When to Hold Off on Piano Lessons


When to Hold Off on Piano Lessons

What! A post on when not to take piano lessons? If you been following me for a while you know that I think that music education is the best thing ever for people! Especially in piano education. There are hundreds of reasons to take up the piano, it’s awesome! Ninety-eight percent of students start piano and do just fine, however, there are times when I recommend that parents hold off on piano lessons.

I generally love to start piano lessons with kids at age 4. This may seem young, but there are so many advantages to starting the piano as early as possible. There are so very many things that preschoolers can learn about the piano and about music. Most of the time it works out great. Occasionally a child will come into my studio who just isn’t quite ready to begin lessons. I expect my littlest student to be wiggly, shy, talkative, and generally “all over the place”. I can work with that. However, if a child is crying and really unhappy after 2 or 3 lessons I recommend that parents hold off on piano lessons for 6 months or so. During this time I recommend, they do lots of listening to great music and try a music and movement group class. These classes are fun for kids and the music and dancing develop their inner ear and their sense of rhythm.

I also recommend waiting if an older child just doesn’t want to take piano lessons. Older kids know what they want to do (and what they don’t). I can work with any student who has even the slightest interest in learning the piano. Once in a while though I come across a child who absolutely does not want to take piano lessons, at all, for any reason! Usually, this is because they would rather be learning the guitar or some other instrument. In this case, I recommend that parents hold off until there is an agreement about whether to study the piano or do something else. I have never had much luck with kids who were pressured into lessons against their will. One of my very first students was put into piano lessons as a punishment for getting his ear pierced. Needless to say, this young man was not the best piano student.

The last reason I recommend that parents hold off on piano lessons is that they don’t have a piano. Students really need their own instruments at home so that they can practice regularly. Some of my students don’t have a piano when they come to the first lesson but they plan to get one right away. In these cases, I help my students find a piano. But if families don’t plan to buy a piano within a month of starting lessons I recommend that parents hold off until they are ready to purchase an acoustic or digital piano.

I want piano lessons to be a successful and enjoyable experience for all of my students. That’s why I will on occasion ask parents to hold off until we feel that their child is ready to start lessons. I have found that in some cases taking a little extra time makes all the difference.

Why Listening to Music is So Important

Just as reading classic books is to the aspiring writer and seeing fine art is imperative for the budding artist listening to great music is key to a music student’s development. Music is a language in and of itself it is both heard and played. The more a person is immersed in the language of music the easier it will be for him to become fluent.


Students of music should be listening daily to all types of music, especially music they wish to learn to play. Classical music and jazz feature complex rhythm and harmony that helps students to build strong musicianship and aural skills.  I recommend listening to these genres on a regular basis in addition to any popular or folk music that my students find interesting.


From relieving stress and improving physical health to enhancing test scores and inspiring creativity. The benefits of listening to great music are well documented.


Each year I take special care to select an eclectic mix of music that is beautiful, exciting, and perhaps even a bit surprising. There is music from hundreds of years ago all the way up to new music that has been composed by composers living today. I have hand-selected what I consider to be the best performances and posted them at pianoparents.net.


I hope you will enjoy listening the “Summer Listening Calendar Challenge” 2020!



Why We Will Continue to Pay for Dance Classes During the COVID 19 Crisis.


You may be wondering why I am publishing a post about dance classes on pianoparents.net. I want to share with you my reasons for continuing to support my granddaughter Kaylie’s Irish dance studio for as long as I can even though they are closed due to the coronavirus.


Irish dance means a lot to our family. Actually, it’s a family affair for us. Every one of us is behind Kaylie’s dancing one hundred percent. She loves it, and she is always dancing. Even in these uncertain times seeing Kaylie bounce and step as she practices the jig and the reel brings all of us joy! She’s just a beginner, but dancing takes her to a place free from worry.


I want to be sure when this COVID 10 crisis is over that her dance studio will still be there for her. I see that her teachers are working hard to adjust and send out videos and other things to help her keep dancing. So, I will pay my tuition as long as I am able to.


I am a piano teacher, so I am kind of in the same boat. Many of us are. We have never seen anything like this in our lifetime. It is scary. Even people with stable jobs like first responders and healthcare workers are worried about the economy in general. These workers are facing high-stress levels. If you are one of them, thank you for your service to us all.


Those of us who are small business people are certainly losing a lot of sleep these days. Your child’s piano teacher is probably one of these people.

