Question

What type of instrument do I need for piano lessons and where can I find it?

Answer

An acoustic piano or full-sized 88-key digital piano is needed to start lessons. Learning to read music notation on a keyboard with less than 88 keys is impossible.

Yamaha and Kawai are the only digital pianos with the necessary elements for piano study. They are adult-quality, have graded-hammer action and good quality, good sized amplifiers and speakers as well as strong construction. Graded hammer action is a term that is exaggerated by some manufacturers and the buyer can be tricked into buying an instrument whose keys really have spring action, which the pianist cannot control. The appropriate instrument for lessons will have authentic graded hammer action which is similar to an acoustic piano's action. The student will be able to control the descent of the key, which is essential for musical expression, tone control and development of finger strength and proper technique. To ensure that you are buying a piano with true graded hammer action, buy only from a piano retailer.

A digital piano's sound is only as good as it's recorded sounds, speakers and amplifiers. Yamaha and Kawai obtain their recorded sounds from 9-foot concert grand pianos. They also have good quality speakers and amplifiers, which will produce a wide range of dynamic levels for sensitive expression. An adult-quality instrument will have a good crisp staccato response and it will also have damper and una corda pedals.

You can find Yamaha acoustic pianos and Yamaha full sized digital pianos at: Jordan Kitt's Music, 8500 Lee Highway in Fairfax. Currently the lowest cost full sized digital with graded hammer action and pedals will cost around $1700. Jordan Kitt's also has rentals for as low as $69 a month and buyback programs after one year. Call Dave Yaccino at Jordan Kitt's 703-573-6070 to discuss your options.
You can find Kawai full sized digital pianos at The Piano Company in Leesburg.

**It is advisable to stay away from buying a digital piano in a warehouse club, non-piano retailer or online**
Piano retailers have taken time to test the various brands and have chosen the ones that are good quality and suitable instruments for piano study.

The Sunday Washington Post classified ads are a good place to check for used acoustic pianos. First visit the seller and determine if you like the look and sound of the piano. It is important to find a piano that has been tuned at least once a year. If the seller says the piano hasn't been tuned in many years, it will be difficult for the piano to hold a tuning. So if you find a used piano you like, which has been tuned yearly, hire a piano technician to go back with you a second time to evaluate the working parts and soundboard inside the piano.
My technician Steve George 703-402-0679 would be an excellent choice for the job. A skilled technician can also change the tone of the piano you buy (brighten it or make it less bright) and tune/repair it as well.





Question

Are private piano lessons the right choice for my child?

Answer

If you want your child to learn to play piano proficiently and read music, developing a lifelong skill, then private lessons would be a great choice for you. Piano is an academic subject which is learned over many years, the same way a foreign language is learned over many years in school. The student will have weekly homework - pieces to be learned by the next lesson - similar to homework that is required for school subjects. Private lessons should not be considered by those looking for a no work/instant gratification/fun-only extracurricular activity or by those who are not willing to buy or rent an appropriate instrument.

If you want to supplement your child's weekly schedule with a musical or piano-based activity just for fun, enroll him in a group piano class, typically held at a music store or music school. These classes are low-stress, fun based learning with peers. Home practice would be minimal and the investment in a full-sized piano would probably not be required. If you are wondering if your child will like piano or would prefer another instrument, take him to a group class to assess his interest level before enrolling in private lessons.




Question

How do I know when my child is ready to start piano lessons?

Answer

Private piano lessons are perfect for children age 8 and older, in at least 3rd grade in school. Students must have good reading comprehension, be willing to answer questions, sit still and concentrate for at least 30 minutes. They must also understand the commitment to daily piano practice at home and be willing to follow directions from the parent and teacher.




Question

How long are lessons?

Answer

30, 45 and 60-minute lessons are available. 30 minute lessons are appropriate for elementary school beginners in their first year or two of lessons. Longer lessons are needed as technique, sight reading, theory and possibly piano exams are added to the student's curriculum.




Question

How long does it take to learn to play the piano well?

Answer

Learning the basics takes approximately 4 years, but only after 7 to 10 years of study will piano playing become a lifelong skill. Learning to play piano takes dedication and persistence. If you want your child to succeed, support them through the highs and lows of piano lessons. Let them know that taking piano lessons is a privilege and that you will let them continue if they keep up their good work. It is better to approach lessons with positive reinforcement (rewarding the child for good work) rather than with negative reinforcement (you wonít be allowed to play video games if you donít practice). If you want him to become proficient at an instrument, don't let him quit when lessons become challenging. The parent must be in control of the child's musical destiny if they want him to learn to play well. Letting a child jump in and out of lessons, bouncing from one instrument to another, will only result in a loss of money for you and very little knowledge for your child. Musical instruments are not learned in a year or two.




Question

How much practicing is required?

