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Why Student Performances Are Great For Music Teachers

Live music is a winner all round

 

Why Student Performances Are Great For Piano Teachers

 

Music students enjoy a range of benefits when they have the opportunity to perform. But student performances are also great for piano teachers. Here’s why…

(To learn about why music students need performance opportunities, read my last post.)

See How Students Perform Under Pressure

Perhaps the biggest benefit I enjoy as a piano teacher when I watch my students play live is to see how they perform under pressure.

Does their posture suffer? Do they stumble over any difficult passages? Where do they make mistakes? How do they recover from their mistakes?

Knowing this gives me the information I need to tailor their piano lessons as I work with them on their performance skills. It also highlights areas that will need improvement before they play in their piano exam. This helps me to better prepare my students – both technically and psychologically – for sitting their next AMEB exam.

See Which Students Need More Psychological Preparation

Many of my students play perfectly in their lessons and at home. But when it comes to performance time, even if it’s a crowd of two people, they crumble.

By watching my students perform live, I can identify which students need help developing their confidence in performing. This allows me to tailor my approach to their lessons. This will usually involve words of encouragement, and teaching them simple techniques such as breathing and staying calm and relaxed under pressure. If I had never seen them perform live, I would never know that they needed this additional support.

Satisfaction

There’s really nothing better than watching your students playing live in front of their parents, grandparents, siblings, and friends. It’s even more rewarding than a string of “A” grade AMEB exams.

As a teacher you know how much work both you and your students put in to learning a new piece of music. So it’s very rewarding to see them shine as they perform live.

[Tweet “It’s very rewarding to see them shine as they perform live. #piano #pianist”]

 

Video Portfolios

If you read my blog regularly, you’ll know all about the importance of a video portfolio. You’ll also know that video portfolios should always be filmed live.

Student performances provide a great opportunity for a music teacher to work on their video portfolio. It’s said that a picture paints a thousand words, and I’m pretty sure a good video paints at least ten thousand words! The videos are also a wonderful lasting memento for students, who can be rightfully proud of their achievements.

[Tweet “A good #piano performance video paints at least ten thousand words! #youtube #vimeo”]

 

Live Music’s A Winner

As you can see, live music’s a winner all round – for students, parents and family, and teachers alike!

If you’re a piano teacher, do you value watching your students play live? If so, why?

For parents, how do you feel watching your son or daughter perform? Let me know in the comments!

If you enjoyed this post, don’t forget to give it a friendly “share”. You may also enjoy:

Why Music Students Need Performance Opportunities

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How to Choose a Piano Teacher – Part 1

Everything You Must Know to Make the Right Choice for You and Your Child

 

Choosing the right Piano Teacher for you

 

Are you considering enrolling your child in piano lessons? Perhaps you’re considering learning the instrument yourself?

As another school term approaches, you may be searching for a piano teacher. But how do you choose the right one?

In Part One of this two-part blog series, we’ll consider what to look for in a piano teacher themselves. If you want to be confident you’re making the right choice of piano teacher, then this is the post for you. Next week, we’ll delve deeper as we discuss what to look for in a piano studio. (You can find the second blog post here.)

Word-Of-Mouth vs. Google

I may be telling you this through a blog on the internet, but I’m the first to admit that word-of-mouth referrals from a friend or family member are the best way to find a music teacher. The reason for this is that the internet is unregulated, and so anyone can claim to be a “piano teacher”, no matter how unfounded the claim may be.

If you can’t get a referral from a friend, however, then this post will be extremely helpful for you. When you find a teacher via Google, the first thing to look for is whether they have a video portfolio of live student performances. This will provide insights into their teaching quality and style. When deciding whether they’re the teacher for you, you can also apply the same measures you would use to judge a teacher you found through a friend. These measures are listed below.

[Tweet “Word-of-mouth referrals are the best way to find a music teacher #piano #pianist”]

 

University Qualifications

If you’re serious about learning the piano, you’ll want to choose a teacher with a music degree – usually a Bachelor of Music or “B.Mus.”.

You’ll also want to know what their major is, be it performance, musicology, composition, or music technology. While a performance major must first pass a piano audition to enter their degree, this is not required of students studying other majors.

It’s also important to discover where a teacher studied. Prestigious universities such as the Sydney Conservatorium or Elder Conservatorium have a good reputation for a reason. Their entry standard is higher than the standard for lower-tier music institutions.

