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piano teacher resources

8 Great Tools Every Piano Teacher Needs On Hand

piano teacher resources

Thinking of using your skills to teach piano to others? There are so many online tools to help you along the way! Here are some of the best piano teacher resources, as recommended by New Paltz, NY teacher Cheryl E...

 

Whether you’re in your first year teaching piano students or your 50th year, here are seven great tools and resources that every piano teacher needs to keep new students rolling in and sticking around for the long haul!

1. This worksheet bundle. Have your students learning to read music in 21 days? Um, yes please! These packets are awesome and skip the acronyms (Every Good Boy, etc., ) and get right to being able to read music. Perfect for all ages!

2. This quiz and game website. Check out this site that a music teacher created. It offers free interactive games and quizzes AND access to the software links where you can build your own to cater to your students. Very cool.

3. This metronome app. Besides using this as a standard metronome, I also use it to see how well my student gauges tempo (you can tap along with the student to find out the tempo at which they are playing). As a composer, I use this app all the time for quick references of ideas in my head.

4. This podcast for jazz piano. Paul’s voice is the bomb. I mean, he’s from London, so that helps. And he talks through his piano chops seamlessly. Great for teachers and students wanting to explore jazz.

5. YouTube on your iPad (or phone or laptop). YouTube is the place to be pulling examples from when teaching your students. Bring an iPad loaded with awesome videos of mash-ups, inspiring performances of a piece your student is working on, or alternate ways of performing a passage. Not only will you look oh-so-cool, but you’ll break up the lesson and show your student that music exists out in the world in lots of neat ways.

6. This note-reading app. This is great for your teen who won’t practice or the kid who’s glued to the iPad. It treats reading music like a game but is also sleek and simple.

7. This career coach. Oh hey, that’s me! Here’s the thing: One-on-one coaching is the most effective way to bust through career plateaus. Coaches provide two things: new ideas and accountability. If you do not get new ideas, growth is impossible. And if you don’t have someone holding you accountable, you will go back to you default ways of working, which also does not allow for growth. What is cool about my coaching is that I also work with you on your branding and marketing — your website, the content of the site, your pricing structures, and new ways to get and keep new students.

8. TakeLessons.com. I’m listed as a TakeLessons teacher, and it’s probably the best teacher tool on the internet for getting found. The easy user interface makes it easy to manage your teaching calendar, payments, and canceled lessons in addition to gathering testimonials and increasing the chance that prospective students will find you. Both parties have the security of the TakeLessons cancellation policy, so there’s no need to badger my students for payments. Very convenient!

So try some or all of these out and see how many of the great piano teacher resources you will find yourself unable to live without!

CherylECheryl is a film and TV commercial composer and singer/songwriter with multiple tours, records, and TV placements under her belt. If you turned on your television this year, you’ve definitely heard her music. She teaches piano and voice in addition to composition and arrangement in New Paltz, NY. Learn more about Cheryl here!

 

 

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How to Become a Piano Technician | Skills and Demands

What Skills Are Required To Fix Your Piano If you have a natural curiosity for how things work, then you’ve probably spent more than a few moments’ thought on not just the general maintenance of your piano, but also piano tuning. Unlike a string instrument, where a few pegs allow you to tune your instrument, piano tuning requires a professional.

What Does a Piano Technician Do?

A piano technician doesn’t just tune your piano; he or she will carry out repairs and maintenance to allow you to get the best out of your instrument, and even extend its life. Like anything with a working mechanism, parts of your piano will wear out over time and need replacing. Your piano technician will replace worn out and broken strings, and also carry out a process called “regulating,” which means making sure that all the moving parts work properly. This helps keep your piano in good shape, and also ensures you can use your piano with proper technique! Regulation should be done around every five years or so to make sure that your piano is operating properly.

What Skills Does a Piano Technician Need?