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What to Do About Piano Lessons in the Face of the Corona Virus

We are all being bombarded by news about the Corona Virus. It is concerning. It may be more of a problem for you depending on where you are in the world. Opinions about the situation range from those who think it is just the regular flu that is being hyped up in order to cause panic to those who think this is the next great pandemic.


The truth as I see it, we really don’t know. The best thing to do is to stay calm and take reasonable precautions. Some piano teachers and studios are deciding to conduct lessons online to avoid any chance of transmitting the illness.

Here’s how to set up lessons online and why you should continue with online piano lessons.



What are online piano lessons?


Your teacher can use the internet and a smartphone, tablet or computer to teach real-time video lessons with you or your child. Your child will be able to speak, play and interact with the teacher just as he would in the studio.



How do we set this up?


If you and your teacher both have I devices (iPhone/iPad) you can easily do a Facetime lesson. If not, you can download the Skype app. and conduct the lesson using your computer. You will need to set your device near the piano so that the teacher can see your child and your child can see the teacher including a view of the piano keyboard.

Note; A chair or small table next to the piano works fine, no special stands or equipment is needed.


Here are links showing you how to set up video lessons. Your teacher will be able to help you.



Note; Setting up video lessons through skype or Facetime is free of charge. Of course, you will pay your regular lesson fee.



Does this work? Are the lessons effective?



I have been teaching online for the last three years. I have found that online lessons are slightly different than in-person lessons in that, my online students must be more independent, and I must explain things thoroughly. In many ways, this turns out to be advantageous for my students. All in all, my online students do just as well as my in-person students.


Note; Preschool and special needs students may benefit from having a parent present to help during online lessons.



Why not just take a break from piano lessons until we can come back to the teacher’s studio?


It’s never a good idea to take a break from piano lessons and piano practice.

In order to build upon the skills attained and move forward lessons and practice should continue throughout the year. An analogy would be training at the gym, you may get into great shape but if you take a few weeks off from your work out you lose the progress you have made.



It’s good to keep a sense of normalcy.

Playing the piano helps children to focus on something positive. Being able to see and interact with their teacher helps them to feel safe and secure. If things do get to the point where we all have to “lay low” for a while playing the piano will give your child (or yourself) something to do.



Your teacher needs to continue as well.

Your teacher has dedicated his/her life to learning to play and teach the piano. This is your teacher’s livelihood. I know that your teacher wants to do the very best to advance your child’s piano education this is the main reason for teaching online lessons. However, we all have bills to pay and your piano teacher is no exception. I will thank you in advance for your understanding of this matter.



I hope and pray that everyone will be safe and healthy and that this virus will come to an end very soon.


Thank you so much for reading this post.


Doreen Hall


Teachers, you can find plenty of music you can download and print for in-person students or email to your online students including method books, music, theory, games and more on my website for teachers.











Why Your Child Must Practice at Home

“Ms. Hall, I was so busy this week I didn’t have any time to practice”



I hear this from at least one student every week. I understand life can be busy. Students have school projects, exams, and other events that come up and prevent them from being able to practice. I don’t consider the occasional ‘off week’ when it comes to practicing a major problem. But what about students who are involved in so many activities that they almost never have time to practice? Can they learn to play? What about students who have the time but just refuse to practice? Can these students get anything out of piano lessons?



The short answer is no. If you don’t practice at home, you simply can’t learn to play much. Playing the piano for 30 minutes a week at the lesson just won’t cut it. Imagine going to school for just 30 minutes per week. You would not learn a lot.



This is How Piano Lessons Work.



A piano student attends a weekly lesson of 30-60 minutes in duration. During the lesson, the teacher reviews the material (music, scales, etc.) that has been presented the previous week and suggests ways to refine or improve the material. If the student has made sufficient progress new material is presented. A good teacher thoroughly explains any new concepts, answers any questions, and then assigns specific things to practice.



After that,

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Over Scheduling Children


How much is too much?

I think having kids in after-school activities is great! I am all for extra-curricular activities, after all, as a piano teacher, I am one.

There is so much out there these days for kids to do. Dance, Sports, Music, Art, Scouts, Church Activities, Foreign Languages, Theater, and on and on. As parents we want our kids to thrive. We want them to experience what the world has to offer. We want the best for them. But, is there such a thing as too many activities for kids? If there is, how much is too much? And what does this have to do with piano lessons?

I think most of us would agree that it is possible to over-schedule our kids. Here is a quote from an article in Psychology Today:

Alvin Rosenfeld, M.D., a child psychiatrist and author of The Over-Scheduled Child: Avoiding the Hyper-Parenting Trap, believes that enrolling children in too many activities is a nationwide problem.

