Is it true that piano lessons can increase
How do piano lessons improve overall development?
What is the best age to start?
What is specialist tuition?
Is specialist tuition only for the
So is specialist tuition the best option
How to choose a tutor?
Which instrument is the best to play?
Is it essential to have an acoustic
piano at home?
Is it okay to have a good electric
Is it true that the first piano does
not have to be very good?
Do we have to buy a new instrument?
What should we be looking for in the
How much time is required for practicing?
What else is there to keep in mind?
How to ensure that the child practises
What is the role of the parents?
not that we want our child to become a concert pianist"
What about the examinations?
Taking the examinations
It is well known and scientifically proven that instrumental, and
especially piano, lessons are beneficial for the development of
the human brain. There is a strong connection between music and
academic achievement as playing develops the hardware of thinking
and reasoning and maintains it in a mint condition. The American
pianist and educator Don Campbell, the author of the famous ‘Mozart
Effect’, has even subtitled one of his books ‘Awakening
Your Child’s Mind, Health and Creativity with Music’.
In the 11 th Variation of the Paganini Etude by Liszt, the pianist
has to play 1,800 notes a minute – no wonder that playing
the piano is like taking your brain to a gym!
it is exercised constantly, with the difficulty of tasks gradually
arms and feet are often required to make complex, precise and entirely
different movements simultaneously
required at all times. The process of playing can be similar to
driving a very fast car, involving anticipation, evaluation, action,
reaction, compensation – all almost at the same time
the habit of working regularly and efficiently is required at early
stages and has to be maintained
it comes almost as a by-product because it is part of playing well
and is gradually developed during the process of work
self-control: as important and necessary as in sport
knowledge: musicians need to learn about the times and
circumstances surrounding the pieces they play
and control of the body: the whole body is engaged in the process
of playing and has to be fully under control
it is perfectly possible to start playing the piano at any age,
the period between
four to six years is acknowledged in professional circles as ideal.
the Continent, especially Eastern Europe and Scandinavia, and in
countries such as Russia, America, Japan, Korea, China and Hong
Kong, there is a strongly established culture of instrumental tuition.
There, it is very common to begin piano lessons at the age of four
or five, and a child of eight is regarded as a late starter.
the very young requires highly developed and specialised teaching
skills and attention to detail. It is essential to get the many
complex elements of positioning the hands and the posture exactly
right, as the smallest mistake quickly multiplies and can lead to
significant problems later. From the tutor’s point of view
it is often safer and easier to start tuition at an older age but
the invaluable best time for implementing the kinetic and musical
skills is lost.
is the most advanced form of the art of instrumental tuition. It
aims to develop the potential of the student to the full at each
stage of the tuition process, also building a reliable base for
further progress. If a student receives specialist tuition there
should be no significant imperfections in their playing, caused
by the teacher’s mistakes, lack of knowledge or
inability to teach a particular element. Also please see ‘How
do we choose a tutor?’.
at all. Any student at any age can greatly benefit from it. However,
because the numbers of specialist tutors are limited and their private
fees can be very high, this type of tuition is mostly available
in specialist schools, conservatoires and academies of music where
the costs are partly subsidised. The number of applicants always
exceeds the number of places, and the most talented students are
selected through auditions.
it all depends on one’s interests and needs. Similarly, not
all people would want and need to do A level Spanish; some are happy
just to attend a short course before going on holiday. To make sure
that students get exactly what they are looking for, the Piano Kids
Studio offers free of charge assessment, consultation sessions and
are three types of instrumental tutors, depending on their education:
amateur tutors; professional non-specialist tutors; professional
tutors usually play the instrument they are teaching but they do
not have professional qualifications in playing or teaching, or
both. Often their strength is their enthusiasm for music, however,
they may pass the imperfections of their own playing on to their
non-specialist tutors have qualifications in instrumental teaching
available from various institutions.
specialist tutors normally are, or have been, professional concert
performers and for up to 20-25 years have received specialist tuition
themselves. To become a successful specialist tutor one needs personal,
relevant experience as a student, a talent for teaching and the
experience of working as a specialist tutor. The best performers
are not always the best teachers, and vice versa. There are no degrees
and courses providing such qualification because it takes much more
than a few years of training to obtain the necessary knowledge and
skills. Specialist tuition is usually available in specialist music
schools, conservatoires, academies of music and some departments
of music in universities.
is no answer to this question, however, after assessing musical,
physical and psychological characteristics of the child it is usually
possible to suggest the most suitable instrument. The Piano Kids
Studio offers free assessments and consultations to help with these
are some of the advantages of the piano:
it is a harmonic instrument, in other words, one can play chords
and enjoy harmonic colours. This is not possible on the wind,
brass and, to a degree, string instruments
pianists never require accompanists
the piano is suitable for people with a less developed sense of
may find playing, for instance, a string instrument difficult
music for the piano, including arrangements, covers all periods
In volume, it by far supersedes music available for any other
you never need to carry your own piano around!
though you can delay getting it for some period of time. As soon
child starts making good progress it is essential that they can
practice at home.
‘Touch sensitive’ is a misleading definition. Electric
keyboards are only sensitive to pressure, producing a louder or
quieter sound. An acoustic piano in reaction to touch (not the level
of pressure!) produces the tone of different colours. The variety
of touch, and therefore the variety of the colour of the sound,
is one of the most important pianistic skills. Work on it starts
from the first lesson. Electric keyboards and pianos exclude the
development of this and other skills and have negative impact on
you always can choose to learn to play the keyboard, not the piano.
