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    petunia #145008 12/25/12 06:08 PM
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    I'll try to address some questions/comments but I'll have to reread the posts to hit everything.

    Piano is (and has always been) his choice, starting at age 4 when I taught him what little (what little) I know about it. When he was 5, he begged for lessons for six months before we gave him - we thought he was too young.

    He says he doesn't want to practice because it is boring. I can understand that, but I think you should buckle down and do it. He's not motivated, really, in any part of his life. Maybe it's a lack of challenge; maybe it's stress for being overscheduled. Who knows.

    He also plays the French Horn in the top MS band (one grade up) and he also struggles with practicing that.

    Practice has been required - every weekday morning and at least one day on the weekend. A schedule in the morning before school and free choice time on the weekend. However, I can't *MAKE* him play. We've punished, cajoled, rewarded, bribed, encouraged, threatened, spanked and everything else to get him to practice. When it comes down to it, though, "you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink".

    He is very musical. He has potential. He has talent. He can do well with minimum effort. He does these festivals and scores excelllent or superior (superior plus is the highest) without much effort. He technically plays very well but doesn't do the practice necessary to get the correct tempo and dynamics. His teacher is keeping him at the level he's on because of those two things.

    He hates the thought (at least verbally) of quitting piano lessons. The compromise of 12/16 days practice was his idea, not mine.

    I'm not sure what I want him to get out of it. Fun, joy, challenge. But, I'd sacrifice those things to reduce my stress, I think.

    I've walked away and tried very hard to make it his deal. I just can't when he's just wasting time and not doing anything. Or, he's getting sneaky. Last week, he was supposed to be practicing and I heard one song and then a funny rhythm I didn't recognize and went to check. He was playing with his right hand and holding a book in his left and reading. Not the first time this has happened.

    I'm not making him take piano lessons. He's chosen it all along. I've always given him the ability to stop, with the proviso that he give it six more months before making a decision. He has never indicated in any way that he wants to stop. Or, maybe by not practicing, he's trying to tell me something?

    I'll have to think about your comments some more and try to figures out what we (as parents and as a family) want from him taking piano. I think it's all just so frustrating because it seems like I'm not getting any cooperation from him and piano is a big expense and maybe I'm just reacting emotionally to it and not putting though into it.

    Ughh!



    What I am is good enough, if I would only be it openly. ~Carl Rogers
    petunia #145020 12/27/12 09:22 AM
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    Originally Posted by petunia
    I'm not sure what I want him to get out of it. Fun, joy, challenge. But, I'd sacrifice those things to reduce my stress, I think.

    My recommendation would be to think long and hard about this question, then, because the correct course of action stems from this answer.

    In our household, DD7 was enrolled in guitar lessons as a result of task-avoidant perfectionism issues. She needed to work on something that's hard, so she can see how mistakes are normal, part of the learning process, and practice is necessary in order to acquire a skill. When practice became an issue, we let her drop guitar, because she was already getting the same value from other sources (soccer, gymnastics, dance), and the lesson is taking hold.

    The door is not closed on guitar, though. Daddy got his first electric for Christmas, and DD is intrigued. I reiterated that she can have one of her own if she earns it by working on the one she has.

    You indicated that piano is something he has been intrinsically driven to do, so it might be a good strategy to stop it completely. The suggestion to pay the teacher to keep his slot open is a pretty good one. You could explain that his teacher requires him to practice, but arguing with him about practice is driving you insane, so you're just not going to argue with him anymore, he's just not going to do any more piano lessons for X months. At the end of that time period, he can go back to lessons, but daily practice is not going to be a major source of arguments between you, or you'll pull the plug again.

    petunia #145028 12/27/12 11:22 AM
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    I'm just using my imagination here because I did not take music lessons as a child and I only have young children. I have seen a few "grown" men who had some kinds of synthisizers, keyboards, even one hooked his electric keyboard to the computer for some reason. They were able to compose and mix full length songs, for example mixing flute (sounds) with guitar, piano, and drum synthesizers and vocals. It looked like one track at a time and blend them. I have no idea how expensive this. I also don't know if this is the end results you're looking for. I thought if your kid has learned his lessons maybe you could describe this to a music store salesman and see if it's not too expensive to set him up a little home recording studio like this it should last for years of use. He can begin to create his own thing. If he needs more lessons it will show him where and why. Just throwing that out there.

    PS. Thanks Cawdor for sharing about the Fisher Price I Can Play Piano. Awesome-sauce!


