Organising A Piano Recital: Getting Bums On Seats

Avoid the awkwardness of an empty recital

 

How To Organise A Piano Recital: Getting Bums On Seats

 

Performing in front of a big crowd may be a little intimidating for your students, but it’s a whole lot better than performing in front of no crowd.

“Proper” Advertising Vs. Word Of Mouth

If you run a big music studio or school (let’s say with 100+ students), then your recital will require proper advertising. Otherwise, it could be a rather embarrassing flop. To avoid the “flop” outcome, you’ll probably want to advertise your recital with flyers, posters, emails, newsletters, social media advertising, and more.

But if you run a smaller studio, then the good news is that most of this “proper advertising” can be avoided. Instead, it just comes down to getting organised and planning ahead.

Here’s how I do it.

3-4 Months Before The Big Day

About 3 to 4 months before a Le Piano Academy recital, I begin verbally telling my students and their parents a tentative date for the big day. That way, they can begin to plan ahead, and they’ll have the upcoming recital in the back of their minds, which is exactly where you want it at this stage.

If you start telling people any earlier than this, then the date you share is more likely to change, and they’re more likely to forget. Any later, and they may not have time to plan ahead and avoid taking family holidays or being otherwise absent on recital day.

2 Months Before The Big Day

By this stage, your venue should be confirmed, and so should your date. So this is when I print and distribute formal invitations, with ticket costs, and an RSVP date one month out from the recital date. I set the recital date for a month prior so that I have plenty of time to organise appropriate catering.

Now is also the time to design and print your tickets. I prefer professional hardcopy tickets to online booking systems, as it’s more personal. And you can easily get 200 good quality tickets for $30. If you prefer online booking, you can sell tickets with systems such as trybooking. It is easier to manage the money that way. Either way, you should be selling tickets 2 months out from the recital day.

Over The Next Month

Over the next few weeks, continue to remind your students and their parents about the recital, and the RSVP date. You don’t need to be pushy, but people do forget! A friendly reminder will generally be well appreciated.

2 Weeks Before The Big Day

2 weeks before the big day, I personally hand out tickets and other information regarding the days’ events to my students.

2 weeks before is the ideal time for ticket distribution. If you hand out tickets earlier, they’re more likely to be lost, while if you hand them out only a week prior to the recital, students may be absent and not get them on time.

Organising A Recital

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Organising A Piano Recital: Using Other Professionals

Your piano recital won’t be truly professional without the help of other specialists. Here’s a who’s who of who you need…

 

How To Organise A Piano Recital: Using Other Professionals

 

You’ve probably heard the saying “you can’t have it all” before.

But I believe that when it comes to holding piano recitals for your piano studio, you can have it all. You just can’t DO it all.

One of the secrets to organising and running a professional piano recital is using the services of other professionals. This helps you to make the most of the entire event – from your marketing beforehand, to your actual recital, and through to the aftermath.

So, who do you need?

Below is a list of the professionals I always use for my piano recitals, and a few suggestions on what to look for when choosing someone to fill that category for your recital.

Professionals On The Big Day

Videographer

If you’ve been following the Le Piano Academy blog at all, you’ll know about the importance of video portfolios for music students. You’ll also know that these should be filmed live whenever possible. Your piano recital provides a great opportunity for recording live student performances. These recordings aren’t just great for your portfolio – a full, Blu-ray recording of the whole concert is also a wonderful keepsake for parents, students, and friends. But for that, you’re going to need a professional videographer.

What to look for:

Before choosing a videographer, be sure to take a good look at their portfolio to make sure their videos and editing are up to the standard you’re looking for.

I always choose a videographer with 3 or more cameras at their disposal. After all, you want to be able to see the pianists’ hands, the performer themselves, and the audience. In 2014, I also had a fourth camera with a roaming videographer. We even did additional aerial shots using a drone. (You can see all these shots in my 2014 highlights video.)

 

All the videos you see on our website are courtesy of Imaginarium Productions.

 

Just remember that before publishing any videos of specific students, you will need to seek their permission, and the permission of their parents if they’re aged under 18.

Photographer

A professional photographer will take great shots that you can use on your website, on social media, in brochures, etc. They will also prevent parents coming up to the stage to take photos while their children are performing – which can be very distracting to the performers.