Your child (or you) can, of course, take piano lessons with a less-qualified teacher. But be aware that if you do so, they will be less qualified to teach technique, and prepare you for exams.

So for best results, select a teacher who majored in performance, and studied at a prestigious university. Don’t be afraid to ask them about their qualifications, either. You’ll be paying for their services, so you deserve to know.

Music Board Qualifications

In addition to looking at a music teacher’s degree, major, and university, it’s also a good idea to ask if they have a music board examination diploma (A.Mus. or L.Mus.) from one of the three main music boards in Australia – AMEB, Trinity, and ABRSM.

A.Mus. and L.Mus. students have studied to an advanced level. If a music teacher claims to teach advanced music, but has only studied up to Grade 6 AMEB, then frankly, they’re exaggerating.

Experience studying for and sitting these exams also better prepares a teacher to train their students to do so. As before, don’t be afraid to ask prospective piano teachers about their music board qualifications.

While you may, for financial reasons, choose a teacher who hasn’t successfully studied at a prestigious uni, I would recommend that you don’t compromise on music board qualifications. Always choose a piano teacher who has studied A.Mus. or L.Mus.

Teaching Experience

As a general rule, an experienced teacher is better able to teach a beginner student. They know what works when it comes to teaching, and what doesn’t. And you’ll see this in their students at recitals and in their video portfolio.

Many less-experienced teachers are actually students currently studying at university, and teaching piano on the side. These teachers are often young and enthusiastic, but their teaching methods are not proven. They are cheaper, and may end up being a more affordable option in the short-term, but remember: you will get what you pay for.

When it comes to teacher experience, you actually don’t have to take someone’s word for it. Instead, ask to see a transcript of their students’ music board exam results. If they claim to have been teaching for 30 years, but have only put students through exams in the last couple of years, be wary.

[Tweet “Young and inexperienced piano teachers’ teaching methods are not proven #piano #pianist”]

 

Teacher Personality

You know the sorts of adults your child gets along with (and the ones you get along with, too). So make sure you choose a teacher whose personality will compliment your child. You definitely don’t want a teacher who will make them feel uncomfortable!

Of course, when it comes to personality, it’s a rather personal thing. But that said, you’ll generally find that the best teachers are easy going (especially towards younger beginner students), pleasant, and have a good sense of humour. They also know how to apply pressure to older and more advanced students that makes them perform, without making them feel threatened or uncomfortable.

As I said, personality is a very personal thing, so check whether your prospective piano teacher offers a free trial lesson, so you can get an idea of how your teacher and child (or you) will work together.

Making The Choice

Do you feel more confident in knowing what to look for in a piano teacher for you and your child?

Remember, when you choose a piano teacher, look for the following things:

  • University qualifications (preferably B.Mus. majoring in performance)
  • AMEB qualifications (A.Mus. or L.Mus – this really is non-negotiable)
  • Experience (look for a teacher who’s taught for 5+ years)
  • Personality (make sure you “click”!)

Next week, we’ll discuss what to look for in their studio and the way they run it.

In the meantime, if you have any questions or comments, please share them below. And if you’ve enjoyed this article, don’t forget to share it on Facebook or wherever you hang out online, so your friends can know how to choose a piano teacher too.

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Looking For A Piano Teacher?

I know a good one 😉 Learn more about learning the piano with Le Piano Academy here.

 

5 (Often Ignored) Skills Teen Piano Students Must Learn

AMEB exams are great. But there’s so much more to learning the piano…

 

Skills Teen Piano Students Must Learn

 

When I teach teen piano students, I want them to play music for the rest of their lives.

But as many parents can attest, all too often, teens sit their Grade 8 AMEB exam, then never touch the piano again.

I believe that one of the reasons this happens is that most piano lessons only focus on teaching for exams. When this happens, teachers fail to teach several other fundamental skills that are key if you want piano playing to be more fun, more rewarding, and more enjoyable.

Exams are important. But they’re not everything. So here are 5 non-AMEB skills all teen piano students must learn if they want to lay the foundation for a lifetime of piano playing fun and enjoyment.

[Tweet “All too often, teens sit their Grade 8 AMEB exam, then never touch the piano again. #piano”]

 

#1 – Playing By Ear

Many teen students have no idea how to play by ear. If that’s you, then you’re missing out! Being able to play the songs you hear on the radio is great fun, and it’s a fantastic party trick, too.

