Learning a new song on the piano can be challenging, especially for a beginning student. Once the piano lesson is over, how do you help your child take the next step? Here are some tips for learning new songs:
Before your child tries to play a song, have them listen to it several times. In fact, if you have the listening tracks from the Hoffman Academy lesson materials, it is a great idea to start listening to a song at least a week before watching the lesson that introduces it. You can also encourage your kids to listen to any new songs they want to learn on streaming services or YouTube. Once the student has learned to play the song, you can continue to reinforce the song by listening to it everyday! This way, the student has internalized how the music sounds and not just the notes on a page!
Have your child sing the song along with the lesson or listening track, sing along with you, and then try singing it alone. For many kids, being able to sing a beginning level song is all it takes for them to be able to play it. When my students are struggling to play a song, I ask them to sing it, because this engages the musical part of their brain and allows them to play the song easier. This way, they aren’t just pressing a series of keys, but letting the music pass from their mind to their fingers!
Learning anything new requires some trial and error, and that’s true for new piano songs too. Have your child try playing the song. After playing through, go back and listen or sing it again. Ask them if what they played sounded right, and if not, what needs to change the next time they play. This trains the student to apply critical thinking to music making and even become their own “teacher”, because they are growing through self-critique and goal setting!
Sometimes, even after listening and singing, a child might still be struggling to play a song. If that happens, here are some other things you can try:
- Have your child sing out loud WHILE playing.
- Using the sheet music, take a measure or two at a time, and have your child walk through, note by note, and tell whether notes are repeating, stepping up or down, or skipping up or down.
- Instead of singing the lyrics, sing the solfège or the finger numbers.
- Watch the lesson again.
After a child is able to play a song from start to finish, but is still making a few mistakes, here are some ways to help them improve:
- Day 1: Play your age. Have your child play through the song as many times as their age in years.
- Day 2: Earn your age. Now the goal is to see if your child can play the song with no missed notes. Every success earns a point. Any missed notes and you lose a point. When you earn as many points as your age, you win!
- Super Challenges: Once your child can play the melody of a beginning song well with one hand, try playing it the other hand, or with both hands. You can also try changing to a different position, for example if a song is in C position try playing it in G position.
How do you practice a hard piano piece?
How can I practice more difficult music? Can I apply some of these ideas to a hard piano piece? The answer to this question is yes! First, listening is ALWAYS a good idea, because music is about creating something that is beautiful to the ear.
If I wanted to learn a piano piece by Franz Liszt, such as the Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2, I would listen to it first. I would find a pianist who plays it with ease and finesse, such as Marc-André Hamelin, and listen to it everyday for at least a week. This way, I’ve internalized a beautiful interpretation of that work.
Even with difficult pieces like this, I still sing along with myself. Singing is a powerful tool that can help a musician to feel more connected to the music itself and less to the notes on the page.
How long does it take a pianist to learn a new piece?
There really is no set time for how long it takes to learn a new piece, but with time and dedication, I believe that you can learn the music that you’re interested in learning. The key here is to be patient with yourself as you practice and have fun!
Learning new songs is one of the most fun and exciting parts of music lessons. Remember to take it a step at a time, and approach the song through listening and singing before playing. Before long, a new song will feel like an old friend.
Now that you know how to learn a new song, why not try it out? Head over to our library of Popular Songs.