Signing your child up for piano lessons is a big decision and commitment. As a parent, a lot of the responsibility has fallen on your shoulders. You have to make sure you have a working piano and all the necessary books. You’re paying a bill for piano lessons each week. You’re driving your child to a weekly lesson and carving out time at home for practice.
Naturally, you want to set your child up for success, but the parent’s responsibility doesn’t stop here.
Every parent hopes their child will “take the ball and run with it”, but the reality is that nearly every child will need some additional support and encouragement at home.
Related: Advice For New (And Experienced) Piano Parents
You might be thinking, “Wait, how can I help if I don’t know anything about playing the piano?”
I’m here to help you help your child succeed at the piano.
Even if you’ve never played the piano or any other instrument before and you know nothing about music or music notation, there are still many ways that you can help your child learn the piano.
Communicate With Your Child’s Piano Teacher
The first thing you’ll want to do is to make sure you have clear lines of communication with your child’s teacher.
Make sure you understand what is expected of your child. Every teacher has a slightly different approach to piano lessons and practicing so get on the same page as the teacher right from the start.
Here are some questions to make sure you know about:
How much does your teacher expect your child to practice at home? Does your teacher expect a certain number of minutes each day? Or, does your teacher assign so many repetitions of each song? Maybe the teacher is more goal oriented and wants your student to accomplish specific tasks each week regardless of how long it takes.
Does the teacher send home an assignment page or list of songs to practice? Does the teacher expect you to sign it, check things off or return it each week?
Does the teacher have expectations about how much progress a student should make each week, month or year?
Is your teacher open to helping your child outside of lesson time via email or text? I personally love it when students contact me with questions in between lessons. I shows me that they’re practicing and engaged at home. And, if we can troubleshoot little problems when then pop up, we won’t have to wait until the next lesson to fix it. This really helps students make good progress at home and experience success. Some teacher may prefer not to answer texts and emails mid-week, though.
Is there anything in particular your child is preparing for such as a recital, competition or evaluation. These types of events roll around several times a year and some kids may not understand the importance of them in their week-in and week-out practicing. Make sure you’re on board for any plans your teacher has for your child’s participation.
Learn more: Parents’ Guide To Piano Recitals and Parents’ Guide To Piano Competitions
If you feel in the dark about any of these questions or if you feel like you don’t have a good grasp on what your child is learning or what they should be practicing, speak up. You’re paying your teaching for their expertise and you need to make the most of it.
Create A Supportive Practice Environment At Home
Every piano parent has probably experienced some practice battles. Practicing the piano can bring out a lot of frustration in kids.
Learning the piano is a difficult process. Even if things are coming easily to your child, there will times when there are some hurdles to overcome.
As a parent, understand that these frustrations are a normal part of the learning process. Do your best to make piano practice time as positive and encouraging as possible.
Related: Peeling Away The Piano Practice Layers
If you have trouble getting your child to practice the piano, acknowledge that for many kids it can be really hard to stop playing or watching TV to do something that feels like work. If this is a consistent problem in your house, find a very routine that works for your family and set an expectation about when and how piano practice will happen.
If your child gets frustrated at the piano or doesn’t seem to know how to practice, try sitting down at the piano with your child. It can be really difficult for kids to have to bounce back and forth between their book and their hands on the piano. Many kids loose their place in the music and get stuck in this process. Sometimes just having someone nearby to point to the next note is all it takes to have a successful practice session.
If you’re looking for new ideas to keep your practice routine fresh and motivating at home, I highly recommend the book 101 Piano Practice Tips by Tracy Selle. It is full of refreshing and helpful practice ideas and it’s easy to flip through any time your child gets in a practice rut.
Also, take a look at this post called Motivation Medicine. This was the magic bullet trick that made a piano routine stick with my own kids. They willingly and cheerfully practice every night and all it costs me these days is four chocolate chips.
If your child thrives on repetition, consider making a piano practice counter out of beads. There is a small version and a larger version. This is a great tool to keep at your piano and gives students both a visual and kinesthetic tool to understand what they have accomplished.
The last thing you want is for practice time to turn in to a chore at your house. As tempting as it is to nag or get upset with your child about piano struggles, see if you can find creative ways to keep things calm and pleasant. A good attitude on your part will make long-term piano success more sustainable and enjoyable for the whole family.
Become A Good Resource By Learning As Much As You Can About Piano
The very best way that you can support your child’s piano learning endeavors is to put yourself in his or her shoes and learn along with your child.
Having a basic understanding of how music works will help you to become a valuable resource as your child learns piano.
You’ll be able to help your child get their hands set up on the correct notes before they begin a song. You’ll know if they are holding their notes for the proper length of time. You’ll be able to interpret their sheet music to ensure that they’re not missing any important details of their music.
My favorite resource to help piano parents learn their way around the piano was designed by a piano teacher, specifically for piano parents.
