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Piano for Adults

Welcome back to the creative piano blog. Today we’re talking about piano lessons with adult students. This is near and dear to my heart because I studied piano as an adult and actually did a second degree in piano pedagogy and music as an adult. I also did some research on studying piano as an adult, and I love teaching adults–it’s very satisfying when adult students learn and make progress with the piano.

Sometimes people had lessons in childhood and then don’t play for many years while they’re raising a family or doing other things. Sometime adults take lessons alongside a child, or pursue an interest in taking lessons for the very first time. In any of those scenarios, adult students bring their own particular needs to the lesson and you want to gear your teaching toward the adult students needs. Typically this includes being able to relax and learn to use the hands and the body in a certain way to make a good sound and to be able to play the instrument. To work on the eye-hand coordination, depending upon the level of the student in terms of their prior music let knowledge. Lessons revolve around knowing the language of music, so if it’s a very beginning student they are going to need to learn the notation system and how music is written so that they can read piano music. Often the literature that is played at the adult beginning level includes pieces that will be familiar to people, so that the tune is easier to play because you know what it should sound like and you’re aiming for what it should sound like

The relationship with the teacher is always central. The adult student needs to be feeling comfortable to raise questions, to come in with issues that might have come up in practice that week and be able to talk about those issues with the teacher and get some good feedback as to how they can proceed. Because sometimes there will be very particular things that are going on with the way the hand is working, or the eye-hand coordination that the teacher can provide feedback on that you can’t get from video or from going through the lesson books on your own.. You want to be able to have a relationship with the teacher so the teacher can provide that feedback and support.

The length of lessons for adult students is typically 45 minutes to an hour and that has to do with the fact that you’re trying to approach the material in a way that works for the adult. A half-hour just seems not to be long enough: it’s not quite long enough to get through the theory part and some of the aspects that tie into playing. Adults need to talk a little bit more about the material and connect it to what they already know. So it does take 45 minutes to an hour, and I would say adults are going to make more progress on their playing if they practice 45 minutes to an hour a day. Not all necessarily in one sitting, but aim for a half- hour of practice on most days. A good rule of thumb is to put in the amount of time at daily practice that you have for the length of the lesson.

I hope this gives you some good ideas about taking lessons if you’re interested as an adult– whether you’re coming back to piano, approaching it for the first time, or taking lessons to keep up with your children who are taking lessons. It’s always a great thing to give yourself the gift of music. See you next time. Thanks for listening.

Piano for Preteen and Teenage Students

Today we’re going to be talking about piano lessons for preteen and teenage students. I love the age group and the excitement of working with pre-teens and teens.  Students in that age group love to accomplish a lot, so if they make steady progress and they’re really into the music, you’re going to see a lot of excitement about what they can play and how they move forward.

If they are beginning piano at that age, the challenge is to select beginning music for the student and a series that is specifically geared to an older student. You don’t want an older student reading beginning material that’s geared to younger children, so selecting the proper material is important.  Encouraging the student to be patient is also important because often students are exposed to lots of music and they’re used to a very sophisticated, engineered sound.  Often they may have very little tolerance for mistakes, and they may think that it should be a lot easier to play the piano.  They don’t necessarily want to put in the time and effort to doing what it takes to make a good sound at the piano. So it takes some encouragement and some instruction as to what it means to play the piano.  My analogy to students  at that age is that it’s a lot like sports: you have to warm up, you have to practice your moves, you have to put time in before you can expect to be a star player on a team.

So for pre-teens and teens, it’s a lot of working  with the individual student, with what they need, whether they are beginning or whether they’re advanced at that point, or more of an intermediate student. Another thing is letting them choose the material that works for them–at that age they have some sense of what they want to play, what they want to replicate on the piano. They may have taken other instruments at school. They may be doing other things with music– chorus or other instruments, band, ensemble playing, so there’s a lot that you would consider in terms of what that individual student is bringing to the lesson.