Answer

Daily practice is needed for progress. It is important to establish a set time for piano practice every day. Piano should be treated as an academic subject and practicing as homework. Piano practice should not be negotiable, just like homework is non-negotiable. If the student doesnít practice, they will not progress.

Repetition a set number of times on each piece is not the goal; working on trouble spots and learning to play a piece without stumbling is the goal. Students love to play through their pieces from beginning to end at a very fast speed. This is not good practicing! Good practicing should sound disjointed. Practicing involves playing one small section repeatedly and thoughtfully, stopping to work on trouble spots, gradually increasing speed until the section is mastered. Students should also be completing the assignments written in their notebooks (counting out loud, practicing with the metronome, naming notes while playing, shaping the phrases, correcting details). The quality of practice is much more important than the quantity; however, a student should practice a daily minimum equal to the number of minutes in his lesson.

One parent must be designated to attend lessons and learn the notes and rhythm with any student under age 10. This parent will monitor every practice session, making sure assignments are done correctly and learned thoroughly.




Question

When will my child be ready to perform in recitals, festivals and piano exams?

Answer

Students in their first three years of lessons are usually not sufficiently advanced to play in these events. They need to be mature enough and comfortable enough at the piano to tolerate the pressure of playing in front of a large audience. The student must also be advanced enough to meet the repertoire requirement of the particular festival or exam. Events that have many requirements, such as a piano exam, should only be attempted by highly motivated students, because several months of regular learning and progress are sacrificed for the preparation of such a program.




Question

What brand of piano should I buy? Are there any books on buying pianos that I can read?

Answer

Kawai, Boston, Yamaha and Steinway are excellent choices. In this area, Kawai pianos are sold by The Piano Company in Leesburg, Boston/Steinway by Steinway Piano Gallery in Tyson's Corner Center and Yamaha by Jordan Kitt's Music in Fairfax. In upright pianos, taller models are the best choice. In grand pianos, longer models are the best choice. If you do not play the piano yourself, take an experienced pianist along or hire a piano technician to help you.

The Piano Book by Larry Fine is the authoritative source on buying pianos. There is an annual supplement published that lists brand names, models and average retail prices.




Question

How often should I have my piano tuned?

Answer

The minimum is twice a year, ideally at the beginning of the heating and cooling seasons. The longer you wait to have a piano tuned, the more out of tune it has become. The tuner must bring the strings up to pitch. Piano strings always want to return to their learned position. If they have learned to be extremely out of tune, they will revert to that position quickly and it will be difficult for your piano to hold a tuning.




Question

What piano technician do you recommend?

Answer

I recommend Steve George, Registered Piano Technician:
(703) 680-1030
(703) 402-0679

stgrpt49@comcast.net
Steve is not accepting new customers at this time but recommends finding a registered technician at www.ptg.org





Question

What do I need to consider when choosing a teacher for my child?

Answer

It is important, especially in the first years of lessons where habits are learned, to study with a teacher who has music degrees and certification. There are many teachers who have no degrees, have only played for a few years in high school and are teaching students to play by imitation instead of teaching note-reading and rhythm, without using progressive materials, and without goals or direction for their students. An educated piano teacher would typically have Bachelor of Arts degree with major in music or Bachelor of Music degree with major in music education or piano. A Bachelor of Arts degree is a liberal arts degree with course requirements in many subjects and a small concentration of courses in music. A Bachelor of Music degree is a music education/performance degree; most courses are in performance, music theory, music history and music education with only a small amount of courses in other fields. Good teaching is exceptionally critical in the early years of piano study, as this is when habits are learned and technique is developed. A good piano instructor will be well-educated and very focused on piano technique as well as note reading skills and rhythmic skills. A good teacher wants the student to eventually become independent, able to teach himself new music as an adult, and will give him the skills necessary to do so.




Question

What is "NCTM" next to a teacherís name?

Answer

This means "Nationally Certified Teacher of Music". National Certification is a program designed by MTNA (Music Teachers National Association) to help the public identify qualified music instructors in their area. A teacher who is nationally certified has proven competency through testing and college coursework in the following areas: music theory, music history, piano pedagogy, piano performance, music education and business practices.




Question

In what ways will piano study benefit my child?

Answer

  • Children learn to persevere when working toward a goal.

  • Children develop courage and self esteem by trying increasingly challenging music and by performing successfully.

  • Musicians must simultaneously consider tempo, tone, rhythm, phrasing, pitch and style, which teaches them to become extremely good at organizing and conducting several activities at once.

  • Children learn to solve problems using different techniques.

  • Studies have shown that mathematical skills are improved by music study





Question

Will piano lessons contribute any weight to a resume when my child applies for college?

Answer

If student has demonstrated commitment (taking lessons through 12th grade) as well as excellence (winning competitions and getting high grades in piano exams), piano lessons would definitely help reflect the student as a motivated individual.