“Over-scheduling our children is not only a widespread phenomenon, but it’s also how we parent today,” he says. “Parents feel remiss that they’re not being good parents if their kids aren’t in all kinds of activities. Children are under pressure to achieve, to be competitive. I know sixth-graders who are already working on their resume’s so they’ll have an edge when they apply for college.”

Piano Students

As a piano teacher, I advise my student’s parents against putting their kids in too many activities. One reason is simple. Children need time to practice if they are going to learn to play a musical instrument. I have had students who are so busy, that they literally do not have 30 minutes per day to spend practicing. As a result, they can’t learn to play well.

But I believe there are other more important reasons not to over-schedule our kids. Children need time to think, to dream, to imagine…To just be.

Actually, we all need these things. Especially those of us in the arts.

Musicians young and old alike need time to listen to great music, time to be silent, time to improvise. Time to read classic books, stories, and poems. Time to view the masterpieces of the art world.

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Ready Set Recital!


I am a piano teacher and a parent of kids who studied music. So I have been on both sides of the recital equation and I can tell you which is more stressful…the parent side.

As parents we really want our kids to have a great experience. We love them, we want more than anything for them to be happy and feel good about themselves. We dread the idea that they would crash and burn during a performance and come away upset, embarrassed, or worse crying. So when it’s our child’s turn to get up and show her stuff,

we sit on the edge of our seats, holding our breath, and hoping for the best.

But I am here to tell you recital time doesn’t have to be so stressful. After all, a recital is meant to be an enjoyable experience. A chance for our kids to learn and grow as musicians and as people.

Encourage Your Child to Be Prepared

Talk with your child about the upcoming performance and encourage her to practice and prepare. Make sure that her schedule will allow for practice time even if it means cutting back on some other activities for a few weeks. Assuming that you have a teacher you trust, let your child know that she should follow the teacher’s instructions, this will help ensure that she is ready for the big day.

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Should I Sit in On My Child’s Piano Lesson?


This question comes up a lot. There is a fair amount of debate about this among piano teachers. Personally, I don’t mind parents sitting in on lessons. Let me qualify that I don’t mind parents sitting in on lessons some of the time. I think most teachers agree that it is always a parent’s right to sit in on a piano lesson. The question is, is it always a good idea?

There are really no hard and fast rules about this topic. To my knowledge, no studies have been done on the effects on children whose parents sit in on piano lessons. But I have some experience with this subject as I have been teaching for over 35 years and I raised 5 boys of my own. Not to mention the fact that I was once a piano student myself.

I am a piano teacher (obvious) which means I was pretty successful when it came to my piano lessons. My parents never attended my piano lesson. Never, not one. I started taking lessons when I was in the sixth-grade. My teacher lived across the street from the school. My mother put five bucks into my pocket and I walked to my piano lesson and I walked home after. Granted the world was a lot different back then (the 1970’s) than it is now. Or at least, it was perceived to be safer.

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An Interview With One of Today’s Top Pianists

For the parents who dream of their children becoming concert pianists. Read this inspiring post about the life and career of pianist Rami Bar-Niv.

This post was originally presented by Grand Stand.  The interviewer is Dee Nilsen.

What inspired you to play the piano?

 My piano-teacher mother started my elder brother on the piano. He lasted one day proclaiming that piano was for girls. I was next in line…

At what age did you start playing?

I was 5 YO.

What memories/stories do you have of piano lessons?

My mother used to put on the piano the only clock we had at home, told me to practice half an hour and closed the glass door. Every day I moved the clock ahead 5 minutes so I’d have to practice only 25 minutes (I didn’t want to make it too obvious…). Every evening at the 9 pm news my parents could not understand why the fine clock was wrong…


Do you have a favorite piece/style of music to play?

Anything from Bach to Gershwin. My favorite piece is the one I’m playing at the moment.


As an adult, why do you still enjoy playing the piano?

It’s my profession. I give concerts all over the world, I better enjoy it. But practicing is hard work.



Do you have a favorite experience that involves the piano?

Playing for Leonard Bernstein, performing for 5000 people in Mexico, performing for the American Ambassador in Israel at his home, performing for the president of El Salvador and his family, and many other similar cases.


If you teach piano, what has been your most memorable teaching experience?

Each one of my current piano camps for adult players of all levels leaves me with memorable teaching experience. It’s just the wonderful students, their love for the piano/music, their serious attitude, and their improvement. 


