Anyone here play an instrument?

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I went through piano lessons as a kid also, but i didnt really enjoy music until I found the clarinet, which I still play today. I actually play for the San Francisco Symphony
Like fuzzbucket, I'm a (semi) professional musician and am a private teacher now. (Although, I like to practice now - I just never have time!)

When I was in jr. high and high school I HATED to practice. Before any big seating audition or juried performance I'd cram practice for hours the week of the audition. (I kid you not) I'm rueing now that had I practiced seriously back then I don't know where I'd be today.

It sounds like you either need to work with the teacher or find a different teacher. I have a friend who teaches piano that really tailors the lessons to each kid - she has a student who is just like your son - lots of raw talent and musicality but doesn't want to play what's on the page. My friend just keeps things fresh for her.

But I wouldn't stop the lessons if you can without a massive coup in your house. If he's enjoying the music now this much, he'll be thrilled later on that he kept up with it.
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I have my own audio company and make my living as a musician and composer. My parents started me on music (piano) lessons when I was about 6. I remember sometimes really liking my lessons and wanting to practice and also going through times where the last thing I wanted to do was practice. My parents always pushed me and most times my Mother would sit in the room with me to make sure I did my lessons.

It was not always easy and as a young teen the very last thing I wanted to do was practice when I could have been out with my friends. Even though practicing took a short time (1/2 to 1 hour a day) it can seem like an eternity as a kid.

Sometimes I wonder if I would be where I am today if my parents were not somewhat agressive in making me practice. I've always loved music and am very thankful that my parents gave me the oportunity to have the career I am in now.
Really, thanks for the advice.

My son has a very short attention span. Too short for long practice sessions.

Fuzzbucket, I think my husband is going to try your suggestion. He's the musical one in this house (classically trained trumpet player) and the one who sits with our son. I know what songs my son should be practicing, but I don't read music and have no way of knowing if he's playing the right notes.

We'll keep at it. It's going to get much harder this Fall, when my son starts 3rd grade. He's in advanced classes and the homework takes up a lot of his time. Plus he wants to join a club this year.
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 13
i played the violin for four years, from fourth to eighth grade. my parents would force me to practice at least once a week. i'm not sure if it was just the instrument or being forced to play until high school (i'm starting this year) or any of the teachers i had, but i just switched to the alto saxophone. i like the way it sounds better, it's more fun to play, and there is more of a choice of songs to play (or, at least, the little music store around where i live has a bigger sax section versus the violin)...

maybe you should let him pick another instrument to play, kinda like a break. but make sure he's sure. try and have no influence in his choice.

just my little advice
Your son is really bright, and interested in many things.

I think he's very clearly telling you there's something wrong with this situation. He loves playing, and gets upset at the threat of stopping lessons - so stop threatening him with that, because it's not working for him. Listen to the rest of what he's saying - that despite loving piano, it's not working for him as-is. It doesn't sound like he wants to spend less time playing piano - just less time doing the specific things he's been asked to do. So figure out why that is. My guess would be he's not challenged enough, and since he doesn't HAVE to try, he doesn't.

When I had my first horse, I was taking riding lessons with three different instructors every week, in three different styles. Because that's how much it took to keep me interested. I would have been HORRIFIED at having to give up riding. But had I only been taking lessons from one instructor, I would have been bored to tears if my free time riding was stuck only doing the things she worked on. It sounds like your son is making up things to challenge himself, because his instructor isn't doing enough to challenge him. Oh, the assigned piece is easy? Let's add in more improvisation on top of it to make it more of a challenge! I used to practice the things I'd been taught without reins to make it more interesting for me on my horse. I think it's the same kind of thing.

ETA: I used to get in trouble for not paying enough attention in class, too. It wasn't that I couldn't pay attention, it's just that it was soooo slow and boring. So I would pay attention while pondering existence, dreaming up stories, etc. I wouldn't just watch and follow along with the teacher. My third grade teacher incorporated games into our classes, and would make up things which were a lot harder for those of us who were more advanced, to keep us more interested. Hopefully your son will get some challenge in his classes, and that will actually help him!
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Last edited by NetG; 08-29-2008 at 03:31 PM.
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Ok, so I have a friend who started playing piano by ear on his own at 4, and is a short attention span kind of guy. The one in my pic. He's a professional musician now, though that's certainly not required of your son... Anyway, his advice is to make it a game. Don't call it, or treat it like homework. And even though I didn't tell him that part of it - he said give him the chance to improvise and compose.

So I think that really IS just part of his trying to make it more interesting and challenging for himself given Keaton's advice...
The pews never miss a sermon but that doesn't get them one step closer to Heaven.
-Speckla

But at least the pews never attend yoga!
I took piano lessons for 12 years and voice lessons for 6 years. I think NetG is right, not practicing isn't necessarily lack of discipline, its sometimes just boredom. Besides those 2 formal lessons, I taught myself oboe and flute and made first chair orchestra in both. I liked keeping busy and just focusing on one thing was really boring.

That said, however, I'm glad my parents pushed me through the early years (7-9 y.o.) so that I could really enjoy piano later.
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Did your parents have to make you practice?

