The role of games in piano lessons
Piano lessons have traditionally been conducted with a student sitting at the piano, as their teacher sits next to them, pointing to things on pages, explaining and asking questions. This, of course, is an essential part of piano teaching and always will be, but as student ages drop (the latest research on the matter found that the optimal age to begin lesson is 3 years old), this seems more and more implausible. Young children cannot concentrate on one activity for any length of time longer than twice their age in minutes (6 minutes for a 3-year-old, 8 for a 4-year-old and so on) on average, so it is imperative that activities are changed often and that they vary greatly.
Repetition is also required. Repetition is said to be the mother of all learning, according to the ancient Romans, and a great amount of repetition needs to go into establishing the basic understanding of the various concepts connected to piano playing. However, if the concept is reinforced through play, the number of repetitions required drops dramatically.
Playing games may not seem like teaching. It may, in fact, seem like the teacher is taking on the role of a very expensive babysitter. And certainly, if your child’s teacher chooses to play just any random game during their lesson time, you would be right in thinking that that is what they are doing.
However, a lot of thought, hard work and cost goes into both creating, designing and purchasing games, especially for young beginners. Simply throwing a ball between their hands can enhance children’s spatial reasoning, cross the midline in the brain helping vestibular input (balance), trains eye-hand coordination, enhances proprioceptive input (how our muscles sense the world around us) and much more, directly related to piano playing. There is also an endless number of card and board games, each specifically designed to enhance a child’s understanding of one or more concepts learned in their lesson. When something is fun, children will engage with it. When they are not focused on learning something, the knowledge and information passes through to their long-term memory without effort, so that it is easily accessible at any time.
If you have questions about how a specific game helps your child learn, don’t hesitate to ask the teacher! Most of us love what we do, so we are happy to explain why we do it.
It is said that music is the mother of all arts. It is also said that the piano is the king of all musical instruments. I have dedicated my life to the music of the piano. I have studied -and practiced- how to play it, how to teach it, how not to teach it, as well as the physical, mental, emotional and cognitive effects it can have on the human brain. I now feel it is time for me to share all I have learned. I am Eleni Zeniou and I am a piano teacher.