09 Aug The Ultimate Guide to Learning the Piano
Why Learn the Piano?
If you’re thinking of taking piano lessons, you probably have a few reasons of your own why you want to. Perhaps you want to play some of your favorite tunes for friends and family, or you want something to do outside of your other commitments that’s fun, fulfilling, and just for you. Whatever your motivation for starting piano lessons may be, you might be pleasantly surprised to learn it comes with a score of other benefits. Keep reading to discover some of them!
5 Advantages of Learning the Piano
In one of my previous blog posts, I discussed the advantages of taking piano lessons in detail. Check out a few of them here below:
- Good for Your Brain: Playing piano engages the many parts of your brain in a multitude of ways. Working on your favorite pieces hones your fine motor skills, cognitive abilities, and spatial organisation skills, and can also raise your IQ. Piano really can make you smarter!
- Mental and Emotional Wellbeing: Everyone needs activities reserved just for them that make them feel happy and fulfilled, and give them a break from their usual commitments. Playing the piano is a great artistic outlet that can make you less likely to experience anxiety or depression.
- Increased Focus and Discipline: Spending dedicated practice time to work towards musical goals helps develop your ability to concentrate for extended periods. Building this sort of diligence can be greatly beneficial in other aspects of your life, both personal and professional.
- Performance Opportunities: Playing in recitals organised by your teacher, or even in private for family and friends, is an excellent way to build confidence for any time you need to present to a crowd. For example, many people are nervous about public speaking, but being able to perform your piano pieces for an audience can help alleviate those nerves. You may find that the presentation you have to give for work seems far less daunting once you’ve done a piano recital!
- An Ideal First Instrument: The piano introduces a variety of musical skills and helps build general musical knowledge, which can be transferred to learning a different instrument later. The piano is also highly versatile, as it can either accompany other instruments or be used for solo repertoire.
What is the Best Method to Learn the Piano?
It’s always best to learn the piano with the guidance of a qualified teacher. Trying to learn on your own can be difficult and often leads to confusion and frustration, as you may not understand certain concepts just from online articles and YouTube tutorials. An experienced teacher can introduce the piano to you in a clear and gradual way that ensures all essential material is covered.
Your teacher will be able to recommend specific printed materials for you to practice from, and many teachers supplement the books they’ve assigned with their own additional exercises. There are a variety of method books available, and each teacher has their own approach to the instrument. Regardless of the teacher’s particular method, it’s best to learn from a comprehensive approach that involves many aspects of musical education, such as:
- Repertoire: Pieces for you to practice and perform
- Technical Exercises: Scales, arpeggios, and chords that reinforce knowledge of the harmonic components of any piece of music and build finger strength and dexterity
- Aural Skills: Exercises most often done with the teacher to train your ear in recognising musical patterns and harmonies
- Music Theory: Often in the form of written assignments that teach the structure of music and how it is read and composed
- Sight Reading: Building the ability to play a short musical example you have not been given time to practice
As you go through your piano lessons with your teacher, see if you can identify what components of music education certain parts of each lesson are addressing. If you’re ever unsure why your teacher is giving you a particular assignment, don’t hesitate to ask; teachers should always have clear pedagogical reasons for why they want you to work on certain things.
5 Useful Tips for Beginners Learning How to Play the Piano
- Choose the Right Teacher
It’s essential that you work with a capable teacher to make progress at piano lessons. Many students are unsure of what to look for in a good piano teacher. You’ll want to ask about their credentials, as they should have completed or be working towards a university degree in music to ensure they have the formal training necessary to confidently guide students. Most teachers already have prior teaching experience as well. It’s also important to choose a teacher whose personality and teaching style suit you so you develop a positive working relationship.
You can read more about the teachers at Monica Frank Piano Studio if you’re thinking of booking with us, we guarantee all of them are both skilled and friendly!
- Know Your Musical Goals
Your teacher will want to know what you ultimately hope to achieve at the piano so they can best guide you towards those goals. Consider what style of music, and, if you have any in mind, what particular pieces you’d like to play. Your musical taste will determine who is the best teacher for you and how that teacher can help you.
- Pace Your Practicing
You will need to practice during the time between lessons to make progress at the piano. The timing of your practicing is important, as when you practice and how long each session is will influence your success. It’s best to practice whenever possible at a time of day when you know you’ll have enough energy to stay focused. For example, if you know you’ll be too tired after coming home from school or work to practice in the evening, it may be best to practice in the morning before you leave home for the day.
It’s also more helpful to practice in a few short sessions each day rather than one long session. You’re more likely to maintain concentration for short stints; so, two 15-minute practice sessions could work better for you than one 30-minute interval.