Screenshots from your videos will never look as good as professionally-taken photos. That’s why you need a photographer in addition to your videographer.

What to look for:

Apart from the obvious requirements – a photographer with a good camera and a portfolio of (indoor) photos that you like – perhaps the main thing to be aware of is your potential photographer’s pricing structure.

Some photographers charge by the hour for shooting, and include a certain number of edited photos in their package. Others charge by the hour for shooting, and then per edited photo. Be sure to be aware of how your photographer charges so you’re not caught out.

Once again, remember to ask for appropriate permissions before publishing any photos.

Caterer

I prefer to serve afternoon tea at all my recitals. (You can find out why in this blog post.) Crackers and dip from Woolworths and Coles don’t really scream professional. So if you’re going to serve refreshments, you need a good caterer.

What to look for:

You want a caterer who fits with your budget, and who will supply a chef, waiter, or waitress to assist with serving refreshments. As the piano teacher, you need to be mingling with your students and their families – not handing out napkins. So make sure you have a professional to take care of that instead.

Professionals Before The Big Day

Graphic Designer

I actually do all my graphic design myself. But if that’s not something you can do (and do well), then you’ll need a graphic designer on your team.

Your graphic designer will be able to help you create professional tickets, recital programmes, participation and awards certificates, and any other printed materials you may require. (There’ll be a blog on printed materials soon, so stay tuned or subscribe for updates.)

What to look for:

Some printers can supply graphic design services, but be sure to look at their portfolio first, so you can be sure you like their work.

I also suggest looking for someone who’s happy to design materials you can use year in year out, so you only have to outlay a larger amount of money the first time, and just a little each year for them to tweak the information appropriately.

Printer

Once you have all your materials designed, of course, you’re going to need a printer.

Certificates or tickets that you shoot out of your office printer simply won’t look professional. And getting the pages the right way up on double-sided recital programmes is a nightmare to do on your own. A professional printer can take care of all of that, and more.

What to look for:

With printing, you need to balance quality with price. Ask to see examples of your printer’s work, and discuss whether you’ll be eligible for bulk discounts.

Trophy Engraver

I like to give four special awards for the younger students at my piano recitals: Most Improved Beginner, Most Consistent Beginner, Most Consistent, and an Excellence Award. Rather than just issuing certificates, I also present the winners with engraved trophies.

If you plan on doing the same, then you’ll need a trophy engraver on your team.

What to look for:

See if you can get a trophy engraver who will engrave your studio logo, not just your studio name. You also want one who can provide appropriately music-themed trophies. To see an example, check out the trophies my students received in 2014.

 

Trophies and Awards

We’ve been using Awards and Trophies for a number of years for all our students’ trophies.

 

Your Recital

You can’t do it all, but you can have it all when it comes to organising and running a professional piano recital. Like almost anything in life, when the right people have your back, you’ve got nothing to worry about.

If you’re a piano teacher (or other music teacher), do you use other professionals to help you run a successful recital? Who do you use? Let me know in the comments below!

And for everyone, if you’ve got questions or comments, please share them below.

Organising A Recital

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Organising A Piano Recital: Choosing The Venue

You can’t hold your piano recital just anywhere. Here’s what to look for when selecting a venue…

 

How To Organise A Piano Recital: Choosing The Venue

 

Picture this:

It’s the day of your studio’s first piano recital. The tickets are sold out, your professionally-printed programs are hot off the press, and your students have been practising for weeks. The standard has been set. And it’s high.

The anticipation brews as your pianists mingle with their families in the foyer, waiting for the doors to open so they can take their seats. Finally, with well-practiced fanfare, you sweep open the doors.

The crowd surges forward. Yet as they enter the room, their faces drop. Confusion and disappointment replace the excitement and expectation. For before them they see a room of creaky floorboards and worn, mismatched chairs. At its centre: a spindly, dented upright piano.

Why Your Venue Matters

When it comes to cultivating the tone and ambience for your piano recital, one single factor has a greater influence than any other: the venue. So it’s important you make the right decision.