Our son is 8 and has been playing the piano for about 1 1/2 years. He's truly gifted. He composes his own music and can easily take a piece of music and add his own sound to it. His piano instructor says he's amazing. But the problem is that he's really fighting us on practicing everyday. I don't know if it's simply the fact that he's getting older and more oppositional or he's losing interest. Everytime we talk about ending his lessons he starts to cry and plead with us. But jeez, it is tough to sit down with him while he practices. He throws in notes that aren't there and refuses to play the song as it is meant to be played. Or he closes his eyes and plays that way.

Some days are better than others. But last night my husband was very frustrated and said we were going to stop the lessons if our son continued to not practice the proper way and messed up his lessons.

And yes, someone must supervise his practice session or he'll just start improvising and doing his own thing. He needs to practice the "homework" his piano teacher gives him.

Does anyone have suggestions? Should we continue to push him and perhaps take away privileges to reinforce the idea that he needs to practice? I'm just very disappointed because our son is not a sporty kind of kid. He's not involved in any extracurricular activities. Music is wonderful for kids and as I posted before, my son is gifted. We really want to build on that talent and not have him waste it.

Did your parents push you? Are you now grateful for it?
Originally Posted by medussa
I play several instruments (piano is my first love!)and in the beginning, my parents had to make me STOP playing I loved it so much. But as I got older, I wanted to go outside and play and be a kid, so I started slacking on the practice time. I had gotten really good as I got older, and my music teacher made the mistake of telling my parents that he thought that I was "under performing" and that I had the raw potential to be really good. I mean I was, I would only practice like 1-2 times a week and usually right before the next lesson. So my mom got really anal and started trying to "structure" my practice time and it REALLY turned me off...to the point that I refused to continue with lessons and I went on a boycott. At that point, it stopped being FUN for me and it started becoming a chore. I wasn't making the choice to play it was being made for me and i HATED that.

It wasn't until a few years later that my mom came home and I was sitting at the piano playing again. This time she stopped being a pushy mom (who loved me no doubt) and just sorta let me go at my own pace. I still play to this day, and I still love it.

It sounds like your son loves it and still has an interest. Maybe varying the practices will help him. Instead of EVERY practice being about the homework, make a bargin that if he does the assigned homework properly, then he can have some "creative" play time also? Or maybe talking to the teacher about adding the creative aspect to his lessons. Something like once he learns a new song, give him the assignment of "personalizing" the song. I think that encouraging the creative side is just as important as the basic stuff.
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Heck, I didn't always want to practise and I LOVED music and made a career of it. My mama had to get after me like crazy - homework and music practice were treated as the same and there was no option about doing them, but I put up a fuss some days (and others, I loved it.) What was important to me was to practise my scales and assigned pieces and then have free time to play whatever I wanted, improvise, play and sing, and just enjoy the piano. When I could do that, I was much happier. I remember all the pressure when a competition was coming up and sometimes I am shocked that I stuck with it - I must have really loved it.

It sounds like your son really loves it too, and has talent. I can see why him doing music is important given the rest of his circumstances. I think it's kind of harsh of your husband to threaten to end the lessons if he really loves them. I think it's important that you stick with the lessons. I think his refusal to practise is quite normal.

However, I think the approach you take depends on what he wants out of music. If you want him to have the opportunity to study and maybe teach piano or perform classical piano in some capacity, then it is important to learn solid technique and standard repertoire and be able to sight-read well. If this teacher can't motivate him to do it, you may want to consider whether you want another teacher. You're mentioning that the teacher comes to your home - is this teacher coming from a small music school where you pay the fees? Sometimes those teachers are not the greatest. What are their qualifications?

However, if your son likes to compose and play by ear, you may want to consider if you want him to have a primary background in pop music (I personally think he should stick with the classical but also cultivate this other interest by writing down or recording his compositions, maybe taking a class in how to read chords, composition classes etc. as he gets older.) If you decide to go ONLY with the pop background, then I would find an instructor with extensive experience in the field and make sure he learns those basics. But I think the structure and discipline of classical piano will help him and open more doors to him. He might like guitar in addition to piano - it offers a lot of opportunities to improvise and compose.
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I just got this book Practicing for Young Musicians that really helped me. It's about making the most out of practice sessions, and it's geared towards kids, but has good tips for every age.

A few tips from it I thought might be helpful if your still having trouble or for anyone else for that matter.

Practice makes perfect only if your doing it correctly, otherwise you're perfecting bad habits

Quantity over quality: 1 minute of complete control and focus, is better then an hour without. Breaking up practice sessions into smaller ones throughout the day can make a big difference. One tip it gave that I love is what I call the drive-by scale. Leave your instrument out of it's case if possible and throughout the day stop and do a scale for 1 minute. You'd be surprised how many minutes you can wrack up by the end of the day.
Please, do not force him to practice like that. I bet he's just bored and wants to do his own thing. Maybe you can compromise and have him do a real practice for a little while and then reward him with creativity piano time after that.

I was actually fairly talented with piano (and alto saxophone) but I ended up quitting for my year round swim team. One of the main reasons was that I was just getting tired of practicing. It became tedious and my parents were way too critical for people who didn't know how to play either instruments.

