Just a few days ago Marshall announced, “I want to learn how to play the piano.” This was music to my ears! Being able to play a musical instrument is a blessing that I want to share with both of my kids, and it’s a skill that’s best learned young. But I had asked him before if he wanted to play, and he had always said no. I didn’t want to push, and there was no need to rush. So I had given him a few impromptu mini-lessons at times when he seemed receptive, but no formal lessons.
Now, having heard the magic words, I immediately put him in front of the piano, showed him where to put his hands, and taught him how to play a short song from the easiest piano book I own (John Thompson’s Book 1). He did well. He’s so young, though, that he needs an easier book, something with simple activities that he can master and feel like he’s progressing. I found a book at the on-line sheet music store that might be just the thing. For now, I’m making him play for ten minutes each day, letting him noodle during part of that time. So far he tells me that he likes playing, “mostly.”
Of course, Livia wanted to get in on the action, too, but she struggled with the same instructions that Marshall handled easily. I think it’s because she’s too young. I know there are kids in Asia who can play Chopin by the time they’re Marshall’s age, but we don’t have that kind of discipline in this house. I don’t want her to feel left out or think that she’s not allowed to learn, but she’s not going to get the same kind of lessons that I’m planning to give Marshall, at least not yet.
What she really wants, I think, is my time and attention. I’ll do my best to give her that. Today we tried a game in which she was supposed to play every note that I played, only an octave higher. Games like that will help her learn the layout of the keyboard. We’ll experiment with different games and work our way up to the difficult stuff.
Teaching the kids to play is an exciting prospect, but I have to admit that I have serious doubts about my ability to do it. I’m not exactly a patient person, and I have next to no experience with teaching. Were lessons not so expensive, I’d hire a real teacher, but the going rate is about $30-$40 per half-hour lesson. That’s a major financial commitment. I never appreciated until now how difficult it must have been for my parents to afford lessons for me when I was kid. But if I can pass along the benefits to my children, then my parents will certainly have gotten their money’s worth. So I’m going to give it my best shot. Wish me luck!