Taking Piano Lessons: Basic Things You Should Know by Paul Lorenz
With summer break under way, starting piano lessons might be farthest from your mind right now. However, it is not too early to start planning for the upcoming school year. This is a good time to work out the ramifications and logistics of taking lessons, of which there are several, before you make that initial inquiry. If you are considering lessons for either yourself or your child, keep in mind the following points of relevance:
- You need a piano! “You mean we have to practice?” If you must ask that question, you’re probably not yet ready for lessons! There is no way to learn a musical instrument without regular practice, period! Anything you’ve heard to the contrary is nonsense. Dismiss it once and for all. And you will need an instrument in good playing condition.
- Sufficient time essential for daily practice. Overscheduling is almost never fun, which is why this teacher is very uncharitable towards such. Have you ever had too much of a good thing? Think of a good meal you had, but the portions were so huge you couldn’t finish it. So, too, with too many activities. We only get 24 hours in a day – that’s the grand equalizer for all of us. And those hours can go very quickly. If you are involved with some other discipline in an all-consuming way, for example, pursuing a sport at a major-league or Olympic level, I likely would not accept you as a piano student.
- Regular availability to take lessons a must. My annual calendar is coordinated with those of the school districts, and breaks are scheduled when everyone is out of school, regardless of what district in which they attend. This translates to a 6-week break from mid-June to mid-July each year, as well as a two-week Christmas break. Adult candidates especially need to know this, since it may not coordinate with your lifestyle. Regularity will be essential to successful learning, just as in school. Frequent absenteeism often accompanies poor academic performance; so too with piano lessons. If you want to progress, you have to take regularly. If you are available only on a limited basis, be prepared to pay a higher rate per lesson.
- Lessons are a long-term endeavor. Music-making skills take years to develop, much like growing a tree. It won’t happen instantly, which may be hard to accept in this society of instant gratification. However, it will teach the value of something earned. Accordingly, it is expected you will discontinue lessons as a last resort, not a first. Remember legendary football coach Vince Lombardi’s famous quote “Quitters never win, and winners never quit”! Think long-term. Put the pettiness aside; don’t base it on flimsy conditions. Perseverance is a very basic life success ingredient.
- Be receptive to the teacher’s approach. Occasionally, I will get a student who claims to want to learn from me, but then insist on doing it “their way,” and then wonders why they’re not learning. One hint here: Practicing is not mere empty repetition; above all, it’s thought first, playing second. My approach is based on critical thinking, concentration, focus, and good practicing skills: very step-by-step, staying on each step until it is learned. A learning strategy can only be as effective as its user.
- Effort is far more essential to success than is talent. I look for effort, not talent. Without effort, no amount of talent will matter. Those considered “talented” or “gifted” by the greater society, most often, have achieved their gifts through their willingness to work much harder than the average person. Not everyone may be “talented” in the conventional sense, but everyone can give effort!
- Don’t expect the lessons to always be “fun.” You are taking lessons to learn, not to be entertained. I could come every week with a basket of games, stories and jokes, but the question would still remain: Will you learn to play the piano? That said, my aim is to learn in a most painless way, and by logic and reason, very step-by-step.