Seven years ago, I tried to teach my wife to play piano. We lasted three full lessons that included multiple instances of her shoving her hands under her armpits a la Superstar and shaking her head, refusing to try whatever was to come next.
It was my fault. I attempted to teach her using an adult piano book. It’s like I had never met her. We have remedied that this time by using the Alfred Method for Child Piano Playing (not its actual name) complete with fun lyrics that accompany playing only the black keys. She giggled with glee when we opened this book.
Anyway, one of her 2015 resolutions is to learn to play piano and her planned method for attaining such a task is to have me teach her. As most music teachers can attest, it is often hard to teach your own child. I feel ya.
Last night, we had lesson one. She plopped down on the piano bench and I pulled a chair over to sit next to her. We began by practicing correct piano hand posture. She did this very well, though she did ask with some consternation whether she actually had to stand up and let her arms hang loose or if she could just do it sitting. Oppositional defiance.
Then we got to play with the black keys. “There are white keys and black keys,” I read to her. “The black keys are spaced in twos and threes running the length of the keyboard.”
“Why aren’t the black keys on one side and the white keys on the other side?” she asked and then quickly said, “Oh. It’s not a Republican keyboard.”
From the mouths of babes.
She practiced playing the notes two at a time up and down the piano. She already knew Middle C from our previous lessons seven years ago and did an excellent job. The book includes “duets” that the instructor is to play along with the student to make it sound more interesting and to gain their love and enjoyment of learning.
Boy did it ever! When I finally got her to count beats without rushing (this included some gentle slapping on her back which I would not do with any other student but my own child), I played along with the songs she was learning. One of these was a march and she asked that we play it three times. She giddily gave me a high five after each rendition. “This is great!” she exclaimed.
“Do you want to move on to playing three black keys together?” I asked.
Hands to armpits. Head shake. “No. I think I need to practice this so I really get it.”
I nodded. “Perfect. Here ends lesson one. You’re only a few away from playing Rachmaninoff.”
“Yay!” she said and then we went downstairs and played ping pong for an hour.
The lesson is simple: We do better when we are not being adults.