Here are a list of questions that I have encountered most often during my teaching career. Hopefully they will help give you a better understanding of my teaching philosophy, what I believe in, and how I can personally help you on your journey to learn the piano!
On practicing on a real acoustic piano vs. on a keyboard
I have a keyboard. Do I need an acoustic / traditional piano to take piano lessons, or is my keyboard okay to practice on?
When you press a key down on a keyboard, a plastic hammer hits a plastic trigger, which tells a computer to play a pre-recorded sound sample on an electronic speaker.
When you press a key down on a piano, a mechanism throws a felt hammer glued to a wood dowel at a string, or strings, of varying thickness and tension; simultaneously, a felt damper is lifted from the string or strings. After the hammer strikes the strings, it blows back back to a lower position to prevent from muting the strings it just struck.
These are different mechanisms that reward different motions, and feature different consequences for different actions. For this reason, I would recommend to all piano students to purchase and practice on an acoustic piano.
On reading music vs. playing by ear
I learn best playing by ear. Reading music isn’t coming very naturally to me. Will this get any easier? Can I just learn piano by ear?
Imagine going to school, and having to learn new information and study for tests, but having no way to write it down, or read anything about it. You’d have to learn everything through word-of-mouth. It would take a long time.
Learning how to read music is not easy. It will take a while. But it is worth it! So stick to it.
Read even just a line or a few measures of new music before or after you practice, whenever you have time to do so. You will slowly improve at it.
On getting frustrated or not seeing results
I practiced! But I’m not getting any better. Why?!
Perfect practice makes perfect. And unfocused or inefficient practice doesn’t improve our ability at the piano nearly as quickly, or sometimes even at all. That’s where I’m here to help. I’ve had lots of experience teaching, and my goal is to support you in your journey to get better at the piano.
It's important that if you have a question, to ask me about it during your lesson. My answer may help you understand a better or faster way to ascend to the next level in your journey.
I’m playing all the notes I’m supposed to, but the music doesn’t sound or feel right. Why?
There are three quantifiable elements to sound as it pertains to music: rhythm, pitch, and amplitude. Out of these three elements, rhythm is the most important aspect of music. It’s what ties all of these pitches together in patterns that the human brain can comprehend and enjoy. If you play all the pitches, but there is no underlying beat, or pulse, it’s not going to sound right. Music is not just sound, but sound placed in time. It’s sound in time that makes music "flow". I know of some exercises and techniques that can help you get into this feeling.
I love piano, and I want to learn it, but I am really busy, and I don’t have time to practice.
It’s not necessarily the amount of time that you have to practice that will determine the rate of your progression as it is the amount of focus you put into practicing piano when you have the time to do it. Your focus should be determined by the problems that you’re trying to solve. Try to practice for at least 5 minutes every day. Consistent practice over a long period of time will yield the greatest results for you in your piano practice.
Is there something else I can do other than practice? Is there a way to make it more efficient?
I get it! I don’t particularly like practicing either, and I've also done a lot of it. However, I deeply enjoy being able to play a piece of music to the best of my ability. So when I practice, I always do so with specific goals in mind. If I accomplish my goals, I can set new goalposts farther out, again refocusing my practice and recalibrating my goals based on where I am.
Practice is the only way any of us can get better. It is the only way we can maintain our skill. Without practice, we lose our ability. In addition, consistent practice over a long period of time will always yield the most results.
The best, most efficient way to practice is to have goals in mind, and to keep setting higher goals as you improve. You can be confident that no matter how high you go, there will always be room to grow.
Do you give examples of goals I can follow to raise the quality of my piano practice?
Every time we have a lesson, I will write down in your piano homework notebook a short summary of what you should practice for each piece you play for me. When you are at home practicing, use those homework notes that I wrote in your notebook to help you recall more details of what I said. It’s best to do this quite soon after you have a piano lesson, within a day or so, so that you can immediately put into action the details I mentioned during your lesson, and ingrain them into you practice. If you wait until several days after your lesson to practice, the words I wrote will still be there, but the memory of the other details I didn't have time to write down for you may have slipped away from you by that point.
How much do I need to practice?
I understand this question as, "how much practice do I need in order to make it worth it for me to take piano lessons?" After much consideration, the short answer to that question, according to me, is as follows:
- Novice, 6 years old and up: a minimum of 5-10 minutes a day.
- Advanced Beginner, 9 years old and up: a minimum of 10-30 minutes a day.
- Competent, 12 years old and up: a minimum of 45 minutes a day.
- Proficient, 15 years old and up: a minimum of 1 hour a day.
- Expert, 18 years old and up: a minimum of 1 hour a day.
Learning piano requires practice. These times listed above are the minimum amounts of time that you can get away with to maintain skill at the piano. If you want to get better, you will want to practice for longer durations that suggested above.