Poll

You have pre-paid for a full semester at a private school for after hours piano lessons for your grade school child.  What do you need?

a grand piano or a baby grand
2 (1.6%)
an upright piano
10 (7.8%)
a full sized keys and weighted keyboard/electric piano
13 (10.2%)
a neighbor or grandparent who is fine with daily and consistent visits and practice sessions
5 (3.9%)
a small keyboard or a keyboard app on an e-reader
5 (3.9%)
nothing, wait and see how lessons go, and maybe Santa will bring a piano
7 (5.5%)
options 1-4 are ok
86 (67.2%)

Total Members Voted: 128

Voting closed: September 16, 2012, 02:54:13 PM

Author Topic: What you need for piano lessons:  (Read 6170 times)

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WillyNilly

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Re: What you need for piano lessons:
« Reply #45 on: September 12, 2012, 01:04:02 PM »
You cannot learn to play piano properly without adequate practice.  It's a bit like expecting to be able to drive a car properly with only one 30 minute lesson each week.  It just won't cut it.

That's how I learned to drive.  I had no other option.

I've never taken musical lessons, but it never would have occurred to me that a child would need their own piano right from the start.

That's how I learned to drive too - 1 1.5 hour lesson split between 3 drivers once a week for 3 months. I passed my drivers test the first time and in 19 years have never had so much as a fender bender. If piano is like driving the kid definitely doesn't need a piano!

I also really never thought a kid would need one from the get-go. It seems if that were the case only rich people with large homes would ever learn to play.

Mikayla

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Re: What you need for piano lessons:
« Reply #46 on: September 12, 2012, 06:21:26 PM »
But a piano is not like driving.  That's why this thread puzzles me a little, because it all boils down to clear communication, especially regarding expectations.  If the parents are shelling out big bucks for lessons, and they view this as a serious endeavor, they need to be told that regular practice on an actual piano will be essential at some point, depending on the kid's talent, age and interest level.  I suppose a weighted keyboard might work for a short period of time, but to progress, you need repetition...and more repetition.  And it needs to be daily or 5 days a week.  If the student does this, they'll outgrow the keyboard at some point.  I'm pretty sure I was pedaling within a year of my first lesson.

If the parents don't have much in the way of expectation, and the lessons are just to see if the kid likes it or to get them involved in something, that's one thing. But it all needs to be covered on both sides before the lessons start.

elephantschild

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Re: What you need for piano lessons:
« Reply #47 on: September 12, 2012, 06:28:34 PM »
You cannot learn to play piano properly without adequate practice.  It's a bit like expecting to be able to drive a car properly with only one 30 minute lesson each week.  It just won't cut it.

That's how I learned to drive.  I had no other option.

I've never taken musical lessons, but it never would have occurred to me that a child would need their own piano right from the start.

That's how I learned to drive too - 1 1.5 hour lesson split between 3 drivers once a week for 3 months. I passed my drivers test the first time and in 19 years have never had so much as a fender bender. If piano is like driving the kid definitely doesn't need a piano!

I also really never thought a kid would need one from the get-go. It seems if that were the case only rich people with large homes would ever learn to play.

Me too. I would have assumed that we'd start the lessons, see how the kid likes them and then work our way up the list of practice options. :(
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QueenfaninCA

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Re: What you need for piano lessons:
« Reply #48 on: September 12, 2012, 07:02:23 PM »
You cannot learn to play piano properly without adequate practice.  It's a bit like expecting to be able to drive a car properly with only one 30 minute lesson each week.  It just won't cut it.

That's how I learned to drive.  I had no other option.

I've never taken musical lessons, but it never would have occurred to me that a child would need their own piano right from the start.

That's how I learned to drive too - 1 1.5 hour lesson split between 3 drivers once a week for 3 months. I passed my drivers test the first time and in 19 years have never had so much as a fender bender. If piano is like driving the kid definitely doesn't need a piano!

