My memories of practicing the piano as a child are not that pleasant. I dreaded the 30 min. that I was forced to sit down and practice every day. I dreaded the 30 min. that I had to sit at my lesson each week and hit one wrong note after the another. My Mother was always shocked because when I would practice at home the songs seemed to be perfect. She didn't realize that I was just playing the song by ear and not really paying too much attention to the notes on the page in font of me. Playing the "correct" notes on the page just seemed so boring and tedious to me. Although I did learn quite a lot on the piano over the years, I never developed a love for it. So at some point around 14 or 15 years old, I stopped taking piano lessons and just continued with voice which I did love to "practice." I put the word practice in quotes because it never felt like practice to me. As I grew older and went off to college and once again was forced to take piano, I began to wonder if I would have loved the piano had it been presented differently to me. Had I been encouraged to play by ear and not have to stick to the notes on the page so much of the time. So I found a musician friend of mine who was a jazz piano player and asked him to teach me how to play. Suddenly I found myself in the practice rooms playing for hours. I was finding freedom in the keys. Writing my own music and playing with chord progressions. The lessons were full of fun and void of negative feedback.
Jump ten years ahead to present day. My Mom shipped my old piano to us this year. We were all so excited! I was really looking forward to having a piano in the house again and geting to expose Jetta and Pilot to it. I just let the kids play with it for a while. Jetta showed an immediate interest in it so I showed her a few scales to start with and a few easy 3 note songs I knew. I put no pressure on her to play or practice, just let her explore the notes and get comfortable with them. Make friends. She kept asking me to show her more and more. I did so all the while working very hard not to correct to much. I wanted her to learn to listen to the notes and see what sounded good to her and make her own corrections and learn to express herself through the keys. Is that too much to ask of a 5 year old? I don't think so. I think natural expression and creativity is what they do best. She is now "practicing" about 1 - 2 hours a day (spread out through the day of course) and can play all of her major scales and chords with both hands and can play about 7 songs ranging from "Happy birthday" to "Do-Re-Mi" . We have not started reading music yet and I think that I am going to hold off on that for a while. Each day I listen to her play as she finds new rhythms and chords to old songs. She is getting so comfortable at the keys and seems to use her time at the piano as a sort of mediation time to reconnect with herself. Watching her love for the piano grow each day has really inspired me. I am looking forward to studying the piano again myslef and further developing and healing my injured love for the piano.
Here is a great article on Jazz Piano