How much should I (or my child) practice?
Twenty minutes five times per week is what I recommend for beginners (30 minutes for intermediate to advanced levels). Anything more than that is a bonus! Extra practicing for those motivated to do so is always encouraged and will help the student achieve wonderful results even sooner!
Don't feel the need to set a timer, but do watch the clock.
Most students are asked to fill out a practice chart because it is a helpful way to track progress and maintain excellent communication between instructor, student and parent.
What kind of instrument do I need to start piano lessons?
Any type of acoustic piano is best: spinet, upright, baby grand--or a grand if you happen to have a ballroom in your home ;0)
If you haven't done so yet, look into purchasing a piano. You may be very surprised at the affordability. You can find especially great prices on uprights or spinets. Check Craig's List for used pianos (and remember it's a good idea to take an expert in to check the instrument before purchase). Many students have purchased rent-to-own pianos through music stores and have received great deals for a very low monthly payment. The other benefit to owning an acoustic piano is resale value. The greatest benefit of all is the tactile experience of playing a piano--it feels and operates completely different than a keyboard. I liken this to playing virtual games on the computer--playing a sports game on your computer can be lots of fun, but it's nothing like the actual experience of engaging in the actual sport in real life, in real time.
I want to start out piano lessons with a keyboard; is that all right?
For anyone wishing to start with a keyboard, that is okay for starting out, but it needs to have these specifications:
Any other type of keyboard may be a lot cheaper, but will not be the right type of instrument for taking piano lessons. A good example is it's like learning how to use a computer by practicing on a typewriter--you can get some of the skills down, but there are a LOT of differences and they are in no way the same thing!
Are there any other materials I need for piano lessons?
Consider investing in a metronome. They aren't very expensive and you can buy the old fashioned kind or the battery-operated kind. You might not need one right away, but sometime during that first year of piano lessons you will be needing a metronome.
How do I help instill good practice habits?
This is a great question that I get a lot. It's good to remember that practicing is a skill, just like any other, and takes time and teaching to develop.
Some children are highly self-motivated and take the task on independently, but most children need guidance and reminders.
Help your child to find a regular time of day to practice. The best practicers have a routine--the same time each day that is set aside for their practicing.
Minimize distractions during practice time. Talk to all family members and be in agreement that the TV, video games, etc. are turned off during practice time. Help other siblings understand the importance of their brother or sister's practice time and talk to them about how to be respectful.
Plan on giving your child a friendly reminder each day about practicing, but be sure to walk that fine line between reminding and nagging. As parents that can be a tricky line, I know!
Get involved in your child's practice time when you feel it may be beneficial. Some children are shy or uncomfortable about playing/singing for family members, so talk to your child about that first.
Some ideas for parental involvement in practice time for both piano and voice:
1. Look through their piano notebook and help them remember to practice everything written in the notebook.
2. Ask your child to teach you something they have learned.
3. Ask them to play/sing their favorite song for you.
4. Ask them to show you something that is challenging in this week's lesson.
5. Suggest they give a mini home recital to: you, your spouse, siblings, friends... or for the youngest students, even pets or stuffed animals can be a fun and willing audience.
6. Sit down with your child and have them make their own list of what days and times they will practice this week. Sometimes that alone makes a big difference because they are taking ownership in picking their own practice times and won't feel that it's being mandated by someone else.
My child doesn't always like to practice. What does that mean?
It could mean a variety of things, but most likely it just means they are normal! I don't always want to eat my vegetables and I don't always feel like jogging. But those things are good for me and when I do them regularly, I'm always glad that I did. Parents, realize that it's very normal to have to remind your child to practice every day. You can set them up for success by helping to instill a regular practice routine into their daily schedule and giving them lots of positive reinforcement for following it. They will thank you for it...and maybe even sooner than you think. :=)
These words come not from the piano teacher in me, but from the girl whose life was changed by having parents who encouraged me to stick with piano lessons over the course of my childhood, even though there were years I liked it more or less than others. Music is life changing for everyone, regardless of the path you take in life and what your chosen profession ends up being. People often tell me that their parents let them quit and they now regret it. Not one single person has ever told me that their parents made them continue and they regret it.