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5 Contemporary Songs to Learn How to Play Piano by Ear

Can your favorite contemporary songs help you learn how to play piano by ear? They sure can! Check out how to get started in this guest post by Corona, CA teacher Milton J...

 

Recently, I started teaching a new piano student who simply wanted to play his favorite pop songs by both ear and sight to not only become a better pianist, but to be the life of the party for his friends. I loved his goal and made sure he knew about the great ways of learning how to play piano by ear using the popular songs he heard every day. To help you achieve your similar goal, here are five songs you’ve most definitely heard that can be easily learned and turned into the next groove when you reconvene with your friends and family!

“Stay With Me” — Sam Smith

This song is one of my favorites this year and it’s not at all hard to play. When you want to slow the tempo down and learn something that sounds soothing, you cannot go wrong with this tune.

“Radioactive” — Imagine Dragons

This song was everywhere last year, and is still a song with a wonderful melody that I personally love to play. With this version, you’ll learn the chords and melody, and you can feel free to add in your own rhythms that deviate from this version if you want it to sound more like the original.

“All Of Me” — John Legend

This is a wonderful ballad for learning how to play piano by ear. It’s not that difficult to play the chords and melody together, and as your proficiency level increases, you can then switch to John Legend’s original piano composition for added fun!

“Rude” — MAGIC!

We’ve all been there, right? That song that stays in your head and you find yourself humming or singing it without realizing it? That was me with MAGIC!’s “Rude” for a good month. Because of that, I felt I had no choice but to learn it on the piano. Luckily, it’s a wonderful melody with a pretty cool rhythm that I’m sure you will enjoy learning!

“Happy” — Pharrell Williams

2014’s most popular song is ready for you to learn on the piano! The very simple but incredibly infectious “Happy” took America by storm with its decree to oneself – just be happy. Surely you will hold to that ideal when you learn this one. You can even have someone with you tap the drum beat as you play for added fun!

Now that you’ve got some piano songs under your belt, it’s time to warm up those fingers and share your talents with the ones in your life! Happy playing!

MiltonJMilton K. teaches guitar, piano, singing, music recording, music theory, opera voice, songwriting, speaking voice, and acting lessons in Corona, CA. He specializes in classical, R&B, soul, pop, rock, jazz, and opera styles. Learn more about Milton here!

 

 

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5 Piano Exercises That Target Your Left Hand

Using Your Left Hand While Playing The PianoAs you’re playing the piano, does it feel like your left hand just can’t keep up with the right? Here, Corona, CA teacher Milton J. shares a few piano exercises to add to your practice to target this common struggle…

The dreaded left hand. The hand with a mind of its own, the hand that lags behind the right, and the hand that does not seem that smart. While all of these conjectures are common, it stems from a lack of detailed attention to developing the accompanying left hand in conjunction with the melodic right hand. Here are five piano exercises that will help make your left hand stronger, faster, and ready to move with the right!

I Can Play with One Hand Tied Behind My Back

With this exercise, practice playing the melody that you’d normally play on your right hand. What would seem like an easy task is not as easy if you’re not used to utilizing the left hand like this, so this will be a nice challenge for your less-dominant left hand.

A Slow Burn

Now, you should slow things down to make sure you’re being accurate and allowing your hand and arm muscles to memorize the movements and placements for your piano exercises and songs. As you repeat the same motions, muscle memory will begin and you’ll be able to eventually speed things back up a tempo. However, be sure not to rush it!

The Hanon Effect

Did you know that even many seasoned professional pianists haven’t fully master all 60 Hanon exercises? I know your follow-up question after this answer, however – “What are the Hanon exercises?” They are piano exercises created by pianist and teacher Charles-Louis Hanon over 100 years ago and are still just as useful today. These exercises work on building finger and hand speed, dexterity, coordination, agility, and strength.

Play. Compliment. Repeat.

