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A 10-Minute Piano Practice Challenge for Busy Students

The 10 Minute Music Practice Challenge for the Busy Student

We’ve discussed how to practice the piano before… but what if you don’t have 30 minutes or an hour to commit to practicing every day? Answer: Condense it into a 10-minute quick-practice! Read on as Austin, TX piano teacher Aimee B. shows how to make this piano exercise work for you…

 

No doubt you are busy. On top of a full day, you have an inkling to learn the piano.  But how do you fit it into your day? You know the importance of regular practice, but if you find the idea of sitting and studying for 30 minutes entirely too daunting, you’re not alone.

In fact, many adults use being busy as an excuse to put off taking piano lessons. But the truth is, even if you don’t have 30 minutes to commit to practicing every single day, you can still make some progress. There is a powerful and productive way to think about practice in small, incremental steps. Visiting the piano for as little as 10 minutes a day can reinforce new material and create a ritual that becomes an integral part of your life.

Before I break it down, I’d like to offer two important piano practice tips:

1) Create a Unique Practice Space

Choose and prepare a specific, music-friendly practice space in your home. Whether it’s a certain corner in the living room or an entire music room, see that the area is clean and free of distraction. Make it your creative space and decorate it as such by hanging a picture of your music idol to inspire your practice or lighting candles to encourage calmness.

Leave your practice space ready with your books and metronome, and keep your keyboard lid open! Do not let the articles of your everyday life, like papers, backpacks, or groceries intrude on this space. Maintaining a clean and ready piano practice space invites you to sit and make music.

2) Practice With a Side Salad… Or Set an Alert

The key to practice is first designating a set time. Instead of leaving your piano practice time floating ambiguously in the ether of “later,” try coupling it next to an activity you already do daily, like eating or brushing your teeth. Ten minutes directly before or after dinner is an easy target practice zone.

Also, use your calendar and alert systems on your computer and smartphone to their full capacity. Set an alert to remind you. Let technology support your practice. With time, you’ll develop your practice habit as a daily ritual instead of a chore that gets pushed to tomorrow.

Now, on to the piano exercise!

10-Minute Piano Practice Challenge – Overview

10-Minute Piano Practice Exercise

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10-Minute Piano Practice Challenge – A Closer Look

1 min: Breathing and Visualization

Before you begin this piano exercise, approach the keys with a calm and positive mind. Take a minute to breathe deeply and visualize yourself actualizing your musical goal. Feel your feet touching the ground and your body lengthening from the bench. Place your hands in a middle C position and, if possible, visualize their movement while reviewing your music with your eyes. Try to maintain a “can-do” attitude and dismiss any harsh criticism of yourself. Remember, learning how to play the piano is a process!

2 min: Review Notes

Take a moment to recall your last lesson. Read any notes from your piano teacher and identify the specific points you need to focus on for this practice, like counting and dynamics. Limit your focus to one or two items to improve upon. Don’t try to tackle everything at once.

5 min: Work on Targeted Assignment

With these one or two items in mind, approach your current assignment. Write down any questions that arise during your practice to ask your teacher at the next lesson.

2 min: Review Previously Completed Song/Exercise

Reward your focus by reviewing a previously completed assignment that you feel confident in. Have fun playing and realize you are slowly building a repertoire.

NOTE: You can also practice your piano theory away from the keyboard. Try downloading a popular tablet or smartphone app like Music Tutor and visiting notation exercises away from your instrument, while standing in line, waiting at an appointment, or on a lunch break. Apps are also good attention diversions if you need a challenge or feel like your practices are getting mundane.

[Editor’s Note: Here are some other piano apps we love!]

How to Really Improve Your Piano Skills

Decide that you are willing to give this method an earnest try for one week, running through the piano exercise each day. Remember, it’s only 10 minutes! Reward yourself at the end of that week for meeting your goal. Then, reflect on your experience. Is your daily practice coupled with the appropriate daily event or do you need to move it to a different event? Did 10 minutes feel too short, too long, or just right? How did you feel before, during, and after your practice? Do you feel more or less inspired? Look at your experience and evaluate.

By the end of one week you will have achieved 70 minutes of intentional and structured practice. Any music teacher will be thrilled by your report and excited by your commitment to steady progress. Of course, if a burst of inspiration hits you and 10 minutes turns into 20, then great, go with it. The 10-minute piano challenge is a starting point. Good luck!

