(Three reasons to encourage your child to sound . . .well . . . awful.)
Do you insist that your child only make beautiful sounds while practicing? Most people want their children to learn excellent practicing habits. For some parents, that means moving through the order of scales and pieces with efficiency and focus, always improving, correcting, and honing. When our children practice the “right way,” we are proud of their progress and consider the cost of lessons to be money well spent.
What if your child occasionally takes a detour from the practice schedule and bangs away at random keys? She slides her fingers up and down the keyboard, or deliberately plays notes together that don’t harmonize well. Perhaps she plays a pattern repetitively, over and over and over, or deliberately leaves all the sharps and flats out of a piece she has learned. Then she presses down all the low keys at once while stepping on the sustain pedal and it sounds like a horror movie.
Some parents might be tempted to tell her to “Stop banging on the piano!” The wiser parent, however, knows better: fooling around on the piano is actually an important part of her music education and should be encouraged, in addition to her more structured practice time!
1. Your child is exercising creativity. She is thinking outside of the box, and is considering the possibility that music may also exist apart from what is written in her books. Art is about taking risks, and your daughter is taking a risk by experimenting with sound. The single most important factor distinguishing a great composer from a good musician, for example, is originality– desire to produce something new and different. A willingness to do more than copy others, to make mistakes and to try something new is the cornerstone of the creative personality.
2. She is learning what her instrument can do. Think of the piano as a complex machine. Your daughter’s familiarity and comfort level with the piano expands every time she discovers some new sound it is capable of. What happens when you press down all three pedals? When you play nothing but the black keys? What does it sound like when you press down ten keys at once? She will be a more versatile player when she knows the breadth and limits of what her instrument is capable of.
3. She is having fun. Most families who invest in music lessons want their children to stick with it, and enjoyment is an important part of the equation. Fooling around on the piano allows your daughter “down” time with music. She will understand that practicing requires her to be focused, but that sometimes recreation time exists as well. She is more likely to develop a life-long habit of sitting down at the piano if she knows she is permitted to relax and have fun.
There are very few “wrong” ways to play a piano! Celebrate it every time your child chooses to sit down and bang away!