Piano Lessons

Lee Ann - Piano Lessonsby Lee Ann “Sunny” Brown

Reading can be so informative. Just recently I read an article that said parents were no longer enrolling their children in piano lessons and predicted that the instrument was on its way to becoming extinct, except perhaps in Japan, which must be why our piano is a Yamaha. It was such a dire prediction for piano teachers, and I’m guessing for piano makers, piano tuners, and piano music composers, as well. I feel so sad for Schroeder. No one, but for Lucy, will understand what he will be doing in just a few short years. However, the people I feel most concerned for are parents.

This time every year is usually filled with moans and groans about homework, early bed times, and ringing alarm clocks, but also the whining and pleading and screams from the kids about piano lessons. It is a time-honored tradition, and I fear for its demise. The article stated that children’s attention spans were no longer equipped to handle the time and focus and attention it takes to master scales. I can’t believe parents believe this. All you have to do is see just how many times a child can repeatedly ask you the same question, like “why not?” when you tell them that they can not do something. They can keep it up without pause for hours on end, days if necessary, if it is something they really want. Kids do, in fact, have laser-like focus that knows no time limits. And, believe me, they have that same attention and focus if it’s something that they don’t want. Parents must be able to hold their own.

Parents have it all wrong. Piano lessons are not for the child. Learning to play the piano is not about teaching the child the beauty of music, or instilling in them the merits of self-discipline, or even something they will be able to put on their resume in six more years. In fact, piano lessons are not about the kids at all. Lessons are about the parents. Kids just think everything is always about them.

Would any sane parent really put themselves through the torture of repeatedly listening to the same six notes being plunked out, over and over like Chinese water torture? Would they bring it upon themselves to listen to the same missed notes that sound like a dying cat every day for weeks at a time just for the betterment of their kids? Of course not! Would we seriously commit to thousands of dollars in music lessons and the actual purchase of a piano, not to mention the hours of time spent driving and waiting at music lessons just so our children can angrily pound out “Jingle Bells” during the family Christmas carol sing-a-long? Do we put ourselves through the anxiety of actually having to come face to face with The Piano Teacher when she asks us if we helped little Billy with his lessons by setting up a practice time and encouraging him, and risking her wrath if we offer our apologies and excuses for why it didn’t work out this week?  No! We do it for one reason and one reason only—to become tone deaf.

What the parents today are failing to realize is that if you have not put yourself through the pains of piano lessons–and the flailing and protests and tears and crying–how will you ever learn to tune out your children when they become teenagers? You won’t stand a chance standing up to their angry outbursts and accusations. Piano practice is for you, the parent, to practice the technique of the Parental Tune Out. Getting through the excruciating pain of wrong keys is critical, but the most important practice is not giving in to their cries and pleading not to practice—or to even have to take piano lessons at all. These are the real sounds you must learn to mute.

In time you will be amazed at how easily you lose the desire to throw something or to put a plastic bag over your head during the actual “music” practice. It also curbs the need to gag them with the towel when they don’t pick up their wet towels from the bathroom floor after you’ve distinctly requested it.

When you are tone deaf ,you will no longer hear that mocking, grating tone that teenagers have a way of inserting into the most mundane and briefest statement—the sounds that insinuates you don’t have a clue about anything. This is a critical skill to master and must be accomplished through the constant practice along with your child learning the proper finger positions and all the major scales. These are not minor concerns, I assure you. If you don’t want them to become major concerns, practice, practice, practice.

On another positive note, being tone deaf is not just for use on the kids. It works just as well on adults. For instance, after you have been together for, say, 25 years or more (this is a personal disclaimer and is in no way related to me), the talent you can rely on is the ability to completely tune out the other person. I firmly believe this can only be accomplished from getting through years of your children’s piano lessons.

So, go, I implore you! Enroll your children in those piano lessons now, before it’s too late! In doing so, you are doing yourself a favor. Trust me. I hope I have helped save your sanity, your family, your marriage, and maybe the piano business, too. That would be music to my ears.

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