My piano teaching studio seems to be placed in the middle of a medical phenomenon. I’ve taught five sets of twins and two sets of triplets over my years as a piano teacher; apparently there is a large concentration of musical multiples in my small town! With these pairings I learned a great deal about navigating the touchy (and sometimes confusing area) that surrounds teaching siblings who are close in age. Most of us teach siblings; are you struggling with the three main problems you face when teaching piano lessons to siblings?
1. Method Book Madness!
Question: When teaching siblings of comparable age should you use the same books for both or different method books that you yourself aren’t thrilled with? Should you use the same level of book for both if they are close in age? In method books that match, it’s painfully obvious when one sister surpasses the other… but should you sacrifice your preference in method books simply to protect an ego?
Answer: Don’t sacrifice your choice in method books for the sake of your student’s feelings. Sounds a bit harsh, but you have chosen the method books you use for a reason. While your student may feel better in the short-term, they’re going to be quite frustrated in the long run while you scramble to fill-in holes in their understanding created by a less-than-perfect method book series. Instead, give each sibling the same main lesson book and then vary the accompanying materials. Give one the Performance Book and one the Popular Book from the series. Or, choose an accompanying supplementary book from another series for each child. This way they each have their own unique music to play. It’s important to have some individuality, but it’s also extremely important to have a solid grounding.
2. Spread the Wealth?
Question: When rewarding your piano students for their efforts with studio awards or recognition do you always have to be fair and give both siblings recognition at the same time… even if only one is particularly deserving? Will rewarding just one cause negative connotations towards the piano for the other?
Answer: By falling into the trap of “I should really give Ryan something too if Bryan is getting an award” you actually end up taking away the effectiveness of the awards all together. Recognition means so much more when it is completely genuine and when the child themselves knows they were deserving. Do make an effort to recognize both siblings at various points in the year – but give each their own moment in the sun.
3. I Know This One!
Question: How do you teach the “behind” sibling to play their pieces without relying on their ears? If you are having siblings share method books (or if even if they are a year or two behind big bro) they’ve heard these pieces a million times. It’s then natural for them to rely more on their ears than their eyes when learning it for themselves. How do you keep the “newness” in each piece to ensure a proper learning experience?
Answer: Vary “sibling number two’s” repertoire widely. It’s inevitable that the method book pieces may be old hat to your younger sibling student. However, make sure they still learn how to approach a brand new (and unheard of) piece by choosing lots of material from outside of their method books.
One of the great things about our supplementary series The Adventures of Fearless Fortissimo is the fact that you actually receive 3 levels of music when you purchase the book. This means that siblings who have the same interests but who play at different levels can still enjoy the motivating pieces – but each at their own level with no extra cost to you! Early Elementary, Elementary and Intermediate versions of each of the pieces are all contained within the instant download. Die-hard Episode 1 fans can check out Episode 2 here!