Welcome Back! I hope everyone had a wonderful summer.
Here are some reminders for lessons for this new fall season.
1.Be sure your piano is tuned - this is very important for ear training and pitch accuracy.
2.Be mindful of changes in your students' growth as this affects positions at the piano.
3.Be engaged in the discussion of goals including repertoire, competitions, national music exams, or other possible performances and milestones.
4.Set a memorable practice schedule. Remember quality over quantity is FIRST. Once good practice habits are established, the length of practice may increase.
5.Revisit repertoire lists from the past in order to maintain memorization, technique and performance skills.
Your teacher will help you with all of these tips!
1. Take Lessons/Practice
Pausing any new skill that requires practice may result in slipping backwards and having to review or repeat past lessons. Continuing to take lessons is the most effective way to retain old and current skills as well as to build new ones. If you can’t find a teacher in person, online lessons are also great. If you can't do online lessons either, gently practice on your own and follow the instructions in your notes.
2. Watch Your Videos
Video clips that you have recorded of yourself should be kept in a folder where you can watch and review all of the pieces that you’ve learned to play. Imagine playing along as you listen. When you’re unable to take lessons or practice much, the videos will help to boost your memory.
3. Read Your Music
Reading music away from your instrument is a great way to retain information regarding the notes and dynamics. Students who visit repertoire or music books outside of the lesson develop a heightened sense of awareness regarding notation, patterns, hidden melodies, or other musical gems.
1. Set High Expectations
Parents who set high expectations tend to get higher quality results than those who expect less. Make your expectations clear and follow through with them. Your piano teacher will help to provide specific steps needed to take your child's playing to the next level.
2. Keep Your Instrument in Good Condition
A piano that is regularly tuned and well-maintained leads to a more positive experience during practice. A more positive experience helps to promote longer more comfortable practice sessions and greater progress at the piano.
3. Get to Know Your Child's Repertoire
Keep track by reviewing the repertoire list in the back of the homework notebook. Regularly ask to hear specific pieces from that list. It's good to know the names of pieces that your child can play with ease. Piano lessons are not only about working hard towards the next level but using music to bring the family together to celebrate achievements.
Piano books make great gifts during the holiday season. A teacher may help by letting you know which level is most appropriate or which publications have the best edition of pieces, but you may also feel free to explore and purchase books on your own. One thing to keep in mind for beginners is that books that are labeled as “easy piano” may not be as easy as you think. If you are searching for music for a complete beginner, look out for books that are labeled “early elementary” or “5 finger piano” - those tend to be the easiest. When looking for a specific level book - keep in mind that level numbers are not based on a universal system of grading. A “level 3” of a given book may be slightly different or more difficult than a “level 3” of another book. It all depends on the publisher and how they organize and determine the materials that go into each level.
The most commonly used order of difficulty in piano books is as follows:
5 finger piano
One of the easiest ways to ensure getting the correct level is to look at the publication of your current lesson book and stay within that brand of books. If a student is using Piano Adventures Lesson Level 2A, it would be safe to get a Piano Adventures Christmas Level 2A or Piano Adventures Pop Level 2A etc.
If you see or would like to find a book that interests you but is in a different brand, it doesn't hurt to get it at the same or slightly lower level in order to play just for fun or a slightly higher level for a challenge. If the book comes only in "easy" or "advanced" - keep in mind that "easy" usually covers all levels leading up to advanced. A good teacher will know how to work with any book you may find or advise you on which books would be best.
Every piano student should feel a sense of growth and satisfaction after each practice session. The instrument that you choose may help to get you there.
1. Acoustic Piano:
Preferred if in great condition and regularly tuned.
The weight and movement of our fingers, wrists, arms, legs, feet, shoulders, and back are all used to control and mold the sound that comes from the strings in the piano. These sounds and effects are much more noticeable and easier to develop on a good acoustic piano than on a digital piano or electric keyboard.
In order for the piano practice experience to be enjoyable, an acoustic piano needs to be maintained and tuned at least twice a year.
Have a professional piano technician check out any used piano you may consider buying; sometimes the cost of repairs may outweigh the value of the piano.
