Common fallacy when parents or adult beginners choose a piano teacher

Choosing a piano teacher is the most important aspect of the pre-learning stage and yet most parents fail to make the right decision. It is an investment so you want to make the right decision as earliest as possible with an informed knowledge while considering the financial costs.

So, how can one make the best decision when choosing a piano teacher? Consider the following FAQs:

Q: I have a 6 year old daughter who has shown interest in learning the piano.  Where do I begin the search?

A: The piano teacher for the beginner is the most important one in a student’s study. Some put financial considerations; i. e., at the lowest cost, first in their decision-making. As is the case for most services, the cheapest service provider does not ensure quality.  On the other hand, cost of service does not relate to quality.

‘Once one is incorrectly taught or if there were some omissions in at the foundational instruction, one often tries to unlearn bad habits which often proves difficult. There are instances when adult students at an advanced stage complain about tension in their arms and an inability to play a fast passage as intended. The fingers stick to the keys which commit a succession of rhythmical errors and sometimes arm cramps. Fatigue develops and disables to the ability to play through an entire repertoire. As a consequence, much time is spent remedial teaching, reducing tension and learning relaxation techniques as a form of ‘rehabilitation’ which may not succeed even allowing months and years of correction.

Q: When the best time or right time to start a child’s musical training?

A: The best time and age to start musical training in piano is between the ages of 6 and 7 years. At this age, the fingers are more developed and hand span is able to encompass the 5 keys from middle C on the keyboard. Some parents push the child to start learning the piano at age 5 or even younger. At this age, the child is likely attended kindergarten and still unable to identify the letters of the alphabets. This present a challenge for the piano teacher in having to spend extra time teaching the alphabet instead of teaching the reading of notations, understanding rhythms, techniques, touch and tones.

To become a well-rounded musician, a pianist does not need to learn another instrument but a learner of another instrument, including vocalists, will much be hampered in their musical development if it does not include an acquaintance with the piano.

The piano is known as the ‘king of instrument’ owing to the complexity of its musical compositions. Pianists learn to read 2 staffs simultaneously with the musical lines often intertwined and overlapped, keyboard writing involves 4 parts while other instruments require one to read only 1 line of notation at a time. Keyboard writing may require the pianist to read sometimes more than 10 notations simultaneously.

Q: Is the age of a piano student relevant?

A: I have had many instances where adult students called to say that they are no longer in their youth, had no previous experience in learning the piano and can only attend lessons once a week. The age itself is irrelevant provided that one has the will, desire, intelligence and opportunity to study with a good teacher and is able to devote 3 hours of practice per week.

For a student is his or her twenties,, the mastery of the piano can be, to a certain degree, limited as the elasticity of one’s fingers and wrists is more difficult to develop than as a child.

It is possible, however, with devotion to practice, with a bit of talent and a teacher with high-quality skills can achieve a great results.

Q: My child does not like to learn about technique because it is tedious and laborious. He/she would rather just learn to play the piano frivolously as long as they play some tune.

A: A musically-talented learner cannot master a musical composition for a repertoire without learning the technical aspects of an instrument and the proper movement of his or her arms, body, fingers leading to tone production. As the early learner progresses to a more advanced level, the technical requirements become increasingly complex and, without technical capacity, the player cannot execute the music to preserve the integrity of a composition.

Without developed endurance, the early learner will often experience boredom, owing to the lack of music interpretation, uncomfortable muscle exertion, and mental exhaustion.  In the advanced learner, the latter may be the result of the rapid movement of bravura passages which command wide leap, bounce and repetitions that encompass the whole keyboard range causing tension in the wrist and muscle tightening. up are sought to be the common complains of an advance player. This will be followed by mental and psychological stress when stumbling and fumbling on technical passages which does not trickle down like cascading waterfall.

Many early learners sometimes feel they have reached an advanced level once they have built endurance; however, in reality, their standard of performance may well be wanting. A 10 year old who plays repertoires of a Grade 3 may have a lot of gaps that needs to be filled in comparison with an early learner progresses and develops steadily with the right balance of musical and technical aspects when well taught.

If an early learner continues to attend piano lessons with a teacher who does not focus attention to technique, but rather lets the learner liberally play, he or she will be greatly hampered in their progress to an advanced level. No matter how musically talented, the early learner, without proper technique will encounter is like ‘a pleasure traveler without money’!  Once the child reaches an arrested progress and frustration as he or she challenges advanced performance pieces which may result in loss of enjoyment and motivation to continue.

A sensitive and sympathetic teacher will know how to strike the balance between the technical and aesthetic aspects of learning in order to promote interest and discipline leading to improvement and eventual mastery.  Just as in many sports, technical drills are involved in learning to play, particularly when the coach teaches technical drills on how to use certain parts of the body and at what angle. Unless the player learns these technical skills, he or she will not be able to challenge the game well.

At the end of the day, when the enjoyment and pleasure are lost, passion dissipated and the interest is relinquished.

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