If you have invested in music lessons for your child, the best way to maximise that investment is to follow up on how the lesson went each week. I love it when parents come to the lesson, or at least send a family member. For parents of very young children I make it a requirement, so that the follow up is done through the week.  But for busy parents (perhaps of older pupils) who can’t attend, the next best thing is to equip them with some useful questions to draw out from their child what was both taught and learned at the lesson.

Did you have some new music today?

Asking about a new piece can tell you several things. If the child didn’t get something new to learn, it may be that they hadn’t established last week’s material and needed more time on it.  If they did get something new, it means they are building on what they have learned and moving forward.  It is always nice to share a new piece with someone and it gives the learner more incentive to press on and learn it well when a family member takes an interest.

Can you play it for me after dinner? (or whatever time is a good time for you both)

If your child is bursting to show you their new piece, it is going to be really helpful to find a time when you can give them your full attention.  Full attention at an arranged time is going to be more meaningful than a quick, “show me now” sort of hearing.

Is there anything you are finding difficult?

Ask if they know what they should do if it is difficult. Suggestions if they don’t know:

  1. Find the hard bit – maybe over 1 or 2 bars.
  2. Play RH slowly, counting aloud one hand at a time – until 3x perfect in a row.
  3. Play LH slowly, counting aloud one hand at a time – until 3x perfect in a row.
  4. Play it again hands together – until 3x perfect in a row.
  5. Now see if you can play the whole line of music it is in.

If there was a trouble spot that seemed too hard, let your tutor know at least in an email so they can be aware of it in the next lesson.

Could you play one of your old pieces now?

Playing through older pieces often, in some sort of routine, is going to help the young musician become more confident and fluent. If they only ever play through the latest piece, they are always in learning mode. They need times to simply play music they know, happily and easily. This is the reason I usually like to keep the last 3 to 4 pieces ‘on the boil’ so to speak.

You played that beautifully! Would you like to play it for ‘X and Y’ next time they come? They would love to hear it.

It is so valuable for children to perform for friendly audiences such as friends or grandparents, especially something they like playing. This is why it is good to keep those older pieces that have become favourites up to a good performance standard. If they have a positive experience with a sympathetic audience, switching to another setting later is easier.

 Shall we play together? (if you are a musician)

If there are duet parts that someone can play with the learner, it is best to do those with the pieces they know confidently. Some books have CD tracks to go with them. If so, listen to them with your child and see if there are any older pieces they know that they can play along with.

Could you show me how to play that? (If you are a non-musician)

Children do so well when a parent is keen to learn from them what they learned.  You get double the value from the lesson too! And the child will learn it better as they teach it. Depending on the age of the child, choose something manageable for them to ‘teach’ you.  Make sure you practice!


I hope you can find something to draw from to ask your child after their lessons each week. But it’s best that you don’t do them all in one hit! Whichever way you do it, the interest you take will have a direct effect on the enthusiasm of your child to keep at their learning when the initial novelty becomes routine.

In all of this, if you discover something your child particularly liked in their lesson, let the tutor know. Teachers are also investing in your child’s learning and are interested to know what is working well.

I heard it again this week. I know I’m far more likely to hear this in the course of my week than you might, but there is a regret there that I want to unpack a bit today.

 Why do children quit the piano, and what can we do to help them stick at it?

As part of setting up my music school I have worked towards each pupil having such a positive experience that they will not give up easily. It means I’ve needed to watch for signs that indicate someone might stop lessons and address them.


Here are the main reasons I have heard from people who gave up learning piano:

  1. They didn’t get on with the teacher in some way.
  2. The material they were learning was boring.
  3. They preferred playing by ear over reading music and focused on that, never really learning to read. Once the music got beyond a certain level it all got too hard.

There are other reasons too:

  1. Not able to keep up the practice needed because of too many after school activities.
  2. A sibling or a friend, also learning, is doing much better, so discouragement sets in.
  3. Parents are too busy to give support and encouragement in practice at home.
  4. Cost of lessons, books, etc. becomes prohibitive.
  5. Wanting to switch to another instrument.
  6. The family situation changes and maintaining lessons and practice no longer works.
  7. A bad performance experience discourages them and they are unwilling to give it another go.
  8. Practicing on a poor/inadequate instrument…or even trying out lessons to see if they like it without any instrument to practice on (true story)!

Many of these issues come about due to unfulfilled expectations from the outset. I like to set my pupils up well so they are off to a good start, making sure the parents have an appropriate instrument and that they have a realistic understanding of what needs to be in place as their child starts piano lessons. It’s a given that if one is paying for lessons, the investment should involve careful follow up from what their child learns at lessons each week.

If your child is learning an instrument, here are some practical suggestions based on the above.

  1. Keep the lines of communication open between you and your child’s teacher. If there is something you don’t understand in their learning, or there is a struggle in a particular area, email or phone the tutor. I often find that the children who do the best are those whose parents actually attend the lesson, even if infrequently, and depending on the age of the child. That way, I connect with them about how to follow up on what is being learned.
  2. If the music they are learning is boring, again, talk to the tutor. In developing my own piano course, Headstart Piano, I sought to create a range of music to be engaging and nice to play, even at a simple level. Also I want to know if there is music that they particularly want to learn to play too. Where possible and practical for their level I will arrange this music for them.
  3. Sometimes children express an interest in learning to play the piano through an ability to pick things up by ear. So if they are presented with only learning written music they can find that quite a challenge. I use special pieces to help pupils learn to play by ear, as well as other pieces for reading music. Sometimes the music they specifically want to play can be learned by ear too.

These are the main areas to address for now. There are ways to work through the other 8 reasons, which I’ll maybe get to another time. I’d also like to look at how to help the many adults I chat with who’d love to pick up again on the lost opportunities from poor childhood musical experiences.

I try to keep two things in balance as part of my mission statement to awaken my pupils’ musical awareness: I want to be sure the pupils I tutor are learning what they need to learn (a skill set that needs practice and attention) in the process of becoming a musician. But along with this I work alongside them to inspire them to keep at that learning process by helping them play what they want to play too.

This tightrope balance is all in the hope that I can keep anyone on my watch from saying in 20 year’s time that they wished they had never given up the piano; that, on the contrary, they still play and it is one of the most wonderful things they ever put their hands to. 

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