When choosing your venue, you need to consider factors such as size, cost, and facilities. For your recital to reflect favourably on your studio’s professionalism, you also want the venue to be professional.

The Right Size

You want a venue that can comfortably hold your students’ families and friends. A venue that’s too big will look awkward, with empty seats and space. It may also be too expensive. But a venue that’s too small won’t fit all your guests, and will be too cramped to create a great atmosphere.

 

Goethe-Institut Sydney

 

To calculate the size of the venue you will need, use the following simple formula: number of students x 4.

So, if you have 20-25 students, you’ll want a venue that can fit 80-100 people. If you have 35-40 students, you’ll want a venue that can hold an audience of 140-160 people. This formula works well, because some students will need only 3 tickets (2 parents + 1 student), others will need 2 (for themselves and their partner), and others will need 10+ because they’re bringing everyone (parents, siblings, grandparents, pet goldfish, etc.).

The Piano

Many venues such as RSLs, school halls, and church halls would be great places to hold a recital, except for one not-so-small detail: the piano. And when it comes to organising a piano recital, that’s something you can never compromise on.

 

Grand Piano

Kawai Grand Piano at the Goethe-Institut Sydney

 

You can’t hold a recital where your students are playing on an electronic keyboard, or even an upright piano. The quality of the sound suffers, and it cheapens the entire experience.

I will only hold recitals at a venue where there is a grand piano. That’s one reason why I choose to hold the Le Piano Academy recitals at the Goethe-Institut in Sydney. It’s a good size, they have a wonderful piano, and it ticks all my other recital venue boxes.

To Kitchen Or Not To Kitchen?

I always hold an afternoon tea with light finger food and drinks after a recital. Many schools don’t offer this, presumably because of the cost. But there are many pros to holding an afternoon tea after your recital.

To begin with, an after-recital afternoon tea provides an occasion for your students and their families to get to know one another in a social setting. There aren’t usually many opportunities to do this, so a get together is a great way to facilitate it. But if you’re going to have a get together, you need food and drinks!

 

Drinks During Intermission

Serving drinks during intermission break to keep the punters happy 

 

Another reason to hold an afternoon tea is that it helps to ensure that your students and their families will stay for the full event, so you’ll have a full audience throughout. This also means that your students will be present for the awards presentation at the end.

Costs vary, but if you hold a recital for 150-160 people like I did last year, you’re looking at $800-1200 for food, and about $300 for drinks. The cost will depend on the type of food you get and the number catering staff you hire, but this is a good indicator. I use All Suburbs Catering Service for my catering.

Easily-Forgotten Necessities

This one doesn’t really require elaboration, but you’d be surprised how many venues don’t have bathroom facilities. Be sure to check that yours does!

You also want a venue with a foyer area. Babies cry, kids get fidgety, and every now and then there’s a phone call that just can’t wait. By choosing a venue with a foyer, you’ll be able to ensure that your recital runs more smoothly, with limited interruptions.

Your Recital

The secret’s out – if you want to hold a professional piano recital for your studio, then you need a venue that’s not too big or too small, that has a quality grand piano, and that includes facilities such as a kitchen, bathrooms, and a foyer.

Do you hold piano recitals for your piano studio? What do you look for in a potential recital venue?

Have you been to a music school’s piano recital? What did you like about the venue? What didn’t you like? Let me know in the comments below!

Organising A Recital

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How To Organise A Piano Recital For Your Music Studio

Piano recitals take a lot of organisation and effort. But if you do it right, the results are worth it!

 

Organising A Piano Recital for Your Studio

 

Performance opportunities are incredibly important for piano students (and other music students).

Performing in front of an audience allows piano students of all ages to prepare for piano exams, practise goal setting, and develop their confidence – both personally and as a musician. (To read a full list of performance benefits, click here.)

Annual Piano Recitals

At Le Piano Academy, one thing that sets our studio apart is the fact that our students participate in an annual studio piano recital. You can see the highlight video from our 2014 recital below.

Organising the annual recital consumes hours of my time every year, as every detail is carefully planned and executed. But it’s definitely worth it!

Organising Your Piano Recital

I’ve had a lot of questions from other music teachers and from interested parents about how I organise a piano recital. So over the next few weeks, we’ll be discussing various aspects of organising a recital, from choosing a venue, through to ensuring the program runs smoothly on the day.