This exercise is mostly a simple extension of the exercises you’ll already working on. The difference here is giving yourself a momentary pause after completing an exercise correctly, lifting your fingers off the keyboard, and complimenting yourself with a repeated phrase or gesture (like saying “Great job, Milton!” or patting yourself on the back).

After doing so repeatedly, you may start to realize that your right hand is able to immediately go to your chords and melodies without much thought. Essentially, you’re helping to accelerate your muscle memory within your hands and arms. Continue this exercise through the circle of fifths and keep it going until you’ve mastered it in all 12 keys.

Let It Rest, Let It Rest, Let It Rest

Once you’ve given your left hand a good workout through all those exercises, LET IT REST. More than we often realize, growth also comes when we’re away from the piano. It’s that period in between your practice sessions when the muscles grow and build, which is why you may end a practice session fatigued and not necessarily feeling satisfied that you mastered what you set out to master. However, don’t let yourself be discouraged, as the next time you sit down to the piano, you’ll notice it’s a lot easier to do what you once struggled with. This is essentially the “hump” to get over, as many students tend to give up in this moment, leading to quitting much too early due to the perceived discouragement.

Don’t let this negativity set in. Let your muscles rest, let the knowledge marinate, and return with a determination that you’re going to accomplish all of your piano-playing goals!

MiltonJMilton K. teaches guitar, piano, singing, music recording, music theory, opera voice, songwriting, speaking voice, and acting lessons in Corona, CA. He specializes in classical, R&B, soul, pop, rock, jazz, and opera styles. Learn more about Milton here!

 

 

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2 Effective Techniques for Smoothing Out Your Legato

LegatoWhat are the best exercises for practicing legato music on the piano? Here, Helendale, CA teacher Sylvia S. offers her tips and tricks for mastering the technique…

Legato… a beautiful and mysterious word that brings images of a pair of swans gracefully gliding on the placid waters of a still lake. In the phrasing of the Italian renaissance, the time and place where the language of music was born, legato meant tied, bound, or connected. In terms of legato music, it means this and more. The art of playing legato can be compared to floating serenely across the water of a Venetian canal in a gondola, holding hands with your lover through the tunnel of love. In the romantic language of music, legato is the ultimate in smooth, seductive, sensuous phrasing.

This word is most often found in classical, or “legitimate” music, while piano sheet music will more often use descriptions like “play smoothly.” Regardless of the wording, the artistry of smooth or legato style is as much imagination and imagery as it is technical ability. Before practicing “how” to play legato, an aspiring pianist who wishes to bring his or her audience the tantalizing treats of smooth sound imagery may venture in the ideas of desire. Desire to enter into this styling, and then delve into the practical.

Practice Scales and Arpeggios

So, what is the practical side of legato? What, or how, to practice before schmoozing into that gondola or shape-shifting into that swan lake? Despite the ease with which experienced pianists seem to glide over the keys, the reality is that strength and consistency is just as important as a light hand at the performance.

Practicing scales and arpeggios is one way to start. Practice two ways. First, slowly and deliberately lift and lower each finger using maximum force. This builds musculature in the hands, which you will need for the greatest control. Then, after your hands are warmed up, work on smoothing out the sound. Watch for any weakness, particularly with the fourth finger, which tends to be the most difficult to work independently. Also, look for any clumsiness or “thunking” sounds; often, this will be where the thumb and fingers are alternating.

If you’re working on speed or keeping a steady pace, you can use a metronome, or if it’s simply a legato touch you’re after, your metronome can take a little vacation for a while. Scales and arpeggios will help develop strength, evenness, and smoothness, as long as the only phrases you play are based on bits and pieces of consecutive or arpeggiated notes.

Work on Agility Exercises

More likely, though, your legato songs or passages within a longer piece of music will be more complicated. This is where agility exercises come into play. One of the most well-known and dependable ways to develop agility on the piano is from a traditional exercise book written by a 19th century French composer and piano teacher named Charles‐Louis Hanon. Officially titled “The Virtuoso Pianist in 60 Exercises”, this volume is known to initiated pianists simply as “Hanon”.

