The Joys of the Parent Pupil.

The new term brings fresh challenges and new pupils for many music teachers. One interesting group of prospective students is the ‘parent’ pupil.  A parent will  occasionally announce that they wish to start playing the piano alongside their child. There are many reasons for this; it may be that they want to keep an eye on their son or daughter and their progress (or lack of it), or perhaps they want to be able to help their child with weekly piano practice, or it may just be that they have always wanted to play and think it will be an excellent hobby. Whatever the reason they can be very satisfying students to teach.

Parent pupils will be able to help their offspring in so many ways. They will have an informed interest in the joys and frustrations involved in learning, and realistic expectations about rates of progress as well as the importance of regular practice. They can also give complete support and encouragement which is crucial if the child is to make swift progress with their playing.

One of the benefits of this relationship is shared practice. The parent can help the child foster good practising habits by regularly monitoring posture, hand positions, and rhythm. Technical exercises which may seem boring can be turned into fun if both parties explore different ways and speeds to practice observing who can play the most accurately. Another game could be ‘spot the deliberate mistake’ which will help devlop note reading and aural skills.

The parent – child duo are a ready made duet partnership. There are many duet (two pianists playing one piano together) pieces arranged for beginners and hopefully a helpful teacher will guide their students to the most appropriate ones. The parent will help their child focus on the details such as keeping time and correct notes and fingerings, they will also be able to share in the sense of achievement after performing a piece for the family.

Perhaps the most important role the parent pupil can take is to lead by example. They can illustrate the importance of regular practice by making time in their day and consequently when their child sees this, they tend to follow and gradually view practice as a necessary route to improvement. When a parent’s good intentions occasionally fall by the wayside they might find themselves being gently reprimanded by their child! Another amusing situation occurs when the child becomes more fluent than their parent, and parents will then find themselves ‘having a lesson’ from their son or daughter. Most parents are delighted with this development and it can offer children a real sense of confidence and achievment.

Children to do need proper support when learning to master an instrument. It does help if a parent is around to help with practice sessions particularly if the child is young, so if a parent does decide to take lessons this can only be a positive influence on a child’s musical development. If you have been planning to take piano lessons with your child then what are you waiting for? Start playing and have fun.


Melanie Spanswick has written and published a wide range of courses, anthologies, examination syllabuses, and text books, including Play it again: PIANO (published by Schott Music). This best-selling graded, progressive piano course contains a large selection of repertoire featuring a huge array of styles and genres, with copious practice tips and suggestions for every piece.

For more information, please visit the publications page, here.

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Lovely post, Mel. I have one parent who has been learning alongside her daughter, ostensibly so that she could help her daughter with her piano study. As is often the way, the daughter has somewhat overtaken mum, not necessarily in repertoire (she’s about to do Grade 1) but in quality of playing and confidence. She has gone from being quite a timid child to a model of poise and a surprising amount of expression in her playing.

    1. Thank you Fran. It’s great when a child develops in that way and it’s often purely because the parent is there to encourage them – it’s so important. I’m sure the Mum will catch up eventually.

  2. A.Layman says:

    This is totally irrelevant but this week I had a strange piano experience. The agent of a certain British concert pianist contacted me via the BBC as I was offered a free hour of his time at Steinway Hall because he’d heard an email of mine read out on Radio 3 about giving up the piano after 5 years and much disenchantment and anxiety. Eyes light up wildly. Then I talk to my wife and check my bank balance and budget and find I cannot visit this wonderful little piano Mecca because I’d never be able to afford the train fare. I’m on benefit. And so castles made of sand fall in the sea, eventually.

    1. Very sorry to hear that. What a shame – it would have been really interesting!

  3. A.Layman says:

    Yes indeed, and these London Piano sessions would be right up my alley as I try to go to as many free recitals as I possibly can. Birmingham has to be the most uncultured major city in Britain but there is the Conservatoire and there are Monday Showcases there which are free and offer their students a chance to perform a diverse range of musical fare…and there are many pianists from all over the world that feature.

    However my experiences do pose a question, is learning and playing the piano (or indeed any musical instrument) the sole preserve of the rich??? Should I, as a lower class specimen be watching commercial trash like Coronation Street and the ‘x’ Factor rather than Leeds highlights or obscure little Proms and even taking an interest in what’s under the lid of an acoustic upright???

  4. las artes says:

    Your child should be able to sit still for about 10-15 minutes while focusing on having fun at the piano. Under no circumstances should you expect a little one to be able to sit for longer than 10-15 minutes at a time while keeping a strong focus on any one musical concept. If your child can do these things, chances are you can start meaningful lessons for the child. Many parents get very frustrated because they expect their child to be able to concentrate for a longer amount of time. The child simply cannot, and lesson time and practice time becomes pure torture.

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