Take time to select the piano that is best for you and your loved ones.
2. Digital Piano:
Good option depending on the quality.
A digital piano may be just as good as an acoustic depending on the quality and your lifestyle. Digital pianos are low maintenance, lighter and easier to transport, and have features that may be useful - such as record and playback effects and the option to practice with headphones.
The weight and resistance of the keys may also be adjusted to your preference. Look for a touch sensitive 88 key piano with pedals. An excellent digital piano is far better than a low quality acoustic piano.
3. Basic Electric Keyboard: Limited/Special Use
Most professional classical piano teachers view these keyboards as more of a toy than an instrument because it greatly limits the technique and musicality one can achieve. Misuse may even result in the development of bad habits. You can have fun and learn music theory, pieces, chords and runs on those keyboards but you would have certain things missing from your training.
An aspiring classical pianist would be encouraged to get a digital or acoustic instrument in order to explore the full range of sound, tone and possibilities as a pianist. A singer who simply wants to learn some basic chords or patterns to accompany their voice may have an easier time. It all depends on the limits you are willing to set for yourself as well as your goals as a musician.
Standard piano lesson books are systematically organized music books composed of pieces that are used to reinforce or help teach a particular musical concept or skill. Having a standard piano method book helps to promote a solid foundation and regular growth at the piano as each page or lesson in the book points to the next level of playing. Once a student becomes advanced, their options of lesson books decrease – most standard lesson books do not offer many advanced levels. Students are assumed to have “graduated out of lessons books” and on to more advanced works through independent books once they have achieved a certain skill level.
Music theory, technique, artistry and other books serve as an extension of the lesson book by providing supporting information in more detail as well as activities to go along with the information in each lesson.
Supplementary piano books are books that are used in conjunction with the lesson book to help feed a student's need for variety by exploring fun and exciting repertoire. Supplementary books enable piano students to celebrate their progress by playing more music at their current level. They may also challenge ambitious students with larger more difficult works than offered in a standard lesson book. These books are great for exploring different styles, composers and music for fun at home, during piano lesson or at recitals.
1. Some adult students are complete beginners with no prior musical experience while others are intermediate or advanced and have played for many years when they were younger.
2. Some were self taught musicians who did not progress beyond a certain point while others had teachers for a number of years.
3. Some adult students know exactly what they would like to play and bring music by their favorite artists, bands, or composers while others leave most of the selection up to the teacher.
4. Many adult students are retired with children who have grown up and moved away. Others work locally and are full time parents still raising children at home. Some are somewhere in the middle.
5. Most adult students take lessons once a week while others learn every other week. Once a week results in faster progress, more support and guidance and less time to wait before correcting any mistakes. Every other week provides flexibility for those who travel for business and also provides additional practice time for the more independent or advanced adult students who take long lessons and have larger pieces.
6. Each adult student's curriculum is highly personalized to fit the frequency of their lessons, their learning style and practice capabilities. The practice expectation for adult students is different from that of a child. Some adult students use their lesson time as their main practice session and learn pieces with very little practice outside of their lesson. Some adult students have regular but flexible practice habits and other adult students have a very structured routine and follow a rigorous daily practice schedule.
7. Any type of adult student can benefit from piano lessons. There is no one way or single profile of an adult student. You must be realistic about your practice capabilities so as not to be apologetic and to allow the creation of a curriculum that supports your schedule. This may enable most or all of your learning and practice to be done during the lesson. A student who progresses with little or no practice and meets set expectations can easily do so with a personalized lesson plan that is structured to match their lifestyle and time limitations - then will you feel a sense of calm and accomplishment as you learn to play the piano.
1.Do have your piano tuned at least twice a year and after each major relocation. Full regulations are recommended every 2 to 5 years.
2. Do protect your hardwood floors. Consider placing caster cups or felt pads under all the legs of the piano as well as the legs of the bench in order to prevent scratches and damage to the floor.
3.Do consider using a piano humidifier/dehumidifier to help regulate the temperate on your instrument. Pianos are best kept in 40 to 45 percent humidity levels. This will help extend the life and quality of your instrument.