Because there are so many competing interests for pre-teens and teens, sometimes bi-weekly lessons can work well if they have the discipline to practice in between without the weekly lessons. Often having that extra week gives them time to practice. If they’ve been taking lessons for a while, the music that they’re playing will be more advanced, and requires more time to practice. So if they’re very busy with sports and other activities after school and they don’t have time to practice, to go from one week to the next and not have time to practice can be frustrating. Depending on the sophistication of the music– the level of the music they’re playing– the length of the lesson changes so that they might have a 45 minute rather than a 30 minute lesson, or they might have a hour lesson if they’re playing more advanced intermediate music. It all depends on what they’re doing, and where they are in their own development as musicians.

I hope that gives you some ideas about piano lessons for pre-teens and teens. If you’re a parent considering lessons for a teenager, or if you’ve had a child taking lessons all along and suddenly they want to do something different as a teenager, this will give you some food for thought. Feel free to give me a call if you have any questions, or email me.  See you online next time.

Piano for the School-Age Child

Today we’re going to speak about piano lessons for the school-age child–anyone from first grade on up through middle school. For the school-age child, particularly for the young school-age child, depending on where they are developmentally they might start in a primer book or an early beginner book. A six or seven-year-old child is a great age to start piano because they already have a basic sense of reading, they know their alphabet,  they know right from left, they know up-and-down and those basic concepts are things that we use in lessons.   If they have that coming in the door, they’re going to be able to move ahead without having to learn those basic concepts.

School agers have more developed neuromuscular skills than the pre-school child, so they have more hand coordination and we’re able to work on eye-hand coordination as well as learning the language of music which is the written notation and how that’s interpreted.

The school-age child loves to accomplish things, so as they build piano skills, they are able to play songs, play duets and enjoy being at the piano.  There is a sense of accomplishment that they have as they develop their musicianship. So it’s great fun, and you would expect with lessons for the school-aged child that there is steady progress as long as they are able to practice during the week and that brings up another point which is that there should be an instrument available to the student taking lessons.

Whether it’s a piano at home, or a keyboard, or an electric piano– any of those will work for the beginner. Ideally it would be a piano, but keyboards are also fine. A space for practice, an instrument to practice on, an regular time each day for practice are key ingredients that will result in steady progress.  My recommendation is that the length of practice each day should match up with the length of the lesson. So for a school-age child beginning piano would typically have a weekly half-hour lesson and you would expect that they would try to practice about a 30 minutes each day. It doesn’t have to be 30 minutes in a row– they can do two 15 minute practice sessions, or three 10 minute sessions, but they should try to practice every day, so that from week to week they are able to see steady progress, and we are able to assess each week how that’s going and where there might be sticking points to work on.

They should also enjoying music, and as they progress they’re able to identify music they prefer, so the older school-age child will be selecting duets that they liked the sound of, or particular ideas in music that they want to [ursue. The younger beginner is going through the lesson material and there is less of a choice at that point, but since everything is new they tend to enjoy it all, and are able to move into things that they can select for themselves later on.

I hope this gives you a sense of what the school-age child might be doing in lessons and how we approach working with the school-aged child. See you next time.

Piano for Pre-School Children

Today we’re going to talk a little bit about piano lessons for preschool children. I have taught children as young as four years old.  I love teaching any age and certainly preschool children are a wonderful age, but it’s important to think about what it is that the child will get from lessons at that age. In most cases, preschool children are going to be able to enjoy activities at the piano, they’re going to be able to enjoy a relationship with the teacher, and enjoy learning about the piano and music. The way that we do that is through story and song, and imitative activities where the teacher does something and then the child tries to do it as well.

For preschoolers, their neuromuscular development and cognitive development are not going to allow for a lot with respect to reading music. Certainly understanding concepts is possible, but the limited reading ability, and also the limited neuromuscular control is not going to allow the coordination for really technically learning the piano very well. The child’s hands are very small, the amount of control and the way that they use their hands is something that you have to work with carefully.

