Thursday, 3 May 2012

Day 164 - Are music lessons worth the pain?

"Don't look at the keys!  LOOK AT THE MUSIC!"
There's a tight knot in my stomach and I'm not even playing.  
My 7 year old is the one having the lesson with the slightly scary russian piano teacher.  We all have to go; so the other two are fidgeting on the sofa and I'm trying to crochet a granny square, willing him to hit the right notes...

Taking a deep breath and heading down the music route has the potential to be seriously stressful (and expensive).  The lesson itself is one thing, but getting them to practice can be a whole world of pain.   
Worse than homework. In my experience.   

And to be clear, there was no pushy, tigery grrr mum stuff involved here  - he was desperate to have piano lessons, and it seemed fair because his brother does so much football.  But once he realised he wasn't going to be able to play the Simpson's theme tune any time soon, it all went a bit pear-shaped.
We had tears and tantrums....and a lot of banging the piano keys with his feet.....Soooo so draining. I hadn't taken on board just how much of a commitment it was for both of us. 

I was close to calling it a day 6 months ago. Surely there's no point making a child do something they don't want to do - or a parent for that matter?   End the misery, save the cash.....but it felt too easy.  I wanted him to start learning he couldn't just quit because it was hard.  Not yet anyway.  I also thought of friends who wish they hadn't given up.

Now we are a step or two further down the road.  The battles can still be bloody and I wouldn't have a hope without a bit of bribery. But when I hear him play, I'm pretty sure I made the right decision. Painful as it was.  
What works for him is little and often -  this seems to help avoid meltdown the night before a lesson.  The piano has also done wonders for his confidence.  Recently he played in front of his whole school. He was fine.  I was a nervous wreck.
Maybe you've not had any problems, and it's all been plain sailing (lucky, lucky you) But if you are on the verge of stopping/screaming/selling said instrument, I'd say give it another shot....if you can bear it !  
There is something lovely at the end of that long, dark tunnel.


  1. Practicing is definitely worse than homework! Even a cash bribery hasn't persuaded my daughter to play her flute any more than during the actual lesson. She pays for the flute hire herself (out of birthday/christmas money and pocket money) so as long as she wants to do it it's fine by me!

  2. It is the most frustrating thing! My 7 year old KNOWS the lesson goes better with some practice, but it still doesn't seem to make it any easier to get him to practice for the next one....I live in hope!

  3. I would love to see my girls take lessons, but I keep putting it off. I don't think I can be asked to fight another battle. He will appreciate this so much especially when he shocks all his friends in a few year's time at some party with his fab piano skills.

  4. Oh I hope you're right! I think he will appreciate it, if we can both stick at it....
    Wouldn't it be great to be able to play whatever you like? I can just about manage the first few bars of the Deer Hunter ...but that's it really!

  5. Oh yes, now I've read your post - I agree. Blue plays the trumpet - at his insistence. And he wants to keep having lessons. I don't have to endure the lessons because he has those at school, but when I suggest that he does dome practice I get tears and excuses, although actually he's getting reasonably proficient (this being a relative term - I don't mean proficient to grade 2 or anything as advanced as that - just that he no longer sounds like an elephant with a bowel problem.) I know what you mean about not letting them give up though - feels too easy. Pink is showing an interest in the piano and I think that might be easier. That's where I started too, although the fact that I could offer advice might not be a great thing ;-)

    1. Blimey - you must have gone through quite a pain barrier with the trumpet... But wonderful he wants to keep playing and is doing well. And you're so right about giving advice - never seems to work !

  6. Oh yes, I'll second this post. We are a musical household. All 3 girls (10, 8 and 6) play the piano and the older two play the double bass and the trombone.
    I insist that they all practice the piano every day they don't have a lesson and they have to practice their 2nd instruments 3 times a week as they also have lessons and band/ orchestra practice.
    We've had period of children screaming 'I QUIT' at me while they sob and tell me they hate me but the older two are doing grade 2 and grade 4 piano now and it's lovely listening to them play.
    I think if they show progress, then they should be encouraged to continue with an instrument as strongly as possible!

    1. How lovely that all your girls play. I'm seriously impressed with your music practice routine - it is a big commitment. Never mind my son, I'VE been close to tears a few times trying to get him to practice, and he's the only one I have to deal with! But you do need to have some kind of routine, or the wheels come off pretty quickly. It sounds like you've done a wonderful job x