Q: When is a good age to start piano?
A: I tell parents that the best age is when a child is really interested. It helps if they can read, understand basic addition and subtraction, and sit still and focus. I have taken motivated 4-year-olds in private lessons, but in general, age 8 or 9 is a great age to start.
Q: Do I need an acoustic piano or will a keyboard work?
A: I always recommend that students learn on an acoustic piano whenever possible. A “real” piano requires more finger strength and development of better technique. However, a good keyboard with a functional pedal can work for beginning students. During lessons, we talk about the adjustments that must be made when going from keyboard to piano.
Q: Why is daily practice such a big deal?
A: The brain, ingenious as it is, tosses out information that we don’t come back for regularly. Like your computer dumps its temp files, the brain does the same. You don’t want all your hard-earned efforts thrown in the trash! When we come to the piano every day, the brain says, “Oh, this is important!” and stores it for future use. Over time, it banks your efforts with interest, meaning the brain works on your music even when you’re not conscious of it. Pretty soon you’re playing Mozart like a pro.
Q: How do I get my child to practice?
A: You can carve out a regular time every day. This helps avoid power struggles with a child who feels “ambushed” by surprise reminders to practice. You can also make sure favorite activities are saved for when practice is over. I provide fun incentives for consistent practicing, and encourage parents to do the same.
Q: How do I get myself to practice daily?
A: Well, what brought you to piano in the first place? Is it a particular song? Do you want to perform for friends or family? Or play the piano professionally? Keeping your goal in mind can help keep you motivated. However, if you just can’t get yourself to the piano every day, talk about it with your teacher. Maybe it means you need a different approach in order to make things fresh and rewarding again.
Q: How long does it take to play well?
A: Piano playing is a performing art, but it also resembles skill sports like swimming or skiing. You can make exciting progress in a few short weeks. Proficiency takes 2-5 years. Mastery is a life-long pursuit.
Q: How do I discontinue lessons?
A: Everyone stops taking lessons eventually. Don’t be afraid to talk about your decision with your teacher and make it a mutual and amicable ending. Decide on a “final lesson date” or recital so that you, and your teacher, can celebrate all that you’ve accomplished.
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