As a master’s student, Zhang Fang, former head of the piano department at Shenyang Conservatory of Music, teaches piano performance.
In 1977, he was admitted to the piano department of the Shenyang Conservatory of Music, and at the age of 15, he gave his first solo recital.
He graduated from the Shenyang Conservatory of Music in 1987 and was admitted as a master’s student to the piano department of the Shenyang Conservatory of Music in 1987.
Today, we are privileged to have Prof. Zhang Fang will share his knowledge and experience on music education for children aged 4 to 7.
Professor 00:0029:59 Zhang Fang’s public lesson from Music Hive Online Children’s Piano
Content of the interview
1st It is said that the essence of education is the development of a child’s life value rather than the cultivation of talent. So, is aesthetic art ability and music training required?
I am very glad that people understand that “the essence of education is the development of a child’s life value, not the cultivation of talent,” and I greatly appreciate this statement.
Through my own musical journey, I have come to believe that music education should be an integral part of our overall quality of life.
We learn about the world as children through both rational and perceptual cognition. Perceptual cognition typically refers to our visual and auditory senses, with visual referring to art and auditory referring to music.
There is now a greater emphasis on rational education in the education of children’s growth, with a neglect of perceptual aspects of education and the cultivation of the audio, physical, and aesthetic faculties.
Art can help to beautify our lives, and learning art and music to help children develop their aesthetic skills is an important part of the human development process.
Learning a musical instrument, such as the piano or violin, is a specific way to learn music. Learning the piano is similar to learning other instruments in that it is a method of learning music, and the piano is the best instrument to get started with.
According to the ancient Greek philosopher Plato, a person who is well educated in music can quickly and happily absorb the beauty of works of art and things in nature into his mind as nourishment, and his character will become noble and beautiful as a result.
Allowing children to experience joy is thus the first precious gift that music brings to them, as well as the best cultivation in a child’s life.
Spiritual enrichment is the best kind of enrichment. Allow your child to learn music for the purpose of becoming a better version of himself, not of becoming a musician.
Q: Nowadays, children’s initiation education, such as English, art and dance, and other specialties, is in full swing, and children as young as one year old begin to enroll in classes.
A: Music and language are the same thing. When we say how old a child should be to begin learning to play the piano, we are referring to the age at which they begin learning to play the instrument.
As an auditory training, it can begin at birth; it is similar to language in that we speak to the baby every day. The same is true for music. We can play soothing music for our babies while they sleep, such as lullabies and other soothing music.
When it comes to music, you will notice that children have the ability to discern whether the music is upbeat or sad. You might think it’s difficult for such a small child, but I’ve tried giving a month old child to listen to different emotions, and he will have different feelings; give him to listen to a small cabbage, and he will actually cry; give him to listen to a very cheerful tune, and he will also be very happy.
For the cultivation of music, primarily the cultivation of perceptual cognitive skills, learning should begin at the age of six. Some mentally mature children, such as those who recognize words early or have a clearer concept of numbers, can begin learning at the age of one year.
However, it is not recommended to begin learning too early; it is still dependent on the family environment; if the family environment contains very few musical factors, it is not recommended to begin learning too early, or to hope that the child has a certain cognitive ability before beginning to learn.
I read an article the other day that compared music to language, and language has the process of listening, reading, and writing; in fact, playing the piano has such a process as well. Listening to the sounds of the piano, for example, is analogous to saying words before a child can recognize them; he understands the meaning of the words he is about to say before he is interested in knowing the words.
The child will gradually hear a change in mood in the musical process by listening to the high and low rhythms of the melody, the harmonic shades, and so on.
Children can babble through imitation and gradually sing the melody slowly to the tune when “speaking” in music is equivalent to singing. The term “reading” refers to the process of learning to read and sing music. There will be many obstacles and difficulties when playing the piano if you do not have a good knowledge of music.
Following the first steps, the final step is to write. It is equivalent to the final performance on the piano in the process of playing the piano, if the previous listening and reading have a certain foundation, this writing will become much easier.
