Piano Games When All Goes Wrong


Anyone who thinks that children’s piano lessons are a smooth course to sail hasn’t spent much time actually teaching.

Often, children’s attention and mood makes very little possible. There are times when you can cleverly turn the tables and firmly ask and receive a few moments of attention. If a child is not extremely tired, there is a chance you may be able to wrangle a little work out of them.

But if they are tired, there is almost nothing you can do but try to make the half hour pleasant. Remember how you feel some days when you come home from work? That may be how the child feels after school on some days.

What do you do if, for one reason or another, a child is just not interested in the piano on that day at 4:30 PM?

You play games. On the piano. Under the piano. Over the piano. About the piano. Against the piano.

Use your imagination. If you put yourself in the child’s place, you’ll see that it will be easy to get them to enjoy it. The crucial element will be the teacher’s recognition of the child’s emotional state, coupled with the teacher’s ability to change course and attitude.

First, startle them with your abrupt change of course, and complete agreement with them that piano, on this day, will be boring and awful. Go into a long comical explanation of the pain, the agony, the unfettered anguish that the piano will cause today.

Play a slow, minor key dirge, and let them rest their head on the piano. Play Rockabye Baby and suggest that they take a nap. Give in completely to the idea that we are tired and will use the piano to rest. Let them stretch out on the piano bench and take a short nap (five to ten seconds.)

You’ll find that after five minutes of “attitude readjustment” the child is refreshed and bored, and willing to do a little work, especially if it is disguised as a game.

For example, call them Claude, or some such ridiculous name (apologies to Claude) and make up a story about Claude, the Most Tired Boy Pianist in the World. Forced to play Twinkle Twinkle by his evil Uncle Egbert, Claude is able to squeeze out a performance of the familiar ditty under Uncle Egbert’s watchful eye.

By now, you’ll notice that the child is smiling, and not tired any more. Why? Because they are playing a game! If you remember when you were a child, play did not tire you as much as toil.

Now, insist they take a long rest, for Claude must clearly be exhausted by the difficult work of playing Twinkle Twinkle. But I’ll bet you they will want to play another episode of Claude, the World’s Most Tired Boy Pianist.

If so, then tell them to go out the door and come in as Claude, dragging their feet, exhausted,

You, Uncle Egbert, solicitously help them to the piano and ask if they want water, food, an egg, a piece of candy? Be a ridiculous waiter or butler. Offer to get them a doctor.

Now you ask them to play Twinkle Twinkle, with a lengthy preamble stating that if they should collapse, Uncle Egbert is there to revive them. Make them sign a sheet of paper as a “release” should they be injured while playing Twinkle Twinkle.

The point is to go with their tiredness, or boredom instead of resisting it. This alone will amaze them, changing their mood almost instantly.

Be clever enough to disguise a small skill as a game involving an exhausted child.

Your alternative is impatience, and steely insistence on attention and accomplishment when any fool can see the child is not particularly interested.

I’ve taught many a lesson to a tired or bored child that I made into irresistible fun simply by observing the child’s mood and using it to change their mind-set.

Almost all of these lessons end as normal lessons, with a certain amount of work and accomplishment, and a certain degree of fun and time wasting.

Most important of all, the next lesson will usually be more fun, for the child now knows that the teacher is engaging and clever, and knows how to make a child feel better about themselves and that day at the piano.

Copyright 2017 Walden Pond Press

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