PPP071: Is There Hope for Your Non-practicing Piano Kid? Piano Teacher, Nicola Cantan, says Yes!

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Is there hope for your non-practicing piano kid? Are they going through a season of no motivation to practice?

Are they needing some new music that they are passionate about learning?

Nicola Cantan shares the value of great music and encouraging parents in today’s show.

Nicola Cantan is a piano teacher from Dublin, Ireland.

Nicola readily admits that there was a time in her younger years as a piano student that she didn’t practice as much as she should have. This should be music to the ears of piano parents with children who are struggling to get to the piano. Help them get through this season and spur them on with engaging music and positive feedback.

In addition to being a passionate piano teacher, Nicola is also a blogger who offers helpful resources to piano teachers. You can find her blog, Colourful Keys, here. She also runs a wonderful membership site, Vibrant Music Teaching, where teachers can download amazing teaching resources to help gamify musical concepts for their students.

Last summer, Nicola even compiled a blog post with several articles and resources, especially for piano parents. You can read it here. (There is even a mention of a certain podcast we all know and love – wink, wink!)

Were you a good student?

No.

While Nicola was pleasant and participated well during her piano lessons, she wasn’t motivated to practice as much as she should have and made slow progress early on. Once she transferred to a different teacher who gave her more interesting music to play her love for music and making interesting sounds at the piano flourished.

This is great news for piano parents! Just because your piano kid isn’t practicing like they should doesn’t mean all is lost. Consider communicating with your teacher to find music that will make a better connection with your child. You may also need to evaluate if a different teacher would relate to your son or daughter more than the current teacher. Make adjustments but don’t give up.

Listen to Episode 069: How Young is Too Young to Start Piano Lessons? to hear Nicola’s excellent response to my question about helping young students to be successful in their lessons.

What is one thing you often say to your piano students?

Nicola says she often reminds students to “Go slower!” – not just young students but older students as well.

There is a big difference between the student’s version of slow and the teacher’s version of slow. Piano parents can help their children have a more successful practice session simply by reminding them to play their pieces slower. When they think they’ve played the piece slowly enough, play it again even slower.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is there something you often have to remind piano parents about?

Creating a practice routine is vital. Aim to play your piano pieces at the same time of day or after the same activity every day. Establish a consistent practice habit early. If you practice every day at 4:00 pm there is so much that can be added to that as your child progress. You can make the sessions longer, aim for higher quality; there is so much scope to make the practice better.

However, if your practice is haphazard and lacks regularity it will be so much harder to implement those things and you will get much more pushback from you piano kid.

Unfortunately, this need for consistency is the same for adults!

What keeps you motivated as a teacher?

Learning.

As teachers, we should be lifelong learners. It could be exploring a new style of music or an entirely new activity that stretches your comfort zone. Nicola recently joined a choir! Learning these new things brings a fresh perspective to your teaching. New experiences help us relate to the new things our children are experiencing.

Do you have a favorite piece you enjoy teaching your students?

The piece that I enjoy teaching most to the student is the piece that they really want to learn. It really is that simple. The enthusiasm of the student is infectious. Even a piece that’s been taught many times before becomes new through the student’s fresh experience.

One of Nicola’s students recently requested to learn “Somewhere Only We Know” by Lily Allen. It is on a British advertisement every year around Christmastime. The student loves it and her enthusiasm for it is infectious to Nicola. I wasn’t familiar with this song until Nicola mentioned it on the podcast but I fell in love with it when I watched this video she shared with us. I hope you enjoy it too.

Any piece that a student brings to me that they would love to be able to play and that they’re going to be proud of, that’s my favorite piece to teach.

We enjoy watching our students learn and grow through the music they love.

Tell us about apps or technology that you find useful in your teaching.

Super Metronome Groovebox (available for Apple and Android users) – provides a drumbeat for students to play along with. Helps students follow the beat in a way that they are more accustomed to over a metronome.

Musiclock (available for Apple) – students play scales or improvisations along with 1000’s of backing tracks in many different styles. Helps students play evenly and in time with the drummer.

iReal Pro (available for Apple and Android users) – a slightly more advanced app appropriate for older students. Students are able to select preloaded songs and adapt the style of the rhythm. Students are also able to create their own chord progressions with iReal Pro. Playing with backing tracks helps students learn to keep moving forward; they can’t go back and fix mistakes.

If you could visit with any composer or musician, who would you choose and why?

Nina Simone (1933 – 2003) was a classically trained pianist who transitioned into a jazz performer and legend. She used her music to convey her beliefs and message during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s.

You can learn more about Nina Simone here.

I think this is a lovely combination of “Good King Wenceslas” and “Little Girl Blue”. It showcases Miss Simone’s beautiful piano playing and warm voice.

Your piano kid might be interested in reading more about Nina Simone in this newly released book, “Nina: Jazz Legend and Civil Rights Activist Nina Simone”

Parting Words of Wisdom from Nicola

Remember to establish a consistent practice routine.

You, piano parent, are your child’s biggest cheerleader. Learning to play the piano is really hard so your child will thrive on your encouragement.

You can get to know Nicola more through her websites

In addition to being a passionate piano teacher, Nicola is also a blogger who offers helpful resources to piano teachers. You can find her blog, Colourful Keys, here. She also runs a wonderful membership site, Vibrant Music Teaching, where teachers can download amazing teaching resources to help gamify musical concepts for their students.

Last summer, Nicola even compiled a blog post with several articles and resources, especially for piano parents. You can read it here. (There is even a mention of a certain podcast we all know and love – wink, wink!)

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