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 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.

KRAFTMUSIC.COM

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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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 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 when I recommend that parents hold off on piano lessons. Continue reading

10 Things You Might Not Think of That Will Make Your Piano Really Teacher Happy

The number one goal for piano teachers, parents and students should be to give students the lifelong gift of being able to play the piano. Assuming that you have found a piano teacher that you really like for your child, a teacher you trust and respect, there are some unusual things you can do to help make the family-teacher relationship a great and long lasting one. Here are 10 things you might not think of that will make your piano teacher really happy. Continue reading

The Invasion of the Piano Snatchers

alienigenas_80088 key imposters are taking over piano studios and homes all over the world. They look like pianos, they sound strangely “pianoesque”. They are cheaper, lighter, never need tuning. They are brought to life by bolts of electricity. Open one up and you will see a maze of wires and circuits. These musical aliens are everywhere and the scariest fact of all is that no one seems to know the difference! Almost no one, that is. Continue reading

10 Ways to Help Your Child Succeed at the Piano

shutterstock_17243083Hearing your child play music is one of the most wonderful sounds in the world! Imagine your son or daughter sitting down at the piano and playing beautifully. Classical music, Jazz, music for holidays and celebrations. Envision you child really playing, really enjoying the piano for a lifetime. What better gift could you give? Here are 10 ways to make that dream come true. Continue reading

Piano Lessons? Go Ahead, You Know You Want To!

boy playing pianoSchool is starting and you may be thinking of signing your child up for piano lessons. Maybe you play yourself and you know how awesome it is or maybe you don’t but you would love for your child to learn. There are many great reasons for your child to learn to play but there may be some things that are holding you back. Let’s take a look at those reservations one by one and how to overcome them, so you can feel comfortable and enroll your child in piano lessons. Continue reading

Teachers, Parents and Studio Policies

rule_book1

Studio Policy- An annoying list of rules and expectations that a piano teacher would rather not bother with, usually presented as quickly as possible at the start of lessons, which students and parents may or may not be asked to sign and may or may not adhere to depending on how forcefully the teacher enforces said rules and expectations. The official Studio Policy is often printed on disappearing paper or featured on an obscure page of a Studio website. Either way, nobody likes them. Continue reading

10 Ways to Tell When Your Child is Not Really Practicing the Piano

Before we begin the count-down, let me set a little scene. I am a piano teacher mom so we have a studio in our home. It’s a room that has my Kawai baby grand piano and all of my other music stuff. It’s where I teach all of my students. My boys also like to “practice” in the studio. Which works out just fine. I have always encouraged my boys to practice their instruments. Continue reading

Why Summer Piano Lessons are a Great Idea

summer-beach

School will soon be out, summer will soon be here, what does this mean for piano teachers and students?

Summer is finally coming. Great news for kids and school teachers to be sure. But for parents?? Summer can be a mixed blessing. While the pressure of school work being off of children and families is a relief, trying to organize vacations and keep kids busy over the summer can be a challenge. Life for parents is so demanding! It’s tempting to just want to take a break from all of the activities that take place during the school year.  I am often asked if students should take piano lessons over the summer
my answer is a resounding yes! Here’s why; Continue reading

Sorry kids, Piano Lessons Make You Smarter

I found this article on Forbes it is very interesting.It’s sure to be music to parents’ ears: After nine months of weekly training in piano or voice, new research shows young students’ IQs rose nearly three points more than their untrained peers

The Canadian study lends support to the idea that musical training may do more for kids than simply teach them their scales–it exercises parts of the brain useful in mathematics, spatial intelligence and other intellectual pursuits
.“With music lessons, because there are so many different facets involved–such as memorizing, expressing emotion, learning about musical interval and chords–the multidimensional nature of the experience may be motivating the [IQ] effect,” said study author E. Glenn Schellenberg E. Glenn Schellenberg , of the University of Toronto at Mississauga. Continue reading

The Benefits of Piano Study

There are many reasons to learn how to play a musical instrument. Here are a few:

1) Music study is good for the mind; many studies show that over all children who study music do better in school.

2) Music study builds concentration, and focus. Having to practice and learn to read and play music requires a high level of mental engagement.

3) Music study gives people the experience of working toward long term goals. It takes and patience time to prepare a piece of music that is ready to be played for others. Continue reading

The Best Age to Start Piano Lessons

“What is the best age to start piano lessons?” this is a question I am often asked by parents who dream of giving their child the life long gift of playing the piano. I believe that it is good to start learning the piano at a young age, but how young is too young? and, is it ever too late to begin learning to play the piano? If you ask ten different teachers, you’ll probably get ten different answers, but here are my thoughts about when to begin piano. Continue reading

Preparing Children for Life With Piano Lessons

Piano Teachers and Piano Parents Take Heart! Encouraging kids to keep going with piano lessons is no easy task. But the benefits of music study are beyond measure. I recently came across a fantastic article on the American Music Parents website. The article is entitled “Preparing children for the Creative Economy” I found it very interesting.

We all know that the worldwide economy is changing, This isn’t the first time, the last change was from a largely agrarian work environment to an industrial one. The work paradigm that Boomers and Gen-xérs grew up with is quickly evaporating. The idea that you study hard go to college and immediately come out and find the job you had been training for is now no guarantee. Today’s young people are entering a new economy, “The Creative Economy”. Continue reading