Aimee B.Post Author: Aimee B.
Aimee B. teaches piano, guitar and music theory in Austin, TX. She earned her B.A. in philosophy and art from St. Edward’s University, has worked as a professional musician for over ten years, and has taught over 100 students as a private music instructor. Learn more about Aimee here!

Photo by Tuan Hoang Nguyen

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Piano Recitals Aren’t Just for Kids! Here’s Why

4626496464_2196ec03bc_bMost people think of piano recitals as strictly ways for young pianists to showcase their skills for proud family members. But adults can benefit from performances and recitals, as well! Learn more in this guest post by Seattle, WA teacher Erica L...

 

The lobby of the piano hall fills with camera flashes, nervous smiles, and small sweaty hands tightly clutching music books. Parents herd their children into the auditorium. However, when scanning the room, it’s clear very few adults are preparing themselves for a performance. One or two may pace nervously, squeeze their partner’s hand, or sit silently in their chairs remembering to breathe deeply. Seemingly these adults torture themselves for nothing. But rather, these students seize the opportunity to advance their skills and confidence.

Recitals secure skills that can only be rehearsed in lessons.

Most adult students instinctively hold themselves to a higher standard because “they know better.” As an adult, mistakes create a more significant negative impact on your self-image as a pianist. And as a result, rehearsing mistake recovery for adult students remains one of top priorities of a piano teacher. Piano lessons prepare you to make particular choices during adrenaline-prone moments. Piano recitals provide you with an opportunity to secure skills such as mistake recovery in these types of high-pressure moments.

Recitals encourage the steady development and growth of a student.

It’s inevitable that the start of January brings a tidal wave of new habits and skills. However, life gets busy, and by February any changes made have come to a halt. Participating in piano recitals provides a tangible deadline to work toward. The likelihood of completing a lesson book or learning a difficult song such as “Over the Rainbow” increases dramatically if you know a performance is on the calendar.

Recitals empower and build confidence.

Participation in recitals allows you to showcase new skills and growth. For example, say you worked on maintaining a steady tempo while playing a Clementi sonatina. However, by not performing the sonatina, you miss the opportunity to hear your practice time and effort validated by an appreciative audience. With that empowerment and success, confidence builds, and you begin to advance through harder skills and pieces.

Recitals teach vulnerability.

Performance requires vulnerability. With each note, you release hours of practice and effort into the hall. The audience will evaluate and listen to the performance. However, audiences listening to piano students never heckle or throw rotten fruit. They only encourage. So what better place can you find to practice making yourself vulnerable? You’ll also find that practicing vulnerability translates to other areas of life (e.g. relationships, workplace, self).

Recitals are more than recitals.

Piano recitals benefit adult students far more than realized. The recital develops security in certain performance skills such as mistake recovery. Additionally, it supports your growth as a student by forcing you to accomplish a goal. After a successful performance, the applause from an audience builds your confidence. You become more empowered and maintain a stronger belief in your capabilities. Finally, recitals provide an opportunity for you to practice vulnerability. Like many vocations, learning to play the piano offers many skills and benefits that translate beyond the music.

Erica

Erica L. teaches piano and music theory in Seattle, WA. She received her B.A. in Piano Performance from Seattle Pacific University. Learn more about Erica here!

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How to Set the Right Goals for Piano Lessons

1102666312_cb1f6f15b8_oExcited about learning piano? Thinking about and setting specific goals is a must-do before you start your lessons. Learn how to set yourself up for success in this guest post by Helendale, CA teacher Sylvia S...

 

You’ve been thinking about learning piano lessons for a while, or maybe you’ve been away from the piano for a while and want a refresher. Maybe your family relocated or your piano teacher retired, got married, or changed to a different career. Whatever happened, you’re ready for your lesson, and you’re ready to set some goals.

So what is a goal?

One person might want to learn to play a favorite song on the piano by the end of summer by practicing for half an hour a day on a family keyboard, because he likes the song and wants to play it for his friends when school starts.

Another person might intensely desire to master both classical and popular music on the piano by practicing on a grand piano in her living room from one to four hours a day, five days a week, over a period of 15 years, because she is from a musical family and wants to make playing piano her career for life.

Finally, we have the average piano student who just wants to learn how to play.