4. Do leave the keylid open occasionally. If the lid is closed for too long you may notice the accumulation of dust, dirt, air particles and mold inside the piano.
5.Do use the best seating at the piano. Chairs or stools will limit the space your body may need for movement during practice. A height adjustable bench is the best option; it will provide more space while saving the trouble of stacking pillows, uncomfortable books or other attempts at achieving optimum height or seating at the piano.
6. Do keep your piano clean. Be sure to only use cloths that are made with soft fabrics and clean with products made specifically for piano. You may use a mild solution of soap diluted with filtered water for the keys. Spray or dab products onto a fabric or cloth instead of directly on the piano in order to protect the instrument and produce a more polished finish.
7. Don't position your piano close to heating or air conditioning vents, radiators, or fireplaces. It is best to have consistent and moderate temperatures in the piano room, this is especially true during season changes.
8.Don't keep your piano in direct sunlight. You may need to tune it more frequently and notice warping, cracking, and splitting of the wood over time. Some sunlight may prevent ivory keys from yellowing, but you may notice discoloration in other parts of the piano that is exposed to too much light.
9.Don't keep liquid on the piano. This includes drinks, plants, or anything that may spill or damage the instrument.
10. Don't put too many books in your piano bench. Too many books, or heavy material may weigh down the bottom of the piano bench and cause it to fall apart with time. It you decide to keep anything on the piano, be sure it is not too sharp or heavy and that it is placed on a soft cloth or protective felt material.
Sight-reading is the ability to read and play a sheet of music you have never seen or practiced before – right on the spot, and in the case of an exam or evaluation - in front of other people.
*Be sure to scan the key signature, time signature, clefs, dynamics and starting point for each hand.
*Scan the rhythm before playing the notes so that each note sounds intentional and is held for the correct duration of time.
*Go slowly from the very beginning in order to maintain a consistent tempo. It is better to sight-read slowly and accurately than to start over multiple times.
It is possible to develop ambidexterity later in life through more active use of your non-dominant hand. Most people practice by using the non-dominant hand to perform activities that require larger movements and then move on to small tasks using more control and precision. For some this is a lot of fun, while others may feel as though their actions are sloppy or in vain, but with time, patience and consistency the non-dominant hand can be used with ease or even equally as well as the dominant hand.
A part of the process of learning piano is bringing both hands to an equal level of playing. Many self-taught musicians come having learned to play only or mostly with their right hand. It is rarely a challenge to teach them how to play with the left hand, despite their perceived limitations. In fact misuse of the right hand muscles can require some un-learning and re-learning of proper right hand technique. So many times the hand that is perceived to be better may actually need a bit of correction or guidance, while the hand which was neglected has a clean fresh slate and progresses with ease. A good curriculum will teach piano students to play equally well with both hands no matter which hand is normally dominant.
1. Wash hands with warm or cool water. Washing hands with extremely hot water tends to dry out the skin.
2. Use cream or oil based moisturizers for smoother softer skin. Most lotions tend to be thinner and less effective for dry skin.
3. Use a moisturizing hand sanitizer for cleaning on the go. Regular hand sanitizers are composed primarily of alcohol and tend to dry the skin out.
4. Protect your hands from harsh chemicals and injury by wearing gloves when cleaning or doing manual labor.
5. Use gloves in the winter to help protect your hands from drying out or becoming rough and irritated.
6. Use workout gloves when doing physical fitness activities that involve lifting weights, pull-ups or other use of the hands.
7. Be sure to get the right vitamins and minerals daily – this can have a visibly positive impact on the skin.
8. Wear a high SPF sunscreen on your hands each day. Years of unprotected exposure to the sun can age the skin at a faster rate.
9. Exfoliate your hands regularly to help remove dead skin cells and reveal healthier brighter skin.
10. Use therapy balls for the hands to help provide stress relief and increased circulation. Regularly massaging your own hands is a great way to gain relaxation and relieve tense muscles.
11. Consider wearing spa cotton gloves after applying moisture and before going to sleep at night – this helps to condition the skin at an even deeper level.
1.Regularly disinfect the piano keys. There are lots of great disinfectants that can be used to safely disinfect the piano and piano keys. Door knobs and surfaces that are commonly touched must also be disinfected.
