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I've been teaching a 9 year old kid piano for about 10 months and it has been going pretty well, but recently I was asked to teach a few more kids (one as young as 6) to play piano. Teaching the 9 year old kid was the first experience I've had teaching music and I tended to cater to his abilities while still challenging him and teaching him music and piano fundamentals in a way that he enjoyed. Now, I worried that if cater to all of my new students I will essentially be teaching them different ideas and miss some basic fundamentals.

How do I balance maximizing the student's interest in music with maximizing playing ability and should I teach them all in a similar way or cater to each?

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Do you have any pedagogy training at all? Formal music training? You say that the nine-year-old is your first-ever student. Not passing judgment one way or the other, but it may help make any answer more useful to know the background from which you ask the question. –  Andrew Nov 8 '13 at 21:26
    
I was trained classically in piano for 8 years, and I have also taken lessons for guitar and trumpet. I am currently getting a music theory minor. I know I won't be a the best teacher for these kids, but I hope I can get them started and eventually have them move on with a good foundation. –  Dom Nov 8 '13 at 21:34

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Striking the balance between teaching the fundamentals and keeping the child interested can be a difficult balance to meet. It may be trivial for some children naturally gifted, curious, and interested, and it may be that some other children are just not ready (yet) for an instrument. I don't think there is a technique that will work for all children even though some teachers are more talented at this game than others.

Think Suzuki vs. more classical approaches: Suzuki children tend to be able to play music pieces very quickly early on though with major gaps in the fundamentals, such their ability to read music properly. Some of these children catch up with these fundamentals later on and do wonders as adults. Many others hit a dead end after 5-6 years of using that method when what they never learned before prevents them from expanding further. Very different tradeoffs that work for some and not others...

Personal approach here: discuss from the start with the child and his/her parents what they are after. Getting a consensus between you, the child, and the parents, as to what is important will go a long way in making what you teach relevant.

The technique and the fundamentals can be made fun to practice only up to some point, and if the child + parent motivation isn't there to encourage the practice of these fundamentals, you will be hitting your head and the child's head against a brick wall if you insist on bringing all the fundamentals that you deem as important from the start.

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Try the suzuki method. It is directed to children. http://internationalsuzuki.org/method.htm

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I had a similar situation teaching 7 and 8 year olds for the first time.

I think it's important to cater to each one individually, for example one struggled with sheet music reading while other took to it easily to the point of being slightly bored of it.

Find out more about your students. What music are they interested in personally? What sort of pieces do they like playing on the piano? Play a few sample pieces, different speeds, different styles: classical/jazz/blues. Give them a few options of what pieces they want to learn.

In my example, the student who was more skilled at sheet music was also creative in other aspects such as singing. For a couple of weeks I reduced the focus on proceeding through their practised pieces and gave them a couple of exercises in coming up with a simple chord pattern and developing it into a simple piece of their own and let them come up with lyrics.

For the other student, he suggested a couple of popular music songs he was into so I printed off some piano solo versions/covers and would teach him a little bit as a reward for getting through his pieces each week.

It's definitely important to have them keep up with the suggested pieces and technical exercises but now and then it's good to throw in a fun exercise or distraction in the lesson to stop them being put off by repetition.

HTH

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