As each post is written, you’ll find a link to it here:

In The Meantime

In the meantime, if you have any questions about organising a piano recital, please share them in the comments below, and I’ll be sure to get back to you. I may even answer your question with a blog post! So ask away.

 

 

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How To Choose A Piano Teacher – Part 2: The Studio

Choose the right piano teacher by looking at these simple features at their studio

 

How to Choose a Music School for your child

 

Are you considering enrolling your child (or yourself) in piano lessons? Then this is the blog series for you.

In this two-part series, we’re discussing how to choose a piano teacher, with a focus on what to look for, what you can compromise on (if absolutely necessary), and what’s non-negotiable.

Last week, we discussed what to look for in the teacher themselves. If you haven’t read that post yet, you can find it here. As a refresher, when you choose a piano teacher, you should look for the following things:

  • University qualifications (preferably B.Mus. majoring in performance)
  • AMEB qualifications (A.Mus. or L.Mus – non-negotiable)
  • Experience (someone who’s taught for 5+ years)
  • Personality (someone you “click” with)

Today, let’s look at what you should look for in the teacher’s piano studio

Cost

Generally speaking, a piano teacher’s qualifications and experience determines how much they charge for lessons. Prices range from $40 to $150 an hour; $80 an hour is the average.

Piano lessons are a big investment for any family. So it’s important to ensure you get what you pay for. $80 an hour should get you a fully-qualified teacher with a B.Mus. (majoring in performance), an A.Mus. or L.Mus. from a music examination board, and at least 10 years’ teaching experience.

Some music schools charge $80 per hour, but their teachers are not fully-qualified. The extra money goes to the school, not the teacher. As I said, if you’re going to pay that sort of money, you want to get your money’s worth. (If you do choose to go with a less-qualified teacher due to financial pressures, be sure you’re paying a less-qualified wage.)

So how do you make sure you’re getting what you pay for with a fully-qualified teacher? As I said in my last post, don’t be afraid to ask about a teacher’s experience and qualifications. You’re paying for their services, so you deserve to know.

[Tweet “Some music schools charge $80 per hour, but their teachers are not fully-qualified #piano”]

 

Location

A common-sense consideration, but an important one: try to find a local teacher located no more than 20 to 30 minutes away. While you and your child may initially be enthusiastic about lessons at the end of an hour’s drive, this enthusiasm probably won’t last.

But be sure you do travel to the teacher. While some teachers will come to you, your child (or you) will be disadvantaged by learning to play only on the piano in your home. This is especially true when it comes to recitals or exams, as a student who has only ever played on one instrument will struggle to adapt to a foreign instrument, especially under pressure.

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Which leads us onto our next point…

Instrument

Always choose a teacher who teaches their students on a quality acoustic piano. This is non-negotiable. Your child (or you) cannot learn to play the piano properly on an electronic keyboard. While a keyboard is an acceptable instrument for beginners practicing at home, you should always learn on an acoustic piano.

(To learn more about acoustic pianos vs. electronic keyboards, check out this post.)

Studio Policy

It might seem a funny thing to look for, but it’s important to choose a piano teacher with a thorough studio policy.

A studio policy indicates that a teacher is experienced and successful, and runs their studio professionally. The policy will protect them, but it will also protect you as a client.

Look for elements in their policy that discuss:

  • Trial lessons (you don’t want to be locked into a term of lessons without having a trial first)
  • How lessons are charged (e.g. weekly, monthly, per term, or annually) and whether late fees apply
  • Policies for make-up lessons and cancellations
  • Provision of sheet music (photocopying sheet music is illegal)

This will give you a good idea of the piano teacher’s level of professionalism, experience, and ethics.

Exams

While some music schools have their own exam system, any qualifications your child (or you) obtain will not be recognised elsewhere. If piano exams are important to you, then be sure to choose a teacher who prepares students for music board exams with either AMEB, ABRSM, or Trinity.

Your teacher should also have a transcript of their students’ past exam results. Feel free to ask them to show this to you.

