Are you a beginner pianist? Is your child beginning to take piano lessons? Parents and beginner adult students often ask me what tools they (or their children) need to be able to learn to play the piano. This blog post covers five essential tools I recommend every beginner piano student should have.
1: Every Pianist Needs an Instrument to Practice on
It may sound obvious, but every piano student needs a piano to practice on!
As to which piano you should buy, I’ve put together a blog post outlining some of the best value instruments for beginners and intermediates. But if you don’t have time to read that, too, then the short answer is: for beginners, an acoustic (regular) piano is ideal, and an electric piano is the next best option. Failing that, however, for a new piano student, a beginner keyboard will also do. If you choose to get a beginner keyboard, always buy one with 61 keys, and make sure that the keys are the same width as those on a regular piano.
Photo Credit: Yamaha
(Want a specific piano recommendation tailored to your individual needs? Send me an email, or leave a note in the comments below.)
2: An Adjustable-Height Piano Bench is a Must
An adjustable-height piano bench is a must for all piano students, but it’s particularly important for young beginners.
Many students are taught to sit at the piano incorrectly because they have the wrong-sized stool. This is not only uncomfortable, but can also lead them to play with their arm at an incorrect height, and can even result in a strained back.
All this can be solved with an adjustable-height piano bench. The adjustable feature allows little humans to sit comfortably and correctly, with their arms at the right height, and their wrists unbent. Best of all, the adjustability means the bench will still suit them when they grow to become bigger humans. Adjustable benches are also great for families with two or more piano students of varying ages and heights, as they can be adjusted each time a new sibling sits down to practice.
An adjustable piano bench will cost you anywhere between $150-500. You can buy one at any reputable piano store. One final thing to keep in mind when selecting a bench is to make sure you choose a comfortable one, as in the future your child will be practicing for up to an hour at a time every day. And no one wants to sit uncomfortably for an entire hour!
3: A Metronome is a Vital Tool
A metronome isn’t necessary for a complete beginner, but once you begin learning scales, you will need a metronome.
It’s said that the Germans know how to do three things well: manufacture cars, play football (you saw the 2014 World Cup final), and make metronomes. As such, it will come as no surprise when I say that my favourite metronome brand is the German “Wittner”.
Wittner metronomes come in three main categories – real wood, plastic wood, and novelty. Real wood metronomes are the best quality, and I just love the traditional ticking noise they make. They tend to be around $200-250. Plastic wood Wittners are also quality metronomes, and are cheaper, at $100-150. Then, of course, there are the novelty metronomes that come in penguin shapes etc., and are a similar price to the plastic wood options.
Photo Credit: Wittner
You could buy a cheap Chinese metronome on eBay, but it will never be the same quality as a Wittner. Wittners are built to last, and so I believe it’s worth paying extra for them, as they will last a lifetime.
Metronomes are important because they help instil a sense of timing. And rhythm and timing are vital for good piano playing.
You may be wondering why I haven’t mentioned metronome apps for phones and tablets. Sure, you can use them, and there are even free ones, but I don’t believe that they are ever loud enough (unless you want to plug them into a stereo and drive the entire family crazy – not something I recommend!). And let’s face it, they really just don’t sound as good as that traditional metronome “tick”.
4: Invest in an iPad
Two years ago, this item wouldn’t have made the list. But I now find that the iPad is a great musical education tool.
I’m an Android fan, but the iOS music apps are more polished, and there are more of them. With an iPad, you don’t need paper practice diaries, flash cards, or note reading worksheets. Instead you can get a practice diary or log journal app, flash card apps, note reading apps, and apps for aural training. The last item in particular is a real money-saver, as you won’t have to pay nearly $80 for an AMEB aural training CD! And, of course (though I’m loathe to mention it), you will find metronome apps as well.
Photo Credit: Apple
iPads are also great for music games, which can keep kids simultaneously entertained and educated. For those who are too old for games, you can also buy and store PDF sheet music on the iPad, meaning you don’t have to carry a large folder of sheet music around everywhere. (I particularly recommend the forScore app for this.)
5: Get a Recording Device
Recording devices are more important for intermediate and advanced students, but they’re also great for beginners.
When you play the piano, what you hear and what someone listening hears can be very different. The only way you’ll know if this is the case is if you can hear both. And the only way to do that is to record yourself. Recording is also handy because it allows students to record their lessons in order to listen to them afterwards.
Photo Credit: Zoom
The very best recording devices are the Zoom products. I’ve been using them since they first came out about 20 years ago! Zoom mics allow you to record in stereo thanks to their XY mics, and these days you can even get them with a video recording option. Cost wise, you’re looking at $200-400 – more, if you want video.
Obviously, until you can afford a Zoom recording device, you can use your phone or camera, but if you want near-recording-studio quality, a Zoom is the way to go.
So there you have it – the top five tools every beginner pianist needs are a piano to practice on, an adjustable bench to sit on, a metronome, an iPad, and a recording device. How many can you check off the list?
Share Your Thoughts
Do you have any questions about the items covered in this post? Would you like music app or piano-buying recommendations? Let me know in the comments below! I look forward to hearing from you.
For the piano teachers out there – what tools do you use and recommend? Share below and join the conversation.
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