How to start learning to play the piano?

The first months of learning to play the piano may seem tedious – simple scales, exercises, and simple music pieces are often played with one hand.

There are different approaches to how to start learning to play. In my opinion, if your intention is to commit to a serious several year study, you should start from practicing simple scales and exercises.

An another approach is represented by for example Suzuki method, when you do not practice scales and etudes, but intuitively mimic a teacher, looking for your “own” technique. You can learn more about the method here

How the first months of learning to play the piano look like in practice, assuming a “classical” method of learning?

The purpose of this stage is to make sure that at play the hand is loose (not tense), and that the fingers (and weight of an entire hand) is based on a keyboard. For this purpose simple melodies are practiced, initially with right and left hand separately, and scales – at the beginning separately with each hand as well.

What music pieces to play in the first months of learning to play?

The program, or selection of music pieces, which a beginner learns to play usually consists of 2-3 music pieces and of ranges (in the following months passages may also be learned).

Music pieces are of various kinds, so that the student learns various aspects – technical and also related to harmony. The repertoire of the learner should consist for example of the following music pieces:

  • Etudes (authors of know etudes are for example C. Gurlitt, H. Gnesin);
  • Music pieces by J. S. Bach (in the initial stage these could be simple piano pieces from Anna Magdalena Notebook);
  • Any of the popular melodies (for example one of the popular children songs);

Each exercise begins from playing a scale. The first scales are in key C major or A minor or G major or E minor, since they are the easiest ones.

With a more serious approach to playing a piano it is worth purchasing a book, for example Adult All-In-One Course: Lesson-Theory-Technic: Level 1 by Willard A. Palmer, where all basic concepts or playing a piano are introduced.

Posted on August 11, 2016 .

Qualities of a piano teacher for a child

If you are considering to teach your child to play piano, I have the following suggestions regarding choosing a piano teacher:

There is no description of an ideal teacher. But, subjectively I will describe, what are my thoughts on the subject, which were confirmed by conversations with numerous parents. I sincerely recommend a teacher, who uses positive, not negative feedback, who is looking for good sides, not the one who is criticizing. A praising teacher, not a scolding one.

Playing in public is stressful for a child by itself. While playing, a child has to listen to melody, have the right tempo, often to memorize the piece and play it from a memory. If, additionally, instead of a smiling and supportive teacher he will receive negative emotions, then he will get scared and will tell his parents the he does not want to play. I write about emotions a lot, since in learning to play it is crucial. A child will not play well, creatively, if he will play out of fear of criticism.  To play well, you have to have self-confidence, in case of children it is very important and very difficult to achieve. I write these words both as a person, who has musical education, and as a mother, who is considering development of an own child.

This attitude of acceptance can be transferred to every aspect of a child’s education, but while stress may not inhibit performance on a mathematics exam, too much fear during a piano lesson or a piano exam prevents good performance of a music piece.

Playing a music instrument is not only about reading the notes well. It is the basis, but it is not sufficient. To perform a music piece well, one should like the piece, to know and to think through each note. One should create out of music notes a “story”, and to be able to tell the created story in public, mastering the music piece. In absence of a supportive teacher, the student is just “playing” the piece, does not control or master it, not listens, accelerates the tempo, as he wants to finish as soon as possible. Good emotions and support of a teacher are necessary, when both a student and a teacher during the class create together this “story” by interpreting the piece, and then during a public performance a student will have courage to show in public his interpretation.

Regardless whether the child will be thought during private lessons at home, or at a music school, before selecting classes I recommend to get to know the teacher or to enroll the child to classes already recommended by other parents.

Posted on August 10, 2016 .

How to choose a piano bench?

Do you need to buy a special piano bench for a piano? Can you play the piano while sitting on a regular chair? The answer is provided below :)

To play the piano, a special bench is not required. Adjustable bench for the piano should be considered by high people (height over 190 cm or 6,2 ft.), and by children (due to low height). For people having height of 140- 190 cm (4,6 – 6,2 ft.) there is no need to buy an adjustable piano bench. 

Advantages of benches with adjustable height:

-    Possibility to adjust height (usually in the range of 10 cm or 0,3 ft.);
-    Lack of backrest, which enforces good posture (without “spreading” on a chair);
-    Soft and comfortable seat;
-    Generally more stability (although there are also massive and stable piano benches without height adjustment);
-    Usually elegant appearance – when you buy a piano and a bench from the same manufacturer, piano with a bench make an elegant set;

Why do we need to adjust height of a piano bench for children and for high people?

The player’s hand when placed on the keyboard should be bent at an angle of 90 degrees at the elbow. Recommended posture, when you play the piano:

Correct posture when you play piano

Correct posture when you play piano

High people will have their hands bent too much, while children too little, thus an adjustable piano bench is needed.

Advantages of the bench without height adjustment (compared to adjustable bench or other options):

  • Lower price compared to an adjustable bench;
  • Lack of backrest, which enforces correct posture (without "spreading" on a chair);
  • Soft and comfortable seat; 
  • Usually an elegant look, when buying a piano bench from the same manufacturer, piano and bench make an elegant set;

A summary:

When to choose an adjustable bench, and when one without height adjustment? What other options can be considered?

If you have height between 140 and 190 cm (4,6 – 6,2 ft.), there is no need to purchase an adjustable bench, as hand position on keyboard will be correct. Another issue is that advanced piano players choose unusual piano bench positions, for example Glenn Gould was choosing a bench with lower seat (recording is available here), or Evgeni Bozhanov (recording is available here).

While people with height between 140 and 190 cm (4,6 – 6,2 ft.) have a correct position of hands on a keyboard, an adjustable piano bench may be purchased due to aesthetic, comfort and greater stability of such a seat. An advantage of an adjustable or non-adjustable piano bench over a chair is that they do not have a backrest, which forces you to sit straight. The best replacement for a piano bench may be a normal stool, without backrest. 

Cons of a stool versus a special piano bench:

-    Lack of soft ad comfortable seat;
-    Less stable;
-    Lack of an elegant look;
-    Advantage of a stool is its simplicity and lack of an additional money expenditure.

Posted on August 10, 2016 .