Like exercises for sports stars, the first few exercises are simple. As the book progresses, the exercises become more difficult. Each builds on the other, and with dedicated practice over time, can create effective improvements in strength, speed, and agility that borderline on miraculous. Like anything worthwhile, dramatic improvements take time, and grand improvements in playing legato music will come with steady practice. However, if you need to learn how to play legato on short notice, even a few weeks of dedicated Hanon drills can help form a foundation of technique to underscore the imaginative artistry of a passable piano performance.

Eventually, those beautiful and mysterious sound paintings will become a gift for your audience, and when that time comes you will know. Because you, too, will feel that cool electricity of excitement rise up your arms as you play; those swans will come to life through the smooth sonic waves coming from your light touch on the keys. When that moment arrives, all at once you will share and experience the magic known as legato.

SylviaSSylvia S. teaches singing, piano, theater acting, and more in Helendale, CA. She comes from a musical family of several generations, and her experience includes playing an electric keyboard and singing vocals in a professional, working band. Learn more about Sylvia here! 

 

 

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5 Piano Lesson Myths Debunked

P1050252Interested in taking beginner piano lessons, but worried you’re too old or too busy? These are just two of the common reasons that might keep you from learning piano. Here, online piano teacher Crystal B. debunks a few of these common excuses and myths…

Most everyone has thought about taking piano lessons at one point or another, but there are a few common myths have keep new students from taking the first step to actually getting started. Today, I’d like to address these five myths and help you make an informed decision about taking beginner piano lessons.

Myth #1 – “Piano lessons are boring!”

I think people imagine sitting at the piano with a mean piano teacher who keeps yelling at them to play the same scale over and over. The truth is, most of us aren’t that scary at all! Learning a new instrument is a challenging, but extremely rewarding journey. And my goal as an instructor is to make that journey as fun as possible! Different instructors have different approaches for accomplishing this, so it’s important to find someone who is a good fit for you and your learning style — and who also understands your goals.

Yes, there are some things that everyone needs to learn — such as theory and scales. But learning these things doesn’t have to be boring! What if there were a way to show you how scales fit in to your favorite songs on the radio? And how knowing music theory will empower you to quickly learn the songs that you love? Even when you’re learning things that seem difficult and may not seem like fun, work with your instructor to find creative and practical ways to incorporate this new knowledge. You’ll be amazed at how easy it becomes to learn — and how much fun you’ll have doing it!

Myth #2 – “If you don’t start piano lessons by age 11, it’s too late.”

I’ve actually heard this myth attached to several different ages, and many variations of thought, such as, “You can learn the instrument, but you will never be able to reach your full potential” or “It will be much more difficult to learn if you start after a certain age.”

I am living proof that this is just a myth. I didn’t start taking piano lessons until I was 12 years old. But once I started lessons, I couldn’t get enough of the piano! I practiced and played constantly, and I had a great teacher who encouraged me and kept me challenged. Because of this I was able to start teaching my own students by age 15, and playing professionally by age 16. The point is, age really doesn’t matter. It’s about your passion for music, desire to learn, and the dedication to invest time in practicing and honing your craft. So don’t be discouraged — it’s never too late to start learning the piano!

Myth #3 – “I don’t have time to take piano lessons.”

Several years ago, the only option for taking lessons was to travel to a teacher’s studio or home each week. These days, there are many options to accommodate busy schedules while still enabling students to learn just as much as they would in a traditional setting. Here are a few options that might work if you feel your schedule is keeping you from enrolling in piano.

  • Online Lessons – This is how I personally teach several of my students. It enables you to take lessons from the comfort of your own home, while still giving you a true one-on-one customized lesson. This option also gives you the opportunity to work with an instructor who is located anywhere in the world! Lesson times are usually more flexible, with a lot of instructors offering weekend or evening lessons via Skype.
  • Mobile Instructors – A lot of instructors now offer the option to travel to your home for lessons. This is a great way to avoid traffic or time spent waiting around for a lesson to be over. You would still need to set aside a day/time that would work for the lesson, but sometimes this is easier if you have the convenience of being in your own home.