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Performance Opportunities

I’m a big believer in providing students with performance opportunities. Performing helps your playing and confidence blossom. Ask if your piano teacher holds recitals for students, or provides them with other opportunities to perform. You can also check to see if there are photos or – better yet – videos of their students performing on their website or YouTube/Vimeo channel.

Making The Choice

Do you feel prepared to make the right choice when it comes to choosing a piano teacher and piano studio for your child (or you)?

When evaluating a piano studio, remember:

  • Make sure you get what you pay for in terms of teacher experience
  • Find a teacher near you
  • Always choose a teacher who teaches on an acoustic piano
  • Make sure there’s a studio policy to protect them and you
  • Look for a teacher who teaches AMEB, ABRSM, or Trinity
  • Make sure the studio offers performance opportunities to their students

If you have any questions or comments about this post, then please share them in the comments below. And if you enjoyed this article, don’t forget to share it on Facebook so your friends can learn how to choose a piano teacher, too!

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Looking For A Piano Teacher?

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

 

 

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.

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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.

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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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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.

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#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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Huy’s Piano Hacks: 5 Top Tips For A Great Video Portfolio

 

Tips For A Great Video Portfolio

 

Since my last post I’ve received a lot of interest about my student showcase video portfolio, “Piano Fingers”.

Among other things, I’ve been asked about how to ensure your video portfolio is professional and effective. So here are my Top 5 Tips for ensuring you have a great video portfolio for your piano studio.

#1: ALWAYS Film Live Performances

There are several problems with studio recordings, and several benefits to filming live performances.

On a studio recording, the audience has no idea how many times it took you to get that particular shot. With a live recording, you’ll show them exactly what the pianist achieved first time, because with live performances, there are no second chances.

Atmosphere is another big differentiator. Nothing matches the atmosphere of a live performance. It doesn’t matter whether you’re recording a piano student or a famous band – the live atmosphere can’t be recreated in a studio. So give your viewers the real atmospheric experience by filming your video portfolio live.

Live performances are also more real. Have you ever seen a band performing in concert, and been disappointed by the quality of their playing compared to their studio albums? A musician’s performance skills are most evident when they perform live. Show your prospective students exactly what they can expect with a live video portfolio.

#2: DON’T Film The Piano Teacher Playing

Now there is one exception to this rule: if, as a piano teacher, you also hire out for performances, then by all means include videos of yourself playing in your portfolio.

However, if you’re like me, and your number one job is as a piano teacher, then your performance skills aren’t really relevant. Instead, your students’ performance skills are what matter. That’s what’s relevant to your future students.

To draw a parallel – if you were looking for a maths tutor for your son or daughter, the teacher’s qualifications and experience may be important, but what you would really want to know is what sort of results their students achieve. In the same way, people need to see your students playing – let their fingers do the talking.

#3: ALWAYS Respect Privacy

Admittedly, this is a common sense and courteous step to take, but it still bears mentioning. It’s good ethical practice – and probably a legal requirement – to always ask permission of students (and their parents, for under 18s) before you upload videos of them playing.

In my experience, about three quarters of my students and their parents are completely happy for me to share videos of them online. They enjoy being able to show friends and family in other cities and states, and even overseas.

For those who don’t want to be online, I don’t upload their videos.

#4: Use Vimeo

There’s much that can be said about Vimeo vs YouTube, but ultimately, it comes down to what you’re trying to achieve.

After thinking long and hard about the decision, I chose to put my video portfolio on Vimeo. YouTube may have more viewers, but I wanted better quality videos, and that meant Vimeo. Because most people view the videos via my website, Vimeo’s smaller audience numbers are irrelevant. And there are no ads, so that’s a bonus for viewers.

Other benefits of Vimeo include:

  • 3 types of account (one free, two paid)
  • faster upload time (if you’re on a paid account)
  • better looking video player

If that weren’t reason enough, it’s also important to note that all the professional videographers and filmmakers are on Vimeo – so what does that tell you?

#5: ALWAYS Use a Professional Videographer (If You Can)

Presentation is everything. There’s nothing worse than a music video with poor visuals and poor sound. By using a professional videographer for your video portfolio, you will get professional looking videos with great lighting and sound, and multiple camera angles.

