving the road for their piano student. 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 upon success, they will go just as far and learn confidence, persistence and
self esteem and learn to conquer their frustration--it'll happen!
Higher Levels of Advancement for Children
the quality of a piano effect the outcome of piano lessons? The short answer is yes and here is why. With a modest piano...a
spinet...a lot can be accomplished...yet in a little while there are diminishing returns. Why do people sit at the piano?
What will attract a young person to want to play, keep on playing, and want to practice? Beyond playing notes fast and being
able to play pieces, is there something else which is ever changing,
challenging, almost kaleidoscopic in nature about piano that could have someone sit there hour after hour without tiring?
The answer is yes. It is the HEART of piano playing.
The Heart of piano playing is tone production. Learning about tone
production is like learning how to convey meaning with words. Tone production has to do with the way you touch the piano.
The quality of touch directly effects the quality of tone produced. A small grand is much better suited to learning tone production.
After beginning lessons have taken a student to the edge of tone production, it is necessary to change the piano. Without
concentrating on the HEART of piano -- tone production -- playing the piano becomes "something
my parents want me to do". In contrast, when tone production is taught, the product is uniquely that individual's
expression and the playing is owned by the young person. No longer does it have to do with Mommy and Daddy. We want this sign
of maturity...personal expression...in our student's piano playing!
Competition and It's Role in Piano Teaching
competition have it's place in teaching piano to children? Well for sure, children are competitive, yet introducing competition
sparingly is something I like to do to see how much is appropriate. If we stop to think about our own lives a moment, how
many of us would be where we are in life if it were not due to a little competition here and there? So I like to introduce
a larger and larger perspective to my students as they become more proficient. By introducing it sparingly, I am able to produce
inspiration...rather than disheartenment. Something exciting is something that we aspire to...and I want to create a certain
amount of excitement and anticipation of accomplishment in my students. Sometimes, when a student is reasonably on the road
and has accomplishments at the piano, I will play a video like the one below, to show my students what is possible. I think
letting them know what is possible...musically and by way of recognition...is a good idea. Let them know what is possible..that's
what I am aiming for!
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
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.
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.