Myth #4 – “I can’t start piano lessons because I don’t own a piano.”

Although there are few things I love more than playing an actual piano (especially a baby grand!), the truth is, you don’t have to have a piano to start learning. There are many different types of affordable keyboards that are great to start with, especially for beginners. If the student is a child, I actually recommend taking this route if you don’t already own the piano. Even kids who love music will often want to try a few different instruments before settling on one. Starting out with a keyboard will allow him or her to try piano without you having to make a serious financial commitment.

There are many great websites where you can find amazing deals on lightly-used keyboards. If you decide you would rather buy new, most music stores offer these options as well. The bottom line is, no matter what you start learning on, the most important thing is to get started!

Myth #5 – “Trying to play ‘by ear’ can actually hinder your progress in learning piano.”

I have heard several stories of students being told not to use their “musical ear” to assist them while reading notes. And for some reason, many students feel like they need to choose to be either a “note reader” or an “ear/chord chart player.”

While most people are naturally inclined one way or the other, I believe it’s equally important for a student to develop both skill sets. I like to incorporate ear training exercises for all of my students, in addition to note reading. I believe this helps to creative versatile, well-balanced musicians who can adapt to any situation. Your ability to hear what music should sound like will also prove extremely valuable in correcting mistakes as you are practicing on your own throughout the week. So to sum things up, playing by ear will definitely not hinder your progress in learning piano. In fact, quite the opposite!

Even if you don’t want to become a professional musician, taking beginner piano lessons can add great enjoyment to your life. If you’ve let piano lesson myths keep you from starting lessons in the past, maybe it’s time to try it out! Happy playing!

CrystalBCrystal B. teaches piano online. She has been teaching all ages and levels for more than 15 years. Learn more about Crystal here!

 

 

 

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5 New Year’s Resolutions Every Pianist Should Make

14129632984_8a42e1b637_kThinking about making some New Year’s resolutions? If you’re new to the piano, we challenge you to make some specific to your lessons! Here, St. Augustine, FL teacher Heather L. shares a few suggestions…

 

The beginning of a new year is fast approaching, and the one thing that comes to the minds of most of us this season is that formidable word “resolution.” We can choose to think of the word with dread and annoyance, reminded of all the times that we’ve tried to stick to our resolutions and failed, or we can choose to think of each new resolution not as an impossible chore, but instead as an opportunity to improve, grow, and move forward. In order for our New Year’s resolutions to work, they have to serve us, not the other way around.

Every pianist, no matter what his level, is aware of some specific aspects of his piano life that he’d prefer to be different in the coming year. The question is, what are the five New Year’s resolutions that every pianist should make? What are some areas in which we could all grow?

1) Make playing a part of your everyday life

It’s been said that in order to make something a habit, you have to do it for 30 days straight.  This coming year, start writing practice sessions into your daily planner, just like you do your appointments and sports practices, and stick to it for 30 days. In order to keep it from becoming a chore, consider playing first thing in the morning before you even know what’s hit you!

2) Commit to ongoing learning

Every pianist has further to go in his educational journey. If you’ve stopped taking lessons, then consider starting back up. If you’re currently taking lessons, then consider taking more often, for longer durations, or even taking a free online college course in addition to your private lessons. Some sites, like Coursera.com, offer free classes from accredited institutions, and occasionally you’ll find ones focused on songwriting, musicianship, and even world music. You won’t get a college credit, but it’s a fun way to become a better musician.

3) Get a few fun, new songs

Whether you get these new tunes from a music store, purchase and print them out from a site like Sheet Music Plus or Musicnotes, or borrow from a friend, doesn’t matter. What does matter is how it’ll breathe new life into your piano practice. The songs inside don’t necessarily have to be new to you, just new to your playing. You can find arrangements of almost any song that you know. There’ll be days when you just don’t want to play, and those fun tunes will be there just to get your fingers on the keys.