In addition to the importance of presentation, using a professional videographer to produce your video portfolio will also show your clients that you’re professional, and you’re not willing to cut corners. If you don’t cut corners on video, then you probably don’t cut corners at your piano studio either. And that’s incredibly reassuring for prospective students and their parents.

All videos you see on our website are courtesy of our good friends at Imaginarium Productions.

 

 

An Example

Would you like to see an example of a professionally-filmed video from my video portfolio? Watch the highlights video from the 2014 Le Piano Academy recital below.

 

 

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Simple Solutions to Help Your Child Practice the Piano

Tips for parents who want to support and encourage their kids

 

Simple Piano Practice Tips to Help Kids with Lessons

 

Attention parents!

Have you ever wondered how you can best encourage your child to practice the piano?

There are many different potential barriers to piano practice, from tiredness to busyness, and everything in between. Below I’ve outlined some tried and true simple solutions to these problems, as well as other tips to help you encourage your child to practice the piano.

How Often is Practice Required?

In the last Piano Notes post, we discussed how at the end of each weekly piano lesson, the practice tasks which I set for my five to nine year old students should be achievable after three consecutive 10 minute practice sessions. Not all piano teachers follow this pattern, but if your child is enrolled at Le Piano Academy, then that’s the volume of work they will be set. Ideally, that means that your child should be practicing for just 10 minutes every day.

But how can you help them do that?

Advice for Two Income Families

Many of my students come from families where both parents work. Because of this, they go to day care after school, and often won’t return home until 6pm, or even later. At this time of night, most young children aged 5-9 are too tired to practice. So what can you do?

The solution to this problem is actually simple: Get your child to practice 10 minutes in the morning, before they go to school. That way, they’ll be alert and awake (we all know too well that kids are morning people!). As an added bonus, having your child practice in the morning will also keep them out from under your feet while you get ready for work, or attend to your younger children.

Advice for “Extra-Curricular” Families

In addition to taking piano lessons, several of my young students participate in other extracurricular activities each week. These activities include swimming, tennis, football, dancing, gymnastics, and a range of other things. Once again, this can mean that they return home late each day, and even if they don’t return home late, they’ll often still be tired.

As before, the solution is simple: encourage your child to practice for 10 minutes in the morning, or before or after dinner.

The Best Forms of Encouragement

In my experience, bribing your child to practice (e.g. “if you practice, then you can play Minecraft on the Xbox”) and threatening punishment if they don’t (e.g. “you better practice, or we’ll stop taking you to piano lessons”) are extremely ineffective.

 

The Best Forms Of Encouragement

 

As I’ve discussed in previous posts, I structure my lessons for young beginners so that practice will be easy, achievable, and ultimately fun. It isn’t hard. So all you need to do as a parent is to remind and encourage.

One effective way to encourage your child to practice is to say something like “why don’t you go and practice what you learnt yesterday so that I can see how much you’re improving?” Most children love to receive attention, approval, and praise from their parents, so this approach tends to work a treat. Experiment and see what works for you.

[Tweet “Bribing your child to practice are extremely ineffective. #practicetweets #piano”]

 

The Final Word

Do you have difficulty encouraging your child to practice the piano? Have you found an approach that gets them playing every time? Share your thoughts in the comments below to help other parents in the Piano Notes community who are facing this age-old challenge.

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Piano Teaching Methods for Young Beginners

 

Teaching Methods for Young Pianists

 

There is an old proverb that says

[Tweet “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it. #piano”]

 

One of the main goals I set myself as a piano teacher is to teach my young beginner students correct methods for playing and practicing the piano. This is important because it sets the foundation for their entire piano-playing career. And if you get the foundations right, then you have created a solid base to build upon in the future.

My beginners’ practice methods philosophy is covered in another blog, but today we’ll concentrate on my piano teaching methods for young beginners. These methods encompass both what I teach, and how I teach it.

Young Beginners

A young beginner piano student is a child aged between 5 and 9 years old who is taking piano lessons for the first time.

Regardless of whether they are slow, fast, or average learners, I cover the same topics for all my young beginners. These topics are: the fundamentals of music, keyboard geography, and technique. However, while I may teach all my students the same things, I individualise the pace at which I teach, which topics I place more emphasis on, and the structure of my lessons in order to suit each child’s individual needs and abilities.

