Top reasons to study piano

Piano study is more than just learning to read music and playing pieces.  Piano study can be an important influence on the student, both musically and personally.  Benefits include:

Instills Self-Discipline.  Music lessons may be the first adventure the young child will experience realizing that only he/she alone can accomplish the results desired.  Accomplishment of goals helps instill a sense of responsibility that will carry over to the classroom and other activities.

Increases Concentration Span.  Learning to play the piano requires strict attention.  To effectively keep a steady beat, play the correct notes, pedal properly and interpret dynamic marks, the student must continually look ahead one or more measures.  Music demands the ability to concentrate, at first in small segments, then in gradually larger portions of time.  Attention to detail is developed.

Develops Coordination.  Music improves coordination between thought and action.  It requires mental alertness, accuracy and good memory.  Imagine the throught process required when playing the piano.  The eye sees the music and sends a message to the brain, triggering movements of fingers and feet as needed.

Provides An Emotional Release.  Everyone has the basic need to express themselves – young and old.  Music is called the universal language because it has no boundaries in expressing the emotions of life such as joy, sorrow and excitement.  Music helps create an emotional release in both the performer and listener.

Instills Self-Confidence and Poise.  Playing the piano gives the student a strong feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction.  The child who is willing to share his/her musical training with an audience will become socially more at ease with others.

Instills a Love and Appreciation of Music.  Probably the most lasting value of piano study is the love and appreciation of music that is fostered during lessons.  The roots of the child’s musical taste and the knowledge of different types of music both occur in the piano lesson environ.  These values and the ability to play the piano will endure throughout adult life and are often passed to the next generation.


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Vocal Cord Action

Vocal cords are set in the larynx (also known as the voice box or ‘Adam’s Apple’).  They are tiny folds of skin attached to either side of the windpipe.  Think of them as window shutters about the size of rubber bands.

When we breathe, they open to allow the air to pass in and out, but when you prepare to sing, the shutters close leaving just a bit of light between them.

The pressure of the column of air underneath the cords sets them vibrating and a sound is made.  This sound is amplified by the spaces in the throat, and it escapes through the mouth.

The larynx is very delicate and can be easily damaged with rough treatment.  Sometimes the word ‘attack’ is used for the onset of singing…not the right thing to do.

The onset of a note should be smooth and gentle.  A ‘caress’ is better than an ‘attack’.

Watch the beginnings of your notes and be sure you have a gentle and smooth beginning, not an attack.

Have fun singing!

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Calm the Nerves

Performing in recitals can be stressful.  There are so many musical details to remember……..the notes, dynamics, phrasing and expression.  You also want to please your teacher, friends and family. 

To have a good recital experience, try to focus on the positive parts of performing:  think about how fun your music is to play, how much everyone in the audience will enjoy hearing it, and how proud you will feel when you are done.

But what if I get nervous?

Breathe.  Breathing relaxes your muscles and can lower your heart rate (pulse).  It also brings oxygen to your brain, which it needs to function properly.  Take a few deep breaths, slowly counting to 4 as you inhale and again to 4 as you exhale.

Visualize.  Imagine you are in a calm place, like a dream vacation spot.  Think about all the calming things about that place and pretend you are transported there for a moment to relax.

Relax muscles.  Lightly rub the back of your neck and your shoulders to help them relax a bit.  Make big circles with your arms, moving them slowly.  Slowly pull your shoulder blades close together, squeezing them gently and then let them go back to their places slowly.

Think from a spiritual point of view.  You’ve been given a very special talent that many people wish they had.  Put a higher power in charge when you perform.  You are providing the skills in the performance but they are in charge.

Enjoy making music in your performance and stay focused on how great you’ll feel afterwards!


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Get to know your piano!

-The piano was invented in 1698 in Italy by Bartolomeo Cristofori.

-There are over 12,000 parts in a piano, 10,000 of which are moving!

-There are 230 strings inside a typical piano.  18 tons of pressure are being exerted by the stretched steel piano strings.

-The right pedal is the sustaining or damper pedal.  It raises all of the dampers at once allowing the notes to continue sounding after the keys are released.

-The left pedal is a soft pedal, usually known as an una corda pedal.  This pedal shifts the key action sideways causing treble hammers to hit only two strings instead of three.

-The middle pedal is known as the sostenuto pedal.  It sustains only those notes which are depressed prior to and while holding the pedal down.

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More Practicing Tips!

Practice slowly.  Practicing slowly catches the details of the music.  Slow practice is like putting the music under a microscope….you see all areas for improvement and much more detail.  Taking your time helps you to learn carefully and to master the piece.  Work with your hands separately at first.

Practice without the pedal at first.  While the pedal makes everything sound better, pedaling too early makes it easy to miss details in the music.  Work to learn the notes and phrasing first and then add the pedaling and dynamics.

Take small sections.  Learn small portions of the music in the beginning.  It is tempting to learn large chunks to save time.  The problem is that taking on too much of the music can be overwhelming.  If you take tiny sections at a time and master them, you will be able to sustain productive practice much longer.

Figuring out corrections.  Fixing a mistake isn’t enough.  After you have mastered a correction, go back and connect the music ahead of and behind the corrected area.  This helps to ensure the error doesn’t recur.

Use the 80/20 Rule:  If you focus the majority of your time on the few places that are weak, you will get much better results that practicing the whole piece from beginning to end.

Regular daily practice enhances the ability to learn new materials and your musicianship.  Try setting aside a regular time of the day when life stops – for example, 7:30pm, I’m taking a break at the piano for 30 minutes.  By making practicing a part of your daily routine your skills will jump ahead and so will your enjoyment.  Have fun making music!


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