Because music is an abstract language, more music education between the ages of 0 and 6 will enable children to learn music as their native language and develop a lifelong musical talent.
Q: Many mothers want to know why piano is the first choice of experts and offline institutions for music education.
A: First and foremost, let me explain why everyone wants to learn to play the piano. The piano can be expensive and take up a lot of space during the initial learning process, which is the first thing parents should consider when selecting a piano. Purchasing a violin, flute, or other instrument will relieve a lot of financial stress while taking up little space in the house.
So why should we learn piano first? For starters, if you learn strings, you will not have a fixed sense of pitch and it will be difficult to master the pitch itself because you will not have been trained.
For example, if a child initially hears adults speaking in the same flat voice, the child will believe that the voice is the same, and he will not have the impression that the pitch of the voice is low when he learns.
We don’t need to adjust the rhythm of the piano if the child first learns it because the piano’s rhythm is pre-programmed. The keyboard is also organized in a consistent manner, and the pitch is adjusted by a tuning lawyer so that the child does not have to look for it.
This makes learning music easier for the child because he only needs to use his hands to make the sound, such as playing “do” will make the “do” sound, and if it is strings, the hand position of the strength of the small changes will pull out different sounds. Even if the child has a poor understanding of pitch and meter, the sound will be difficult to hear.
We often joke that piano teachers are overjoyed because no matter how young the child is, he or she will be able to play the piano very well and enjoy it. A string teacher, on the other hand, can be very painful because the child may not be able to play correctly even after practicing, and he or she may be difficult to listen to, so he or she must endure a period of suffering.
Furthermore, because the piano is a two-handed, two-footed instrument, limbs must be used at this age to begin training, the child’s coordination will be very well trained. We parents can try this: if you and your child begin learning to play the piano at the same time, you may find yourself falling behind after six months.
Adults, from a rational standpoint, it is simple to learn the keyboard position; however, coordination of the limbs, particularly fine finger movement, becomes more difficult after a certain age because the bones and limbs have been set; therefore, training coordination becomes more difficult as one gets older, such as learning ballet, figure skating, gymnastics, and so on. are within a specific age range, older than which it is impossible to perform this occupation
Of course, this does not imply that learning to play the piano has to be a career, but for the duration of the child’s development, the younger he learns the instrument, the better. Learning can begin at a young age, but progress may be slow. If your child learns piano when he first encounters music, he will find it much easier to learn violin or folk instruments such as hu guzheng and pipa, and he will be able to play the tunes soon after mastering the basic principles of control.
Q: Since there are many offline educational institutions and piano teachers teaching all types of initiation classes nowadays, how should we judge and select the institution for initiation courses and teachers?
A: Because there is a lack of knowledge and understanding of the laws of music education, many parents and children experience a great deal of confusion and pain while learning music.
Parents are frequently asked to spend a significant amount of time with their children as they grow up, such as practicing or doing homework with them, which is actually a very good parent-child activity for children, and they can learn and grow together with them.
However, parents must put themselves in the right position to accompany their children, not as an educator; if parents put themselves in the wrong position, the learning results can sometimes be counterproductive. Parents always believe that I have to correct you, assist you, guide you, and do tutoring work for the teacher.
In fact, it isn’t necessary at all because the child’s mother and father are the closest people to him, and all of his confidence stems from his family’s encouragement. So parents only need to recognize their child’s learning achievement and encourage him to continue learning. If he is having difficulties in the learning process, his parents should be aware of the source of the difficulties.
We should leave it entirely to the teacher to guide the child, so carefully selecting the teacher for the child is something that we parents must consider. This is due to the fact that a child’s success in learning a subject, or even the child’s love for music, is heavily dependent on the first music teacher, which is directly related to the teacher’s educational approach and methods.
Learning to play the piano is a time-consuming process, both in terms of learning how to play the instrument and understanding the music. Parents must understand that the ultimate goal of music education is to allow children to experience more joy in life through music, not to cultivate geniuses, but to improve their artistic and aesthetic qualities.