What I Teach: Fundamentals of Music

The most fundamental aspects of music are note-reading and rhythm. I teach my beginner students to read and recognise the two music staves (treble and bass clef), the different music notes (A, B, C, D, etc.), and duration notation that make up written music (minims, crotchets, quavers, semibreves, etc.). We learn using a variety of tools, including note-reading apps on the iPad, and rhythm games.

(You can learn more about why I use an iPad in this blog post.)

What I Teach: Keyboard Geography

It’s no use knowing that the note you’re looking at is a “C” if you don’t know where to find it on the piano! So I teach my beginner students to recognise where the notes on the staff are in relation to the piano keyboard.

What I Teach: Technique

For young beginners, I actually don’t teach scales from the outset. Children can still play simple pieces with good technique without having learnt their scales straight away. After all, we’re talking pieces such as “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”, not a Chopin Etude.

But what I do teach technique-wise is posture – both sitting posture, and the hand- and finger-shape that’s appropriate to the child’s hand size. Both are vital for good piano playing, comfort and, ultimately, health.

How I Teach: Maintaining Attention

No one will be surprised when I point out that young children do not have great attention spans. Some seem to switch off their brains after only five minutes of lesson time, while others can go for longer. But no young child can maintain full concentration on one thing for an entire lesson.

When my young students’ concentration begins to wander, I mix up the lesson by introducing something new. We play aural skills games like clapping a rhythm, or humming or singing a simple melody. At least, to the kids, these are games – in reality, we’re actually learning something, and practicing some of the fundamentals of music. I also use the iPad to play note-reading games (the equivalent of flash cards) to reinforce the new notes they have learnt in their lessons, and the old notes they’ve learnt in previous lessons.

The degree to which I need to use these extra “games” varies according to each child’s ability to concentrate. But they are something I use with every young beginner.

How I Teach: Fun

Of course, the music learning games I play with my students during their lessons aren’t just to help maintain their attention and vary the lesson content. We also play them because they are fun. By making lessons fun and enjoyable, kids are actually more likely to learn, and more likely to feel motivated to learn. After all, if you enjoy what you are doing, you tend to do a better job of it, and you are more likely to want to do it in the first place. And that’s exactly the sort of outcome you want for a child learning to play the piano!

[Tweet “By making piano lessons fun and enjoyable, kids are actually more likely to learn. #piano”]

 

How I Teach: Encourage, Encourage, Encourage

All students need encouragement, both at home and from their piano teacher. As such, I always encourage my students and praise them both for the effort they put in (regardless of success), and for their successes.

It may seem surprising, but often the kids who require the most encouragement aren’t the slow or average learners – it’s the fast learners.

The reason for this is that children who are naturally smart are used to being the top of their class without putting in much effort. This is a problem, because they only want to play a piece or song once. They are so used to doing everything else only once, that they get frustrated when they make a mistake and cannot play a song perfectly the first time. For these students, I spend a lot of time motivating and encouraging them, and reminding them that it’s alright if they cannot play something perfectly the first time – they simply need to keep trying.

How I Teach: The Ultimate Lesson Focus

The ultimate focus of each of my lessons is on teaching my students something that can be set as homework or practice for them in the following week. I always set homework for young beginners that is achievable with only three consecutive days of 10 minutes practice after their lesson day. The type and amount of work I give is tailored to suit their learning level and pace, and I constantly re-evaluate how much work I should give each student.

My practice philosophy, and the reasoning behind why I set beginners homework that can be achieved with three 10 minute practice sessions, is explained here. But the main reason is that I want to set my students something that is achievable, and which, if they do practice, will allow us to move onto something new in our next lesson.

My Teaching Approach

So there you have it: my approach to teaching the piano to children aged five to nine. After nearly two decades of piano teaching experience, I have discovered that this approach seems to be the most effective for teaching young beginners.

Audience Participation

Have you got any questions about anything I’ve covered (or not covered) in this post? Pop them in the comments below and I’ll be sure to get back to you.

For any music teachers out there: how do you teach young beginners? Is your philosophy similar to mine, or do you have a different approach? Let me know in the comments below!

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