When you make the decision to start your child or yourself on the long path to becoming the next Rachmaninoff, you’ve made several decisions at once. You’ve decided to make an investment in yourself or your child.
From the very first piano lesson it’s an investment of money, of time and as someone who’s been a beginner learning to play a keyboard, patience.
However, and I know this from experience, stay the course, and the lifelong rewards truly cannot be quantified.
As with any investment, it’s wise to do some research before your first piano lesson to be certain you/the rug rat get what you seek out of studying piano.
You need not agonize over this since the answers to the questions are about you/the child.
Why do you want to learn? What do you want to learn? What or who caused you to gravitate towards the piano? You or the little one already have the answers. Any and all questions are going to lead back to one thing: choosing the right instructor.
As lifelong musician, composer and teacher, I feel very strongly about music education, just turn on the radio while you’re in the car if you’re wondering why, then turn it off again.
Even though I started off self-taught, and took lessons outside of school, I was lucky to grow up in an era when music was still in the curriculum at public schools.
I performed in school bands and with my own band at school events. The experience was integral in my development as a musician and some of my fondest memories of those years, and will be for you little one too.
Since the arts are in schools are becoming a thing of the past, it’s up to parents or the individual to make music a part of your life.
If you or your child can’t seem to stop thinking about taking your first piano lesson, then now is the time.
Choosing an Instructor
Players vs. Composers
This one is mainly for the adult student since children will almost invariably begin learning the mechanics, hand placement, proper fingering and getting the hands working together, along with music theory and learning to read notation.
There are 2 types of musicians and therefore piano instructors: those that can sight read and play any piece of music placed in front of them sight unseen and without practice, and those that may or may not have that ability but also compose their own music.
I’m a composer and a lead player skilled in improvisation, and I didn’t realize until I was attending university that sight readers seem to view us composers’ ability to write music as supernatural.
I’m talking about expert instrumentalists that play in orchestras.
They also seem to feel this way about those with the ability to improvise solos.
If one of your musical goals is to write your own songs/pieces as well as play, find an instructor who is also a composer.
Online vs. Formal Lessons
As for the online lessons vs. formal lessons question, especially in the case of beginners, I will always recommend formal lessons.
From your very first piano lesson, it’s vital that you don’t develop bad habits in fingering, posture and reading.
Only with an instructor right there to identify and immediately correct these pitfalls, which are very easy to fall into, will you avoid making these bad habits part of your technique.
Now, the advantage of online lessons, many of which can be taken free on Youtube, is once you have a good foundation to build on, being able to refer to these lessons anytime, anywhere has obvious advantages.
So, I feel these will benefit those who already have, at the very least, the mechanics down, and will hurt the newcomer.
Also, as we know from observing the education system in America, every student is different and learns in different ways.
Finding an instructor who understands this is one of the most beneficial qualities to look for.
Plus, having a great instructor can be the motivation to practice regularly, whereas with online lessons, this important relationship is absent.
If your child is displaying signs of interest in music and the piano, and you’re thinking of booking their first piano lesson, the younger the better. Start them as soon as you can keep them on the bench without duct tape or rope.
Getting them going while they’re still little information sponges is the way to go.
The piano is often referred to as the “calculator” of music. Many think it should be the instrument upon which all children begin their musical education. Finding an instructor that has experience teaching children can be the difference between success and failure.
Observe how your child participates in the lesson. A good teacher will split the lesson time between theory and technique and fun, familiar and simple songs to keep the kids engaged.
As an adult, you will probably arrive at your first piano lesson having been inspired by your favorite music, and will often have a more focused picture of what you want to learn.
You may be less interested in learning music theory, and more into learning how to play the songs of your favorite bands.
From there you may want to learn scales in order to play the lead lines and melodies.
Whatever it is, communicate this to all the instructors you vet to make sure you find one familiar with the genre(s) you’re interested in exploring.
Like the kids, adults can have trouble maintaining focus and interest. Being able to intercept this and keep you on track is one of the traits that separate the great instructors from the mediocre.
The rest is up to you.
Whether you’re looking to send your child on the path to musical exploration, or you’re an adult seeking to fulfil your lifelong dream to play music, a little preparation can go a long way in making your first piano lesson the first step toward a lifelong affair with music.
- Figure out what you (or the child) wants to learn, i.e. style, composition etc.
- Find the instructor that has the skills you seek that you gel with, they’re out there
- Don’t make the call to continue or not after your first piano lesson, stick it out, and soon you’ll be playing. Don’t give up. When it gets hard, that’s the good stuff you wanted to learn in the first place.
The things you’ll learn about yourself as you master techniques and begin to exact your will over the keyboard will aid you in every aspect of your life.
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