Would love to hear how you teach your kids music...I'm struggling with
an unwilling learner and since I have no background so it makes it all
the more difficult..
Hi Alice! Sorry it's taken a while to reply this qn... First week of school will be my excuse. :OP
My Own Music Background.
I started piano lessons since the age of 4. Finished off at the age of 14 with grade 8 in piano and the yr later, I completed Grade 8 in Theory of Music. I also did Music as an O level subject and enjoyed it thoroughly. Went with my then-fiance and now husband for Grade 5 Vocal. Have dabbled in guitar and cello.
I must say, growing up, piano lessons were a pain and more of a discipline than enjoyment. I went through the whole rigormarole of practicing for scales, exactly three exam pieces and aural for years and years just to get past this year's exam and move on to the next.
Scales, scales, scales. Up and
down. Up and down...It's a bitter and tedious process and the child
needs to be prepared to work at it. But do encourage the child that
like memorizing multiplication tables, this is but the foundation of
the whole process. The fun part will come when these foundations are
I only started enjoying music and my instrument (piano) when I started to play for church at 14yrs. That was when I learned to improvise music, as in play the tune of a song plus come up with the chords by ear without the score. That was when all those years of grinding the piano with scales and arppegios paid its due. That was when I could take the song and run with it, without labouring too long, and enjoy the music I create.
I have dabbled also in writing (scores) simple 4 part arrangements for church music for small group ensembles as well as for voice.
Haha, that's more than you need to know. :O) But that gives you a bit of background knowledge as to where I'm coming from, now as I write about teaching music at home. I'm not a trained music teacher but I do have some experience in that as well.
Which Road To Take?
So, usually, in Singapore, when you send your child for music lessons, it will be lessons that will prepare him/or her for the ABRSM exam. Your child will learn technique and various aspects of musicianship, but not improvisation. And usually sight reading (playing a new score without practice) suffers because the main marks go to the three exam pieces and only a few marks go to the sight reading component. (Might differ from teacher to teacher..)
But then what you will end up with is a pianist who can only play only those few set pieces, and that does not a true pianist make.
For my children, I do see the ABRSM exams somewhere in the pipeline. I
do see the importance of getting a certificate as something they can
add to their CV. Afterall, if they've worked hard and learned
something, why not have a cert to show for it? How we're going to get there is another problem which will settle itself when the time comes....
However, the main objective that is pushing me to teach my children piano (the older two at this point, 8 yr old and 6 yr old) is because I see it as an important tool for the church ministry. Piano is an important instrument in church service and I see that someday, they may be able to use this talent for the Lord.
what I'm aiming to teach them at this point is note reading, finger
dexterity, scales, chords.. these to help them in hymn playing soon.
Classical music training and the ABRSM can wait till the right time.
What's a Good Age to Start Music Lessons?
I'll throw this commonly asked qn in. I stand corrected, but I think it's Japanese school of thought to start the child as early as possible. For me, I feel that this can be frustrating for the child if he's not properly developed and ready to understand what will be required of music education.
Counting is very important. And there are many things to count! Timing, beats, even your fingers are assigned numbers... these can be very confusing to a young child.
Also the child needs to know simple addition, like 1 + 1 + 2 = 4. This is regarding notation and how many beats in a bar.
If the child can do this, he's ready for lessons. He will feel the success of getting it right and that will be encouragement to keep at it.
And as I mentioned earlier, there are different disciplines when it comes to playing an instrument, not just classical pieces that the exam requires. Some children can do that very well, play their pieces perfectly but not excel at other things like improvisation because they just can't hear the chord or get the beat right.
I've found that people who are not so musical can still work out their fingers to play and memorize pieces right if they will practice and practice. There can be enjoyment there. :O) So any child can learn music and an instrument, I believe.
I might be biased, but I would say piano is the best instrument for a child to start with. It's not as difficult as violin, having to learn to hold the instrument properly, each hand doing completely different things. Might be more expensive, but these days, the digital pianos are so good like the real thing. The touch is very very important. (Buying a good instrument, another topic altogether...)
And with the piano, the white keys and the black keys are all laid out to see. This makes it very much easier to understand the gaps between notes, like doh to re, re to me, me to fah... this you can't see on other instruments.
So playing the cello or guitar (chords), I will still picture the piano keyboard in my head and then I can work out the notes or chords from there.
Can Someone Who Has No Background in Music Teach?
Well..... I would say, yes, to a certain extent, but you would have to learn ahead, learn faster and practicing harder than your student. You can learn certain basics through books and other available resources.
But I would caution that it is important to get the right technique as practicing with the right technique will mean the child is enforcing and re-enforcing the right thing. If the child is playing with the wrong technique, the child is enforcing the wrong habits which will be hard to correct.
Such is the case with my cello playing. I am
self taught in cello and I know that my finger technique is not there
and I just can't progress from my current standard. That, and my
terrible lack of practice, of course...One day, some fine day, when I'm
more able to leave the house, I'll take up proper cello lessons...
Like my sis, fellow homeschool mom! Her kids are older now and she's taking up violin lessons with her daughter. So nice...but that's another story...
Another aspect that is important to the child learning an instrument is someone they can watch and model after. As a learner, I love to see how others play and learn from them. I often play to show my children what their piece is supposed to sound like and they watch how my fingers move and co-ordinate.
I tell people, music is my other language. It's true. It really is like learning a language and you really have to take the time to learn and practice before it is fluent to use.
So, personally, I would say for beyond basic music education, it would be safer to get someone who is trained in music to teach the child. :O)
Hope that helped! Any other thoughts or burning questions I might be able to help with? (Other than recommendations for good piano teachers, I don't have any...apologies...)