2.Wash hands before and after playing the piano. Every great piano studio has a supply of disinfectants by the piano for students to use before and after playing.
3.Avoid touching your nose, mouth or face during your practice session at the piano. This will greatly decrease the spread of germs.
4.Cover your cough or sneeze and fully turn away from anyone next to you each time you cough or sneeze. Music teachers are physically closer to their students than any other type of teacher so you'll have to be extra careful to turn away when you sneeze or cough during the lesson. [Tip for teachers: it is also important to teach from different distances. Not just for health, but for pedagogical and observational purposes as well].
5.Let the teacher know if you are sick, preferably before the lesson. Some studios have make-up days allocated for illnesses. Others offer remote or longer lessons to make up for an illness. Either way, it is best to put our health first.
6.Keep a pack of tissues nearby. Be sure to discard and wash or disinfect hands after use.
7. Take preventative measures & make changes if necessary. These measures may vary from family to family. If you find yourself doing the same thing every year with unsatisfactory results, try exploring other options. Pay attention to the detail and results of your routine. Sometimes it takes the smallest adjustment to make the biggest difference - in health, music and life.
1. For Technique:
Many pianists have one hand that is weaker, slower, or less efficient than the other. One-handed piano music may be beneficial for those who seek to enhance their technique in a particular hand with music that sounds complete and satisfying.
2 .For Continued Progress:
Pianists who suffer from an injury in one hand may find themselves slipping behind if there is a lapse in their musical studies. Teachers and pianists often turn to one-handed piano music to make sure the mind and active hand is engaged while the injured hand recovers.
3. For Variety in Repertoire:
One handed piano music also serves as a great way to build a unique repertoire for those looking for variety. So often we associate a full layered sound with two hands playing but there are many pieces for one hand that can be exciting, beautiful, and layered in sound.
Below are a just few examples - there are many more to choose from.
Left Hand Alone:
Right Hand Alone:
For Right Hand or Left Hand Alone:
BEFORE PERFORMING IN A RECITAL
1.Trust your teacher. I will never put on a student to perform unless they are fully prepared, capable and I have complete confidence in their performance ability. By then you would have learned everything you need to know about each piece and how to go about performing it. You will need to regularly review all the notes in the notebook regarding those pieces (as you should weekly), and do lots of visualization exercises leading up to the performance.
2.View your videos. Some students don't realize how great they really are until they see their videos. Mistakes that you feel are astronomical, suddenly don't seem so big anymore. If there are any mistakes, with my help, you'll be even more able to focus in on what they are, when they occured, why they occured and how to make sure they are corrected. Watching yourself play also enables you to better see yourself as others see you and enjoy your accomplishments from a different perspective.
3.Do lots of spot practice, review different starting points in the music and do not play the entire piece through too many times for 2 days leading up to the recital. People who play everything through too many times with as much passion as possible too close to the day of the recitaloften find that during the actual performance they have very little left to give. Save up as much emotional energy for the performance itself.
AT THE RECITAL
1.The order of the program does not reflect who is the least or most accomplished, but is set up according to which pieces would be the most appropriate to start, end, or be in the middle of the program. When there are several pieces which could fit each category, the order of the program can also be based on those who request to go first, 2nd, etc.
2.Stretch. My advice to always stretch, meditate, relax, or do a light workout before practicing, also applies in performance. Do this backstage, in a bathroom (if there is no wait and you won't take too long), or in a hallway before entering the stage or concert area. If you arrive early enough, we can stretch together. Tension buildup can mask any effort you put forth to create free flowing music. The more physically relaxed you are, the better your performance will be.
3.Breath slowly and deeply, walk with confidence, smile, get excited about sharing amazing pieces that you've worked so hard to prepare. Focus on dynamics, emotions, and being an actor or storyteller. Just Have Fun!
AFTER THE RECITAL
1.The only person you should ever compare yourself to is the person you used to be.
2.Celebrate your accomplishment! There are many people who wish they were able to do what you just did.
