Frequently Asked Questions

The following are some of the questions I get asked ALL the time! Hopefully these answers will help.

1. What is the best age for a child to begin piano lessons?

The answer to this question is, "That depends." The primary requirement is that a student be able to focus for at least 10 minutes in a one-on-one setting. If they'll sit still for at least 10 minutes while you read their favorite book to them, they qualify!

Compelling research shows that ages five to eight is the "sweet spot" for getting the most developmental bang for your buck in piano instruction.

In my professional opinion, it's a good idea to start by age 8 anyway. That gives the student about four to six years of solid instruction before attrition tends to occur around the beginning of high school. However, many students -- especially those with strong parental encouragement -- continue into and throughout high school, and some even go on to major in music.

I've also had many piano students start around 6th grade and do extremely well. It's not so much that there's a "right" or "wrong" time aside from the aforementioned research.

More important than picking an "ideal" age is to pick the ideal teacher! A good teacher can make the student successful at any age. If you have a qualified piano teacher available to guide and instruct your child (or you), take advantage of it, whether they're 6 or 12. (Or whether you're 25, 45, or 65.)

Unfortunately there are unqualified teachers who aren't sound in musical basics themselves, and therefore let sloppiness slide instead of correcting it from the beginning. Or who don't know how to explain musical concepts. And a teacher who "passes" the student on sloppy playing is disingenuous at best and dangerous for the student's musical progress.

I taught piano students my last two years of high school. By that time I'd already been playing the piano for 10 years. Still, I doubt I was a very good teacher at that point. Twenty-nine years of experience has certainly taught me how to teach to elicit maximum understanding and success!

2. How long should a young person study the piano?

Longer is always better! I always recommend that a student stick with piano for four to six years of real, actual effort.

They'll learn enough in four to six years to get through piano methods books at levels 3 to 5... which means the learning has sunk in deeply enough that they'll later be able to return to it. (And many do!) Several studies also show resounding academic benefits from studying piano for four or more years. They didn't see the same results for shorter periods of piano instruction.

Parents play a major role in helping keep young students interested and successful. You help fuel success more than you might realize... when you encourage and praise them, make sure they practice and get to lessons on time, and ask for "mini-concerts." Praise them for their achievements. Thankfully, you don't even have to know how to play piano yourself to do this!

3. Do I need a piano or keyboard at home to take piano lessons?

The answer to this is a resounding "yes." Not having a piano to play on is like learning to drive without ever getting behind the wheel. It's all head knowledge, no real applied knowledge.

If finances are a concern, or you're skittish about spending much money on an instrument before finding out how well your child will do with piano, here are some cost-effective options to consider.

  • Look for inexpensive pre-owned acoustic pianos on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. Many times people are moving and can't take it with them, so you might even score a free piano. It is a good idea to have a piano technician assure you that the sound board is good.
  • Tell others you're looking for a piano. They might know of pre-owned or free pianos, or may even have one themselves that they might give you.
  • Do a rent-to-own program or a rental from a music store.
  • Buy a pre-owned piano from a music store.
  • Consider a keyboard... but make sure it's a full 88-key keyboard with weighted keys, a stand to bring it to piano height, a pedal, and a stool. Starter 88-key keyboards can be purchased for around $500-600.

Acoustic pianos generally provide a fuller and more satisfying sound, and feel more "genuine" than keyboards. But they're heavy, large, and need to be tuned twice a year. A keyboard with weighted keys is a viable choice, especially in the beginning. It buys you time to hunt for an acoustic piano as progress is made.

Smaller keyboards (like the 63-key ones) are not suitable, because most students outgrow them very quickly, and the keys do not feel like piano keys.

4. Do you offer family discounts for more than one student in the same family?

It's important to remember that you are buying my time, experience, knowledge... for each person in your family who is getting private instruction. I don't "discount" my attention or professional expertise.

However, I understand the challenges of getting qualified instruction for multiple children in a family... especially for large families.

That's why I offer a 5% tuition discount for the second family member, and 10% discount for the third and fourth person in the same family. (Note: For these purposes, a family includes parents and their children who are living with them... not extended family members, whether they live across the street or across the country.)

5. Do you have any special advice for adult students?

Yes, do it today!

Adults often have more clearly defined reasons than kids for learning to play the piano. They're doing it for completely different reasons. And they often make much faster progress, because they bring more life experience to the process. Many adult students want to learn in order to play a certain type of music. And for a host of other reasons, including stress relief and brain plasticity.

I understand that it may be hard to imagine adding one more thing to your busy schedule. But it takes less time than you think to become an accomplished pianist, especially with an adult level of focus. If you can find 10 or 15 minutes of uninterrupted time to practice daily, you'll do fine! Even if you miss some days, don't sweat it. Life isn't perfect. Do the best you can with the time you have available!

None of us knows how long our life will last. Or when health issues may take their toll. If you've been saying, "Someday I'm going to learn piano," make 2022 the year you actually do it. You'll be glad you did.

The benefits you only dream about are the ones that you never gain. Life is short... learn to play the piano today.

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