Because playing by ear is a rarely-taught skill, many teen students have bad or poor aural skills. But they don’t have to stay that way. Playing by ear is something I focus on with many of my teen students. It may be hard work in the short term, but in the long term, it will pay dividends for you.

#2 – Improvisation

There’s nothing more valuable than a pianist who can improvise. Yet this skill is neither taught nor examined as part of the AMEB syllabus.

Most Grade 8 students can play a Bach Prelude and Fugue perfectly, but if you asked them to improvise on a simple 12 bar blues, they wouldn’t know what to do.

Improvisation is about understanding how chord and scale systems work together. It isn’t difficult to learn, however many teachers don’t teach it. If you’re not learning improvisation, you’re missing out. However, the good news is that if you’re capable of learning the Grade 8 syllabus, you’re more than capable of learning how to improvise.

#3 – Chord Chart Reading

When I play pop music, I never read the sheet music note by note. Pop music is about playing with freedom. Freedom to improvise and freedom to play by ear. But if you’re going to do that, then you also need to be able to read the chord chart.

Many teenagers want to play current, modern music. To do this well, they need to be able to read chord charts. But most are never taught how.

All that’s required is to build upon a teen student’s already well-developed classical technique by teaching them about how chords and scales work. Then, when they go to play pop music, it’s fun, it’s interesting (because it’s never the same twice), and it’s a great creative outlet.

#4 – Accompanying Skills

Piano playing can often be a lonely pursuit, as you spend hours practicing by yourself. However piano playing doesn’t always have to be a solo exercise. In fact, playing the piano with other instruments and people is great fun.

While other music students such as trumpet players or oboists almost always learn to accompany other instruments, this is a skill that’s rarely taught to pianists.

Once again, this can be changed. All you need to learn about is listening and staying in time – two things I’m always sure to teach my students.

Learning to accompany other instruments can also be a great way for you to earn some extra money as a pianist. Other musicians such as clarinet players, saxophonists, and flautists often require piano accompaniment for their AMEB exams. So do singers. If you can learn to be a good accompanist, then you can get paid to accompany them during their exams.

#5 – Teaching Skills

By teaching older teen students (those in grades 10 to 12) how to teach young beginner pianists, they’ll know what to do when they’re at uni and want a part-time teaching job. But this isn’t something that many students learn.

Teaching beginners involves learning to understand the student. They need to be taught correct foundations and fundamentals, and they need to be motivated. (You can learn more about teaching beginners here.) I like to ensure that I teach my teen students about this so that they’ll have the option of taking on casual or part-time teaching work in the future.

That’s All, Folks

So there you have it – five often overlooked skills that teen students must learn if they’re to enjoy the true fun playing the piano has to offer.

Want to spread the word? Share this post on Facebook or Twitter with your followers to start a discussion!

If you’re a piano teacher, do you believe it’s important for teens to learn these five skills? If not, why not? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Why It’s Never Too Late: Learning the Piano as an Adult

If you think that piano lessons are only for kids, think again.

 

Learning the Piano as an Adult – It’s Never Too Late

 

I currently teach six adult students at my Sydney piano academy. They’re each a pleasure to teach, and they’ve all made amazing progress in the time that they’ve been with me, be it 18 months, or over three years.

There are many misconceptions and myths about learning the piano as an adult. So this week we’re going to get our myth buster on and discuss why it’s never too late to learn to play the piano.

Busted: The Biggest Myth About Adults and Piano Lessons

The biggest myth about learning the piano as an adult is that you’re too old. And that’s simply not true.

I’ve taught adults ranging in age from their 30s to their 60s. They have gone on to accomplish all sorts of musical goals, just like my younger students. Some have successfully sat AMEB exams for the first time in their lives. Others have learnt to play a particular piece for a special event, such as their wedding. I’ve also had adult students who were afraid of public performances who now enjoy playing at our annual recitals. In every case, they’ve proven that you’re never too old to learn to play the piano.

[Tweet “You’re never too old to learn to play the piano. #adulteducation #piano”]

 

Pros of Learning Piano as an Adult

As an adult, there are actually several advantages you will enjoy when learning to play the piano.

