Piano lessons: Questions & Answers
Generally, piano can benefit children from as young as age 4. Music is a universal language. Scientific studies have shown that learning piano is great for the mind, helping develop balance between the left brain (logical thinking, analysis, and accuracy) and the right brain (aesthetics, feeling, and creativity). For children, learning to play piano can also help them to learn other things more easily.
My recommendation for lesson duration will depend on the student's age and situation. For children aged 4 to 6, a half-hour per week is usually recommended. Children aged 7 to 9, with longer attention spans and more maturity, can benefit from 45-minute lessons, and in some cases, even hour-long lessons. From age 10 to adult, hour-long lessons will usually be the most beneficial to the student.
I've been at it my life and am still learning. That is one of the pleasures of playing the piano—you never run out of new things to learn. But most beginners will need to spend one year of consistent effort to develop confidence. At first, we have to cover a lot of new territory—correct hand shape, finger strength, hand coordination, music reading, musical memory, playing loud and soft, playing in rhythm, learning how to practice, how to learn, etc. It takes a while for all this to consolidate into a feeling of competence. It will be difficult to evaluate your own playing; you will be dependent on outside ears (mine) to guide you in your progress.
I mostly teach my piano students to play the pieces from the Baroque, Classical, Romantic and Contemporary periods. These pieces are composed in the styles of the historical period they represent. I strive to develop solid musicianship skills while exposing them to these various styles. My goal is to develop my students' attentive learning habits and musical understanding so they gain the ability to play their favorite pieces beautifully and with a wide range of dynamics.
I treat each of my students in a unique way in order to meet their individual needs. For example I might involve students in duet performances so they can play as part of the team and share the enjoyment of music. I select the pieces which match the student's capability and interest. I give consistent encouragement. My students enjoy working with me as their teacher, resulting in long, productive relationships as the student progresses through the years.
At each individual lesson, I identify or write down fingerings and articulations on the sheet music. For beginners and those who need extra assistance I am extra patient to coach, writing down some of the notes, etc. During the lesson I also demonstrate specific ways of practicing repertoire and technique at the piano. At the end of each lesson, I write down the home work for each student and explain how to practice at home. Next time, I will go over my student's previous assignment, then I guide him or her to move on to the new pieces and the keyboard skills. I work on the details of each piece until the student definitely can handle what they have learned.
Yes. I work on music theory in each lesson and help students learn it.
It is very important to help students develop good home practicing habits and to encourage them to enjoy music daily. From the first lesson, I provide my "tips for piano home practicing" to each student or a specific home practicing form to the student if needed. I also give each of them a clear idea of how to get the best results when they practice.
I motivate each of my students to practice in a unique way in order to meet his (her) individual needs. Students are sensitive to the teacher's feelings and character. A devoted and upright teacher can win the student's heart and naturally motivate them to practice. My students willingly practice piano regularly. Sometimes I may ask a student to keep a record of daily practice; after I have read a student's written practice record, we begin to work on the "how to" of practice in order to help develop more skills and independence.
I impress on my students that home practice is most important for making progress. My job is helping students figure out a way that works for them. Of course, if they have lots of time on their hands, I'd be delighted to encourage them to fill it with piano and to keep practicing regularly. Ideally, my students do focused practice for 1 hour a day.
It depends on both the student's and parents' situations. Most of my students' parents are working and have busy lives. They normally drop their kid(s)'s off, then pick them up. However, if you are available and the student accepts, I welcome your attendance. The home practice is the student's job. I encourage my students to be responsible and studious in their lessons. The best way parents can get involved is to encourage their child's study.
If so, I would recommend piano practice time be divided into two shorter sessions, rather than one long session. Dividing up practicing into two sessions maximizes the student's focus. Practicing is more efficient and result oriented when the student is concentrating. Students will be motivated if they feel they are making progress throughout the week. Parents can help designate optimal piano practice times for the student.
