Why should I learn to read music?

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Although there are many brilliant pianists in the world who play only by ear, many of them wish that they could read music. Playing by ear is great, but those pianists are very often limited to what they can remember of the piece that they’re playing. Very often, the performance we hear is only a somewhat vague impression of what the piece should be. Although learning to read music fluently can take many years of serious study, the benefits are well worth the effort. When you can read music well, you are able to play just about anything – no … Continue reading

Why do I have to learn scales?

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                  Very few students enjoy playing scales at first, but even fewer understand why they have to play them in the first place. Scales will help with speed, agility and stamina although this is not why your piano teacher has you play them. If a teacher really needs you to work on these areas, exercises by Hanon and Czerny will do the trick a lot faster. Scales are the building blocks of music. As you may know, every piece of music is in a particular key and what that really means is … Continue reading

I want to learn to play piano, but I only have a keyboard – is this ok?

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Technology has advanced to a point where I think a keyboard is acceptable for a beginning pianist for the first year or two. It is not ideal because of the “feel” of the keys. Keyboards have plastic keys which are very light and differ greatly from a real piano which can lead to problems when the student does play on a real instrument. However, if the student has access to a real piano on occasion, in addition to the keyboard, this would help. The keyboard should be at least 61 notes and the fewer buttons, the better.  Keyboard manufacturers love … Continue reading

How much should I practice?

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The most important thing about practicing is that it should be a little and often. If your teacher (or parents) insist that you do half an hour or more per day as a beginner, this is counter-productive. As a beginner, no matter how intelligent you are, after a certain amount of minutes your brain will not absorb as much as it did in the first few minutes. Better to take a break and come back to it a little later. Just as learning a foreign language, it would not be appropriate to master too many words in a day, then … Continue reading

How do I choose a good piano?

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  There’s no quick or easy answer to this, but I’ll do my best. If you’re looking for a cheap keyboard, I would suggest Yamaha or Casio, but it must have at least 61 notes. If you can afford something better, digital pianos by Korg, Roland and Casio are very good. Yamaha’s Clavinova line is also very good. If you are looking at high end keyboards (also referred to as synthesizers) then my absolute favorite is Korg. As far as real pianos go, if you are looking at an upright, the taller the piano, the better the quality of sound … Continue reading

How can I find a good piano tuner?

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Your local yellow pages will list a number of piano tuners in your area, but not all tuners are created equal.   It’s important to find out how long they have been tuning for because there’s nothing like experience. Don’t be afraid to ask this of a potential tuner – they won’t mind.  It might also be worth asking for references.   Some tuners tune just by ear and with the use of tuning forks and others use a tuning machine. Either way is just fine. It’s much easier to use a machine, but many “old timers” like to stay away from … Continue reading

How should I practice?

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            As I mentioned in an earlier article, you should practice little but often, because it is far better than doing long periods of time at once. As far as an ideal practice session?  It will vary according to your level, but ideally, you’ll get to a point where you will always start with your technical exercises. About a quarter of your total practice time should be spent on these exercises. Upon completion of the exercises, strive to work on three pieces at a time. Although this is difficult and it takes tremendous discipline to … Continue reading

How can I remember the names of the notes?

The traditional approach to teaching note names using mnemonics* such as “Every Good Boy Does Fine” doesn’t work for everyone. It does have its uses, but it takes too much time to figure out which sentence applies to which set of notes, then the time taken to work through the words to find the note that’s needed.   This forces the brain to process so much information at one time that is it any wonder that students struggle?   The best approach would be to make a concerted effort to memorize 3 notes per day, and flash cards are ideal for this. It does … Continue reading

How do I play faster?

Everyone has fun playing music faster, however don’t sacrifice the quality of your playing for speed. Many people fly over the keys and make a complete mess of things, only in an effort to impress other people.   The more you practice and the more pieces that you learn, you will naturally be able to play faster over time. However, if you need to speed things up sooner, there are a few things that will help you. First of all scales will help and you should be practicing these anyway. Use a metronome when playing your scales and increase the speed … Continue reading

How can I improve my sight reading?

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The best way to improve your sight reading is to do as much of it as often as you can. Playing your regular pieces and exercises does not count. Start small, with maybe just one line a day and then increase it over time. Open one of your books and choose a line randomly, but don’t start from the beginning. Nobody likes starting in the middle of a piece because it doesn’t seem like the performance got off to a proper start, so all the more reason not to start from the beginning because you need to get used to this. … Continue reading