Belajar Piano Part. 2

Self-study seems to require greater amounts of self-motivation than learning through an instructor. Without those weekly lessons with a teacher, it will be easier to let practice fall by the wayside. I think it would be important for you, as parents, to schedule practice time for your children and make sure (encourage/motivate) they are regularly practicing. Ideally the motivation that you provide as parents will be positive and uplifting and will boost the child’s self-motivation!

Younger children often seem to have a harder time with learning, and definitely with self-studying, an instrument. The age will vary, but (with my limited experience) it has seemed as if children do better with self-study when they are about 12 or older. I believe a lot of this is due to their increased ability to read and understand the new concepts they are learning. This doesn’t mean a younger child will be unsuccessful in his self-study, but it often means that expectations simply need to be set lower and more support from the parents will be required.

I would view piano learning in much the same way as any subject to be studied at home or via homeschool. Books and resources are used to assist the learning process. At the same time, children will learn quickest when one or both of the parents either already know the subject, or are learning the subject along with the child. This is how mothers that do not have college degrees are able to successfully teach high-school level subjects to children, who then score incredibly high on post-high-school standardized tests. Mom is learning along with the student. This is how children that are younger are best able to self-study: with a parent who is also learning along with them. Such an approach will, I believe, drastically speed up the learning process for the child.

The parents learning along with the child could take several forms. One would involve actually learning to play the instrument as well. This is the route our family chose when we all began learning guitar. We practiced together in the evening – and Dad and Mom learned along with us. They worked from the same instruction books that we were learning from. While this approach requires more time on behalf of the parents, the advantage is that they will be learning an instrument along with the child.

The other option would be for the parent to learn the musical concepts from the book, without actually practicing and playing the songs on the piano. You would then be able to help answer questions, without having to spend time practicing the songs.

Even though you may be learning via self-study, you may still benefit from an occasional consultation with a godly teacher who is accomplished on the piano. Actually, it wouldn’t even have to be with a “piano teacher”: almost anyone who plays the piano and is outgoing and willing to spend some time with you would work. Perhaps they could come to your home, maybe once every year or two, and spend an hour or two with you and your children. Everyone would have an opportunity to play for the teacher and listen to feedback. This would be similar to “standardized testing” and would give you much peace of mind so you don’t have to worry about terrible technique problems or bad habits creeping into the music.

An example of such an approach: I have been working at self-studying the upright acoustic bass over the past few years. I have purchased one book and three different DVD’s. I have not taken any lessons. A few months ago I was working on a photography projects which involved upright basses (along with cellos, violas, and violins), and the gentleman that was delivering the instruments to my home office was an accomplished upright bass performer and instructor. During the course of his visit (once all of the delivery and business work was done), he spent about 15 minutes with me as I showed him how I played the bass and we talked through some various technique issues. While it wasn’t in any way something that was necessary or really even needful, it was nice to have a few minutes with an accomplished acoustic bass player.

I don’t have experience with piano DVD’s because I learned from piano method books.

I would recommend starting a child using the Alfred’s Piano Series. Each level has three core books: the “Method” book (which is the main book and introduces the new concepts), a “Recital” book (which has extra songs that will include the new concepts), and a “Theory” book (which is a workbook reviewing the new concepts). Everyone can share the Method and Recital books, but it is nice to have individual Theory books.
I may have the exact titles a bit wrong, but those are the general names of the books. The Church Musician Series (which I’ll share about later) calls the Recital Book a Repertoire Book.
Some levels have additional books: Hymns, Patriotic, Duets, and perhaps Christmas. The extra books can be nice in providing extra songs that are at the same skill level, although I’m not sure someone would want to work through ALL of the additional books.
For young children (and for self-study), I would recommend starting with Alfred’s Level A and then Level B.
The Alfred’s series is not a Christian series and there may be some songs that would be best to skip (you can staple pages together or remove certain pages).
Following Alfred’s Level B I would recommend switching to the David Carr Glover Church Musician Series, starting with the Primer level. Following the Primer level you would move on to Level 1, Level 2, Level 3, etc. By the time you reach Level 3 you will be getting close to being able to play out of the hymn book.
The Alfred’s series also has Levels 1, 2, 3, etc., but I like the focus on Hymns and playing in church that is in the Church Musician Series.
Learning Theory is an important part of learning to play hymns, so don’t skip the theory part! You won’t understand everything at once, but do your best to learn and understand as you go. Over time it will make more and more sense!
Actually, if a person only wanted to learn the play the four harmony notes as written in the hymn book they wouldn’t HAVE to learn the theory. But there is much more to playing hymns than just the four notes that are printed in the hymn book. Those four notes are the bass/tenor/alto/soprano notes with the soprano note being the melody note.
If you want to eventually improvise and arrange hymns (or want to learn other instruments in the future), the theory is crucial.
While I don’t believe there are too many technique-related issues on the piano, the technique that is discussed in the method books is important to pay attention to.
Wrists that are bent or angled can develop problems later. Tension (shoulders or wrists) is also something to be careful of.
The Alfred beginning book has a picture of a child sitting at the piano and highlights some of the technique/ergonomic issues to be watchful of.
Self-study is a wonderful and thorough way to learn. There probably isn’t any more thorough way to learn than by “doing it” one’s self. Sure, it will likely take longer than if one was taking lessons from a tutor, but that’s OK. The self-study route seems to give God more of the glory for the outcome, as one is forced to rely more upon Him throughout the process! And if self-study (with a parent’s help) can work for reading, writing, and arithmetic, and it can definitely work for studying music!

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