Frequently Asked Questions
- I am interested in beginner lessons. Why should we consider choosing a professional musician as a teacher?
- Where do students of The Art of Piano come from?
- Is it fun to take piano lessons?
- What are the benefits of studying piano?
- I have never seen other piano teachers have a student computer lab. Why do you have one and what is “computer time” for?
- Do students need to have a piano at home?
- How much should students practice?
- Are parents expected to practice with students?
- Can I help my child with practicing if I do not play the piano or music?
- My child needs reminders to practice and resists practicing some of the time. (S)he even said (s)he did not want to play the piano any more. Is it time to quit piano?
I am interested in beginner lessons. Why should we consider choosing a professional musician as a teacher?
The first piano teacher can be a life-long influence on a student’s love of music. Teaching beginners requires tremendous patience, caring and knowledge. Accomplished performer-teachers can help students, right from the start, to develop habits that will enable them to play with comfort and progress all the way to the advanced levels without the need of future re-training. From the very beginning, students learn to use their bodies effectively and focus on musicality and expression, which results in joyful and rewarding experiences and increased success.
The majority of students live in Rochester, Springfield and other surrounding communities. However, some students come from as far North as Havana, as far East as Decatur, and as far West as Jacksonville.
Most students who chose to take piano lessons love to come to lessons. We work hard and have fun at the same time. Students like getting together with other young pianists at Performance Parties, participating in Studio Festivals in the hope of earning special trophies over time and performing in Spring and Winter Recitals. They get to play music games in the computer lab before or after their lessons. Many enjoy showing off their pieces and piano skills for family members, friends, school and church groups. They also have fun practicing, some of the time. Like everything else really worth while, learning to play the piano takes a lot of effort, patience and time. Practicing will bring many challenges but those who stay with it reap great benefits.
In addition to the delight of making music itself, music studies, especially piano studies, have been proven to provide a long list of mental and emotional benefits. Much has been written about increased abstract thinking, language, math, and spatial reasoning skills of children who have studied piano for several years. Playing the piano improves reading and musical hearing and requires sophisticated hand-eye coordination, independence of hands and awareness of one’s body. The repeated effort necessary for progress improves concentration, increases attention span, builds character (discipline, persistence, perseverance, etc.), self-efficacy and confidence. When playing ensemble pieces, students practice cooperation and build social skills. Successful performances increase self-confidence and prepare students for other types of public presentations. Playing music provides an outlet for emotions, creativity and self-expression. Music is even claimed to have healing powers; it can improve one’s mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health.
I have never seen other piano teachers have a student computer lab. Why do you have one and what is “computer time” for?
Learning to play the piano is a very complex undertaking, especially without previous musical knowledge. In many countries, students do not start playing an instrument until they have studied music fundamentals (rhythm, ear training, music reading and writing, etc.) for at least a year. Even after they start taking lessons on an instrument, they continue to take group musicianship classes every week. In the United States, however, the overwhelming majority of piano students learn all elements of music, keyboard geography, physical coordination, and musical expression at the same time, during their “piano” lessons. This can be a great challenge! The better students’ musicianship skills are, the easier they learn to play music on the piano and the faster they progress. The better they read music, the more they can direct their attention to the physical aspects of playing and musical expression. And, the easier they learn their pieces and the nicer the music they make sounds, the more enjoyable they find playing the piano. The weekly computer sessions adjacent to piano lessons provide students with engaging activities to improve their musicianship skills, in addition to those included in their lessons. They practice rhythm, ear training, note reading, musical vocabulary, musical patterns and more. A large variety of software is available for the various ages and achievement levels from young beginners to college music majors. Much of the software is equipped with sophisticated record keeping functions, so the teacher can keep track of students’ progress.
It is crucial that students have the ability to practice regularly between lessons. While it is possible to start lessons on an electronic keyboard, students can learn to play better if they practice on an acoustic piano (with strings and hammers inside). Despite the obvious similarities, electronic keyboards feel and sound different from acoustic pianos; they are fundamentally different instruments. The absolute minimum starter instrument for piano lessons is a 61-key, touch sensitive (can play many levels of soft and loud sounds controlled by the speed of striking the keys) electronic piano/keyboard. However, such an instrument will need to be upgraded to at least a full-size (88-key) keyboard with good touch sensitivity and damper pedal or, preferably, acoustic piano very soon, within just a few months. It is important to set up the instrument in a quiet area of the home in order to minimize distractions during practice.