3.You may put a piece to rest for a while but don't let it rest forever. I enjoy periodically checking up on the condition of your older pieces. Although you will learn many new pieces by different composers and from different styles, remember that all the greatest musicians travel and perform the same peices over and over again.
1.Wash your hands to make sure they are clean before practicing or playing the piano. If you are playing a public piano, it is always good to sanitize or wash your hands after you are finished to minimize the spread of germs.
2.Cover your coughs and sneezes while looking away from anyone who is next to you. Using your arm or the inside of your elbow is a good way to control your coughs. Ask for tissues if you need to.
3.Sit like a pianist; feet on the ground, back straight, shoulders down. No slouching, no feet on the bench and no elbows on the keys unless its a part of the piece.
4. Be respectful. No banging on keys or speaking over the teacher during your lesson.You will have many chances to ask questions or make points during your lesson.
5. Follow directions. Your notebook will have an outline of what you learned and what you are assigned to do during the week. Whether you practice 10 hours or 2 hours, reading your notebook will get your closer to your goal and mastery of the instrument.
1.Practicing solely by the clock
Imagine playing a piece over and over for countless hours and not getting any better. This is a common mistake and source of frustration for amateur pianists who set time goals without focusing on the correct ways to improve during practice. Time goals are only useful in congruence with detailed directions on how to take your playing to the next level. With the help of a teacher, your playing and practice habits should be evaluated to promote regular growth. Feeling a sense of pride and accomplishment by the end of each practice session is something that helps pianists develop a life long love of practice.
2.Always practicing from the beginning
Pianists who make mistakes in the middle of a piece, and constantly start all the way from the beginning, are simply avoiding the spots that need the most practice. Strong pianists are able to pinpoint the difficulty in the piece and practice from many different places. Going directly to the source of the mistake or challenge will result in mastering pieces in less than half the time it would take by always starting from the beginning.
3.Practicing too fast
Pianists who practice too fast tend to make more mistakes and spend more time correcting mistakes instead of making steady progress. Fast practice is often based on estimation rather than precision and results in taking a much longer to learn pieces than practicing slowly and carefully from the start. Practicing at an appropriate speed helps to develop good technique, a solid understanding of what is going on, and the ability to be musical while noticing important details that would otherwise be overlooked.
4.Practicing without dynamics
The most common complaint among fellow evaluators, competition judges, and piano teachers is lack of dynamics. All too often pianists decide to only focus on the notes first and ''leave the dynamics for last.'' Instead of focusing on just the notes every time, make a mental note of all the dynamics first. Remember that dynamics are what gives life to your music and is the difference between a mediocre and exceptional performance.
5.Practicing without good form
How you are seated at the piano, in combination with all the subtle movements that occur while playing have a major impact on the sound you will create. Practicing with appropriate positioning at the keys, as well as the necessary movements and form is essential to having an injury-free, aurally stimulating, and physically relaxing experience at the piano.
The Power of Your Presence
If your final goal is to instill love and enjoyment of music in your child, it is essential for someone to be physically present and involved during their practice and learning experience. At 5 years old, being sent alone to practice the piano may be perceived as a form of unnecessary punishment. It can bring on feelings of isolation, and create resentment and disinterest in music. The social interaction and presence of another person during a child's practice session is psychologically and emotionally needed to instill enjoyment and future long term independence in music. The songs may be fun, the practice might be relatively easy but none of this will matter if they are sent to do it alone.
The younger the child, the more involved a parent should be to ensure their growth at the instrument. Many piano teachers will not accept young students unless the parent is there learning right there along with them.
Always be positive and mindful of what you say during practice sessions. Every mistake can be perceived as either a failure or an opportunity for greater success.
Example: if your child uses the wrong finger for a passage. You may think or be tempted to say:
“Thats wrong. Use number 1, not number 2.”
But a better option would be to lead them on a path of discovery with questions and positive words to help them express and practice what they learned.
Kids love to show how much they know! Most mistakes that occur during practice are not a result of them not knowing the correct answers. Often times they just need to be guided in the right direction. Instead of telling them all the answers, let them show you in a few basic steps. In the example of finger numbers, you may ask them to show you all the numbers. Success. Then ask them to tell you which number they are supposed to use. Success. Then have them do it. Another point of success. Telling them all the right answer takes away an opportunity for them to learn, for them to easily avoid that same mistake in the future, and for them to feel a sense of accomplishment and success.