- Accuracy Matters More Than Speed
Many students, beginner through advanced, are really eager to play their pieces as finished products, and as a result can often prioritise pushing the speed of the piece over ensuring the technical aspects of it are secure. When you’re just starting piano lessons, this can be especially problematic as you want to make sure you’re training your fingers properly, which is usually hindered by playing too quickly. The early months of your piano lessons will be spent building basic musical and technical skills, so make sure to allow yourself plenty of time to develop them.
- Listen to Recordings of Your Pieces
Students of all levels should be listening to recordings of their pieces, though this can be especially helpful for beginners. When you’re just starting piano lessons, you’re learning the basics of rhythm and harmony, so it can be difficult to remember exactly how a piece should sound just from recalling your teacher’s directions at lessons. This is why it helps to listen to recordings of your assignments between lessons. If nothing is available online for your specific needs, just ask your teacher to play the assignments for you at your lesson while you record. Some students even record their entire lessons so they can play back their teacher’s advice.
Tips for Adults Learning How to Play the Piano
- Make Sure Piano Lessons Suit Your Lifestyle
Adult students have more commitments and obligations than child students, and so it’s especially important that adults know what allowances they’ll need to make in their busy schedules in order to succeed at piano lessons. If you often travel for work or spend long hours at the office, you may find that your practice time is more limited, or that you may not always be able to attend lessons as regularly. Most teachers understand that adult students often have less practice time, and it may be possible for you to arrange a lesson schedule with your teacher that is more suited to your lifestyle.
- Focus on Building Your Musical Foundation
Because adult students have actively chosen to take piano lessons (in contrast to many child students whose parents have signed them up for lessons), adults often have very clear goals and are understandably keen to progress quickly. Keep in mind, though, that mastering the piano is like building any other complex skill in that it takes time and dedication. Make sure you’re taking the time to work carefully on each small early assignment, as all of them combined will help you develop the skills to play the pieces you want to learn.
- Practice Away From the Piano, Too
While it’s of course important to practice your pieces and technical exercises at the piano, there are lots of things you can do away from the instrument to reinforce what you do with your teacher at lessons. Your teacher can recommend various online resources for reviewing basic knowledge like reading notes and musical vocabulary words, and things like this are easy to do at your desk or on your lunch break. There are also plenty of written music theory workbooks with exercises you can complete away from the piano with just a pencil. Adult students are often especially motivated to learn and can work through “piano free” exercises particularly diligently.
If you’re an adult piano student looking for more advice, Allysia, host of the YouTube channel pianoTV, has shared some excellent videos online to help adults target some of the main problems they face at piano lessons. You can watch both videos of the two-part segment here:
3 Things You Need to Know Before Learning the Piano
- You’ll Need Your Own Instrument
Many new piano students think the nature of lessons is to work with the teacher at a piano belonging to the teacher or the studio where the teacher works, no outside practice required. In fact, though, you’ll need to practice during the time between lessons in order to make progress, and to do this you’ll need your own piano. There are plenty of options available for all spaces and budgets; you can check out guidance here to get started choosing the best piano for you.
- Expect Lessons Once a Week
Piano lessons are typically booked once weekly, for lengths of 30, 45, or 60 minutes. Most teachers expect students to commit to a regular time slot, so you’ll want to set aside time in your schedule each week for your piano lessons. Some students wonder if it’s helpful to take more than one lesson each week, or longer lessons than 60 minutes. The answers to these questions generally depend on the type of student.
If you are just starting out with piano lessons, it may be easiest to stick to one lesson a week to allow sufficient practice time. However, some more advanced students prefer two lessons a week if they are practicing a lot or preparing for a specific performance. The maximum length of most piano lessons is 60 minutes to ensure students stay focused and do not become overwhelmed by too much new information. But especially serious, enthusiastic students may request longer lesson times if there are many things they’d like to work on with the teacher.
- You’ll Need to Practice Between Lessons
As the saying goes, practice makes perfect. The surest way to succeed in taking piano lessons is to devote time to regular, concentrated practice. As important as it is to work with a great teacher, you are ultimately the most responsible for your progress at piano lessons, and the effort you put in is the surest way to determine how well you play.
At Monica Frank Piano Studio, we’re dedicated to helping every student get off to the right start taking piano lessons. We work with students of all ages and skill levels, so beginners are always welcome. We’re also happy to offer lessons to children and adults alike. To book a trial lesson with us, you can fill out our contact form, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call us on 07516148393 and we’ll be happy to help!