4) Stop judging yourself

We’ve all done it. One terrible lesson, one recital disaster, one seemingly impossible song and we’re telling ourselves that we just aren’t as good as we thought we were, that piano isn’t our thing, and asking ourselves, really, who are we kidding? Never, ever forget that even the best pianists in the world have had bad recitals and lessons and really difficult songs that they couldn’t stand. Have compassion for yourself in the same way that you would have compassion for a friend having a tough time with their piano studies. Self-judgment can be the most fatal and growth-stunting mistake of all.

5) Start recording your lessons

There are few things more effective at improving almost everything about your playing than audio or video recording your lessons. With your instructor’s permission, start recording all of your lessons. Not only will you get to hear your teacher’s comments, but you’ll also get to hear everything you play. I’ll be honest: not all of my students are fans of hearing their own playing. But frankly, it can be a sign of our maturity as musicians. And if you’ve resolved to stop judging yourself (see above resolution), there are only two things that you’ll hear in each recorded lesson: great playing, and opportunities to improve.

Think of these five resolutions as five tanks of gas. Each one could get you further along in your journey of learning and your path of self-improvement. Who knows? Maybe this’ll be the year that we stick with our resolutions.

HeatherLHeather L. teaches singing, piano, acting, and more in St. Augustine, FL, as well as through online lessons. She is a graduate of the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, and has performed with the New York and Royal Philharmonics, the New Jersey and Virginia Symphonies, the American Boy Choir, and the internationally renowned opera star Andrea Bocelli. Learn more about Heather here!

 

 

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Renew Your Motivation With These 5 Inspiring Videos for Pianists

Feeling stuck? Take a break from your piano practice and try something new. Here, St. Augustine, FL teacher Heather L. shares five incredibly inspiring piano videos to renew your excitement…

 

For new pianists, the importance of inspiration should not be underestimated. Listening to and watching great musicians, especially live music, is just as critical to your success as piano practice itself. Most of the pianists whom I know, including myself, could probably point to several musical experiences that ultimately inspired them to pursue music as a career. For some of us, a couple of those musical experiences were as an audience member. For most of us nowadays, online videos have become a wonderful link to all kinds of different music, musicians, and interpretations of well-known literature. In many ways, they have replaced live music in our busy days. Much of our experience as an audience member in this post-modern world is watching videos. The following are five of the most inspiring videos for new pianists.

First, Jason Pelsey rocks out below on an incredible piece of music. The title of the video claims that he’s the best piano player in the world, and once you see this video, you might agree that he is! His speed and agility look like someone is fast-forwarding; it’s almost too amazing to be true. And seeing it from his perspective with a GoPro only made the performance extra cool.

Next, Thelonious Monk, a Juilliard School alumni and jazz pianist extraordinaire, has inspired generations of piano players with his inimitable intuition. He seems to lack any self-consciousness, and yet possesses total self-awareness. Watch how freely he dances before sitting down at the piano at the beginning of this biographical film, “Straight, No Chaser”.

Not all inspiration needs to come from famous pianists — here, a little girl named Emily, who has Down syndrome, plays Clementi’s Sonatina, Opus 36, Number 1 beautifully and from memory. This is a perfect example of how much all of us, even those of us with special needs, are capable of.

Sometimes, maybe a handful of times in each century, pianists come along who quite obviously understand their music from the inside and underneath. Their interpretations are so completely certain and fluid at the same time. Mitsuko Uchida is one of those pianists. Here she is performing Mozart’s piano concerto number 9 in E flat major.

Finally, child prodigy Aimi Kobayashi outperforms most pianists twice her age. Her impeccable rhythm and understanding of dynamics is stunning. Now 19, she continues to study just as hard as she did as a little girl. Here’s a video of her playing Mozart’s piano concerto number 26, still young enough to have a lunchbox.