The more and better a student practices, the faster his/her progress will be. Regular practice is key to success. Just like with sports, it is better to do a little regularly than a lot once in a while. Musicians are a lot like athletes; they just use different parts of their bodies the most. Ideally, students practice at least five days a week. Very young students (4- or 5-year olds) might start with just 10 or 15 minutes a day, which should be increased to about 30 minutes a day as their attention span increases. It might help to break up practice time into two shorter sessions, if possible. As students mature and the length and complexity of their repertoire increases, their practice time may need to increase further. For excellent progress, 45 minutes a day would be best. Those who consider majoring in music in college will need even more practice time by their high-school years. A regular practice routine is crucial for success. However, I understand that students do need to make adjustments to their practice schedules from time to time, due to schoolwork, other activities, or change in family routines. I also realize that individual students’ lives and interests differ and change over time and our goals and expectations need to reflect that.
It is not required that parents practice with students. However, younger students can benefit greatly from someone helping them between lessons.
Absolutely. First of all, you can provide an environment that makes it easy for your child to focus. Try to eliminate distractions as much as possible and remember that, while making music, one must listen intensely to the sounds produced. At this heightened state of awareness of sounds, it can be especially challenging to ignore other sounds in the environment. You can help setting up a practice routine and follow it as much as possible. Most children will need reminders! Make sure your piano is tuned and in good condition. The piano or keyboard is the piano student’s tool and an instrument in disrepair or out of tune makes practicing more difficult and much less enjoyable.
If you attend lessons with your child, you will have a good idea of what needs improvement and how progress can be made. If you do not stay for your child’s lessons, you can check the assignment notebook regularly and help your child follow the instructions. Repetition is the key. Keep in mind, however, that the main purpose of practicing is making it easier. While it is important to strive for getting things right, it is just as important to have some fun in the process. Aim for making it better each time but without the pressure of having to do it perfectly. Lots of successful baby steps can get one a long way! Be patient and help your child to be patient with himself. No one has ever learned to play an instrument without making an abundance or errors. It is usually best to compliment achievements (however small) much more often than pointing out faults.
My child needs reminders to practice and resists practicing some of the time. (S)he even said (s)he did not want to play the piano any more. Is it time to quit piano?
Practicing can be fun but, often, it is also hard work. It takes a lot of effort to make progress. However, especially because it takes so much effort, progress can result in a real sense of achievement and pride. Even adults don’t want to work hard all the time and even those who love to exercise or practice a hobby on a regular basis would rather do something else some of the time. And, since children are still immature, making an effort can be even harder for them, especially if they would rather do something else. Being tired or in a bad mood can make things even worse. Is there anyone who never said “I don’t want to do this any more” or “I don’t like it” just to feel differently after some time? An especially sensitive age is the pre-teen and young teenager years, when students often encounter more homework along with an increased sense of needing to socialize and be accepted by peer groups, making it more difficult to find time for practicing.
Certain personality traits can also make practicing more challenging. For example, some children would rather not give things a try than risking “messing up”. Considering that everyone makes mistakes during practicing (many times!), the fear of errors can make practicing quite a scary endeavor. These children need extra patience and help to understand that it is perfectly normal and OK to make mistakes while attempting to do new things, at least as long as they try not to repeat them. In addition, every student encounters some sort of “speed-bumps” from time to time, which can make practicing more challenging for a while.
Learning to play the piano well requires a great deal of time, effort and patience. It takes a while before one can play really enjoyable music and feel like practicing is well worth the effort. It is not for the seekers of instant gratification. It is, however, a wonderful journey through musical delights, with the added benefits of improved brain functions, confidence, self-efficacy, and a channel for self-expression. Very often, parents’ and teachers’ better understanding of the student’s challenges and frustrations and offering some flexibility in response, like changing the repertoire or practice routine, can make all the difference. Therefore, while, in some instances, discontinuing piano lessons might be the right choice, it is best to give sufficient time and thought to such a decision. I can’t even count the people who have told me “I wish my mother did not let me quit.”