Children are great at that age, they love music and particularly if they are the younger siblings of an older student, they often want to take piano. I encourage parents if they have the wherewithal to have a young child taking piano lessons, to go ahead and do that. For a young child, the piano lesson length would not be more than 15 or 20 minutes. Because of the attention span and their ability to actually work with the material, they don’t need a half-hour lesson at that age.  You certainly want them to be able to enjoy the lesson, to have a good time, and to anticipate coming and learning about music and doing stories and songs with music at the piano. So I would say if you have a preschooler, consider piano lessons.  It’s great for them to be exposed to lessons at an early age, and build a positive, active relationship with music.

Piano Lessons – What to Expect

Today we’re going to talk a little bit about piano lessons and what to expect when you have a child taking piano lessons or when you yourself are taking piano lessons. The lessons themselves are individualized lessons, unless of course you are signing up for a group class in which case it’s a group lesson but primarily most piano lessons will be individual. So in fact you can expect a lot of individual attention for the student– that’s the first thing. The second thing is  that the lesson is going to be tailored to where that student is developmentally, and also what the content is that they need to be learning at that time. There are lots of materials for teaching piano, and teachers will select many different lessons series etc., but the key thing is to really make sure that the student understands what the key concepts are before moving onto the next, because everything is layered.

The key concepts when studying piano, are number one, the language of music itself because music is its own language as we know, and it has a written component. So there are written notes on lines and spaces called the staff and we have to teach the student what that language is, what those symbols stand for, how to read them properly, and then how to match that up with the keys on the keyboard which also have musical alphabet letter names.

So piano lessons involve the musical alphabet, music reading skills, and usually writing skills as well because there are written activities that help with music reading.  I tell students that reading and writing are two sides of the same coin. Reading and writing music go hand-in-hand. So we do a lot of reading and writing activities, not always during the lessons but as assignments.

During lessons you’re going to be playing the piano, so from one lesson to the next there will be pieces that will be assigned for the student to work on, and when they bring their materials back to the next lesson, they are playing through those pieces and the teacher is working with the student on how it’s going, how it sounds, what needs to be enhanced or corrected or changed.

That gets into the technique of playing– the use of the fingers, the hands, and the arm to play the piano and to play it in a way that makes a beautiful sound, and in a way that’s going to be good for the hand.  In other words, not to do anything that will cramp the hand or cause injury in any way. You want to be sure that the student is learning about how to use the hands and what the technique is for proper playing.

Between the language of music, the theory of music, and the how-to, actually the technical aspects of playing, those are the main components of the lesson.  Those will be balanced depending on what the student needs and the age of the student, so it’s taught in a way that is going to make the most sense and is going to connect with the student.

Last, I would say that you should be able to have a really good experience at the lesson, and look forward to coming back to future lessons. So if the child is dragging, or if you’re feeling that coming to lessons is not really working, then it’s time to stop and have a conversation with the teacher because the lessons are individualized and they should work for the student.

I hope this gives you some idea of what to look forward to when you’re anticipating lessons for yourself or your children. If you have any questions, please feel free to call me or email me. I’ll  be glad to talk with you.  See you online next time.

Approach To Teaching

Welcome to the creative piano blog! In this entry I’d like to talk about my approach to teaching. I love to teach, I’ve had great teachers and I’ve taken a lots of lessons from them over the years. To me, piano lessons are about the individual. What I bring to lessons as a teacher is really very careful attention to the student, whether it’s a young child, a school-age child, a teenager or an adult, I am really working to listen carefully, learn from that person what is the best way for him or her to learn, and then tailor my lessons to him or her. So it’s about customization, it’s about listening carefully, it’s about building a relationship with that person and having fun together. It’s really important to me that there is joy in the lesson and that it really builds on what it is that the person wants to learn.  I hope this gives you a little bit of a sense of how I work. I’ll be talking about this more in future blogs and I look forward to seeing you then.

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