    Youth lives by personality, age lives by calculation. -- Aristotle on a calendar
    petunia #145029 12/27/12 11:55 AM
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    Ahhh-- reading your response, petunia, your DS' explanations sound so very familiar. DD, too, was begging for lessons from the time she could talk, and we finally relented when she was six.

    I get a lot of shrugs and promises, and inexplicable statements that don't tally with what we see-- that is, that she SAYS she wants to continue with lessons, loves the teacher, etc. etc. but then refuses any and all efforts to make practicing at home actually work.

    One of the problems that we've battled here is that the very IDEA of ""practice"" is fairly alien for PG children in an area of natural ability. KWIM?

    DD honestly has no idea how naturally gifted she is either academically or musically, for that matter. She truly thinks that because she doesn't have a reach like Billy Strahorn or Liszt, she's "not really suited" to the instrument. (Seriously-- she can reach a 10th and she's a very petite 5'2" so this makes NO sense... she has freakishly long fingers and amazing hand strength.)

    She is frustrated because she "can't sight-read very well." What she means is that she can't just sit down and sight read BACH, for heaven's sakes. She sight-reads better than any musician I've ever known (and we have pros in the family), and always has.

    She wants to have the technical ability of Liszt or Schiff, the improvisational skill of Jellyroll Morton and Mozart, and the coolness of Fazil Say. Without practicing, of course. Because if she, you know, has to WORK at it, it's not like she's really "talented" at it or something.

    I guess, anyway.

    Ergo, she avoids practicing because it makes her feel inadequate.

    So yeah, in our estimation, this is a BAD reason to allow her to avoid things or to quit, because her reasons are about task-avoidant perfectionism.

    One strategy that we've recently implemented is a "practice plan" and journal as a part of daily practice. She and her teacher come up with a weekly plan-- which is 10% warm-up, 30% work on current pieces and technique-builders, and the remainder is "whatever makes you happy." In that order. Until we pointed it out to her, she truly didn't understand that there is a difference between "playing" and "practicing." Nevermind the notion of "warming up" to practice.

    We'll see how it goes, but it seems to have been quite freeing to her to spend part of that 30-45 minutes each day just doing what makes her HAPPY-- riffing on Billy Joel or Mancini or whatever.


    Schrödinger's cat walks into a bar. And doesn't.
    petunia #145047 12/27/12 02:52 PM
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    I'm going to throw out a few random thoughts based on my own experience studying piano and a few experiences we've had with our kids studying piano - take them or leave them, they may apply or might not. As others have said, this is a very individual/family decision.

    First me - I *loved* studying music and playing music and for a while in high school seriously considered majoring in it in college. I mention that only to make the point - I was completely in love with music, and very intrinsically motivated to study it. There were periods of time I practiced a lot every day... and there were times when I didn't want to practice but practiced anyway, and there were times when I did everything I could to avoid practicing but still took lessons anyway. I am sure my parents weren't thrilled with the periods of time I didn't feel like practicing, but they didn't take away the lessons because they felt there was value in having us stick with piano lessons. It all worked out eventually because after the period had passed, I naturally morphed back into the wanting-to-practice stage.

    Next thing that happened - by the time I hit mid-high school I had spent years studying classical piano and I *loved* it - but - I was also tired of it. I had a great teacher and I liked her, but she wasn't going to be the teacher to teach me what I wanted to learn then. That's when my mom gave me a *wonderful* gift - she let me switch teachers and take jazz/rock lessons. I know it wasn't what she really wanted me to do musically, but she realized that's what I needed then for inspiration, so she asked around, found a recommendation for a great teacher, and that last year of high school I fell in love with piano all over again in an entirely new way. Ironically, those lessons in that short year also gave me the skills to be able to improvise and play anywhere anytime in a different way than all the *wonderful* years of classical piano. I can still pick up a sheet of classical music and I can sight read it well enough to play quite a bit of music, but the other lessons gave me the ability to play when I'm at someone else's house, play something that everyone knows or can sing to, that kind of thing.

    Which brings me to my last random thought from my experience - once I was in college I was way to busy to practice or take lessons and I didn't have access to a piano to use even if I'd wanted to practice. When I graduated from college I had a ton of fun (as well as my first job lol). I didn't feel like practicing piano and I didn't have one of my own. Years later (literally years!) I was given my childhood piano... and I can still play it. I am not as sharp as I was as a well-rehearsed teen and I am not as inclined to practice at all - but all those years of lessons stuck with me and gave me the gift of music for life. It wasn't money wasted, even in the periods where I didn't want to practice while I was taking lessons.

