7 things you need to commit to before you start piano class

There are so many different kinds of classes – all called ‘Piano Class’ and parents have no real way of knowing exactly what they are getting into, until their child is enrolled.

Teachers always talk to the parent before they take on a new student – i know i do, because the ‘Piano Class’ that I and many other teacher’s like me teach, is the road to developing a long term love and passion for music and piano playing. It involves a committment – from the student, parent and teacher, towards working together, to help the child learn.

So, parents here’s a brief guide to what the teacher expects :

  • That you have a piano at home, with a height-adjustable bench
  • Regular attendance, and arriving on time, for piano class (with the required books and with the students reading glasses!)
  • Daily practise – a young student starts with a few minutes a day, and builds this up
  • That you organise your child’s schedule so they get time at home – to relax, listen to music and spend time with their parents – I’ve recently seen very many stressed children – stressed, because they’re too busy with too many hobby classes and their parents too busy with their work, to get time to spend together as a family.
  • Supportive parents – who make sure that daily practise is done, in a positive way – by being around, listening to their child, praising small improvements
  • Making the time for student concerts
  • Making time to communicate with the teacher regularly (on the phone, at class or via email – whatever’s possible) and sit in on class when required
  • Committing to progress – it is essential that your child learns something new at each class, and that you work with the teacher to ensure that this happens

A Piano Class like this, is for parents who are willing to spend time helping their kids learn and helping the teacher get to know their child, so she can teach better.

Here are a couple of very interesting blogs by Elissa Milne that will help you understand better, what ‘Piano Class’ is about

10 things you should do before your child begins piano class

15 things you need to know about supporting your child learning to play the piano

 

 

 

 

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A tribute to the Piano Mom’s

Children love to perform, but mostly do not like to practise. The first year of learning often goes slow, until their parents realise that daily practise is not going to happen, unless they (the parents) spend time with their kids and make it happen.

With my students, it’s almost always the Mom. It does not seem to matter what pressures she has – work, managing the home, looking after older family members – she still makes the effort. She’s around when her child practises, listening and appreciating good playing, and making sure her child knows she loves listening…..Sometimes, she even convinces her young child, that she can only truly relax when her child practises. So, i have children coming into class telling me they just have to play daily – cos their Mom needs it to relax!

She does this because, she understands that her child will gain some long term value from learning to play the piano – not just the achievement of learning to play, but the confidence and personality growth. She also understands, that eventually, her child will develop a passion for music, and will learn to play and practise without supervision.

Piano Mom works with the teacher, communicating with her regularly, when things don’t go smooth. She makes the effort, even when she and the teacher have differences of opinion, on what her child needs to progress. She works at understanding the teacher, and eventually finding a middle path.

It takes her anything between a month or a year of her child learning, to make her realise that she needs to put time aside, to support her child and she then, rearranges her schedule, to make this possible.

A heartfelt THANK YOU to you all – I really appreciate all the time and effort you put in..

2 minutes and 2 steps to Creative Piano Practise

….for piano students to make their practise spontaneous, yet regular and fun.

So, students, this is how it works :

  • Select a small section from a piece you like (a line or a phrase of music) – change the section every week
  • Play it for 2 minutes, when you take a break from some other activity (for example after studying, dinner, or tidying up your stuff at home) both with and without the book

After some time of doing this daily, students find that they really really want to play the piano as soon as they finish their studies or their chores. They start using piano playing to relax and to express their moods and emotions and therefore, piano playing becomes a need – not just something they have to do as homework.

 

Piano practise becomes more spontaneous and students tend to remember practise ideas they’ve been taught, and also use ideas of their own – simply because they’re so focused on playing something they enjoy well. They also often, WANT to play, when they’re tired or when studies get heavy, because it helps them relax and de-stress and therefore study better and quicker.

 

The 2 minutes are done separately from the regular practise homework, so to the student, it’s just having fun. It often it makes students want to  restructure their daily practise schedule – to allow flexibility, so they can play because they feel like it, rather than because it’s time for piano practise to be done.

 

 

 

We have a keyboard at home – why should we buy a piano?

Digital Piano with X Stand

Non-weighted keyboard

Many students in Mumbai & Navi Mumbai start off in piano class, with a basic 5 or 7 octave keyboard to practise on at home, realise they need a piano & then invest in a digital or an acoustic piano as soon as their budget permits.

There are 2 important reasons why piano teachers always recommend students buy an acoustic piano :

  1.  Weighted keys
  2. Responsiveness to touch, with a a capacity to produce variations in tone. 

How key weight affects playing technique

Students who practise on an instrument with weighted keys learn to keep their shoulders, arms & hands in a relaxed position while playing.

The weight of the keys allows them to do this, as the keys are heavy enough, that they can transfer the weight of their arm (this is done in varying degrees, depending on the tonal effect required) to the piano keyboard.

Students who go for piano class and practise on non-weighted keyboards often struggle to adjust. They realise very quickly that their playing technique is being affected by practising on an instrument that is so very different from the piano, that it hinders their learning. And they start budgeting to buy a piano.

Acoustic vs Digital upright pianos

Digital pianos have weighted keys. The degree and quality of the key weight as compared to an acoustic piano vary with different models & budgets. Digital pianos have the following advantages over acoustic pianos :

Yamaha Clavinova Piano

Digital Piano

  1. Digital pianos are budget friendly – you can get a reasonably good digital piano at Rs70,000/- to Rs 1,50,000/- approximately (Refer * below), depending on the quality, brand & functionality you choose.
  2. Headphones for practise. This is really great in small homes.
  3. Recording to MIDI or recording audio directly to a USB or computer, without background noise.
  4. They don’t need regular tuning the way an acoustic piano does, and don’t get affected by temperature fluctuations. It is advisable however, to keep them away from moisture and the direct heat of the sun.
  5. Easy & reasonably priced dismantling, moving and re-assembling. This is an advantage for families who live on rent & have to move every couple of years.

There’s one major disadvantage to having a digital piano, and that is that the responsiveness of the instrument to touch & the capacity to produce variations in tone is limited. So, piano students who wish to move beyond Grade 4/5, & eventually to advanced level pieces, need acoustic pianos to practise on. 

The cost of buying an acoustic piano

  1. You can get a very basic level acoustic piano  Rs 2,50,000/- budget (Refer * below). An instrument with reasonably good tonal quality suited for an advanced level student costs between Rs 4 to 5 lakhs.

    Acoustic Piano

    Acoustic Piano

  2. Acoustic pianos need to be tuned 3 times a year. If you live in a smaller town, check whether there are piano tuners available in your locality & what they charge. And whether they will be regular with appointments, because that can be an issue. Check out whether your piano dealer offers a service contract for piano tuning.
  3. You will need to install a de-humidifier to keep the inside of your piano free of moisture during the monsoon. Price & buy this when you buy your piano.

I hope this post is clear and helps you make a decision on which instrument to buy. Good luck!

*  Images (excluding the header image) are provided by Furtados Music, Jer Mahal, Dhobitalao. Approximate budgets are based on their showroom prices as on May 2017.

To all my Teachers

Thank you,

For teaching me with love and patience. For believing in me on the days that I did not believe in myself. For giving me confidence to try even when it meant risking failure. For picking me up after a fall, and teaching me how to accept failure and move on.

Thank you also, to those of you who went out of your way to make things difficult for me. I look back and realise that I needed the obstacles you threw in my path – either by chance or by design, to make me realise that I had the ability to go over some of them on my own. And to learn to go around at those I couldn’t go over.

I feel blessed to have been taught by you all.