Is learning to play the piano difficult?
No, it’s not difficult, but what most students do find difficult, at least at first, is developing the habit of practicing the piano. Regular practice is a must in order to train the mind and the hands to produce music with the piano. After a good practice habit has been developed, some of the new ideas presented during lessons may seem difficult at first. However, when you practice the assignment throughout the week, what seemed difficult at first becomes easier as the week goes on.
What kind of commitment do I need to learn the piano?
To be satisfied with your progress in playing the piano, you should be willing to schedule time each week to regular practice. For example, a young beginning student would be expected to practice at least fifteen minutes a day, five days a week. An adult student who is just starting would be expected to practice at least thirty minutes a day, five days a week. Without this regular practice, a student won’t make progress and will lose skills he or she learned in earlier lessons.
In addition to regular practice, beginning students should be willing to commit at least two years of study in order to acquire basic skills necessary to achieve success in playing the piano.
Can I learn the piano just at my lessons?
Sorry, but the answer is no. If the only time you have for the piano is at your weekly lesson, you won’t succeed. It might be better for you to develop an understanding of the piano through home study or at a community college class on music appreciation.
As to practice, if time constraints are an issue, you should be realistic about your progress in light of your other activities. This is especially true for adult students. Generally—and this surprises early students—it takes much longer to learn a piece of music than a student expects. This fact can be most frustrating for adults because, although they may intellectually understand a concept, the physical ability to play the passage or technique takes longer to master the concept.
I am an adult with no piano experience. Can I succeed?
The answer is absolutely yes! I have many students who are professionals, already successful in their own occupations, who are taking lessons for the first time in their lives. Some of my best students are adults with no previous experience who quickly mastered the foundations of music and started studying the easier classics within their first or second year of study. So, if you are committed to practice and study, you will learn and enjoy the piano.
What piano methods do you use?
If you read my About page, you know that my Ph.D. dissertation concerned the matching of the right piano method to each student’s preferred learning style. I use several excellent piano methods and then supplement them with other materials geared toward the student’s specific learning style.
By the way, be careful of selecting a teacher who uses just one piano teaching style for all students. While this approach is easier for the teacher, it fails to take into account each student’s unique situation.
What are learning styles?
Learning styles are the ways each of us perceive and process information. When we learn, we generally like one way of taking in information over other ways. For example, some piano students learn better by reading, while others learn better by ear. The goal of a teacher is to provide information in the way best suited to the student’s preferred way of perceiving and processing information.
I might start a student with a preferred style in order to lay a foundation for the material to be mastered, and then add less-preferred skills later to expand the student’s versatility. For students that learn best by reading, I begin with that approach, but sprinkle in ear-training once the student feels comfortable with the basics. The choice of which teaching method to use will also depend on your personal goals regarding the piano.
What kind of piano do I need to take lessons?
You should have a piano that stays in tune, has a mechanism that allows you to change volume by varying the pressure on the keys, and has an appropriate touch that will allow you to develop your technique. Your piano will also need to have at least one pedal (damper pedal). These requirements can be achieved with a good quality acoustic or digital piano. However, if you plan to study the piano intensely and develop advanced techniques, you might consider investing in a quality acoustic piano.
What qualities should I look for in choosing a piano teacher?
The best advice I can offer when choosing a piano teacher is to do your homework. After all, the teacher you choose will be essential to your success or that of your child in playing the piano. Here is a checklist of what you should be looking for in choosing a piano teacher:
Education and Experience – Ask about the teacher’s degree or degrees, the type of training she received, and the number of years she has been a piano teacher. The best piano teachers are those pianists who, in addition to their study of piano performance, have also studied piano pedagogy—a specialized educational path that trains a pianist to become a piano teacher and pass on appropriate information to students in the most effective ways.
Piano Only – Be cautious of anyone who offers music instruction on more than one instrument. While it is certainly possible to be a good teacher on several instruments, be sure to confirm the teacher’s training, education, and teaching experience related to the piano, when choosing a piano teacher.
Student Roster – An indicator of a teacher’s ability to give you the best results is her student roster—the number of students she teaches and the average length of time she has taught her students. As you might expect, good teachers are always in demand and have limited openings in their student roster. Some, like myself, even have waiting lists for adults and children who want to take piano lessons.
Passion for Teaching – Finally, look for a teacher who is passionate about being a teacher—helping others learn. Does the teacher have the personality, patience, and temperament to guide you or your child as you begin your piano journey? The right teacher should have good communication skills, patience, problem-solving abilities, and the willingness to learn about you, and then build a teaching program that matches your learning style and your goals.
How do Online Video Lessons Work?
They work amazingly well! I have used distance learning for students with second homes, or travel on business, for over fifteen years. At first, we only used audio through our telephones, but then moved over to FaceTime and Skype when they became popular. Now, my students and I use upgraded technology that almost eliminates dropouts and technical difficulties presented while using FaceTime and Skype.
The system is simple. A few minutes before your scheduled time, you’ll sign on to your laptop. We’ll connect at your lesson time and we begin! It’s as simple as that.
Are there any drawbacks to video lessons?
Yes, there are a few, but there are also several pluses that in-person lessons lack. For example, I can’t point at your score, but I can point at mine and you can see it through the video. So, on my end, I have to be more prepared because I have to have my own copy of the music you are studying.
I also can’t play an example at your piano, but I can play it on mine while you watch the camera that is on my hands. There is an advantage here because you can watch my hands at the same octave as you play the same passage. No looking over my shoulders after we play musical chairs at the same piano.
As for in-person eye contact, I have found that students and I look at each other more during video lessons than in-person because in-person I am at your side, but behind you. In video lessons, you only need to turn your head a bit to see me and my hands on my keyboard.
I also won’t be making notes in your music. However, many learning theories support the concept that writing in your own notes makes them easier to understand and remember. I also email you notes, explanations, resources, and thoughts regarding your lesson after each lesson. In-person lesson notes are usually limited to those written during the lesson.
Are There Any Advantages To Live Online Video Lessons?
Yes, there are quite a few.
No Limits on Teacher Quality. If you limit yourself to teachers within a reasonable distance, you also limit your choice as to quality, especially if you live in a more rural or remote area. Teachers specializing in adult students and/or advanced coaching may not even be available in your area.
Independence and Focus. I have found that some of the difficulties experienced through distance learning are balanced out by the focus and attention that are achieved during a live video lesson. For example, by intelligently speaking about the music through measure numbers and beats in question, students become more independent. During an in-person lesson, a student can become dependent on a teacher pointing at the score and writing in notes, while live video requires students to know their score by numbering measures and writing in their own notes.
Listening and Ear-Training Are Enhanced. Live video lessons also require the student to listen more intensely to instructions and musical examples because they aren’t depending as much on visual cues.
Pre-lesson Warm-up and After-Lesson Practice. By being at your own piano, you can easily warmup for your lesson at your own piano so your fingers and mind are ready-to-go. Also, the best practice session of your week is the one immediately after a lesson because everything is fresh and can be solidified before ideas fade.
Easy Access To Persons With Disabilities. Those pianists with disabilities may find video lessons more convenient and pleasant. They can learn in the comfort of their own homes without having to go anywhere or prepare their home for company.