Hearing loss affects millions of people around the world, young and old alike. It can happen in an instant or gradually over time. You may prolong the health of your ears by taking the following precautions:
Learning to breathe in the right way at the right time is an essential part of piano technique. Some pianists may have a natural ability to do so while others need detailed guidance. Many pianists, without being aware, tend to hold their breath while practicing - especially during difficult passages. Pianists who do not breathe properly may find themselves completely exhausted after a short practice session or performance. Pianists who are able to control and command their breath in the correct way tend to have more relaxing practice sessions and performances, as well as higher energy levels during and after practice or performance.
Proper use of the wrist is a key element in the development of good piano technique. It is important to take good care of your wrists and be fully aware of how they are being used in and out of piano practice. Be aware of activities that cause tightness or tension in the wrists – this is especially true for activities that commonly cause the development of tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, sprains or injuries.
Remember that playing the piano should never hurt - no matter how long you practice. If your wrists become painful it is due to incorrect technique and misuse of your muscles and energy. The main sensation that should come about due to many hours of playing is tingling or sensitive fingertips.
If you feel any pain or tension it is important to stop practicing and relearn the proper way to execute your passages. Pianists who play through pain are simply reinforcing incorrect technique and are at risk for developing wrist and hand injuries. These pianists often find that once they get to a certain point of playing they cannot advance any further which causes them to be stuck on one level, become discouraged or unfortunately keep trying with the same approach.
Those who recover often stop playing the piano or find a teacher to help them “start all over” or fill in the gaps by developing good technique. This may include basic hand and finger repositioning, re-assigning a more effective height or distance from the keys, proper arm, hand and finger movements that encourage the muscles to “breathe” as well as exercises that loosen the wrists. Developing controlled, relaxed wrists will encourage great technique, better musicality and the most fulfilling experience at the piano.
Good Quality Acoustic Piano- Preferred. Must be tuned at least twice a year.
The way in which large or subtle movements can control, mold and influence sound is more noticeable and easier to practice on an acoustic piano. We are able to access and create a wider variety of sounds and effects on an acoustic piano than on any other instrument.
Good Quality Digital Piano- Full sized; 88 touch sensitive keys - with pedal.
Digital pianos are generally more limiting than acoustic pianos. There are a lot less sounds and effects that one can access apart from the ones that are already programmed into the instrument and the keys do not respond to our touch or movements in the same way as on an acoustic piano. Digital pianos vary depending on the brand and quality but they do not need to be tuned and can be practiced with headphones.
2.Piano Lamp / Sufficient Lighting
Sufficient lighting is an important and often overlooked part of effective piano practice. Be sure to have a lamp for the music book or light bulbs that are bright enough to light up the piano area so that you are able to practice, write, and read music with in a well lit area.
The metronome is a tool used in the development of good rhythm and speed at the piano.
Get a physical metronome or download a metronome app onto your cell phone, ipad, ipod, or tablet.
4.Height Adjustable Bench
The average piano bench is not at a height that is suitable for children and many adults to maintain the playing level needed to develop the best technique.
A height adjustable bench is a secure and comfortable way to practice at optimal playing height at the piano. Alternatives include sitting on books, cushions or pillows that are stacked to the necessary height. If these are wobbly, uncomfortable to sit on or unstable they may do more far more harm than good.
Posture and good seating play a huge role in the development of long lasting technique.
Having both feet planted firmly on the ground will help to build a stronger core, good balance, and greater control at the piano. Children with feet that do not yet reach the ground while they are seated may feel more physically secure, and develop a more solid technique with the help of a footrest.
6. Pedal Extender
This will help students whose feet do not reach the ground to explore a wide variety of sounds and technique through pedal use. With an extender, younger students are able to play more advanced music and have more fun at the piano much sooner than students who wait until they are tall enough to reach the pedal on their own. Pedal extenders are multipurpose and may serve as a footrest as well.
For theory assignments and temporary marks in the music.
For writing weekly goals in the piano notebook.