Concentration

To begin with, it will come as no surprise when I point out that adult students have much higher concentration levels than kids. This means that as an adult piano student, you can learn musical concepts and musical theory much more quickly than children, which means you’ll also learn to play better, faster.

Motivation

Plenty of children don’t really want to learn to play the piano, and so motivating them can be a battle. Because most adults who take up piano lessons are there because they want to be, motivation isn’t really an issue. You’re there because you want to be, and because you want to improve, you will practise.

Emotional Development

Unlike children, adults are emotionally developed, and so it’s much easier for them to grasp musical expression. This allows you to connect with the music more easily, and to play more expressively.

Time Management

Adults are also much better at managing their free time than children. They also realise that improvement requires practise. This means they are better at allocating time to practise each week – and are more likely to do it.

Cons of Learning the Piano as an Adult

Of course, it’s not all easy sailing to learn the piano as an adult. In addition to enjoying all the benefits described above, you may also face some of the following challenges. Thankfully, if you are aware of them, you will be better prepared to prevent them from becoming a problem for you.

Time Management

Yes, this one can also be a con. Although, as an adult, you’re probably very good at time management, you’re also almost certainly very time poor. Family, work, and social commitments, as well as other activities such as going to the gym, dancing, etc., can make it difficult to find the time to practise the piano. This is a challenge that can be overcome, but it’s important to be aware of it.

Well-Developed Ear

Now you’re probably thinking to yourself, “how is this not a pro?” The reason for this is that adult students know what sounds good and what sounds bad (kids are much less aware of this). This means that adults students will often compare their own playing to the concert pianists they have heard, and then be disappointed when they don’t measure up. These musicians have years of training under their belts, and so it’s important not to be critical of your own playing in comparison. If you practise and have fun, you will improve.

Over-Developed Hand Muscles

Children’s hand and finger muscles are malleable, but adults have difficulty playing the piano without tension. I’m yet to teach an adult whose hands are relaxed and tension-free like a child’s. And I know how difficult it can be, because as an adult learning to play the violin, I also struggle to play with a relaxed technique in order to ensure the correct bow hold, etc. But that doesn’t mean you should give up!

Teaching Adult Piano Students: My Approach

Another myth we’d better bust is that as an adult student, you will be learning nursery rhymes and forced to wear fancy dress outfits like kids at school recitals and concerts. Maybe that happens elsewhere, but certainly not in my Sydney piano studio!

 

Puffy Shirt

 

Before teaching a new adult student, I will always ask what kind of music you want to play in a year’s time, and what your goals are. You may want to play classical or jazz music, you may want to learn chords, you might want to focus on learning to read music, or something else. Whatever you want to do, I will structure your lessons so that you can achieve your musical goals. (Of course, your goals need to be realistic; you won’t be a concert pianist in six months!)

I don’t use children’s method books, as there are plenty of good adult ones. Once you’ve learnt the fundamentals of music (note reading, duration, technique, etc) from these books and built a reasonable foundation, we will choose pieces you would like to learn, and work on them.

Recipe for Success

The recipe for success when learning to play the piano is simple: all my successful adult piano students have realistic goals, and practice regularly.

If you do the same, and enjoy learning something new, then you will love learning to play the piano too!

Do you know someone who would love to learn the piano, but has been holding back? Why not share this blog post with them so they can discover that it’s never too late to learn.

And if you want to learn more about piano lessons for adults click here, or call me today.

I would love to be a part of your adult piano journey!

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How to Prepare Your Child to Take Piano Lessons

A handy guide for parents of young, budding pianists

 

Tips on Preparing Kids to Take Piano Lessons

 

Are you thinking about enrolling your child in piano lessons?

Learning to play the piano can be a great experience for your child. However, sometimes as parents we can become so excited about our child learning the piano that we forget to make sure they’re actually ready!

Having worked as a piano teacher for over 16 years, I’ve developed a pretty good idea of things you can do to prepare your child to take piano lessons. While some of these steps simply involve waiting (waiting for them to grow, to learn, and to mature), there are also plenty of things you can do to help prepare your child for piano lessons. While every child is different, this checklist for preparing them to take lessons applies to all young potential pianists.

Expose Your Child to Music

One of the best things you can do to prepare your child to take piano lessons is to expose them to music – especially piano music. After all, why would your child be interested in learning to play an instrument when they don’t know what it sounds like, or what it can do?

