Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Learning Piano

Ever since we bought our current piano, Andrew and I have been discussing piano lessons for Nathan and eventually Caleb.

At first, Nathan showed some interest in the piano. He'd walk over, play a few notes and walk away. Andrew and I wondered whether it would be worth investing in a teacher at this point. We could very well save a few dollars and teach him the basics ourselves, switching over to a teacher when he reached a point where we felt we could no longer teach him. But then, as time passed, Nathan's interest dwindled and we let the topic go.

There was no point in forcing him to play piano if he didn't have a genuine interest in it. Yes, we wanted him to learn an instrument, but if he didn't want to learn it for himself and his own enjoyment, he would simply be going through the motions and it would all be lost once we stopped pushing him to learn.

The topic of piano lessons came up again over lunch with friends a few weeks back. One of the moms said she would start her daughter in piano lessons when she turned 7. She felt this was a good age and that starting any earlier wouldn't be any more productive, but probably even counterproductive. This got me thinking; Nathan is 7 right now!

But as the term wound down, the thought got pushed to the back of my mind. I asked around about good piano teachers but that was as far as I got.

Then, at the beginning of school holidays, we spent a day with Nathan's friend. During that time, he was required to practice 30 minutes of piano. Nathan sat beside him, watched and plonked out a few notes that were probably more distracting than helpful.

The next morning, Nathan sat at our piano and practiced a C major scale that I had taught him months ago. Then, he played Mary Had A Little Lamb, which he had gotten quite good at. It's the only song he's been able to play. He finally corrected his mistakes that he kept playing over and over previously, and even started playing around with the rhythm.

The following day, we added another song to his repertoire: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. We talked about his finger placements, and he practiced his two songs over and over.

By the third day, Nathan got bored and asked to learn some new songs. I could no believe my ears. I stopped what I was doing and taught him two more: Row Row Row Your Boat and Liang Zhi Lao Hu*.

He struggled a little to play and memorize the songs, but as soon as I started explaining that he should look for different patterns, like scales, triads and dominant sevenths, he seemed to get it. He also told me that it's like math, because math is all about finding patterns as well. I could tell though that I was pushing him more than he liked so I backed off and let him practice on his own.

Eventually, he got pretty confident playing his songs, and since he had four under his belt, I suggested that he could do a concert for daddy when he got home that night. Nathan was all over that. He created an invitation for Andrew, an order of performance, and even asked me to introduce him. Throughout the day, Nathan would run to the piano and practice his songs, he was so excited. 

When he heard the garage door open, Nathan ran down, exclaiming that he needed to warm up his fingers. I have never seen him so motivated.

After getting dinner started, Andrew brought his guest (Caleb), presented his invitation and found a seat in the concert hall (aka. our piano room). 

I introduced Nathan and he performed. Nathan did well, and didn't let any mistakes stop him from playing on. Before the concert, I asked if he was nervous. He said, "No, you're all my family." I'm so glad he feels this way.

It was a pretty short concert but a very lovely way to spend a bit of the evening together as a family. I can't wait to see where this goes.

* This is a song Nathan learned in Mandarin to the tune of Frère Jacques. I thought I'd introduce it this way because Caleb loves singing the song and this would give Nathan a chance to play something for Caleb to enjoy. Caleb loves it when Andrew plays songs he knows, and I wanted him to feel the same way about Nathan playing piano.


  1. Such an incredibly sweet story! Love your sensitivity and encouragement for Nathan... I was definitely one of those kids who was pushed through years of lessons and have never touched a piano since :S Great job!

  2. That is so beautiful! I have to agree with Elizabeth - I played when I was younger and was forced to do my 30 minutes/day practice and then finally quit in year 10 (citing schoolwork as my reason for being too busy). We have a piano sitting up in the lounge that hasn't been touched for YEARS. Like, 6+ years I reckon. Sad really. Every now and again I think I might like to play again, but I have absolutely NO IDEA how.

  3. Wow, what a great thing that he naturally started to show an interest without you having to push. Sounds like, if he's into maths like that, he might continue with his interest - good luck to him! stopping by from the Digital Carnival :)



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