Did you notice that I didn’t choose only the fastest or the most famous pianists in the world as the most inspiring? Speed and fame are only two inspiring elements in a big world of piano playing. Things like connecting with the music, focus and determination, a lack of self-consciousness, and musical intuition are just as inspiring, and frankly, not as easy to learn from a teacher. These are parts of the pianist’s spirit that can be cultivated and nurtured with the help of lots of hard work, a passion for learning, and an open heart.

HeatherLHeather L. teaches singing, piano, acting, and more in St. Augustine, FL, as well as through online lessons. She is a graduate of the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, and has performed with the New York and Royal Philharmonics, the New Jersey and Virginia Symphonies, the American Boy Choir, and the internationally renowned opera star Andrea Bocelli. Learn more about Heather here!

 

 

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5 Things Your Piano Teacher May Not Be Telling You

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Ready to start learning piano? If you’re new to lessons, you might be wondering what to expect. Every teacher is different — some may be more strict, while others may be worried about how they come across to students. Read on St. Augustine, FL teacher Heather L. shares a few insider tips to keep in mind… 

 

There are three kinds of piano teachers. There are those who tell the truth, openly and all the time, those who sugarcoat practically everything, afraid to hurt their students’ feelings, and those who tell only tidbits of the truth. I once read that a teacher who showers his students with only accolades and compliments is like a plumber who comes to your house to repair your sink, but only stands there telling you how beautiful it is. Some things just need to be said in order for you to make improvements and grow. While your piano teacher probably has the very best of intentions, she may not be saying everything she’d like to say. This is a list of five things that your piano teacher may not be telling you.

• You’re just not practicing enough.

Let’s face it — you’ve probably already guessed this one. I’ve met few pianists in my life who practice as much and as long as their teachers would like (most of them are music professors or concert pianists). But think of it this way, unless you practice consistently, all of your time spent on the piano loses a lot of its value. All of the money and energy poured into lessons and recitals may not be totally wasted, but you’re sure not getting what they’re worth.

• You need to be more consistent in your lesson attendance.

Unless you’re taking lessons in an intensive conservatory or from a very old-fashioned person, your teacher is probably fairly understanding of missed lessons that are due to occasional special events, long vacations, and serious illness. But more often, I see a student taking lessons off without rescheduling because he sneezed three times one morning, she stubbed her toe, or he has sports event that he knew about two years ago. Seriously though, so much can be lost as you’re learning piano when your lessons become sporadic. It’s much harder to catch up on your music studies than on your schoolwork. Try to attend lessons regularly, except when you’re contagiously sick or out of town.

• You should consider upgrading your keyboard or tuning your piano.

What’s great about needing a new instrument is that it shows that you’ve been working really hard or you’ve chosen to begin with a new dedication. You might need a new piano or keyboard if it can no longer be tuned, the soundboard is broken, plugs or cords have become unsafe, or the keyboard is not a full 61 keys. On the other hand, you may have a piano that just needs to be tuned. This upgrade can make all the difference in the world to your playing, especially in terms of music theory and ear training.

• Your personal choice of music is not exactly helping your studies.

So I must admit that I do not, even as a classically trained singer and pianist and teacher, listen strictly to classical music and opera in my spare time. I enjoy listening to lots of different genres. But the truth is that much of the reason that I understand and interpret music on a decent level is that I have listened to it a lot, and continue to do so, albeit more occasionally than I have in the past. I don’t like to preach about listening to certain music, but having both your heart and your ears open to the classics might change your playing for the better.

• You are amazing.

For having the courage to face the risks that come with learning anything, especially a performance art, and for making the decision to expand your mind with piano lessons, you are amazing.

In the end, open communication is key to any healthy relationship, even the one with your piano teacher. Be honest and candid with her, and she’ll be at least a little more honest and candid with you. But there might always be five things she’ll never tell you.

HeatherLHeather L. teaches singing, piano, acting, and more in St. Augustine, FL, as well as through online lessons. She is a graduate of the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, and has performed with the New York and Royal Philharmonics, the New Jersey and Virginia Symphonies, the American Boy Choir, and the internationally renowned opera star Andrea Bocelli. Learn more about Heather here!