    Re my own kids' experience - we started all three of our kids studying piano when they were relatively young. My ds was 7, which is a pretty typical age to start, but his sisters were 5 and 3. We had no intention of starting the three year old at that time, but she's uber-competitive so it was less painful to have her take lessons than having to deal with the jealously of older sibs doing something she didn't get to do! Anyway, my ds practiced dutifully although I had to push to get him to practice more than I would like to. He never seemed terribly interested in lessons, and we actually suggested to *him* that he quit a few times over the years but he didn't want to - he would beg to continue (even though it was becoming a fight to get him to practice). We let him continue and just gave up the worry about whether or not he practiced. At around 10-11 years old he started getting fascinated with playing - but not with playing what his teacher was teaching. So we've had him continue the lessons, let him add in the things that he's interested in and we've also had him show what he's chosen to his teacher and she's been good about letting him study those things to. Giving him the option of choosing what he plays for at least part of his lessons has really ramped up his enthusiasm, and I suspect that he'll be a piano player for life.

    My older dd had a lot of difficulty with her lessons at first and absolutely *hated* them and hated to practice. I didn't let her quit simply because when she sits down at the piano without anyone telling her to practice she plays her own thing - beautifully. She's clearly the most naturally musically inclined of my kids, and so with her too I just let her take the lessons and do her own thing for most of her practice time, and I never stressed out if she didn't practice. She hasn't learned as much as quickly as my ds, but she has made progress.

    My youngest dd - she's begging to quit because she has a full schedule. She isn't terribly interested in piano and doesn't seem to be musically talented or musically inclined at all. I'm most likely going to let her quit. I only mention her because.... she's my child who practices without a fight!

    Sooooo.. that's our completely random set of experiences. For the OP here, I'd probably let my ds continue with lessons and not stress too much about the practicing for now. I would also be really careful about the threats I make (I find this gets me into trouble quite frequently!) - I think a threat to take away something for not practicing is totally valid.. but I find myself in predicaments like this too - the logical consequence that slips out of my mouth without thinking it through carefully might happen to be something *I* don't want them to give up! Parenting can be so complicated lol!

    polarbear

    petunia #145088 12/28/12 02:01 AM
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    I also agree this is a very personal decision, that each family needs to make based on their own beliefs etc...

    That said, I think that a child who has played any instrument, or any sport etc for that matter, after a certain amount of time- they know whether they like it or not. They have certainly shown whether they have an aptitude for it or not. But even if they show amazing talent, if the desire, or ambition, the love of (in your case) playing piano- if that is not there? I really feel that the child deserves to be heard and considered, and ultimately that it should be their choice at some point.

    I do not believe after so many years vested, if the decision is being made for the right reasons, I don't believe this is encouraging your child to be a "quitter".

    I am in agreement that music is important for kids, I believe it is an important and wonderful way for them to express and release emotions and energy... and some kids go on to show amazing talent in the field- but I don't think that formal lessons are a Must. I think just the exposure to music is important, and yes, the opportunity to take lessons is a wonderful thing, but just exposure, and having an instrument etc to play "for fun" is also an amazing thing.

    I strongly believe that a child who really likes/enjoys something-- they will WANT to do it- they will show a definite dedication to it. I believe this because of personal experience.
    maybe- Allow him to take a break? Perhaps he will realize he really does want to do it, and ask to start back?
    Also, kids change, something they loved @ 6 they may not love @ 12! That's very normal! **I wonder if your child should be introduced to another instrument? I went from the piano, to the clarinet. and I fell in love smile Thanks to the piano, I knew music theory, I could read music- and the clarinet uses same scale, so it was very easy transition really...
    Possibly your son might enjoy the sax?

    *I am planning to start my DS6 on piano soon! He has a beautiful Ludwig drum kit and he loves to play "for fun" no formal lessons yet. He has also been "playing" (on the) piano since he was an infant, as my mother gave him her Baldwin upright- it sits in his playroom, and he plays it quite often, and has asked to take piano lessons. I've been waiting d/t $ and I also read that it is better to introduce piano/music theory after reading is well established--- any thoughts on that to all you parents of young pianists?

    Good luck with your decision...


    One can never consent to creep when
    one feels an impulse to soar!
    ~Helen Keller

    petunia #145090 12/28/12 06:04 AM
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    Petunia,

    I laughed so hard at the description of your son reading a book with one hand while practicing with another. I well remember trying to hide a Zane Grey novel behind my music so I had something interesting to do while waiting for my hour of practice to tick off of the egg timer.