There are lots of things you can do to expose kids to piano music. For instance, you can take your child to piano recitals at the Sydney Opera House, or the Sydney Conservatorium (which offers some free concerts). You could also watch my “Piano Fingers” showcase page, where your child will see several examples of other young children performing on the piano.

I also suggest that you try to play music in the background at home. One good, free place to start is to listen to radio stations such as ABC Classic FM (92.9 FM in Sydney). You can also buy recordings for your children to listen to. I particularly recommend Mozart and Bach, as the first years of your child’s piano journey will focus on classical piano. However, you can also expose them to other genres such as jazz.

Teach Them Their Left and Right

Playing the piano requires an understanding of the difference between left and right, the ability to tell the two apart, and the ability to control and use each side of the body independent of the other side. Teaching your child their left and right is one of the most simple and important things you can do to prepare them to take piano lessons. By making it a fun activity you do together, it can also be a great bonding exercise!

Make Sure Your Child Knows the Alphabet

Music employs its own alphabet – F A C E G B D, which your child will become familiar with as they begin taking piano lessons. But first they must be familiar with the English alphabet. As such, an important step in preparing your child for music lessons of any kind is to teach them the alphabet. If you make learning the alphabet as fun and interesting as possible, this will help your child to learn.

One Reason You May Need to Wait

Many young children have difficulty differentiating between letters such as “b” and “d”, or “p” and “q”. If your child confuses these letters, they will almost certainly confuse the written musical alphabet too. It’s normal for a young child to struggle with this aspect of reading, so don’t worry! You just need to be patient and encouraging. You may also want to speak to your child’s school teacher to learn how you can help your child to overcome this difficulty.

Teach Your Child Basic Reading Skills

Playing music involves reading. Before your child begins to learn to read music, they must learn basic reading skills. They need to know that reading involves going from the left to the right, and they need to demonstrate that they can do this by reading simple sentences or children’s books. Once your child can read words, they will be ready to read music.

Check Their Concentration Levels

The reality is that if your child can’t concentrate for at least ten minutes at a time, they’re not ready to take piano lessons. We might all occasionally wish it were otherwise, but concentration skills can’t be forced on a child (although you may be able to help them learn).

Try testing your child to see if they are able to concentrate for ten minutes at a time. One easy way to do this is to sit them on a chair and start asking them simple maths questions, such as “3+2=?”. Young children think with their feet. If they start moving their legs and feet, you’ll know they’re not concentrating.

Be Prepared to Invest in a Piano

In an ideal world, you would have an acoustic piano (i.e. not an electric keyboard) for your child to practice on from the moment they begin taking lessons, but I’m enough of a realist to know that this isn’t always possible right from the get-go. After all, pianos are expensive, and require space in your home.

However, once your child has been taking piano lessons for a year, it’s time to seriously consider getting them a real piano to play on. Proper piano techniques such as playing with a relaxed hand and fingers, and producing different sounds, tones, and colours, cannot be taught or practiced without a proper acoustic piano.

Always talk to your piano teacher first before buying a new piano. My advice is to stick to popular brands such as Yamaha and Kawai. I also have partnerships with some of the piano and music stores around Sydney, so my students can get discounts for instruments.

Wait Until Your Child is 5 Years Old

This can be a somewhat controversial topic, but as an experienced piano teacher, I can assure you that most children under five years old are not ready to learn the piano. Children under five generally can’t read very well (if at all), they don’t know their alphabet or their left and right, and they have very short attention spans. In other words, they don’t yet meet the criteria we’ve been discussing.

Five years isn’t very old, and as any parent can attest, the time flies! In the meantime, you can concentrate on helping your child to prepare by following the guidelines I’ve outlined above.

Recipe for Success

Letting your child begin piano lessons when they’re ready, and not before, will improve their learning experience and mean they will become a better pianist, sooner. If you teach your child the alphabet, reading and their left and right, and expose them to piano music, you will prepare them for the first steps in their musical journey.

Over to You

Do you have any questions about preparing your child for piano lessons, or other thoughts you would like to share? Then I’d love to hear them! Leave them in the comments below and I’ll be sure to get back to you.

Did you find this article helpful? Do you know someone who is planning on enrolling their child in piano lessons? Give this post a friendly share on social media so your friends and followers can learn about preparing their child for piano lessons too.

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