 

 

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Are Piano Lessons on DVD Worth It?

Learning To Play The Piano From Watching DVDs.Thinking about purchasing a piano lessons DVD program? Here, Brick, NJ teacher Elizabeth C. shares her thoughts on this method of learning, and if it’s really the best way to go…

You have probably seen the infomercials marketing piano lessons on DVD that guarantee you will be “playing the piano in six weeks or your money back.” These programs may be beneficial in teaching piano basics, but fall short in providing methodology that fosters long-term piano success or song versatility.

Why Piano Lessons DVDs Don’t Always Work

The basis of these “teach yourself” programs is rudimentary. Learn the melody and chords and you can play any song. This is known as reading “lead sheets.” Lead sheets are a form of music notation that provides the musician with just the melody, rhythm, and chords. This method can help a beginner play modern or popular songs from different eras. However, learning to play piano only using lead sheets does not provide you with the ability and knowledge to play some of the standard classics of Beethoven or Mozart, or to transfer this musical knowledge to other instruments.

These programs also leave out a very important factor for any student in any subject: feedback. The instructor on the DVD cannot answer questions, listen to your playing, or offer suggestions or strategies in struggling areas. This type of instruction can only occur when a relationship is developed between you and your teacher. A private teacher can also tailor your program to both ability and musical interest. A private teacher offers a holistic approach to music theory and piano instruction that can translate into an in-depth understanding of music, so that you can build a vast repertoire of piano skills and knowledge.

Investing in Your Learning

We all know the old consumer saying: “You get what you pay for.” You can purchase an inexpensive program to teach yourself piano, or you can invest in a private piano teacher for expertise and life enrichment. The choice is ultimately yours. When choosing between recorded resources or private instruction, keep in mind what you want the end goal to be. What method will be a better return on your investment in the long term?

When I sit at my piano to play, before I touch any keys I always pay homage to my incredibly talented and passionate piano teacher, who patiently taught me all that I know about piano and music. I remember the conversations, the drills, and the recitals. Most importantly I remember her modeling songs to me so that I would one day want to play a song that touched my spirit. I not only developed a relationship with my piano and my music, a lifelong connection was fostered between my teacher and myself.

Relationships between teachers and students are what build success, rigor, accountability, and love in any type of learning. So remember: connecting with a mentor and expert is something that four easy payments of $39.95 for a piano lessons DVD set could never buy!

ElizabethC.Elizabeth C. teaches piano and music theory in Brick, NJ. She received her Bachelor’s of Arts degree from SUNY Oneonta, as well as her Masters of Education from Mercy College. Learn more about Elizabeth C. here!

 

 

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The Cost To Tune Your Piano

How Often Should You Tune a Piano?

The Cost To Tune Your Piano Just as you go to the doctor for check-ups from time to time, your piano needs maintenance and care throughout its life. You may notice, especially if you have a keen ear or a tendency to sing along with your practice, that your piano drops in pitch, particularly during the summer and winter months. This is because your piano is mostly made of wood, and your wooden soundboard will contract when the weather is drier — or the heating is on! — and cause the pitch of the strings to drop.

While knowing the cause of your piano slipping out of tune might be interesting, sour notes will spoil your enjoyment of playing. To make sure you’re getting all you can from your lessons and practicing, your piano should be tuned on a regular basis.

How Often?

As a general rule, the more regularly your piano is maintained — including tuning — the less work it will take. The cost to tune a piano should be factored into your study expenses, just as you account for the cost of car repairs as essential driving expenses. There’s no hard-and-fast rule, but at least twice a year is a good minimum. If you live in a climate where there are four distinct seasons, then as the seasons change will serve you and your piano even better. Concert halls and other venues where pianos are used very frequently will want to tune them even more frequently than this.

How Much?