With such a vast range of options, setting a goal for learning piano can seem challenging. Fortunately, even if you haven’t had much success with goal-setting in the past, piano lessons are a great way to learn how! The right goals are S-M-A-R-T:

  • S is for Specific: What kind of piano music would you like to learn? Do you prefer popular songs from the internet or the radio? Do you like instrumental piano music, like classical or New Age? Are you curious about all the details, with a burning desire to learn all about music theory? If you’re a parent, what are your expectations? Do you and your child share the same tastes in music?
  • M is for Measurable: When do you expect to achieve your goal? Are music lessons a long-term investment, or are you just trying things out? Do you value an impressive goal enough to put in months, or even years, to achieve it? Would you prefer simpler, shorter, mini-goals that can be achieved each week?
  • A is for Attainable: Is there a piano or keyboard available for practice in your home? Is there time in your schedule to practice regularly? Are you new to piano, have you been playing for a few years, or is your musical experience on a different instrument? Sharing your ideas for goals with your piano teacher is a great way to open the conversation and work together on creating goals that you can achieve.
  • R is for Rewarding: Why do you want to play piano? Is it that you’ve always loved the sound of the instrument, or that your living room piano is collecting dust? What’s in it for you?
  • T is for Trackable: How will you know when you’ve achieved your goal? Back in the day, the only way to track a budding pianist’s performance was at an annual recital. Fortunately, those days are fading into a dim memory, and practically anyone can record and upload a video with the chance to become a global phenomenon.

Okay, we’ve covered all the letters for S-M-A-R-T. Once you get used to using this acronym, you can use it to help you set goals for practically anything you want to achieve in life, including setting the right kind of goals for learning piano!

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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Piano for Adults: How to Stay Motivated in Your Lessons

Piano Lessons For The Beginner AdultCommitment and motivation play key roles when it comes to learning anything new, especially as an adult; learning to play piano is no different! Whether you’re a beginner, or possibly returning to the keys, finding ways to stay motivated and engaged week after week is crucial to your success.

Before you get started, it’s important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to staying motivated. As an adult learning a new skill, you’re probably beginning with a specific goal in mind. Your goal should be both clearly defined and made known to your teacher, as it should be the cornerstone of all your lessons. If you have not done so already, take some time now to consider exactly what you’d like to achieve in the long-run with your lessons.

Now let’s explore a few tips for staying motivated:

  • Don’t Practice According to Deadlines

Students taking weekly lessons tend to practice songs according to the ‘deadline’ of their next lesson. Some try to master songs in the interim by setting unrealistic practice goals–and often the failure to get through, say, a two-hour session each day can become a source of frustration. Our tip here is to stop playing to the clock! Instead, aim to practice daily for a reasonable period of time that gives you the opportunity to actually enjoy the music you’re making.  Your progress will follow–even if not by your weekly ‘deadlined’ lesson–and that’s okay.

  • Don’t Limit Practice to Difficult Pieces

As adults, we tend to be much harder on ourselves than we were as children. You may be tempted to focus on your weak areas at the expense of pleasure. Don’t do that! Remember that even your piano practice should be a pleasurable experience for you. Make sure your practice repertoire consists of plenty of different types of music–not just the ones you’re struggling with. A good way to start your session is by warming up with a few standard scales and arpeggios, and any other minor assignments from your piano teacher. Then play a song or two that you enjoy and are fairly comfortable with, which will help build your confidence. Finally, approach the more challenging pieces. You’ll be amazed by how much this helps your psychological preparation and motivation levels.

  • Figure Out What You Love

Take some time to listen to a few of your favorite pianists and find songs that get you excited about playing! Let your teacher know what kind of music you’re interested in, so that you can work together to incorporate these types of songs into your lessons and practice sessions. Adult beginner piano lessons involve a sense of sincerity from the pianist–it’s only when you are actually connecting with and enjoying a piece that you can translate that passion to your audience.

  • Expect Mistakes

Even if it’s been a month or two already and your fingers are still not quite hitting the right notes, don’t worry. You will make mistakes, and many of them! When it comes to adult beginner piano lessons, it’s vital that you understand that your body will need time to process the new movements. In time, you’ll be playing with fewer and fewer mistakes.

  • Be Honest With Your Piano Teacher

Staying motivated on your journey to becoming a competent pianist will require a team effort from both you and your piano teacher. If you’re not feeling as motivated as you once were, it’s important that you discuss your challenges with your teacher as soon as possible. Consider turning one weekly lesson into a catch-up during which you revisit your initial goals and brainstorm how to make the lessons more enjoyable for you on a personal level.

Nobody really wants Beethoven to roll over, so keep going. We’re all rooting for you to succeed. Good luck!

