When is the right time to start learning? At CWR Piano Teaching, we prefer students who are aged 4 or over who are familiar with the alphabet (familiarity with letters and numbers is essential for early music reading). We do offer a trial period for parents who are concerned that their child may be too young to begin formal lessons, where teacher and parent can decide whether the student is able to maintain concentration, understand the basic music concepts and agree to practice at home.
How long is a trial period? 3-5 lessons is adequate time to determine whether or not a student enjoys the piano lessons and is willing to undertake practice. However, some parents choose to trial lessons for the whole school term (10 weeks).
Do I, as a parent, need to attend the lessons? For very young students (4-6), parent's presence in the lessons and during practice is recommended. This is to ensure that the student is engaging in the right kind of practice at home. It is also often a very enjoyable experience for parents to watch their young child partake in their music lessons.
Do I need a piano? Beginner students do not need a piano to successfully move through beginner and preliminary levels. In cases where a piano is too expensive, too large, etc., a keyboard proves as an adequate substitute. Keyboards with weighted keys and a full length keyboard will last you longer than a smaller keyboard. Weighted keys are a significant contributor to the development of finger technique and strong fingers. From Second grade upwards, it is ideal for students to have a piano. By this stage, pieces start to require knowledge of the different tone colours and sounds the piano creates, which is not achievable on a keyboard. It is useful to note that many good pianos are available second hand and pianos can also be rented. For more information, please ask us.
How much is enough practice? When first starting, small practices of 10-15 minutes is suitable for very young beginners. These practices serve to reinforce material that is covered in the first lessons, including hand positioning, rhythm and fingerings. This frequency of practice is appropriate for students covering beginner books, with the length of the practices ideally being extended to 20 minutes upon the completion of the first book. For young students practice is more successful when the content of each practice is supervised by a parent or guardian, to ensure the student is practising what is required each week as set out by the teacher.
Preliminary and First grade AMEB exam students require consistent practice upwards of 20 minutes in length. As exams get closer, students will gain the best results by completing min. 30 minutes of practice every day. With busy schedules, it is often helpful to break the practice up, e.g.: 15 minutes before school, 15 minutes after school.
Second and Third grade students require a minimum of 30 minutes of practice daily, as there is a significant jump in the difficulty, length and number of pieces required for exams. Fourth and Fifth grade students should expect to practice a minimum of 45 mins. per day, with this extending to 1 hr. per day for Sixth grade.
For more information on practice, please feel free to contact us.
“I can get all my practice done in 5 minutes...” It is true that in the early levels a student may only have one or a few tasks to complete each week, depending on the piece’s length and difficulty. In these cases, repetitive practice is the key to filling out this practice time, and is the best way to progress quickly. For example, a beginner piece may only take 30 seconds to play from start to finish. If the piece is repeated 10 times in 5 minutes, the student will be undoubtedly more confident and more prepared.
Or, “I don’t have enough time to practice everything!” As grades progress, especially from Second grade upwards, the weekly requirements also increase. In these instances, it is best not to attempt to achieve every set task every practice but diving time accordingly. (30 minutes spent on one task is more effective than 30 minutes spent on 3 tasks!)
Why do exams? Exams (AMEB or otherwise) are optional, but something we encourage in students who are eager to excel at the piano. Exams provide an opportunity for students to prepare pieces to the best of their ability, and get feedback and a written report from an experienced musician. Sitting exams also provides great experience for high school music. Students also have the option of working through graded material without sitting exams. This is a favoured option by some, as it alleviates some of the stress that comes with grade preparation.
However, exam material is not desirable or suitable for everyone. At CWR Piano we are dedicated to finding material that is not only suitable but connects with the student and is exciting to learn.
Are weekly or fortnightly lessons better? For young students, weekly lessons are ideal as a lot is often forgotten within a 2 week period. For adult students, however, fortnightly lessons are sometimes more beneficial as it allows for more practice time between lessons. Weekly lessons are essential for AMEB exam students of all grades.
Remember: It is always important to remember that your piano teacher, like a teacher at school or University, is a guide, a planner and a corrector of mistakes. A teacher cannot do the learning (or the exam work) for you! The more you practice, the more your teacher can help you. Also, remember to never be afraid, embarrassed or otherwise hesitant to ask for help. Any question is a good question!