I also really never thought a kid would need one from the get-go. It seems if that were the case only rich people with large homes would ever learn to play.

You of course can learn piano in half hour a week practices. However, to even be able to play a simple tune you'll need tens of hours of practice. Very frustrating for a kid if it takes a year to do what others learn in a month.

And pianos can be rented. It probably costs less per month than the classes do.

And a cheap keyboard is really not a viable alternative for several reasons:
1. Not enough keys so you miss the highest and/or lowest parts.

2. Weighed keys or not makes a big difference

3. Keys on those keyboards are often a tad narrower. As you pretty much need to be able to play without looking at the keys/your fingers you quickly learn how far they have to move to get over a certain number of keys. So you constantly hit the wrong keys on the one you use less often.

blarg314

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Re: What you need for piano lessons:
« Reply #49 on: September 12, 2012, 07:13:48 PM »
You cannot learn to play piano properly without adequate practice.  It's a bit like expecting to be able to drive a car properly with only one 30 minute lesson each week.  It just won't cut it.

That's how I learned to drive.  I had no other option.

I've never taken musical lessons, but it never would have occurred to me that a child would need their own piano right from the start.

If you don't have a piano to practice on (not necessarily your own, but one you have regular access to), you aren't actually getting piano lessons, you're getting music theory lessons. You can memorize the layout of the keyboard, learn the names and values of the notes and learn to clap out rhythms, but you aren't going to learn how to play.



Surianne

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Re: What you need for piano lessons:
« Reply #50 on: September 12, 2012, 08:18:45 PM »
I think, though (and I may be misinterpreting the OP) that we're only talking about the first three months of lessons, here?  Not that the parents intend to *never* get the kid a proper keyboard/piano, but that they're trying out the lessons first to see the kid's level of interest/dedication?  That makes a big difference to me, and it's pretty normal in my experience.

I agree with those who have said that communication is vital here.  If the teacher didn't specify the instrument required and discuss the goals of the lessons (concert pianist vs. exploring a kid's potential interest in music) before the parents paid for lessons, that conversation needs to happen ASAP, and if the goals don't jive, the teacher should offer a full refund.  That conversation should have happened before lessons even began. 

For example, when I started piano lessons at age 11, my goal was to have fun and learn about music, so I was fine with a four octave, non-weighted keyboard for the first few years -- my parents hadn't budgeted for more.  Later, I got a full-size, weighted electric piano at age 18.  It was only last year, at age 30, that I finally bought myself a reasonable quality apartment piano.  I've thoroughly enjoyed my time playing, and while it would have been *lovely* to have a baby grand from the start, I recognize that wasn't possible.  Better to have had my more limited version of learning than to have given up piano entirely simply because I didn't have the "best" instrument.  Now, 19 years later I love music and I'm still hoping for that gorgeous baby grand one day, but I know it will take at least another 5 years of saving  ;D

OP, what did you wind up saying to the parents, and how did it go?

Shoo

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Re: What you need for piano lessons:
« Reply #51 on: September 12, 2012, 08:54:43 PM »
I also really never thought a kid would need one from the get-go. It seems if that were the case only rich people with large homes would ever learn to play.

We aren't rich and we don't have a particularly large home.  We bought a used piano off of Craigslist for $600 and made room for it by moving some furniture around. 

Where I think we are different from a lot of other parents is that we didn't give our daughter a choice.  We told her she was taking piano lessons and that was that.  We encouraged her, enabled her, and provided her the means to do it.  And then we saw to it that she DID it.  I have a hard time understanding the "wait and see if she likes it" mentality.  She's a child and this is part of her education.  We wouldn't let her quit math just because she doesn't like it.  To us, music education is very important, so we made it a priority.  Kind of a "whatever it takes" deal with us.

Our daughter LOVES the piano, and she loves music.  She plays every single day, just because she loves it.  I think this is one of the best things we ever did for her.


