Frequently Asked Questions
What age is good to commence piano lessons?
Children may be ready for lessons as early as 2 years. There are programmes throughout Victoria and some wonderful ones in Melbourne that provide musical activities, which include singing & rhythm training for 2 year olds or even younger. This is is an excellent introduction before commencing formal piano lessons, where the actual playing of the instrument is taught. I have frequently taught 3 year olds who are learning to read music, establishing technical skills & also learning to perform as well as memorize. Four years old kinder suits many young children as beginners. Most children start lessons after commencing Primary school, often after prep.
My preference is to commence formal lessons from approximately 3 1/2 years to almost 7 years. The younger the child the more all-round benefits significantly increase. Research supports this undeniably.
Any age is suitable if we are aiming for personal enjoyment and achievement. The therapeutical benefits may be acknowledged too.
Ths skills for teaching pre-school students include other elements of pedagogy which demand specialist training and should be valued at the same level of importance as teaching advanced students. These are our MUSICIANS OF THE FUTURE!
What are some of the benefits of learning piano?
Much research has shown that problem solving skills, lateral thinking, ability to concentrate, mathematical thinking as well as cognitive recognition (to name just a few) can be enhanced through music studies. Piano has been proven to be more effective than other instruments at kindergarten level and more beneficial than using computers or digital devices.
Also, an appreciation of music for a lifetime is usually a positive outcome. This often overlaps with an appreciation of painting & sculpture as well as other cultural pursuits.
Obviously learning other instruments is very complimentary to learning in general. It would be interesting to undertake testing of music students along the lines of Naplan for comparison with non music students.
Even sporting endeavours may benefit!
Melbourne has a thriving classical music scene - attendance at concerts, opera and ballet will be assured for the FUTURE if we encourage an interest in music from an early age.
How much practice is necessary?
Progress is smoother & more satisfying for the student if a parent supervises closely in the earliest stages. School-age students these days are often involved in many activities. QUALITY not QUANTITY should be the case, as well as playing consistently & being organized.
The ultimate goal also affects the weekly routine. It is alright to divide even a 1 hour session at Intermediate level into two or three blocks. It can be more productive just to focus on one work or task and then leave the piano and return later to focus on another work or task. With young students l often initially recommend two ten minute sessions per day so that repetition doesn't become too tedious and of course this can be increased until they can concentrate for thirty minutes. We call this Playtime at the piano rather than the dreaded P word - Practise.
Research has proven that our ability to focus and concentrate when practising is markedly reduced after FORTY minutes (even for professional musicians).
Most music students discontinue lessons and even playing by the time they reach Intermediate level- only a small proportion will go on to select music as a career.
For the more serious student the approach to practise is evolving and more intricate strategies are employed, which can be discussed later on. Practising piano at higher grades, Diploma level or concert level obviously requires greater investment of time. Many professionals reccomend FOUR hours per day for maintenance of touch and technique. While l was a student living overseas it was usual for students to consistently practise 5 to 6 hours per day at tertiary level. Therefore it is imperative that a sufficient understanding of the choreographic aspects as well as the physical balance of relaxation and tension are applied to technical development.
What piano should l consider purchasing?
If you wish your child to develop a touch and technique suited to acoustic instruments and classical music then it is essential to buy a good quality acoustical instrument in preference to a digital keyboard. Uprights are satisfactory at the Beginners stage. Unfortunately we can't invest in a Half size or Quarter size instrument but then the student is already playing a Full size from a young age. If the student progresses to advanced levels and wishes to extend their studies with a view to pursuing a career as a teacher or performer it would be adviseable to consider upgrading to a GRAND piano. For Diploma levels this is also preferable. Grand pianos are reasonably affordable these days and don't depreciate quite so quickly as a car ( even a Mercedes)!
If considering purchasing a second hand piano, especially if you have a limited budget, then there some aspects to carefully check. The ACTION and TOUCH should be scrutinized. If the student is going to continue their involvement in music a good quality instrument is a necessity.
Alison is able to advise on brands and models, as well as important features to check. When testing, the touch is of optimum importance. Also, the voicing of registers should be reasonably consistent. If the upper register is slightly on the dull side just be aware that with use the tone will become brighter. Also be mindful of the piano bench - adjustable is the more sensible option.
It is also essential to maintain the instrument in fine playing condition. Like vehicles, the longevity and efficiency is vastly increased through regular tuning and voicing. Alison is able to reccommend ecellent keyboard technicians if requested.