Bridey Gibson of Pianosaurus Rex created Piano Parents Crash Course, an online course for piano parents who need to keep up with their piano student.
Piano Parent’s Crash Course includes 6 sections that you can work through quickly and easily whenever your have a few spare moments.
Bridey understands that parents are busy so her goal was to get the information into your hands and brain as efficiently as possible.
I often hear parents say that they’ve tried to follow along in the kid’s piano book and learn the songs with them, but there’s always a point where they just can’t keep up.
This usually happens for a reason. A lot of piano books for kids are filled with what adults might interpret as “fluff”. It’s important for kids to experience all of those extra things like pictures, tons songs that seem relatively similar to each other and extra activities and games to try along with their songs. Kids can only consume so many concepts at a certain rate, so there has to be plenty of options to fill their lesson and practice time with.
On the other hand, adults can consume and understand material very quickly and often do better without any extra distractions. Parents often have a hard time wading through all of the extra stuff in kids’ books.
That’s where Piano Parent’s Crash Course comes in. It includes all of the information you would need to know. It gets straight to the point and teaches you how to apply the material immediately.
You could easily work through the entire course within a couple of hours and then be equipped to read your child’s piano book and answer all sorts of questions.
The course is divided into these 6 very manageable sections:
- The Basics
- Musical Expression
- Reading Music
Each section includes a couple of short videos, a thorough explanation of each concept and printable cheat sheets that you can keep at your piano for reference and worksheets to make sure you understand each concept.
I really like that this course is text based rather than video because it means that you can work through it as quickly as you would like. There are a few short videos in each module to demonstrate a few points, but otherwise, you’re in control over how much time you spend with the information.
You can get Piano Parent’s Crash Course here for just $20. Bridey has also done the legwork for you and included tons of online resources that will allow you to explore each topic further. The last section on practice is invaluable because it includes tons of practice resources so that you can be equipped with tons of ideas and approaches to helping your child practice.
If you’ve ever said, “I don’t understand what’s going on in my kid’s piano book”, then this course is for you.
If you’re interested in other ways that you could be learning piano with your child, here are some other ideas:
Take an online course. I created Beginning Piano For Adults for adults like you who have a busy schedule and need to learn piano with a simple and flexible approach. This course is fun and low stress! It teaches you 25 songs in 8 lessons and you’ll have a blast playing along with beautifully orchestrated accompaniment tracks.
Take a few lessons with your child’s teacher or another teacher. Not every kid’s teacher is up for teaching adults, so ask some questions and do some research to find the right teacher for you. You don’t necessarily need long-term piano lessons, you could easily find a teacher to help you understand the basics and have a working knowledge of the piano. Although, once you start, there’s a good chance you’ll discover how enjoyable and satisfying it is to play the piano!
Learn Piano With Flowkey. Flowkey is an excellent online app that includes hundreds of piano tutorials to songs of almost any genre. The monthly subscription is comparable to buying a book and gives you unlimited access to all of the learning tools within the app, including a course for beginners.
As a teacher, I want to congratulate you and thank you for supporting your child’s music endeavors. Allowing your child to learn music is one of the best gifts you can give them. Supportive and involved parents are crucial to your child’s success, so thank you for taking the time to learn more about how you can help your child do well at the piano.
I’m a fellow music educator and blogger (but I don’t blog about music). I teach elementary music, not piano. I took piano lessons, but I’ve never taught it. I loved your pre reading Jolly Old St. Nicholas in your last email. I want to teach my own kids who are 6 and 4. Do you have more of the pre reading sheets on your site or in one of your courses? I would love to get more of those. Can you direct me to the areas of your site that might help me with them. Thanks!
Hey there, Beth! That’s great that you want to teach your kids piano. It’s definitely a good way to let them try it out. Jolly Old St. Nicholas is my first pre-reading sheet, but I have plans for more, so keep checking back.
The first thing that I teach every piano student is Hot Cross Buns by rote. You can see the process that I use in this free course: https://courses.verypiano.com/p/teach-hot-cross-buns-to-preschool-music-students
Your 6 year old probably won’t have to spend a lot of time on each step and could likely play the song within a few minutes. Since your 4-year probably has some fine motor development happening, you’d just move through the steps at their pace, even if takes several weeks to get to the last step.
My online course was designed for adults, but kids actually do really well with the material in it, especially if you work through it first and help them with it. I’d for sure pace it slower, though. It includes several black key songs then makes an easy transition to white keys. You can learn all about it here: https://verypiano.teachable.com/p/piano-for-beginners-part-11/?preview=logged_out
Another good option is the YouTube channel Smart Kids Piano. I’m the teacher over there and I release 2 new songs for kids each week. It’s definitely a non-traditional way of learning piano, but it’s a very effective way to get started. There’s a great deal on the subscription right now.