A great time for students to begin piano lessons is age 5. If you and your child have participated in an early childhood music program, or if they have been exposed to a musical environment in the home, then your child may already be able to tap a steady beat, perform different rhythms and sing in tune by age 5. This is the ideal starting point for taking on a musical instrument.
If your child has not had any musical experience before age 5, then it's definitely time for them to start experiencing music! If they have started to read a few words, and can concentrate on one subject for at least 20 minutes, then they are ready to have private lessons.
Kristin's methodology stems from a culmination of her experiences teaching Music Together, a research based early childhood music program, and teaching for the Beginning Piano Program at Carnegie Mellon University. Students learn technique, rhythm, note-reading, solfege (ear-training), and artistry through a variety of exercises and pieces. Students will typically use a Beginning Piano Method such as "The Music Tree" by Francis Clark, or "Piano Adventures" by Faber and Faber, along with supplementary repetoire to reinforce the concepts they are learning. Kristin also has a strong background in Dalcroze Eurythmics, a method of learning music that uses movement, ear-training, and improvisation, and she uses Dalcroze exercises to get to the core of her students musical ability and strengthen areas where they need to advance.
Students typically complete a book in between 12-16 lessons, although some will work faster, depending on how much they practice at home. Music Theory is also an important part of each lesson, and students will have an Activity Book, with written assignments to complete at home, every week.
Beginning students who are between the ages of 5-9 are usually encouraged to begin with a 30 minute lesson. Once they advance into the intermediate level repertoire, they will typically need to switch to a 45 minute lessson, in order to get through more advanced technical and musical challenges.
Students who start lessons at age 10 or higher can start right away with a 45 minute lesson if they desire. 45 minutes is often the perfect amount of time for students to get through the curriculum and not feel rushed. 45 minute lessons are the most common lesson length, and parents often find that it work for their child for many years.
Students who advance into higher levels of repetoire have the option of choosing a 60 minute lesson. The 60 minute lesson is for talented students who are very motivated to practice, and who are on a track towards competitions and a possible career in music.
How do you get to Carnegie Hall? You guessed it. Practice is probably the most important factor in determining whether a student will be successful in their ability to perform at the piano. It is absolutely imparitive that parents and students develop a routine of practice in their daily lives. Students who are just beginning will want to spend between 15-20 minutes daily practicing their assignments and refreshing what they learned in their private lesson.
Practice is most effective when students are in a comfortable, well-lit, and quiet room without distractions. Practicing on a piano rather than a keyboard is best for developing a strong technique at the piano. Keyboards have a much lighter touch and will not develop the finger strength like a piano. If you are not in the market to buy a piano at the present moment, there are often places that will rent pianos on a month to month basis.
Supervising your child during their practice sessions is really essential for young beginners. Young children often do not yet have the ability to sit and focus on their own, and your presence beside them will provide them the energy to concentrate. You don't necessarily need to re-teach everything that they learned during their private lesson, but just gently reinforcing ideas and helping them to move towards a goal is enough for success. It is very important that parents remain calm and use a soft tone of voice when working with their children through a practice session. Playing a musical instrument is not without many challenges, and we will want to model being as calm and patient as we can, so that our children learn to do the same. If you are frustrated with your child's progress, try to change that energy into a force of determination. Remember, what you feel will easily transfer to your child, and it often takes numerous repetitions for students to successfully play a passage. Keep it postive, and your help will advance them levels beyond what you could have every imagined for your child.
Adults who begin piano lessons will often find that they learn the basics much faster then they expect. Kristin designs custom lesson plans to meet the needs of her adult students while also teaching them the basic skills they will need to play in any style. Students learn note-reading, scales, chords, improvisation, and a mixture of familiar and unfamiliar songs from different styles. A great Beginning method that Kristin uses with her adults is Faber and Faber's Adult Piano Adventures. Students learn to read notes and chords right away, and find that they can already begin playing songs they know within just a few lessons.
Whether you are completely new to music, or you've been singing in choirs and playing instruments for years, it's never too late to start learning to play the piano! For adults, playing piano can be a great creative and emotional outlet, can relieve stress and anxiety, and can bring you great moments of joy as you play through your favorite pieces. Everyone is born with an innate ability to make music. Develop your musicality to its fullest potential and you may be surprised at the level of artistry you can acheive! We reccommend that adults choose 45 minute lessons to get started, and often move to 60 minutes after they advance into intermediate repetoire.
Students who are very serious about their work may find that they would like to take on the challenge of preparing for a competition. Competitions usually take several months to a year of intense practice, and students will often need extra lessons in order to prepare their pieces to an appropriate level. Students will need to have performed in at least three (or more) recitals before they are ready for the pressure of performing at a competition. Preparing for a competition can be an excellent way to motivate students to play at their absolute best, but they will have to be ready to sacrifice other parts of their schedule to add in the extra daily practice time that it will take to bring themselves to that level. Kristin has had several students compete in competitions, and is more than willing to train a talented student who is willing to commit the time and energy to winning.
Nana Okada Winner of Duquesne Young Artist Competition