Although an electronic tuner will tell you in the most clinical way whether the strings are in tune or not, the most essential skill for a piano technician is a good ear, and the ability to tune correctly by listening. Perfect pitch isn’t an advantage for this job, as the adjustments required for equal temperament in piano tuning can be off-putting and make the string sound “out of tune” to you. You will also need to be reasonably dexterous, as some repairs and replacements — such as gluing new felt onto hammers or replacing strings — can be quite difficult. Another skill you need is a good memory; it’s likely you’ll build up a relationship with individual instruments over a number of years, and if you can remember their individual characteristics in between piano tuning and repair appointments, you will not only find your job easier, but the end result for the instrument and your client will be much better.

The other often-overlooked skill you’ll need as a piano technician is to have a good head for business. Many piano technicians are self-employed, and although most of your work will be through word of mouth and personal recommendations, knowing how to carry out even basic self-marketing and networking will help you build a client base. It may be worthwhile taking an evening class in basic business skills alongside your technical training.

It takes a long time to train as a piano technician, and although there are courses and even guilds you can join, a great way to learn is to find an existing experienced technician who is happy to take on an apprentice. You may even wish to — as car-mad apprentice mechanics do — find a “beyond repair” piano and bring it back to life while trying out your new skills!

How Does a Piano Technician Find Work?

We discussed marketing a little above, and also that most of your work will come through word of mouth. An apprenticeship will ensure that you get to learn on the job, but what happens when you want to branch out on your own?

Your major sources of employment will be schools, music shops, and individuals who need their pianos maintained and tuned on a regular basis. In terms of home piano tuning, it’s worth considering some kind of loyalty scheme to encourage regular business, or a “refer-a-friend” discount for both existing and new customers.

As you become more established and experienced, concert halls and recording studios are worth approaching. You can also join the Piano Technicians Guild, which will help you keep your skills up to date and give you further employment leads.

If you are currently taking piano lessons, let your teacher know that this is one of your interests. He or she may be able to provide valuable advice, and put you in touch with people who can advise you further. Good luck!

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3 Reasons Why Piano Players Should Also Learn the Organ

There are many reasons why a music student may find themselves learning to play piano on a keyboard rather than on a baby grand: cost, space, or simply lack of access, for example. Versatility on a range of keyboard instruments is also an extremely useful string for any pianist to have to their bow, and can lead to greater practice and public performance opportunities, and even excellent opportunities to earn a little money on the side.

The organ, although not the most prevalent or popular musical instrument, is a great option for pianists looking to expand their skills. Here are three reasons why you should consider learning this fascinating set of keys:

1) The Techniques are Different

Playing The Organ

Many piano players make the assumption that their skills on one keyboard will transfer directly to another, and that they will be able to play the organ with the same level of skill instantly. However, this is a dangerous assumption to make, especially if you are engaged to play the organ somewhere, and haven’t honed your skills already. Whereas the touch on the piano is all about the attack, the organ is all about the release, so using the same weight on the keys will not necessarily produce the desired outcome. This is where students who have been learning to play piano on a keyboard will have a small advantage — unless you’re using an expensive clavinova with weighted keys, an electronic keyboard will require a similar attack-and-release technique as an organ.

2) Pedals and Keyboards and Stops, Oh My!

organ pedals

If you’ve played the organ, you probably have vivid memories of the first time you were faced with a model with dual keyboards, pedals, and stops! It was probably pretty terrifying. Remember all those hours you spent making your hands properly independent and equally agile on the piano keyboard? You’ll have to develop an entirely new technique for the organ, where you will be negotiating stops and a dual keyboard at the same time. Also, your piano has a measly three pedals at most, so your footwork will have to become extra-fancy to negotiate the organ pedals.

It’s worth finding specific exercises to help coordinate your hands and feet to ensure that you can transfer your dexterity at the piano to the organ. Again, if you have been learning to play piano on a keyboard, you will find yourself at an advantage, as you may have had to manipulate buttons to get different effects. As for those stops, it’s worth familiarizing yourself with the sound and function of each before you play, so that you can become fluent quickly.

3) There’s a Whole New World of Playing Opportunities Out There

organ player

While you may have found the odd source of extra money playing the piano at a restaurant, or perhaps giving an occasional piano lesson to a beginner, even if you don’t plan on a career as a professional musician, being able to play the organ will open up a whole new sphere of music jobs to you. Many older churches have large manual organs, and although most will have a regular organist, it’s worth introducing yourself as someone that they can call on when needed. Even smaller churches typically need a keyboard player of some kind, so you may find occasional opportunities to perform.

