I have two really important questions for you:
1) Why do you want your child to learn the piano?
2) Why does your child want to learn the piano?
I wish I could have your answers before I continue writing this post, however I'll make an assumption that you want your child:
I'll also assume your child wants to learn because he or she likes / loves music and really wants to play an instrument.
I think it's unlikely you want your child to learn because you want him or her to get onto an exam treadmill where the sole purpose of playing an instrument becomes passing exams that get harder and harder, thereby killing any joy in music making and leading to the exact opposite of what I've assumed your goals are in getting instrumental tuition for your child.
So now we have a problem. Much instrumental tuition revolves around exams because to date they have been one of the only absolute ways of measuring progress. This means that parents also become exam focused because it is the only way they have been told progress can be measured, and doesn't everyone know that if you learn an instrument you 'have' to take exams. But things don't have to be like this.
Following exam syllabi is very different to delivering a rounded curriculum and cannot possibly be a substitute. Even Ofsted has finally come around to the view that good exam results 'do not always mean children have received the subject knowledge they need' and the focus on exams is at the expense of 'rich and full knowledge'. Read the full article here.
Children who learn using this exam focused approach often find they do not enjoy their learning, it is hard and they do not have a foundation on which to tackle harder and harder pieces. They also tend to have the opinion that once they have reached the highest grade their learning is complete and they do not need to play anymore.
But what if there is a different way? What if progress can be measured without relying solely on exams?
Children learning within this framework make structured progress and no areas for development are neglected. Teachers can also add to and adapt the framework so it meets additional goals they or their students may have.
Exams have their place and are very useful formal benchmarks for measuring progress, however they must not become the focal point of instrumental tuition because this does not lead to enjoyment, rounded development and the lifelong love of music you want for your child.
At Surrey Music School we are slowly moving all our students onto this framework to ensure that we continue to do our best to give children the most holistic music education we can.
If you are an existing student with Surrey Music School and your child is pre-grade 1, before Christmas 2017 you'll receive a copy of the Piano Framework with a Piano Tracker so you can see how your child is progressing. Children who are Grade 1 and above will receive the Piano Framework but The Curious Piano Teachers are still developing Piano Trackers for the rest of the levels. As you can see, the only way I have to measure level is 'grades'... but hopefully this will soon begin to change:)
If you would like your child to learn piano within this structured framework, in a group environment, where the focus is on developing a love of music and all round musical skills through piano playing then please do get in touch.
'Why working to exams is anti piano' by Tim Topham
An open letter to parents from Tim Topham
Ofsted to punish schools pushing exam targets over learning from The Guardian (although schools have been saying so much testing is bad for decades - read more here.)
Last week's blog discussed the benefits of music teaching but raised the fact that the benefits do not occur when the teaching is unstructured and poor quality. Read on to find out what bad music teaching looks like and discover what makes good music teaching.
The Kodaly approach to music teaching is very similar to how children learn to speak. As babies they listen and begin to explore the sounds they can make. As they grow they start imitating words they hear and finally they begin to put words together to make their own sentences. Imagine if they were not allowed to make any sounds until they first learned to read! It sounds ridiculous however this is what 'traditional' music teaching expects. With no musical foundation children are expected to interpret musical symbols - is it any wonder that they struggle and don't enjoy it.
What did your music lessons look like? Did you learn through songs and games, developing your musical skills away from your instrument or were you a victim of traditional teaching and expected to somehow 'know' all these things without being taught?
Next week's blog looks at the importance of teaching musical skills and concepts within a framework; so that the learning is structured and progress can be measured other than using exams.
In the meantime if you're interested in reading more about the damage that traditional piano teaching causes why not check out this excellent article 'How Traditional Piano Lessons Cripple Our Children'.
Listening to and making music is a wonderful experience, with many benefits. Read on to discover them and learn about the health warning that can negate the benefits.
a) Music reshapes the brain
b) Musical training helps progress
'Children who experience musical training have an advantage across all subjects except sport'
c) Music has a direct link to our emotions
‘It reaches the parts of the brain other things can’t do’.
But, what about the teaching?
All the benefits come with a vital health warning:
'If the quality of music tuition is poor and unstructured there is no impact'
Even worse, the impact of poor music tuition goes even deeper and may have:
Next week we describe what good music teaching looks like to help you find a teacher and approach that will deliver the benefits music can bring when done well.
What has your experience been of music lessons?
Director of Surrey Music School.