Surianne

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Re: What you need for piano lessons:
« Reply #52 on: September 12, 2012, 09:04:50 PM »
Where I think we are different from a lot of other parents is that we didn't give our daughter a choice.  We told her she was taking piano lessons and that was that.  We encouraged her, enabled her, and provided her the means to do it.  And then we saw to it that she DID it.  I have a hard time understanding the "wait and see if she likes it" mentality.  She's a child and this is part of her education.  We wouldn't let her quit math just because she doesn't like it.  To us, music education is very important, so we made it a priority.  Kind of a "whatever it takes" deal with us.

Yes, I think that makes an enormous difference -- whether the parent is enforcing music lessons as something the kid must do, versus whether the kid has requested it and is genuinely interested in it. 

If the kid has requested lessons, it makes sense to give it 2-3 months before investing a significant amount of money in the lessons, to make sure that the kid really does enjoy the instrument.  That way, if piano isn't the right instrument, the parents can encourage him/her to pick up a flute or guitar, or try voice for a while, without any investment lost.  It lets the child experience music without any pressure, and truly find his/her place within the world of music. 

If the parent is going to require it, no matter how much the kid doesn't want to practice or how much it kills his/her love of music to be forced into it (I feel so much pity for my adult friends who were fabulous pianists as kids but now absolutely hate the instrument because of mandatory lessons!), then of course the parent would be okay with putting up the money up front, since they know that no matter what the child wants, the lessons are a long-term commitment.

Onyx_TKD

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Re: What you need for piano lessons:
« Reply #53 on: September 12, 2012, 09:06:27 PM »
I think, though (and I may be misinterpreting the OP) that we're only talking about the first three months of lessons, here?  Not that the parents intend to *never* get the kid a proper keyboard/piano, but that they're trying out the lessons first to see the kid's level of interest/dedication?  That makes a big difference to me, and it's pretty normal in my experience.

I agree with those who have said that communication is vital here.  If the teacher didn't specify the instrument required and discuss the goals of the lessons (concert pianist vs. exploring a kid's potential interest in music) before the parents paid for lessons, that conversation needs to happen ASAP, and if the goals don't jive, the teacher should offer a full refund.  That conversation should have happened before lessons even began. 

For example, when I started piano lessons at age 11, my goal was to have fun and learn about music, so I was fine with a four octave, non-weighted keyboard for the first few years -- my parents hadn't budgeted for more.  Later, I got a full-size, weighted electric piano at age 18.  It was only last year, at age 30, that I finally bought myself a reasonable quality apartment piano.  I've thoroughly enjoyed my time playing, and while it would have been *lovely* to have a baby grand from the start, I recognize that wasn't possible.  Better to have had my more limited version of learning than to have given up piano entirely simply because I didn't have the "best" instrument.  Now, 19 years later I love music and I'm still hoping for that gorgeous baby grand one day, but I know it will take at least another 5 years of saving  ;D

OP, what did you wind up saying to the parents, and how did it go?

Let me say up front that I grew up in a household that had a piano since before I was born, so there was never a question of having to obtain an instrument when I started lessons. That said, I'm not quite sure how a child is supposed to display dedication to the piano lessons without regular access to a piano outside of lessons. To me, a dedication to practicing and choosing to play for fun would be the obvious signs that the kid was serious about learning the piano, but the kid can't do either of those things without access to an instrument. Also, IME being able to have fun playing is what leads to dedication*. If the only access to a piano is during the lesson itself where they are being critiqued, then when will they ever have the chance to just play and discover whether it's an activity they enjoy?

That doesn't mean anyone needs to run out and buy a concert grand to take piano lessons. Access to a piano could mean a piano in their home (owned, rented, borrowed, leased, etc.) or at a location they have regular access to (at friend's/neighbor's, school piano available for afterschool practice hours, church willing to let a member come practice there, etc.); it could be real piano or electric. Even a non-weighted keyboard would work for the beginning, although it's not an adequate substitute for a serious pianist.

