“Testing the water” with piano lessons

Will my child’s interest in playing piano be a life-long commitment, or is this a passing fad?
That is a very tough question. There are so many factors to consider – and if you, the parent, is not sure of the answer, I can assure you that I, the music teacher, cannot answer that question either — yet.
Piano is an amazing instrument that can do a great deal. Learning to play piano is not something that is accomplished quickly. It is like a complicated video game with levels that go onward in multiple directions, and there is always another horizon once your reach the current endpoint. For this reason, playing piano can be a lifelong pursuit, one goal after the other – or it can be something where one reaches a plateau, and then stays at that plateau, enjoying the vista for years.
The trick is harnessing the initial interest in the instrument into skills that bring joy and a sense of accomplishment, so that the student enjoys the learning journey. As a teacher, it is my job to work with the student, helping the student find that productive and enjoyable path. The student has to be willing to try out the instructions, willing to put in some effort and work, in order to see the results. At that point we start seeing whether or not the child’s interest turns into something long-term, or the child wants to turn to some other pastime.
Parents are often willing to put in the time, money, and effort to help their child succeed in pursuit of musical goals. However, brand new pianos cost thousands of dollars, and even the costs of books and other materials can add up quickly. Here is the low-cost method to get your student through the first months of piano discovery, past the point of initial interest and (hopefully!) onto the road of long-term enjoyment from music creation.
(1) Instrument:
Your child needs an instrument. It doesn’t have to be the best one out there, but there are some basic requirements that need to be met in order to proceed well.
• The instrument can be analog (traditional piano) or electric or digital.
o Thought should be given to the household needs when deciding between a traditional piano and an electric piano. Does the household move a great deal? Will the piano need to be located on a floor other than the ground floor? Will the sound of the student’s practice of piano be competing with other family activities, such as TV watching, sleeping, etc.? The volume on an electric instrument can be easily controlled with a knob or the pianist can use headphones, and electric instruments are much more portable than traditional pianos.
o If it is a traditional piano, every key needs to be in good working order and the piano needs to be tuned. The damper pedal needs to work.
o Electric keyboards or digital pianos need a minimum of 36 keys and the size of the keys needs to be identical to the key size on a standard piano.
? The keyboard needs to sit at a height of about 28” off of the floor. There are adjustable height keyboard stands, or a table can be used with an appropriate height chair or stool.
? The electric instrument needs to sound pleasant to the ear – some cheap or toy instruments are very tinny or difficult to listen to, and this will make playing it unpleasant.
• Some thought should be given to the chair or stool or bench.
o Traditionally, many piano stools and benches can adjust their height.
o If a chair is used, it should be armless and stable, and promote good posture. (Folding chairs, camp chairs, plush chairs, etc., should not be used.)
o In the first lesson, the teacher will talk about how to determine the correct height of the piano and chair. Make sure that at home the piano student’s instrument and chair and body are all working together to promote ease of playing and proper technique.

(2) Piano method books
For the first four weeks, it may be possible to start with only a lesson book. Check with the teacher on the specific book titles required for your child. (However, there are often deals on book bundles, so it may be more economical to purchase all of the books up front.)

(3) The discipline of practicing music
When learning a sport, a child joins a team and there are regular practice sessions. Practicing a musical instrument requires regular practice, which means coming up with a schedule and sticking to it. This can be difficult because there is no team waiting for the student to arrive at each practice session. When starting instrument study, don’t think that all that needs to be scheduled is the weekly lesson – please realize that regular practice also needs to be scheduled into each day. I am not suggesting that a student needs to slavishly practice every day – our lives often don’t work that way – however, I do recommend scheduling at least 4 or more regular practice sessions per week in addition to the weekly lesson. Make practice time fun – schedule something afterwards that is like a reward – like TV time or snack time or walk-the-dog time. Work the student’s practice into the regular family routine.

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Alisa Phoenix | Phoenix Tech Gurus | The Frugal Organic Path | Garden Down the Street | The Automatic Earth | Igor the Jazz Cowboy | Sunnyslope Historical Society | itsjustapuzzle.com