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The 6 Best Reasons for Adults to Take Piano Lessons

11656683035_cb4c2dcb9e_k Do you love music, and have you always wanted to learn how to play the piano? The good news is, it’s never too late to take adult beginner piano lessons. Read on as St. Augustine, FL teacher Heather L. explains why now is a great time to start! 

 

 

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” – Pablo Picasso

According to the 2008 NAMM Global Report on Music, 82% of adults who don’t play a musical instrument wish they did. It’s a funny thing for a musician like me to meet different people–a physician or an attorney, for example–tell her that I sing and play the piano, and hear her say, “Gee, I always wished that I could do that.”

On November 11, 2013, the New York Times ran a story about some very interesting neuroscientific studies. One looked at the electrical activity in the part of the brain that processes sound and showed that adults who had taken music lessons as children and then stopped, as well as those who had continued to play an instrument for years, could produce the sounds of speech more quickly than those who had never taken lessons. The childhood lessons had kept some subjects’ brains sharp, and the adult lessons were, shall we say, re-sharpening others.

Certainly, there are many reasons you might choose to take adult beginner piano lessons. Some take them for a short time to prepare to perform at a special event, like an anniversary or a wedding. Others commit to taking piano lessons for the long haul. Few hobbies exist that are more fun in retirement, after we have our “empty nest,” or even while we have young children still at home. On the other hand, plenty of grown-ups have plenty of excuses NOT to take them, despite their own interest or talent. As a teacher, I hear adults say things like “I’m just too stressed and busy to take up something else,” or “I tend to have pain in my joints,” or “I had a terrible experience as a young music student,” or “My memory is going.”

What’s funny is that these are perhaps some very good reasons TO take piano lessons. Here are six great reasons to consider piano lessons:

1. Reduced stress levels Music (playing or making music, specifically) has been shown in multiple studies to trigger biochemical stress reducers and change the speed of brainwaves, so that they appear similar to those of one in a meditative state. And reduced stress levels often result in reduced contraction of chronic illnesses, especially heart disease, multiple sclerosis, and type II diabetes.

2. Improved joint health While it may not seem like a workout, any movement–including playing the piano–is key to staying flexible as an adult. Hands are trained to stretch in different directions, and the elbows move and stay loose constantly. This may very well fend off arthritis and general joint discomfort.

3. Better memory and neuroplasticity Better memory and greater neuroplasticity were revealed in studies of piano players and other instrumentalists from both the Chinese University in Hong Kong and Northwestern University. Neuroplasticity is defined by Northwestern researchers as “the brain’s ability to adapt and change as a result of training and experience over the course of a person’s life. These researchers concluded, after reviewing studies from all over the world, that “[a]n active engagement with musical sounds not only enhances neuroplasticity, but also creates permanent patterns important to all learning.”

4. Enhanced blood vessel function Scientists have found that the emotions patients experience while listening to “joyful” music have a healthy effect on blood vessel function. Music made study participants feel happier and resulted in increased blood flow in their blood vessels. That blood flow is one small key to fighting and preventing conditions like peripheral artery disease and atherosclerosis.

5. Elevated mood A study published in 2013 showed that music actually helped people get better in touch with their feelings and into a better mood. Self-awareness and mood regulation were cited by the participants as two of the most important benefits. Imagine the self-awareness that comes from active piano studies!

6. Self-fulfillment Lifelong learning helps lead us in our journeys to self-fulfillment, something that we all seek at one time or another. Piano lessons are a great way to stay active in and contribute to our communities. The decision to take piano lessons could end up being a catapult to a dozen social connections and a dozen opportunities to see ourselves succeed. You might think it’s too late to start, or restart, adult beginner piano lessons. But with a flexible teacher and an open-minded attitude, it’s never too late to see your dream come true.

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 Steps to Prepare for Piano Lessons in Your Home

in-home piano lessons

Getting excited about your first piano lesson? If you’ve opted for lessons in your home, there are certain ways you can prepare your space beforehand. Continue reading for the checklist from St. Augustine, FL teacher Heather L...

 

You’ve found the perfect piano teacher. You’ve found a great time slot for lessons that works for everybody. Your piano teacher is prepared to come to you. But how do you prepare for piano lessons in your home? Follow these simple steps, and piano lessons at home will weave their way into your family’s lifestyle seamlessly.