*Although apparently realizing your little sister's ability is threatening to overtake yours due to lack of practice can also get results... >:D (My big brother now loves playing the piano for it's own sake; he just needed a extra nudge for a bit there.)

Surianne

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Re: What you need for piano lessons:
« Reply #54 on: September 12, 2012, 09:21:06 PM »
That's a good question, Onyx.  I'm not sure from the OP's posts whether the parents had full understanding that the school's pianos would never be available for practice.  I would have assumed up front (without communication from the teacher) that there would be the opportunity for my child to figure out whether s/he enjoyed the instrument.

Otherwise, I agree with you that renting a keyboard for the first couple of months at a minimum would be a good way to find out if the child had any dedication to the instrument.  That too would need communication from the teacher. 

Where I disagree is with the notion that a child would need a high-quality piano or keyboard right from day one -- I can definitely understand why parents would want to give it a month or two at first before investing significant funds into the endeavour.

To give you an example, I begged my parents for years for piano lessons, and took to it immediately once they acquiesced and provided me with lessons + a cheap keyboard.  However, my sister asked for lessons and was bored within a month, even having access to a nicer keyboard than the one I learned on.  Sometimes it really does depend on the kid!

RegionMom

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Re: What you need for piano lessons:
« Reply #55 on: September 12, 2012, 10:47:29 PM »
I have taught piano for five years now, and have never had a student not have a piano, or plans to get one right away, with current plans to go to an arranged house to practice until then. 

Here is what I stammered to the mom, in a 15 second response, because another student was coming:
"well, it is a bit like air guitar vs. the real deal. I can offer some exercises and workbook pages and guide her during the weekly 30 minute lesson, but without practice, we will not get very far. I want to develop a sensitivity to touch and sound, proper hand posture, and let her play up and down the keyboard.  Without practicing between lessons, it would be music lessons instead of piano lessons.”

Mom happily wandered off and I will see what happens next week.  I have not spoken to the coordinator, as I know she would express extreme exasperation.  I will see how next week goes with the girl.

My own letter sent a week before says that I expect you to practice, and to understand the difference between practicing, playing, and performing.   I also say that there should be no tv near the piano, and no feeding the piano!  I explain that a new student may need only 5-10 minutes a day at first to complete their work, but that it builds soon to 20, and then 30 or more minutes daily.  I weekly will assign pages from a lesson book, a technique and artistry book, a warm-ups collection of my own creation, a theory book, and sometimes enhancement pages.   I do sight-reading skills and ear-training during the lesson, plus review how and what they practiced, and move on from there.  I use colored pencils to mark pages with dynamics and notes and the students choose fun stickers for their pages when done.  We learn and review and demonstrate new vocabulary.  Music, after all, is another language.  We prepare for a recital, that will only be eleven lessons from now. 

A bit from my letter to students:

My goal is to help you develop your musicianship and appreciation for practicing, as well as to enjoy piano music from your fingertips, as well as from others.

Our lessons will be (days)  This does not mean to cram practicing in on (night before) nights, but to do a little each day. 
I expect you to come prepared to every lesson.  That means that you have all your piano books, your assignment notebook (any spiral bound lined notebook), a pencil, and a ready-to-go attitude.  Write down your questions.  We will work it out together!

Please follow the guidelines in the co-curricular policy handbook.


Here is some of the handbook:

Lessons-
Lessons are designed for all levels of students.
They are 30 minute or more individual lessons, which meet weekly.
All students will be taught the fundamentals of technique, and theory.
Students will learn a variety of repertoire, which will be assigned according to level of playing ability.
Please be advised that we do not watch children left unattended on campus after school. Parents must supervise their students during after-school waiting periods for a lesson, and be prompt collecting them after lessons.

Practice-
Students are expected to practice on a regular basis in accordance to their teacher’s expectations. Their performance in each lesson will reflect the quality of practice they did outside of the lesson.

