Piano FAQs

FAQs

Frequently asked questions about piano studies.

1. Why take piano lessons?

Music is everywhere in our lives: not only in the home, but on TV, in cars, in stores, in churches, at fairs, and pretty much anywhere you can think of. Creating music is very rewarding for the individual, as it not only gives one a way to unwind after a hard day, there are many other benefits as well. And piano offers its own benefits not found in other instruments. Piano studies increase a child’s ability in abstract reasoning, a skill necessary for math and science. Being able to play to a steady beat increases a child’s ability to bounce a basketball. Since playing the piano involves using both hands simultaneously, it is one of the few activities that uses most of the brain (about 90%!).

There are a myriad of other studies out there on the subject, as science is discovering what musicians have known all along: that music makes a person more well-rounded. We’d rather not focus on the side benefits of piano, however, because the real reason why someone should study piano is direct: it’s a beautiful instrument with tons of beautiful music written for it at any level of playing and in most styles. It is a discipline that requires hard work, but everyone can learn to play and get enjoyment at any level. Many people find careers in non-music fields, and so by taking piano lessons the student will have a way to be creative and expressive when they are older, which may not be possible in their 9-5 job.

 

2. What is your philosophy on teaching piano?
Basically, I take students at every age and level of ability. I believe everyone can get enjoyment from playing piano. I teach mostly classical, but if a student has an interest in jazz, hymns, or some other style, I will try to incorporate that into their repertoire. Once a student reaches a certain level of playing and theory as determined by the student’s goals, then we can shift the focus to mainly that style.

I also believe in practicing efficiently and creatively. This helps the students progress faster and not dread practice time. Each lesson is spent focusing on finding creative and fun ways to practice a tough spot in a piece, as well as addressing any technique issues. I try to use the repertoire to cover most technical exercises instead of exercise books like Hanon which are repetitive and sometimes boring (if there’s a student that enjoys that, however, I do give it to them!).

 

3. Is it necessary for my child to have a piano?

If your child wants to take piano lessons, then a good acoustic piano or a good digital piano is necessary. A digital piano has keys that are the same size as a regular piano, has all 88 keys, and is not the same as a “keyboard” or “synthesizer”. A keyboard or synthesizer has a very different touch than a piano, and if students begin lessons on these, they will soon become frustrated. Playing piano requires strength in the ligaments and tendons in the hands to press down the keys at different speeds. If a child learns on a keyboard, whose keys require virtually no strength to press down, they will have difficulty when playing on an acoustic piano at their lessons or any performance.

An ideal instrument is an acoustic grand piano, but we understand that is not always possible – especially when you may not be sure the child will continue their piano studies to make it worthwhile! VVC recommends that you get the best piano you can afford, because with most things, you get what you pay for. Many local music instrument stores offer digital piano rentals. Digital pianos often take up less space than most small upright pianos, and these are ideal for apartments or condos where silent practice may be necessary (either by turning down the volume or using headphones). Many of these stores allow you to rent for a period of time and then apply your rent payments toward the purchase of a piano when the lease is done.

 

4. What role does the parent play in their child’s lessons?

Parents can be great motivators and encouragers for their children in addition to providing for lessons, transportation, and equipment. We have found that students whose parents  actively go through practice sessions with their children when they are young (up to around age 7 or 8) practice better and progress faster. A parent does not have to be a pianist or even a musician to do this effectively! VVC instructors will tell you how to work with your child at home and are a wealth of information on overcoming any issues that arise from piano study, so we encourage you to use them as a resource to maximize your child’s progress and enjoyment.

Generally speaking, the younger the child, the greater the role the parent(s) will play. For children who are not yet fluent readers, the parent will have to spend time practicing with the child, reading the instructions that were given at each lesson. This can be a very rewarding and valuable time spent with your child. For children who are able to read directions, the parent can still be a facilitator by asking them to play certain pieces or scales for you. As the child gets older (usually around pre-teens and teen ages), they may not want to share their music as openly. This all depends on the child’s comfort level. An actively participating parent is a big part of the learning process!

 

5. How much practice should my child be doing?

At VVC, we prefer to ask how often, as frequency makes a big difference in a student’s progress. Piano playing is a difficult skill to develop, and the fewer days of practice, the harder it becomes. When students aren’t able to practice daily, they become frustrated because they are not able to play a piece they could play better before when they were practicing regularly. They will also not advance on to new pieces as quickly so they will become bored with the music. Daily practice, however,  will make the most of the lessons and will keep piano playing fun and enjoyable.

For beginner piano students, their assignments will take roughly 20 minutes a day to complete. However, if there is a day that they only get 5 minutes, we prefer that over 0 minutes! If a student practices more than this, generally they will progress at a faster pace. As a student progresses, your instructor will advise them on how long they should practice, but generally they should expect to practice 30-45 minutes per day.  Practice time can be broken up to have the same if not better effect. So, 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes after school works just as well, if not better, than all at once.

6. What age is appropriate to start piano lessons?
Four or five years is the youngest VVC instructors will start teaching piano. However, this varies depending on the child’s attention span. VVC gears lessons for the ability of the child, so one that has a shorter attention span will have a lot of smaller segments in the lesson where they get away from the piano and do movement to music, singing, and theory games. It is best to set up a free interview with us to determine if your child is ready for piano study.