1. What type of piano will I need?
I do not require any particular type of piano, nor do I expect a beginner to have an expensive, top-of-the-line instrument. However, the enjoyment of playing—and hence the motivation — of any student will inevitably be affected by the quality of the practice instrument. Below are some general guidelines:
- General: Essential qualities needed for either a digital (electronic) or acoustic piano
- Must be in “very good” condition
- All keys must play with equal volume (when pressed equally hard). There must also be at least some degree of manual dynamic control, to enable playing a recognizable crescendo and diminuendo.
- Must have a working damper pedal x Will need to basically be “in tune” year-round
- Digital (Electronic) Piano:
- Should have at least 76 keys. (The 61-key instruments are very limiting, even in the first year of lessons.)
- Should have weighted keys, to allow for at least some volume and tone control.
- Must have a damper pedal. This can be bought separately if your instrument comes without it.
- Must have a music rack. A new instrument should come with one– but if it is missing, then it can be replaced. It is sometimes also called a “music rest.”
- Acoustic Piano: traditional 88-key piano with sound produced by actual strings & hammers. There are basically 3 general styles: spinet, upright, grand
- Unlike the digital piano, an acoustic piano must be tuned periodically by a professional piano tuner. A well-maintained piano that is still in stable condition should be tuned at least twice a year. Otherwise, it may need more frequent tuning, and/or some repairs by a piano technician.
- The location of an acoustic piano in your house can greatly affect its “health” and longevity. Try to avoid placing it against an outside wall or next to a heat/AC vent. Some way of keeping the piano room at a stable year-round humidity will also greatly help. If this cannot be done by climate control in the house itself, then a Dampp-Chaser (brand name) can be installed, to regulate the humidity inside the piano.
- If you do have a choice of piano style, then –all other issues being equal — an upright will usually be more satisfying than a spinet. It has longer strings, which will allow for more variety in volume and timbre (tone quality).
- Make sure that the damper (far right) pedal works properly — and that without the pedal the keys will all play equally staccato. Also make sure that there is some degree of dynamic control when keys are pressed equally hard, and that the action will allow for fast as well as slow playing.
- If buying a used acoustic piano, it is highly advisable to take a professional pianist with you to check it out.
- Please feel free to contact me if you are seriously considering my instruction, and have further questions about your instrument.
2. What technology will I need for online lessons?
Please see our Technology page.
3. What other materials will I need?
All of my students must own at least one or two appropriate piano books at any given time. For beginners and primary students, this will be a piano method book. For children, I usually assign one of the following series: Faber & Faber, Vogt & Bates (Piano Discoveries), Noona, or Bastien. My adult beginners usually use one of the beginning Adult books from Alfred Publishing Co. Most of these books cost only $10 or less, and will usually last at least a few months.
When students reach a Late-Elementary level, they are usually also ready for an anthology of easy original classical music. Several excellent graded anthologies are available, so I let the student choose one from 3 or 4 choices. I also have a large set of CD-ROMS with legally-printable classical piano music, from which I also provide students with some supplementary pieces.
In addition to each student’s classical anthology (or a beginner’s piano method series), I also require each student to sight-read at least one new piece per day that is a little easier than their current repertoire. (See “Sight-Reading Piano Music” under Versatility .) Local students may use my collection of check-out books for this, and we are now doing “safe drop-offs” of these books during the pandemic. However, distant students will need to buy an extra sight-reading book for this purpose, unless they already own some appropriate books, or can borrow some locally.
4. What days and times do you have available for lessons?
At this writing, I have several available times on most week-days and evenings. However, I will not schedule weekly students on Mondays, unless they commit to working around the plethora of Monday national holidays. They could re-schedule those dates, or perhaps opt to take a lesson on some of them and re-schedule the others. I also do not schedule weekly students on Saturdays, although am able on some Saturdays to give make-up lessons. I do not teach any lessons at all on Sundays.
5. What if I have to miss a lesson?
Please first click on Lessons to clarify my payment plan, and the number of lessons required per semester.
It has been proven that “I have better students if they take lessons than if they don’t!” I also never want to be teaching a child while s/he is supposed to be at their best friend’s birthday party! So I am willing to schedule a make-up lesson for any absence — provided I receive prior notice accordingly. Therefore:
- I expect a minimum of 24 hours’ notice for a pre-planned conflict that you may have, so that I might be able to use your slot for another student’s make-up (or other appointment) that week.
- For illness, I expect notice at least sometime prior to the lesson time — unless it is truly a last-minute emergency and impossible to notify me. In that case I will still schedule a make-up lesson.
- However, a complete No-Show (with no actual emergency excuse) will be charged as a lesson, and will not be made up. However, it will count as one of your required 14 lessons per semester, so you will not have to pay for it twice. You will simply miss a lesson that you are paying for.
- If a technology failure (beyond the student’s control) necessitates a cancellation, then the lesson will be made up after the problem is resolved. However, the student is expected to begin each lesson:
- with your device fully charged
- with any other internet-connected devices in your house turned off, if at all possible. (Please see Technology.)
6. How much home practice time do you suggest?
Playing the piano requires a combination of many different physical and mental skills. So it is definitely a learning activity for which you “get out of it what you put in.” For this same reason, it also requires practice consistency. A half hour of very efficient practice per day is certainly minimal for the first year of piano, for any age student. Older beginners will benefit from more time if possible — especially for developing sight-reading skills. And any student who reaches an Intermediate or Advanced level will need several hours per week to continue making progress in repertoire and technique.
But “success breeds success.” So as a student progresses, hopefully s/he will become personally motivated by a desire to play a particular favorite piece, or to reach a certain technical level, or other goal. Or s/he may just find that it feels good tactilely to play the piano, and just enjoy doing it! (I once heard Dorothy Taubman say: “It should feel better to play the piano than not to”!) So when students become self-motivated for any of these reasons, then they will just find time to practice without counting the hours. They will open up a wonderful new world for themselves, which will bring much joy and satisfaction for a lifetime.
7. Will I be required to play in public recitals?
I do not require any of my private students to perform in public, and now COVID-19 is presenting challenges to the traditional recital concept anyway. In “normal times” I have always been able to provide a few performance opportunities each year for my students, and have encouraged them in positive ways to share their music with others. Most years we have held an annual [voluntary] joint Spring Recital, as well as at least one recital at a local retirement home which has a fine piano.
I also encourage my students to find opportunities to perform in other settings, such as school programs, church services or events, and family gatherings. My local students are also eligible to enter the annual Asheville Piano Competition if they wish to. Those who have chosen to enter have usually placed at some level in their respective categories. But I allow them to enter only if their piece is thoroughly prepared and secure, and if I am also certain that the event will be only a good experience for that student — regardless of the outcome. The type of support that they receive from their family is critical, so is a large factor in deciding who should enter. I desire nothing but a happy, positive performing experience for any student that I teach, and do all in my power to assure that.
8. How do online lessons work?
This is explained in more detail on my Online Lessons page.