Church organ music isn’t the only source of extra repertoire, however — just as there are significant orchestral piano opportunities, the organ is often required, too. This includes not just for works such as Saint-Saëns’ Organ Symphony (which also has a spectacular piano part!), but many choral works, including Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast, and the most common favorite of choral societies worldwide, Handel’s Messiah.

 

While the organ does have some similarities to the piano, keep in mind there are several separate skills involved. If playing the organ interests you, it may be worth finding a private teacher who specializes in the instrument once you’ve learned the basics of the piano. Working with an expert who can guide you along and teach you the correct techniques is a big part of your success as a musician. Whatever instrument you choose to learn — have fun!

 

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Do You Have the Skills to Become a Piano Teacher?

learning piano

Did you know that teaching others is one of the best ways to learn piano — as well as continue learning, if you’re at an advanced level? Here, St. Augustine, FL teacher Heather L. shares what it takes to teach…

 

Being a piano teacher can be tremendously rewarding and fulfilling. The art of guiding a student on a journey of learning is one that comes naturally to some, but can certainly be learned by others who have the right skills.

The phrase “piano teacher” brings to mind different images and memories for all of us. For some people, a piano teacher is a harsh, cruel, and ruthless authoritarian, determined to see results no matter what the means. For others, a piano teacher is a wise, gentle, and caring instructor who gave them some of the most beautiful and lasting memories of their youth.

Before asking yourself if you have the skills to become a piano teacher, and ultimately maintain a successful career, ask yourself what kind of piano teacher that you would like to have. What kind of characteristics would your ideal instructor possess? Do you possess them yourself?

As a child, I never took piano lessons. I had too many friends who’d taken them and had learned not only how to play the piano, but also how to despise it because of mean teachers. I loved the piano too much to see that happen to me. The shame is that if only I’d found the right teacher, I might not have had to spend years in intensive piano training to correct poor technique. Over the years, I was lucky to be instructed by some of the best teachers in America and take note of the skills that made them so effective. I’ve also taken note of the effectiveness of my own and my colleagues’ teaching skills over the last decade.

The following is a list of skills that are necessary for becoming a great piano teacher.

1. Compassion
Some may think of compassion as an emotion, but it can also be thought of as a skill to be learned and cultivated. It’s vitally important in the art of teaching, but most especially in the art of teaching on an individual level. Often, it’s what’s most lacking in the most disliked piano teachers. Students will not only fail in small and large ways, but they’ll also be defiant and mean-spirited at times, too. These are the moments when compassion is essential for the sake of the single lesson, a long-term relationship with the student, and the growth of the student as a pianist.

2. Organization
One of your goals as a piano teacher will probably be to acquire a busy schedule. That busy schedule, combined with having a limited amount of valuable time in each lesson, means it’s so important to be able to keep student information, sheet music, and future assignments straight. If you’re naturally methodical and organized, this will come much more easily. Organization skills are also integral to the process of “mapping out” a student’s short-term and long-term goals.

3. Sincerity
Most students, especially children, will pick up on any sugar-coating or false praise almost immediately, and sometimes not even on a conscious level. A student will usually just begin to distrust the teacher, not really knowing why. Pretending to be greatly interested in mundane elements of a student’s life or trying to create deep connections will soon have him looking for another piano teacher.

Being honest and forthright in your observations during lessons and assessments of performances not only establishes trust, but also prevents wasting time. It would be as if a plumber came to your house to fix a sink, but just stood there telling you how beautiful your bathroom is. Your job as a piano teacher is to observe, diagnose, and solve challenges in each student. You must be able to do this every day in a clear and straightforward manner.

4. Flexibility
Teaching lessons one-on-one can be very unpredictable and malleable in terms of scheduling. Students might cancel a lesson a few days, a few weeks, and sometimes a few hours before it. You’ll be in control of your own cancellation and rescheduling policies, and as long as you’re organized (see skill number two), you’ll have made them clear to all of your students and parents. But being flexible with students’ rescheduling and last-minute conflicts is essential to keeping your students, not to mention your own sanity.