Payment-
School invoices each student based on the number of lessons for the semester. Payment is due as stated on the invoice. Refunds will only be given under extraordinary circumstances.


Admittedly, it does not expressly say, "You will need a camera for photography class/chessboard for chess class/violin for violin lessons/piano for piano lessons, etc..." but this policy handbook has remained unchanged in my three years teaching, and seems to be older than that. 

This has not been an issue before.  I guess there is always a first time!  lol

From a piano lesson site-

It’s a matter of attention span, physical size of the hands and above all the difficulty of learning a new “code” after learning the code of the ABC’s and reading. The code of music is much more complex, involving knowing the notes on the piano, on the staff lines and then coordinating the fingers to play them …. in time …. and with correct dynamics. Wow …. what a complex thing this is for a child!"



How many people do you know that have an old piano in their house, that just holds family photos and is just another piece of furniture?

If piano were that easy, everyone could and would do it. 
How many people do you know that own and drive a car? 
Vehicles can be thousands of dollars to purchase, and hundreds of dollars in upkeep, insurance, and gasoline, yearly.

A piano can be just a few hundred, requires tuning, preferably yearly, and that is that, mostly.  A keyboard needs nothing, really.  Plus, you can rent a piano for as little as $50/month.

I ask at the first lesson for three-four books to be purchased, and each book is around $7.  Parents have never balked at the price.  They may fuss at a trip to the store, but I will offer to go for them, with a surcharge of one dollar a book.  Adds up for me!  And they happily pay.

You witness drivers daily.  You are learning about driving, however passively.  To be a good driver, you have to practice.  Plus, you already know how to read the street signs, and where your hands go, and how to follow in a line.  You simply apply what you know from your years of experience as a passenger.

"Turn on the car.  Adjust your mirrors.  Release the brake, put it in drive, and follow the yellow line at 10 mph until the stop sign and turn right."

Compared to, "Prepare the proper fingers in the bass clef and treble clef for G major position.  Look ahead for jumps and finger turns and accidentals. Begin in 4/4 time, and follow the dynamic and stylistic markings, beginning with forte and staccato until you end with the damper pedal and play legato and piano with ties and slurs.  Do not take the repeat sign to the coda."
 
Would you take trumpet lessons without ever touching a trumpet except at your weekly lesson? 

Sorry if I sound exasperated.

All my life, accompanying chorus and playing for church, I have been around pianos.  My grandfather lived in half a house, a three room only duplex with a sleeping porch, and raised five poor kids, yet he had a piano. 

If you want to pay me big bucks for a Kindermusik style babysitting class of one, so be it. 

Also, while this is a nice private school, it does not have private practice rooms for 6-10 year old students to break away from the classroom to practice.  My public high school had choir geeks hanging out during lunch in the choir room, but little music was done.   >:D

This school has several hundred students taking after school co-curricular lessons of some sort.  There is NO way to offer during the school day time and space and supervision to practice dance, chess, trumpet, piano, violin, percussion, photography, etc...

Ok, time for bed.

I am bowing out, as I am sure I have irritated some posters. 

For me, this was an "I cannot believe this mom did not realize a piano is a key part of piano lessons!" 

But e-hell proved me wrong.   :'(

In researching this today, I simply searchengined, "Do I need a piano to take piano lessons?"
And I found this great article:

http://elissamilne.wordpress.com/2011/08/10/10-things-you-should-do-before-your-child-begins-piano-lessons/

Maybe it will help future e-hellion pianists in waiting...
Fear is temporary...Regret is forever.

thedudeabides

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Re: What you need for piano lessons:
« Reply #56 on: September 12, 2012, 10:55:04 PM »
Well, that started well and ended in a big pile of condescension.  I'm sorry that you feel that people here have let you down.
« Last Edit: September 12, 2012, 10:58:00 PM by thedudeabides »