What do you enjoy doing when you’re not playing the piano?

Composing music, helping out and mentoring students and colleagues, being with my family and grandkids, watching movies, and traveling. I also do sports, used to do karate, nowadays I do walking, swimming, and my own exercises.


What do you/or have you done for a living?


Giving concerts all over the world, composing music, teaching private students, giving master classes, running my own publishing and record company, running my own music management/agency, writing a piano-technique book, and running my piano camp for adults.

Where do you live?

I share my time between the USA and Israel.

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How To Help Your Kids With Piano Homework

The article was written by Vincent Reina.
Performance from Purchase Conservatory. He then earned a Masters of Arts in Teaching Music from Manhattanville College. Today, Vincent is the co-founder of Music To Your Home, a New York City-based music school. He’s the proud winner of many significant piano competitions, including the Westminster Choir College Artistic Excellence in Piano Award.


You have found the perfect piano teacher for your child or children. You probably had to spend a lot of time searching for a reliable piano teacher but your efforts have paid off. You’ve found the perfect one. They’re talented, thoughtful, patient, and experienced. Good teachers aren’t always easy to come by, so when you find one that you can rely on, it’s something to be happy about.

Don’t forget. There will be homework!

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Things Your Traveling Piano Teacher Wants You to Know

Does your piano teacher come to your house? If so you are super lucky. Traveling teachers are very hard to find these days. As a piano parent myself, I have had a few teachers come to my home to teach my sons over the years and I can tell you it was a real convenience. I have also been a traveling teacher myself. Here are some things I think your traveling teacher would like you to know.

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Scott Joplin

Happy February everyone. I wish you all a happy Valentine’s day and a wonderful Black History Month. In honor of African Americans, we will be putting up some information on some on some of the best and most influential African American musicians in the world. 

Today we’ll talk about a famous pianist and composer named Scott Joplin. Mr. Joplin gave his whole life to the music profession. He was born in Texas in the 1860s to a family of railroad workers. He gave up life as a railroad worker to follow a career as a traveling musician. Even though it was hard he kept at it. He never gave up playing and writing music even when no one saw how good he was. 

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A Piano for Christmas?

My good friend and colleague Susan Blanchard Shaw put together this post for her students. She was doing research in her area in order to help guide her student’s parents in their selection of a piano.

I liked the post so much I asked her if I could repost it here for all of you, and she said yes. Thank you, Susan!


A Piano for Christmas?

Around this time of year, many people consider getting a keyboard for someone as a gift or upgrading from the one they have. If you are considering buying a keyboard ( versus an acoustic piano) please consider the following:



* The better the instrument, the better the progress. A student playing on an inexpensive keyboard with less than 88 Keys will not fare as well as one who has the full range of notes to play.


* Is the keyboard touch sensitive and does it have weighted keys? Most inexpensive keyboards do not. The keys are not weighted and thus do not give a real piano feel. This can lead to improper technique and frustration on the student’s part. A weighted keyboard will feel more like a real piano and will help the student be able to play with dynamic shading.

* Is the keyboard on a steady stand at the proper height? This is vital to proper technique. Students who sit too low, too high can develop issues with muscle tension. This could lead to tendinitis or worse. The student should be able to sit with their arms perfectly parallel to the keys.

* How does it sound? An inexpensive keyboard sounds like it. There is no depth of sound, no real piano feel or sound.

* What kind of pedal does it have? After the first year of lessons, pedal technique is usually introduced. A cheap square plastic pedal will not give the desired results and usually skates across the floor.


* How many notes of polyphony are there? Without getting into too much detail, the higher the number, the better. If you are going to play fast, advanced music, notes will blip or clip out on lower than 64 note polyphony. Imagine playing a piece and half the notes are silent. Then again, if you are an advanced player I suggest an acoustic piano.

So which keyboards are preferred? There are many keyboards in all prices ranges, with 88 weighted keys, solid stand, bench, and pedal. Here are my recommendations:

Yamaha P45- not as good as I thought for the money. $499 with a base. To get the good base and pedal would be an additional $150.

Casio Privia PX160. I liked this a lot. Great feel and sound, not a lot of bells and whistles. $499 for just the keyboard. But a site called kraftmusic.com has a bundle that includes the furniture type stand, triple pedal board, bench and headphones for 599.99 with free shipping.

Casio Privia PX 350. Above the 160. More bells and whistles. Better piano sound. Same feel as the 160. Piano at only $599. With furniture stand, triple pedal board, nice bench with storage, dust cover and headphones. Kraftmusic.com. Has the best price at $879.