It does not have to look good and can be old but it must be a good
instrument and in an excellent playing order. Raising a musician
is like growing a tree: things that are missed in the first years
of tuition often can never be regained. Early mistakes may eliminate
the possibility of future achievements even with a significant talent
There are other alternatives: 1. buy a second hand instrument –
but not through an advert! Buy a reconditioned piano from a competent
dealer, with prices starting at £1,500. Omega Pianos in Blaydon
offer a good choice of second-hand instruments. 2. Rent it. Ask
for a hire-purchase that allows you to put your rent against the
price of the purchase if you decide to
buy the instrument. 3. Maybe a friend or a relative will loan their
instrument to you? Ask
your teacher to check it first.
general condition and action of the instrument should be checked
by a tuner or someone who has the necessary knowledge. They have
to look for splits, check the pegs, the dampers, the pedals etc.
From the pianist’s point of view, it should have pleasant,
warm, “cultured” tone; the keys should not be too light,
too deep or too shallow – often an issue!; the middle, bass
and top registers should be well balanced and even. It should respond
to half and quarter pedal; produce good quality piano (quiet) sound;
retain the roundness of the tone when playing forte.
depends on the age and the level of playing, ask your teacher for
guidance. My youngest students start with five minutes, then the
length of time gradually increases. Someone who is seven years old
and is working on the grade one pieces should practise for
around 30-40 minutes daily, except the day of the piano lesson. I also
give my students ‘practicing holidays’ when they are
asked not even to approach the piano!
must be clean, preferably washed just before playing. Nails have
to be cut short. No food, drink and chewing gum near the piano.
It is a good idea to keep a simple medium size clock on the piano
to monitor the duration of practicing sessions.
age of six they should not be shorter than 20 minutes as it takes
about five minutes to start focusing on the task. Ideally, there
should be no movement around the room during the practicing and
no other distractions. No conversations, no noise from the television
or radio, no visits to the loo, having a drink or popping around
to the kitchen to ask a question. Practicing is serious work but
fully within the capability of a young child, and has to be approached
should be an enjoyable and rewarding activity. After all, it is
the contact with the chosen instrument, bringing pleasure and fun!
Consistent practising will result in good lessons, praise from the
teacher, family and friends and bring a real taste of improvement
and success. You can secretly record your child’s early (or
any) practising sessions and play them back a few months later –
this really puts things in perspective and shows the progress made!
practising is absolutely essential. Slow or no progress brings boredom
and lack of motivation of the child’s part, and it may be
difficult to revive the interest once this happens. Like other issues
with children’s behaviour, the appropriate attitude from adults
can eliminate the potential problem before it arises. As with all
duties (like going to work, for example) there is an element of
a chore that can be successfully tackled applying discipline and
treating practicing as a task that is not debatable. Establish the
routine in the first weeks of taking lessons. Find a suitable time
for it, plan it and follow it through. It is very dangerous to step
on the slippery slope of “ok, tomorrow you will make it up
for today”, “you will practice more when it rains”
or “ just play for 15 minutes as we have to rush”. This
sends messages that will be lovingly stored in the memory of the
budding pianist and will not get forgotten!
the Piano Kids Studio all teams consist of three equal partners:
the pupil, their parents and the tutor. The more progress children
make, the more support they need, and the role of the parents becomes
more demanding. However, the first tangible signs of success always
turn parents into devoted and ardent fans: it is very exciting to
witness, and support, the blossoming of a talent.
early stages of having lessons may be difficult. Parents may not
have the vision of the achievements that are within the reach of
their child, and may not see why they should tolerate the inconveniences
or even make sacrifices. There was an occasion when parents stopped
lessons not fully realising the potential of their child and the
extent of her exceptional progress. Ironically, while wanting the
best for their child, they had taken away the chance
of developing what perhaps was their daughter’s most outstanding
tutor will discuss with parents their role because it is so important,
and will make suggestions about the support they can provide.
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not that we want our child to become a concert pianist"
many parents have introduced their kids to me, saying these words
with a slightly guilty
and embarrassed look, that I am almost yearning to meet a family
saying "We want him
to be a concert pianist!".
people do not become concert soloists just because they want to;
mostly it happens because they can't help it and they cannot imagine
their life without it.
seems that people who are born musical need larger 'injections'
of music than the rest,
but it doesn't always have to become a profession. On the other
hand, there is a huge and very lucrative market for those with a
musical background: the entertainment industry, recordings, theatres,
shows, bands, television and radio programmes and all satellite
businesses and services offer a sea of opportunities.
and assessments that are set in specialist schools and colleges
follow their own curriculum which is normally based around internationally
acknowledged stages of
development of a young musician. They monitor and confirm that the
reaching certain benchmarks.
concept behind the exams by examination boards, such as the ABRSM,
was born out of
the British system of instrumental education, mainly based on private
tuition. Boards provide the opportunity to take exams at a suitable
time and to measure each individual performance against unified
standards. They also play another very important role: helping motivate
children, providing certain deadlines for preparing programmes and
offering rewards in the
form of certificates and exam grades.
performances, examination boards do not, and cannot, provide thorough
assessments of pianistic and musical development of each candidate.
Passing the exam confirms that the student was able to play the
three required pieces to a certain standard. Examiner’s comments
offer advice for further development, based on the performance of
these pieces and some other tasks.
progress allows a piano student to move one grade up each year.
However, by this we mean increasing the level of difficulty but
not necessarily playing the grade pieces and taking annual examinations.
There are many other aspects of development that are not covered
by the grade pieces but need time and attention.