First of all, what is “the room”?
“The room” used to be a real teaching room. But online the “the room” is now a virtual place. Now more than ever before it is vital to have a parent – or guardian – in lessons along with the child.
If the same adult is not present each week, the lessons do not work. The child is lost. This is not like a group lesson in a classroom, where the children all learn together.
The younger the student, the more important the parent’s role becomes. When starting a child of around eight years of age or younger it is inevitable that the parents will pick up concepts and skill faster, so the parent leads during the week, outside of lessons. Private lessons are once a week, and if learning only happens in the lessons it can take a year or more to make the kind of progress we hope for just in the first month.
What should the parent do?
First of all, the parent should understand each concept I’m teaching and be able to help with that concept over the week. The parent should spend some time at the piano each day, alone, nailing things down. If this does not happen, things proceed much slower.
What comes first?
Lines and spaces come first. They are the “alphabet” of what we do. If you can’t find lines and spaces in both the treble and bass clef, you can’t read. The adult will always understand this first and master this first. Later that flips. Over time the child will start out looking to the parent for help. Later there is parity. Eventually – and usually well within the first year – the child will start to get so fast that the parent can no longer fully follow, and then we have total success.
What about fingering and technique?
Both these things are terribly important, but they can’t be the initial focus because a student – of any age – can only learn one thing and practice on one thing. As each skill is learned and internalized we then have time to begin on the next. Fingering comes second, but first we have to get those lines and spaces.
What about timing – rhythm and counting?
This is also very important, obviously. Without rhythm we have only notes, and the correct notes without rhythm is not music. It’s just a bunch of almost random sounds. So we have to get counting onboard rather quickly. But it has to be the 3rd thing. First we need lines and spaces to find the keys, and for that we don’t care about left and right hands or fingering. When we know the lines and spaces, then we can talk about which fingers to use. When we have the fingering working, we can add rhythm. But it has to be in the order, once concept at a time. Lines and spaces first, then fingers, then counting. In that order.