    Your comment about his superior rankings at festivals also reminded me of my own experience. I was musically talented, and if I could hear my teacher play the piece first, I could mimic her within a couple of weeks without ever really learning to read the music, I earned unanimous superiors at our state festivals every year but one - when I walked into the concert hall and had my mind go completely blank where I didn't even know where to start on the keyboard. Once I was given the first note, it all came back, and I ended up with superiors from two of the three judges.

    I tell you this by way of underlining my own experience when I say that talent does not mean love or passion for something. My sister loved piano and was far more passionate and disciplined about practicing. My mother wouldn't let me quit, so I started devising every way I could think of to practice but not excel, etc. I have my great grandmother's piano in my home but never touch it except to dust it.

    If he is actively sabotaging himself, maybe he is sick of piano but doesn't know how to express it appropriately - or he may not even know how to recognize that he is burned out.. Maybe it is time to recommend a break from lessons and to suggest that he take some time to think about whether he is ready to move on to a different instrument, would rather just play the piano for his own enjoyment, etc. Perhaps an enforced sabbatical from lessons will make it the forbidden fruit where he realizes he does want to take lessons again and put his genuine best effort into it.

    But you, of course, know your kiddo. This is just my totally biased perspective. smile

    petunia #145190 12/30/12 08:21 PM
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    I haven't read all the responses all the way through but this is my experience...I started taking lessons at 8 years old. Around that same age, 11 - 12, I started begging my mom to let me quit. I hated practicing, my teacher was just OK (an elderly woman) and I really hated recitals. But my mom made me go anyway.

    For a couple years, I cruised by without doing a lot of practicing - my mom did not make me practice much that I can remember but she did expect me to go to my lesson once a week. I ended up taking formal lessons though about age 17, I guess. In the end, I was really glad my mom made me take the lessons. Even though I don't have access to a piano (and haven't since I lived at home full time - some 19 years!) I can still play half-decently when I visit my parents. Our home has no room for a piano at the moment but I WILL be buying one whenever we move because I miss playing and I want to teach my kids.

    Maybe that could be an alternate choice? Let up on trying to get him to practice but insist that he still goes to his lessons. He will still learn to play and will probably realize after he is not prepared at his lessons that maybe he could practice at least a couple times a week (once it started getting too hard to fake at my lesson, I started practicing more).

    Just another idea that may work. Good luck!


    Mom to 2 kiddos - DS 9 with SPD and visual processing issues and DD 6 who is NT
    bronalex #145194 12/31/12 10:18 AM
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    My son wanted to quit at 11 because wearing a scoliosis brace for three years made it more difficult and uncomfortable for him to play. He had been taking lessons since he was five. Before the brace he would practice several times a week. I didn't want him to quit, so we made some changes. I told the piano teacher that his pain issues made everything more difficult and that all of his other learning had to take priority. I told her that he might not practice at all but I didn't want him to forget what he had learned. We decided to let him pick out songs to work on and he found some really nice songs from Japanese anime. Some of them were more challenging than what he had worked on before but since he wanted to learn them he did better than he had before. He was more focused. The pain did not seem to distract him as much and he made progress each week at the piano lesson even though he did not practice during the week because he could not take off the brace like he did sometimes at the lesson. It surprised me, that he could remember a lot of what he had learned the week before even without practice, even though he still had some sensory issues and pain--I guess this is an example of the power of music.


    petunia #145237 01/02/13 10:17 AM
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    I haven't read the entire thread, but I'll throw in our story.

    DD17 quit lessons a few years ago. Basically, the entire time she was taking lessons (a good 7-8 years), she never practiced what she was supposed to. Since she is very musically talented, she was able to sightread well enough to convince her teacher that she had actually been practicing over the week. I didn't realize that she hadn't been practicing because she did play piano all the time. It just happened that it wasn't what she had been assigned. Towards the later years when she was playing difficult classical music, this didn't work as well, and she started to really hate lessons.

    This always confused me, because I thought DD was really talented with piano. It turns out she was talented in a different way - she has less success trying to play off sheet music than she does just listening to a song and creating her own arrangement. When we eventually let her quit, we learned that quitting piano lessons didn't change her love for music. She still plays piano constantly (and has taken up several other instruments), and is keyboardist in a band.

    So, quitting piano lessons might seem like "the end of the road", but definitely isn't always smile. Anyway, that's just our story. Best of luck as you decide.

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