For creating or highlighting distinct marks in the music (an actual highlighter may bleed through the pages so crayons or colored pencils are preferred).
10.Blank Index Cards
To write and review musical concepts and terminology.
11. Sticky Page Markers
To bookmark and easily access pieces.
For keeping track and reviewing of weekly assignments and goals.
13. Nail Clippers/Short Nails
To maintain a good hand position at the piano.
14. Hand Sanitizer/Washed Hands
Hands need to be washed or sanitized before playing the piano. It is also good to clean your hands afterwards, especially if you are not playing your own piano.
Have an appointment set for a piano technician/tuner to look at and to tune your piano if you have an acoustic piano. This should be done at least twice a year. Neglecting to tune the piano may end up costing more in the long term and take multiple tunings to get the strings of the piano to the correct pitch. It is also more practical to practice and do ear training on a piano that is in tune.
Create a welcoming environment at home: The location of the instrument as well as what is going on around it will have a huge impact on whether or not a student has the desire or capability to practice effectively. If the TV is blaring, distracting noises are all around and there seems to be chaos brewing, it will be nearly impossible to practice properly. Superior practice spaces are not in immediate sight of other tempting devices such as TV or games. It is generally a room or space of its own that is clear of clutter, inviting, meditative, and quiet. If space is limited in your home and many electronics and games surround the practice space, see to it that the whole family respects the time in which practice occurs and is supportive, silent or involved by quietly listening during that time.
Set a practice time: Routine is key. Pairing practice time with something that is regularly done will result in stable practice habits and faster accomplishments at the instrument. Practicing every day for an hour is better than practicing one day for 3 hours and skipping several days.
Get Involved: A child’s interest in practicing or playing the piano is often directly linked to the interest level of those the child looks up to. Instead of viewing practice as a chore such as washing the dishes, show your child that you are excited, enthusiastic and have a high level of interest in their work. This will inspire your child to be enthusiastic and interested as well. Asking them to play specific pieces and taking the time to listen will encourage your child to work on his or her instrument. Remember that although you are physically able to listen while texting, typing, reading a book or doing something else in a different room, setting aside the time to listen while looking directly at your child will give them a greater sense of your involvement and undivided attention. It helps them to know that you are not only listening but watching how they use their body to create sound;whether it be flying fingers, syncopated pedaling with their feet, relaxed circular wrist movements etc. Teenaged students generally require less parental involvement in their music lessons. They often view practice as their own personal thing; their way to escape, deal with changes, challenges and a means of expressing themselves.
Know The Difference Between Practicing and Playing: The difference between practicing and playing can be the difference between moving forward and staying in the exact same place. When we play the piano or other instrument, we are simply reciting a piece that may or may not improve. When we practice, we are focused on certain aspects needed to improve the piece. If a student plays a piece 50 times, it may not only not improve, but it can actually get worse if it is being played with bad technique. If a student properly practices a piece 5 times, it will absolutely get better each and every time. This is how we grow as musicians. Playing is simply being expressive whereas properly practicing is being expressive and getting better every time. During your lesson, you will learn how to balance playing and practice as well as all the practice techniques and steps needed to improve on a daily basis.
1. Charge your devices : If you have multiple devices and you aren't sure which one to use, have them all charged and ready to go. You may develop a preference for one particular device over the other. You will know once you try them out and find the one that works best.
2. Connect Online: Make sure you are connected to the internet, you download Skype and the environment is appropriately lit, quiet, and as comfortable as possible.
3. Angle your device : Be sure that your device is facing you and your instrument. Have cushions, a table, chair or stand incase you need to adjust the height of your device. Plan to take a few extra minutes to connect online with your teacher to make sure everything is set up at the angle that works best for you both.
Find a Quality Teacher
Whenever a student who has previously taken piano lessons decides to sign up, there is always a bit of suspense on what to expect moving forward. Either they were properly trained and have a solid foundation on which to continue building or their technique was so severely damaged by improper training that much time and energy will be spent on repairing, un-doing, and re-learning exactly how to play the piano. In many cases there is a combination of strengths and weaknesses; consider the student who is able to read music exceptionally well but whose ears were never trained. Or the student whose sense of rhythm is impeccable but their ability to form a musical melodic line is lacking. The best way to save time and money is to make sure that your teacher is highly qualified, educated, and is able to provide the training you need to be a well rounded musician. Being taught well the first time around will enable you to succeed and soar beyond your imagination.