5. Self-awareness
You must be aware of your own limitations as both a piano player and instructor. Students may come to you with challenges that you may be too inexperienced or ill-equipped to handle. Conversely, students will come to you, grow as pianists, and then get to be so good that you must know when it’s time to find the student another teacher capable of teaching at that student’s level.

6. Positivity
The best-liked and most successful piano teachers that I’ve met are utterly positive people. You don’t have to be as perky as a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, but optimism is infectious. That optimism may be all that a student needs to get past some of her challenges. Besides, if you don’t feel positive about a student’s eager willingness to learn the piano, then teaching it is probably not the job for you.

The best piano instructors are individuals who relish both the learning journey and guiding others on journeys of their own. If you have the key skills to be that guide, you’ll find that teaching is one of the best ways to continue learning piano even at an advanced or professional level. Teaching the piano may be the perfect career for 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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Crafting Piano Scores | 3 Tips to Get Started

piano scores

Want to learn about writing your own piano scores? Find out how to get started in this guest post by New Paltz, NY teacher Cheryl E...

 

Being a pianist comes in very handy–and not just at family holiday parties when your in-laws are bellowing “Deck The Halls” in your ear as you try to keep some sense of rhythm. The piano is a versatile instrument that allows even the most novice composers to explore a full spectrum of dynamics, textures, and pitch range.

No matter what you’re composing for, the foundation is always based in enhancing the experience. Piano scores, for example, are pieces of music that are written to enhance a moving image, whether that’s a film, a commercial, or any other type of video. To get started, we’ll take a look at a few key elements that will shape your process:

1) Do you have video to work with, or just a concept? If you have the video in its final version, then you have some limitations regarding the tempo. You may need to emphasize a brand’s logo as it appears, or you may want to pause for a punch line. Working backwards and timing your piece from key moments is often the easiest way to set your tempo. If you do not have a video to work with, you have a bit more freedom to write a piece of music that will fit the creative direction your client has given you.

2) Do you have a creative direction? The creative brief is often the most important conversation you can have as a composer with a new client. I look at being a composer as a way to help the director, producer, or agency tell their story. Here are my three key questions that I always ask a collaborator if they don’t have a specific idea of what they want:

  • What are 5-10 words that you would use to describe the story, the video, the feel, and the vibe of the piece? As the composer, you can then act as translators, taking their words and sculpting them into the final piano score.
  • What do you want your viewer to feel or do? Feel inspired? Be so excited they go out and buy something? Feel nostalgic? Your score can help lead to these desired results.
  • Are there any songs or genres of music that have been in the back of the creators’ minds that could work? Anything that would definitely NOT work?

3) Will your score be for piano only, will it be written for other live instruments, or will you be using computer software to create most of the body of the music? (My favorite composing software, and an advertising and film industry standard, is Logic X.) Here are a few considerations for each of these options:

  • Writing for piano only, you will want to see how much dialogue or voice-over is in the video. If there is quite a lot of talking, you won’t want the middle range of the piano (the typical range of a speaking voice is from about middle C to A 440) to compete. You can also use an equalizer in the mix to mitigate any competing frequencies, but that’s a whole other article.
  • If you are writing on the piano initially, with the knowledge that you will be arranging your piece for other instruments, make sure you know the range of each instrument you’re writing for. It’s always a drag to get to a live session, pass out your sheet music (I use Finale to transcribe my pieces) and have the cellist tell you their instrument can’t play the notes you wrote.
  • Writing “in the box,” as in, using mostly or all software instruments, is the option I use most often. It is the fastest way to get a track completed from start to finish. When working with piano in a software system, you can play in all your parts, and then assign each part to a software instrument of your choosing. This process has the added task of mixing so that it sounds authentic and “non-synthy.” Giving each instrument space (by panning, EQ-ing and working with reverb and compression) is key to writing ear-pleasing piano scores. (Again, I could go on for days about this.)

Once you have a strong grasp on the video’s concept and story, the musical creative direction, and your choice of instrumentation, you get to start the fun part: composing! It’s a privilege to provide a creative service that also allows someone else to express their story, their brand, or their ideas, all while crafting a purely enjoyable experience for future viewers and listeners.