In other words, learning music is not an elite education, and a teacher who does not understand children’s psychological activities may be unable to guide them successfully through the door of music.
This is due to the fact that, both in theory and in practice, this is not a simple discipline. Even if a child is initially taught very simple music theory, parents will sometimes say that it is so simple, but you must remember that he is a one-year-old child, and I am afraid that you do not understand this matter at the age of a year.
In addition to these theories, we must manipulate the instrument with both hands and even both feet in order for it to emit the corresponding sound; this complex process is not understood by those who have not learned the instrument.
There is also the issue of what is commonly known as a strict teacher producing a good student. In our common understanding, a strict teacher means a strict teacher, but a strict teacher can instill fear in a child. As one might expect, children are nervous when they learn they must take piano lessons, which can be detrimental to their learning and even their character.
What qualities distinguish a qualified children’s music teacher?
A qualified children’s music teacher is someone who, in addition to professional playing abilities, understands how to guide a child from the beginning to the various stages of advancement. He is able to describe specific exercises and points using simple and clear language.
Furthermore, one should understand child psychology because children have a variety of psychological issues that can only be resolved by understanding them. Teachers who do not focus on psychological training but only teach music knowledge, in my opinion, are not qualified teachers, and parents must exercise caution when selecting a teacher for their children.
People frequently say that learning to play the piano is a difficult task, but I believe it is both difficult and not difficult, depending on how you approach it. I often tell my students that perseverance is the key to success, because not every child is destined to be a pianist or musician, but music should be a mandatory subject to learn and practice as we grow older.
Even if your child is overburdened with schoolwork, and even if you are overburdened, it is critical to schedule time for piano practice. It is not difficult to continue learning the art as long as parents are not so utilitarian!
However, it is difficult to say what level you want to achieve after two months, or what level you want to jump to after a half-year of exams. Not to mention learning the piano, even in elementary school, if you use two years to complete the grade course all, how much hard work the child has to pay, how much hard work the parents have to pay! So, parents, don’t rush your child’s growth, give him time to grow.
Q: Many parents want to know if it is possible to use an electric piano instead of an acoustic piano in the beginning stage if they want to learn piano but cannot set up an acoustic piano at home or are concerned about the cost.
A: This is a very realistic question. First and foremost, electric pianos are divided into electronic and electric pianos, which are also very different.
The cost of an electric piano ranges from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars, with the best ones costing around 30,000 dollars. If parents have limited financial resources, they can purchase an electric piano; however, I would not recommend purchasing an electronic piano. Because the mechanical part of the piano is very complex, there are many parts inside, and the depth of the keyboard will play a significant role in training the fingers.
The electronic piano is a capacitive piece that will be connected to the sound after pressing down, and the keyboard is very shallow and light, making it unsuitable for training finger strength and independence.
In terms of keyboard depth, the electric piano is slightly better than the electronic piano, and if the price is higher, the electric piano will have a movement part that simulates the feel of a real piano.
The electronic piano is a digital electronic sound that lacks emotional tension and vitality, and it will be limited for children’s aesthetics and musical and artistic enlightenment. The electronic sound is like a digital robot talking, and even though the digital machine is improving and talking like a real person, it still does not have the tone and voice of a real person.
The tone on a good quality electric piano will capture the sound of a concert piano, which is essentially close to the sound of a real piano, but it is not the sound of a real piano, and its expressiveness in terms of depth and speed will remain poor.
Many parents believe that the road ahead for their children’s piano education is unknown, and if purchasing a very expensive electric piano or piano is a large investment that will be difficult to manage later, it is fine to choose a slightly lower priced electric piano as a starter education.
However, in my teaching experience, no child has ever regretted learning the piano; rather, the majority of them have regretted not learning the piano or not persevering with it. There’s also the case of my parents, who blame me for not pushing me, for not allowing me to persist, for not being tougher, because if I had been, maybe I would have learned.
Nowadays, living conditions are good, and we place a high value on our children’s education, so providing them with training and education in various arts is the most valuable gift they can receive.