Remember that teaching and playing are two separate skills. Some concert pianists may also be exceptional teachers, whereas others are advised to stick to playing. There’s a well known teacher, clinician and author who produces award winning pianists year after year. This teacher, though paralyzed on one side of her body and only able to play with one hand is considered to be one of the greatest teachers in town.
The rules of good practice also applies to good teaching. It is not the length of time that determines the quality of a teacher’s work; it is their approach, their attention to detail and professional expertise behind the process. One of the most inspirational teachers I’ve known was only 27 years old when he became the head of the piano department of a great university. People over twice his age who were in the field before he was even born went to him for advice on their own teaching. The proof is in the results. A quality teacher will push a student to their full potential, nurture their strengths, strengthen their weaknesses and create the best musician possible out of any student.
Understand the 30-minute-lesson Approach
When signing up for piano lessons one of the first things you’ll need to know is how long you would like your lesson to be. The length of the lesson may determine exactly how much or what you will learn in the course of the semester. Although a 30 minute-lesson may be common for very young beginners, it is not the best approach for every student. Consider two students with the same intelligence level, one doing 30 minutes, the other an hour. In 3 months time the skill level gap between the two students may be significantly noticeable. In a 30 minute-lesson you may have time to review your previous assignment, learn a new technique and start to play a new piece. In a hour you may review your previous assignments, learn a new technique, complete your piece or pieces, work on ear training, improvisation, or other activity. In other cases a longer lesson may be used to work on longer more difficult pieces that requires more supervision by a teacher.
What you do in a long lesson may vary depending on you, your teacher and your needs or immediate goals. With a lesson that is too short the student may either miss out on certain skill sets that the teacher decides a 30 minute lesson simply cannot cover or all skill sets will be taught over a much wider span of time -taking weeks, months, or years longer than it would take in a longer lesson. Keep in mind that not every teacher teachers everything. Some teachers may only teach you how to read and are only comfortable teaching short lessons. Others may be more versatile. You will have to do your research in order to determine the focus or philosophy of any given teacher.
If you’ve signed up for a music school, you may be offered supplementary group classes such as music theory or other subjects to go along with your weekly private lesson. Students with a strong background in theory are generally able to memorize and retain their music for much longer and have a deeper understanding of what they are playing, and how music is put together. Theory is something that can be taught from the very first lesson at the most elementary level. Some teachers view it as a separate subject whereas others simply integrate it in every piece so that understanding is instilled immediately. Either way, music theory is always a good skill to have and ensures a longer term retention of your music education.
Have Good Equipment
If you know you love music and you’re able to invest in a good instrument, by all means, do it. You will need to start learning skills that are otherwise unable to be practiced because of the limitations on an instrument that lacks certain capabilities as follows:
Full 88 Keys
Piano keyboards generally come in 61, 76 or 88 keys. The standard full sized piano is 88 keys. With less keys, you will not be able to explore the full range of the keyboard and may not be able to play certain pieces that require you to use certain keys.
Using the sense of hearing and touch are very important to the development of a great pianist. A piano that is touch sensitive will enable you to practice creating sounds by varying the amount of weight and pressure that is put on the keys. Keyboards that are not touch sensitive are volume controlled by a knob instead of by your touch and will limit your ability to create sounds in the many different ways we learn to touch the keys. Having an instrument that is touch sensitive is very important.
You may notice different numbers of pedals on different pianos. A standard grand piano has 3 pedals. Many upright pianos have 2 or 3 pedals; the 3rd pedal usually only works on a grand piano and is very rarely used. Digital pianos often come with 2 pedals and electric keyboards generally come with 1 or none at all. Being technically skilled in pedaling enables us to create, control and explore a wide range of sound and musical effects at the piano.
“The more I play, the more I am convinced that the pedal is the soul of the piano. There are cases where the pedal is everything”