CherylECheryl is a film and TV commercial composer and singer/songwriter with multiple tours, records, and TV placements under her belt. If you turned on your television this year, you’ve definitely heard her music. She teaches piano and voice in addition to composition and arrangement in New Paltz, NY. Learn more about Cheryl here!

 

 

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In the Pits: How to Succeed as an Orchestral Pianist

Successful Piano Training Being a piano player may seem like a very solitary way to go about learning an instrument. As a piano student, you may yearn to make music with others, and if you’re naturally drawn toward group music making, it may be that you already study an orchestral instrument, or sing with a choir. You may also have extended your piano training to accompany some of your friends for concerts or exams, or explored the wide variety of chamber music repertoire available involving the piano. However, had you considered the sheer quantity of orchestral music that requires a piano, aside from the obvious concerto repertoire?

Orchestral Works with Piano

Your piano training to date has no doubt included not just standard scales and finger exercises, but solo piano repertoire as well, ranging from stand-alone pieces to complete sonatas. For more advanced students, your teacher may have introduced transcriptions of famous symphonic works for you to play together as duet material. However, many late romantic and twentieth century orchestral works employ the piano as an instrument in its own right.

A famous example is the last movement of Saint-Saens Symphony No. 3 (also known as the “Organ Symphony”), where the piano adds color to the string statement of the main motif.  In the clip below, you can clearly see the positioning of the piano in the orchestra.

It’s important to familiarize yourself with other orchestral keyboard instruments, too; celeste parts are very common, for example. Many Prokofiev symphonies have a prominent piano part, and the increasingly popular symphonies of Bohuslav Martinu all require an orchestral pianist.

Operatic Works with Piano

The life of the orchestral pianist isn’t limited to the concert platform; many operatic works incorporate a piano into the pit orchestra, or even require a pianist to be onstage as part of the action – an excellent opportunity for the more outgoing performer, but not so much fun for the player used to hiding behind the keyboard. Britten’s village comedy Albert Herring requires a pianist for the recitatives, and Ariadne auf Naxos (Richard Strauss) and Dialogues des Carmelites (Francis Poulenc) make use of the piano not just for orchestral color, but as an important instrument on its own. Celeste, harpsichord, and even glass harmonica parts are very common, and all demand an experienced and accomplished orchestral keyboard player.

What to Study to Become an Orchestral Pianist

The skills you need to become an orchestral pianist are slightly different from those you’ll need to play as a solo pianist, or even to accompany one or two musicians or take part in chamber music. If a career as an orchestral pianist and keyboard player interests you, your piano training will need to incorporate some very specific disciplines.

You will need to be able to:

  • Follow a beat – As a soloist, you can set your own tempo. An orchestral player, on the other hand, will need to accurately follow someone else’s speed.
  • Learn to watch rather than listen – You are likely to be 20 feet or more away from the conductor, perhaps even buried in or behind the percussion section. If you make the mistake of listening to the orchestra to know when to come in, you may end up behind the beat.
  • Accurately count many bars rest – This may seem like a simple skill, and wind and brass players almost seem to be born with it. However, it’s not as simple as it seems. You may be resting for most of a movement, yet have to play a brilliant and exposed solo toward the end. Don’t get distracted when you’re counting!
  • Interpret dynamics in relation to texture – You will need to identify whether you are providing orchestral color (and therefore you shouldn’t actually be “heard” as an individual instrument), or if you are providing a specific piano effect.
  • Read an orchestral score – Your piano training will benefit strongly from learning how to read full scores, as you will learn how your part fits in with the rest of the music.

The Life of an Orchestral Pianist

Although the life of the orchestral pianist isn’t quite as lonely as that of the soloist can be, you will still find yourself with a lot more time off than your colleagues, and you may not feel that you are “part of things” in the same way the string or woodwind players are. As with all musical disciplines and career paths, it’s important to build interests and relationships outside of work. Many musicians find that an active teaching practice, for example, helps them to refocus.

Music isn’t always easy or necessarily financially rewarding – however, that’s not why we do it! Have fun exploring the different avenue of piano training, and see what interests you the most!

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