1. Pick a room.

If you have a piano, then you know how tough it is to move. The room that your piano is in will become your lesson room, unless you’re willing to hire piano movers or you’re training for the Iron Man competition! But if you have a keyboard, then you’re able to choose the room in which you’d like the lessons to take place. It’s best to choose a room that’s away from loud distractions and noises, but for parents, consider a room close enough that you’re readily accessible for your child or teacher.

2. Get your piano or keyboard ready.

If you have a keyboard in your home, then be sure that its cables, plugs, and outlets are working safely. Play each key to make sure all of the keys are functional. If you have a piano instead, call a local professional piano tuner for an annual or semi-annual tuning. He’ll also make sure that the sound board, dampers, and strings are in good shape.

3. Parents, talk with all of your kids.

Ideally, every parent would start a family discussion about the importance of respecting the space and time of the young pianist’s lessons. It can be difficult for kids not to jump up on the piano bench with their siblings and start banging the keys. For all they know, it’s just another day of play. Explain to everybody that it’s just like school, only it’s one student and one teacher.

4. Prepare to organize.

My most successful and un-stressed students are those who’ve designated notebooks, binders, and other supplies for piano lessons. Your teacher might have his or her own list of specific supplies to purchase. It prevents valuable lesson time from being wasted by looking through school stuff. For parents to provide a little extra motivation for your young pianist, it can be fun to decorate the lessons binder or notebook with music stickers or drawings.

5. Schedule practice time.

After your initial lessons, your piano teacher will most probably let you and your child know how often he or she’d like to see the student practice. To prepare for piano lessons, sit down and look at your or your child’s schedule and begin to block off time specifically for piano studies during the week. Setting this time aside beforehand is so much better than scrambling and stressing after piano assignments are handed out.

It’s easy to prepare for piano lessons in your home. Just by looking ahead and taking these simple steps, you’ll find that your family will be ready for all the fun and the challenges that come with learning the piano.

HeatherLHeather L. teaches singing, piano, acting, and more in Saint 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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keyboard vs. piano

Keyboard vs. Piano: What Do New Students Need?

keyboard vs. piano
Piano lessons are a great investment, but what if you don’t own a piano? Is it really necessary, or will a smaller, more manageable keyboard do the trick? If you’re asking these questions, we’ve got your answers. Consider the following as you make your decision…

How committed are you?
The first question you’ll want to ask yourself is how committed you are with your lessons. Obviously, a full piano is a big investment – in terms of both money and space. While some teachers or music programs may highly recommend a piano, it might not be a reasonable option for you. If it’s not, a keyboard can be just as effective for a beginner – just make sure you’re purchasing a quality model.

What’s your price range?
For pianos, you can expect to pay anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 (and even upward of $50,000 for some grand pianos!).  Keyboards are less expensive, but you can still expect to pay $200 and up for a quality instrument – and in some cases up to $1,000, depending on how many “extras” you want (USB drive, special effects, internal metronome, etc.).

Do you want to be able to practice quietly?
Most digital keyboards have headphone jacks, so you can practice without disturbing anyone else. This is great for families who have multiple children taking lessons, or if your opportunities to practice are limited to late nights or early mornings.

Are you moving soon?
Moving a piano can be a huge hassle, and requires professional (and often expensive) help. If you anticipate moving anytime soon, you’ll want to wait and just stick with a keyboard for now.

Are you prepared for the upkeep?
As a general rule of thumb, a piano should be tuned twice a year. Depending on the area you’re in and the condition of your piano, this may cost you around $100 each time. Keep this in mind and mark it on your calendar, as an in-tune piano can make a world of difference!

For keyboards: Are the keys weighted?
You’ll definitely want a keyboard with weighted keys, which means they offer the same level of resistance that a real piano would. The resistance is what allows you to play dynamics (i.e. louder and softer), and makes for an easier transition to playing on the piano. Another thing to consider is how many keys your keyboard has – a full piano has 88 keys, whereas some keyboards only offer a limited range. This can be an issue when you progress into more advanced pieces.

Do you want the “real thing”?
Even with all of the advantages of a keyboard, it simply will never replace a real piano. Even the best quality keyboard won’t have the same beautiful sound that a piano has, and the keys inevitably feel different. Often the keys are a bit smaller on keyboards, which can be frustrating to students switching back and forth when they try playing on a piano. Ultimately, your personal preferences will come into play here.

It’s a big step, but purchasing a piano is a great investment for the serious musician.  In the meantime, however, there’s nothing wrong with starting out on a quality keyboard or digital piano. Do your research, consider your lifestyle, find yourself a great piano teacher and play those 88 keys with confidence!

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