Piano technique is a set of comprehensive skills required in order for students to reach higher levels. I focus on technique from the very beginning. It includes: how to sit comfortably on the bench, keep good posture, use correct hand position and fingerings; use of fingertips, etc. A strong foundation in technique is the first step in making a beautiful sound. I always ask students to relax their wrists, elbows, forearms and shoulders. I select several various keyboard skills books to develop hand and finger flexibility. For new pieces, I ask students to practice slowly at first, listen to the sound while they play and make each note distinctly, then gradually increase the tempos. I teach them to play with efficient body movements, bring the melody out, feel music from the heart. Piano technique is the most challenging subject for students. It requires intelligence, patience and consistent practice.
I approach each transfer student in a unique way. I select technically challenging repertoire and make sure the student enjoys to play. At each lesson, I give detailed instructions. I strive to develop the student's tactile & hearing memory, advanced sight-reading skills, the ability of bringing the melodic out, resolve potential problem spots, etc. I also cultivate each student's ability to become an independent learner.
Once a bad habit develops -- such as bad finger shape or inability to read music -- it is difficult to correct and can take time. That's why it is so important to chose the right teacher -- from the very beginning.
As an Asian & Western cultured teacher, I use methods developed by Faber & Faber, John Thompson, Bastien, Alfred, Noona, and others. All of these methods help the student progress. In addition, I supplement these approaches with my own methods, designed to fit my students' specific needs and help them succeed.
The Oregon Music Teachers Association provides a semi-annual opportunity for students to participate in an audition-exam experience called Syllabus. All exams are held at private piano studios. There are 10 levels of piano skills evaluations in the Syllabus system. It covers music theory, technique, sight-reading, rhythm-reading and ear training test. Students perform their repertoire, depending on their level, three or four memorized pieces written in the different historical periods such as Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Contemporary. All students are expected to memorize and show accuracy, fluency, music understanding and musicality at each level of evaluation with musicianship skills and with repertoire. Students who have successful completed the Level X evaluation are honored in a special recital and receive a medal. This is one of the most popular OMTA projects.
In the past, I have had experience with the Royal Syllabus at all levels in China. I discovered a joy and great value in improved musicianship. Likewise, the OMTA Syllabus provides students with a thorough and comprehensive background in keyboard skills, musical understanding, and performance ability. The syllabus program also provides a vital role in the learning process by giving great motivation for my students.
It depends on the student's interest, learning ability and lesson length. I am flexible. Usually, I allow 10-25 minutes for students to practice keyboard skills and their Syllabus repertoire. I consistently test each of them for the Syllabus evaluation and make sure they are well prepared to take the suitable level.
You get to decide what is right for you. Some students have no interest in the exams, but they enjoy having public performance.
I hold FREE recitals twice a year, around June and December. I offer FREE gifts and FREE awards to each of my students to encourage and motivate them further. I expect all of my students to perform.
My studio recitals are held at local venues. I love to give my students opportunities to perform at various venues so that they can learn how to adjust to different places.
Yes. I encourage my students to participate in the Baroque, Classical, and Romantic festivals.
For a shy student, I give extra attention and consistent encouragement. I join with the student to select performance pieces as early as we can. I want to make sure he/she can be well prepared to perform in recitals. I don't see recitals as a competition, but rather part of the learning experience and environment. My students and their families and friends have opportunity to share the enjoyment of music together as well as to get to know each other.
Of course. People can learn piano at any age. It is never too late to learn something new. For adults, learning piano keeps the mind young and is very uplifting. I find great joy teaching adults. At the lessons, my students and I often laugh together, especially when the student makes mistakes. I tell my students to never be afraid to make mistakes. All of us learn from our mistakes. There is a special challenge in teaching adults in that they are shy about performing in front of people, especially if they are just beginning. It takes time to overcome the nervousness.
I meet the students in a 30-minute interview at no charge. In the interview I explore your child's needs and answer any questions or concerns you may have. If you wish to go forward with a full lesson at that time, there is a charge for the lesson.
Yes, I offer lessons year-round. During the summer and winter, the lesson scheduling is flexible. Of course, I would encourage you to notify me about your schedule as early as you can.
General Studio Questions