Now that is pricey. Once you get up there you may want to look at acoustic pianos.

Next up Yamaha DGX 660. Lots of bells and whistles including the ability to record. $799 at kraft music includes furniture stand, bench, headphones, and a single ( not triple) pedal.

There are of course more expensive digital pianos out there ( Yamaha Clavinova).

If you are in the market for an acoustic I can do some research as well. A good acoustic will last 100 years if well maintained and will not lose value. There are quite a few nice ones on Craigslist. Anywhere from $350 on up

I would avoid the Williams pianos. The touch is very stiff and the sound is not great. I had to play one for a show and by
The end my hands were hurting.


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How to Tell Your Piano Teacher Goodbye


I am the last person who wants anyone to quit piano lessons…ever! But I am the first one to admit it happens. Maybe your child just isn’t into it anymore, and you’re tired of fighting with her about practicing. Perhaps your schedule is overloaded and something has got to give. A job loss or financial setback may also cause you to feel as though you have to stop lessons. It could be that you want to continue lessons but you think it’s time for a new teacher.

How Piano Teachers Think

OK, I am not a psychic. I don’t know exactly how or what every teacher thinks but I know enough teachers personally to tell you that we hate it when a student leaves. Yes, business is Business but piano teaching is more than that for most of us. Speaking for myself I try not to. take it personally but it still feels “icky” especially if I have been working with your child for a while. If you have carefully considered all of the options and have decided it’s time for a change there are some ways to make the situation a little easier.

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Why do We Need a Piano and What Type Should We Get?

Students need a piano because they need to be able to practice at home. Learning to play any musical instrument is a big undertaking that depends upon regular lessons and daily practice. It takes practice to understand musical concepts and to acquire the coordination and motor skills it takes to become a pianist.

What Should We Get?

There are basically two types of pianos Acoustic and Digital. First, let’s look at Acoustic Pianos.

Acoustic Pianos are made of wood and have steel strings. An acoustic piano a great choice if you have space in your home to accommodate one and if you can afford it. Concert artists always play on fine acoustic pianos and almost all pianists prefer them. Acoustic pianos need periodic tuning, however, this is a minimal expense. If carefully chosen and properly cared for an acoustic piano is an investment that will last a lifetime.

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The Five Piece Summer Piano Practice Challenge

I insist that my students take lessons and practice over the summer because students who study and practice over the summer turn out to be the most successful students. Summer is a time when students can devote more time to the piano without the pressures of school and homework. In my many years of teaching, (I stopped counting after 30) I have seen that students who continue piano study throughout the year stick with piano longer and play better than those that take breaks from playing.

One of the ways I keep my students motivated to practice, is to institute a “Summer Piano Practice Challenge”. While summer is traditionally a time when advanced students tackle Sonatas and longer repertoire, I ask my beginning and intermediate student to try to learn five fun, short pieces. Continue reading

Seven Ways to Establish Good Piano Practice Habits

No one learns to play the piano without practicing: it simply can’t be done. A thirty or even sixty-minute lesson once per week just won’t cut it. Students need to practice at home. Musical concepts take time to grasp and the body movement required to play must be carefully repeated on a consistent basis in order to develop the strength and coordination it takes to play the piano.

I am often asked by parents how much practicing their child should be doing. For my youngest preschool students, I recommend five to ten minutes a day. As a student grows older and becomes more advanced, the length of practice time will gradually increase. Ideally, practicing would take place each and every day. While I know that sticking to a strict practice regimen is a real challenge for many of my students, I recommend that they try to come as close to this as possible.

Seven Ways to Establish Good Piano Practice Habits.

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Music Reading is Fundamental

When I was a little kid growing up in New York there was a TV campaign running called RIF. A little character would interrupt our Saturday morning Cartoons to remind us that “Reading is Fundamental”. Looking back, I’m pretty sure the NEA or some other teacher related group was conspiring to get us to turn off the television and do more reading. I didn’t think much about it at the time I was busy with Bugs and Elmer Fudd. Luckily my mother made me go to school and learn how to read. And that was a good thing, because you know what? Reading really is fundamental.

Reading opens the mind in ways that that would take volumes to express. Most importantly, reading allows the reader to gather and interpret information for himself. In this way, he becomes an independent reasoning human being.

Music Reading is Fundamental

Music reading for the aspiring musician is fundamental too. Can you learn to play music without reading music? Certainly, but you are going to be severely limited. Just like you would in school without language reading.

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