The cost to tune a piano is typically around $100, although if you pre-book regular sessions with the same technician over a longer period, sometimes the cost may be discounted, as there will be less work to do on a well-maintained piano. You may have to pay more for additional maintenance work, and some piano tuners will charge you travel costs if they aren’t close by.

With over 200 strings to deal with on an 88-key piano, a good job is quite an undertaking — so find a good piano tuner, and stick with them. Your piano will thank you for it!

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3 Small Mistakes That Make a Big Impact on Learning Piano

6694030093_24e46958ba_bNot progressing as fast as you’d like on the piano? Here, Covington, KY teacher Stacey S. shares three common mistakes that might be tripping you up as you’re learning piano…

 

Learning piano is a fun yet challenging journey. If you’re feeling frustrated, however, you might be tempted to quit before you can really can play much of anything. But by addressing three small mistakes often made, you can improve your learning process!

Small Mistake: Not practicing enough

Big Impact: Slow progression in learning, weak technique, and possible boredom

Practicing is critical at all stages of learning piano. Consistent practice is especially important in the beginning, even when early music in method books may seem too simple and can sometimes be a bit boring. The early, easy, repetitive songs are primarily for building finger strength and music-reading abilities. They are not meant to sound great but rather should be approached as exercises.

Some students, especially teenagers and adult beginners, will be able to read the notes quicker than they can move their fingers independently. Repetitive and consistent practice improves finger strength and dexterity. For younger students and/or older students with the “playing-by-ear” ability, actual playing comes easy yet note reading is challenging. Consistent early practice of connecting the written notes to the played outcome drastically improves reading ability.

Without frequent home practice, only marginal gains will be made in lessons from week to week. With slow progress you may become frustrated and bored with the piano. Even if it is challenging at first, regular practice leads to quicker progression through learning materials and keeps piano fun and exciting.

Solution: 10-15 minutes of practice 5-6 days a week from the beginning of piano study for all students! Make sitting down at the piano a daily habit. Early on in piano studies, just making it to the piano most days should be the main goal, with the amount of time spent practicing gradually increasing.

Small Mistake: Skipping the theory book

Big Impact: You’ll only play by finger numbers, with no true understanding of how music works

Why is a written workbook so important if the goal is to learn to play music? Music theory is the study of how music works, the structure, and the language of music. Increased understanding of how music works leads to freedom from a teacher, and no one plans to take lessons the rest of their life. Music knowledge learned through piano lessons can then also be applied as you sing in a choir, play a new instrument in your school band, join your church’s handbell choir, teach yourself guitar, etc. Through learning to read, write, and speak this new musical language, many more musical opportunities will be made available the rest of your life.

Solution: Work with a piano teacher to find a theory book correct for your age and level. Make theory work just as important as playing.

Small Mistake: Not having a good teacher/student relationship

Big Impact: You may feel like quitting, or you might associate negative emotions with music

Often new students study with whoever is closest, most convenient, and/or cheapest. Sometimes this works, but often students will lose interest if they don’t connect on some sort of personal level with the teacher. They might associate piano lessons as something to be dreaded, awkward, or uncomfortable.

Soultion: Instead, take time when selecting a teacher for yourself or your child, and switch teachers if something doesn’t feel quite right. Look for a teacher who you connect with and provides motivation to work harder through loving guidance and support. Often students are afraid to switch teachers for fear of hurting our feelings; we are professionals and would much rather have you study with someone who works well for you and under whom you will thrive. Takelessons offers many options when “shopping” for a teacher and provides great support in getting to know the teacher. Read reviews, listen to recordings/videos of the teacher, and ultimately, trust your instincts after the first few lessons.

Through diligent practice, music theory study, and a great student/teacher relationship, every student of piano can excel regardless of natural talent or abilities. Implement the solutions suggested above and your piano playing skills will grow exponentially.

StaceySStacey S. teaches piano, music theory, and music performance in Covington, KY.  She received her Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from DePauw University, as well as Master of Music in Vocal Performance from University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music. Stacey has taught students of all ages since 2005. Learn more about Stacey here!

 

 

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