On a side note, it kept happening with swimming too. My dad would comment about how it seemed like I wasn't trying very hard with my races, my form looked weird, and blah blah blah. It's not necessarily the activity that's causing these issues, but the pressure your son is feeling to be perfect. Let him play! You only get to be a kid once!

ETA: Looking back, I really regret quitting piano. I don't know when I would have found the time to play, but I loved it. I just wish I wouldn't have been so pressured to be perfect all the time. Still, that is my experience and not necessarily what your son is going through. It just sounds like he might be rebelling and bored.
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Last edited by QuirkyYogini; 08-30-2008 at 12:25 AM. Reason: additional comment
My brother was talented with the violin like your son is with the piano. Actually he was in the same situation. The teacher recognized his talent and pushed him harder than the other students and it stopped being fun for my brother. He gave up.

Perhaps give him an option to practice his lessons for 10 minutes and he can do his creative playing any time he wants. You just do not want to stop it from being fun for him. When he is older he will realize to be more proficient he will practice more. At his age, let his creativity flow.
I play several instruments (piano is my first love!)and in the beginning, my parents had to make me STOP playing I loved it so much. But as I got older, I wanted to go outside and play and be a kid, so I started slacking on the practice time. I had gotten really good as I got older, and my music teacher made the mistake of telling my parents that he thought that I was "under performing" and that I had the raw potential to be really good. I mean I was, I would only practice like 1-2 times a week and usually right before the next lesson. So my mom got really anal and started trying to "structure" my practice time and it REALLY turned me off...to the point that I refused to continue with lessons and I went on a boycott. At that point, it stopped being FUN for me and it started becoming a chore. I wasn't making the choice to play it was being made for me and i HATED that.

It wasn't until a few years later that my mom came home and I was sitting at the piano playing again. This time she stopped being a pushy mom (who loved me no doubt) and just sorta let me go at my own pace. I still play to this day, and I still love it.

It sounds like your son loves it and still has an interest. Maybe varying the practices will help him. Instead of EVERY practice being about the homework, make a bargin that if he does the assigned homework properly, then he can have some "creative" play time also? Or maybe talking to the teacher about adding the creative aspect to his lessons. Something like once he learns a new song, give him the assignment of "personalizing" the song. I think that encouraging the creative side is just as important as the basic stuff.
Originally Posted by Nappy_curly_crown
Heck, I didn't always want to practise and I LOVED music and made a career of it. My mama had to get after me like crazy - homework and music practice were treated as the same and there was no option about doing them, but I put up a fuss some days (and others, I loved it.) What was important to me was to practise my scales and assigned pieces and then have free time to play whatever I wanted, improvise, play and sing, and just enjoy the piano. When I could do that, I was much happier. I remember all the pressure when a competition was coming up and sometimes I am shocked that I stuck with it - I must have really loved it.

It sounds like your son really loves it too, and has talent. I can see why him doing music is important given the rest of his circumstances. I think it's kind of harsh of your husband to threaten to end the lessons if he really loves them. I think it's important that you stick with the lessons. I think his refusal to practise is quite normal.

However, I think the approach you take depends on what he wants out of music. If you want him to have the opportunity to study and maybe teach piano or perform classical piano in some capacity, then it is important to learn solid technique and standard repertoire and be able to sight-read well. If this teacher can't motivate him to do it, you may want to consider whether you want another teacher. You're mentioning that the teacher comes to your home - is this teacher coming from a small music school where you pay the fees? Sometimes those teachers are not the greatest. What are their qualifications?

However, if your son likes to compose and play by ear, you may want to consider if you want him to have a primary background in pop music (I personally think he should stick with the classical but also cultivate this other interest by writing down or recording his compositions, maybe taking a class in how to read chords, composition classes etc. as he gets older.) If you decide to go ONLY with the pop background, then I would find an instructor with extensive experience in the field and make sure he learns those basics. But I think the structure and discipline of classical piano will help him and open more doors to him. He might like guitar in addition to piano - it offers a lot of opportunities to improvise and compose.
Originally Posted by Amneris
Wow. Were we on the same wavelength or what? I didn't see your posts until I had replied. I guess that teaches me not to skim the first page and then post!
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Last edited by QuirkyYogini; 08-30-2008 at 01:12 PM. Reason: added a word that changed the meaning of everything. Oops!
When I was 9, I was required to play violin, viola, or cello as part of my school's curriculum. I could also have done choir, but all of the mean kids went that route.

I hated the violin, and didn't practice enough. It hurt my fingers, and it takes a lot of skill to make the notes sound good, let alone play the right notes. This is probably different from your son's piano situation, because I'm guessing my parents weren't too eager to listen to a 9-year-old struggle with the violin. While it would be great to know how to play the violin, it's still not something that I'm interested in working at.

While all this was going on, however, I was in my third year of piano lessons. Those I really enjoyed, and I practiced every day. The instrument that only needs to be tuned twice a year is clearly superior to the other stringed instruments, anyway.

Anyway, the point of all that is: Maybe your son loves music, but doesn't love the piano as much as he would another instrument.

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