Month: April 2010

Common Questions About Piano Lessons

中文版:『常見的鋼琴學習問題』
April 13, 2010.
Latest Update: March 25, 2019.

Here are some of the most common questions I always get from enquiries. I feel I should answer them here for quick reference. More would be added gradually.

Q1. How old should my child start taking piano lessons?

I would say usually no younger than age 4. It is very hard for a child to sit quite still and concentrate through even a 30-minute lesson every week. It is also difficult for him/her to be able to understand the teacher’s direction, react to it and perform it. It takes time for a child at such a young age to adapt to such a new learning concept, but it is a very good training. It requires much patience from the child, the parents and the teacher, especially during the first six months. The progress might be slow and minimal during the first year, depending on the learning mode and maturity of each student. Do not expect a child to play something very fancy quickly at the beginning: quite on the contrary, we should take time to build a solid foundation of piano playing and musical concept right from the start. Naturally the fancy things will come later.

Q2. How long is a lesson for my child?

I suggest for young beginners, a 30-minute lesson every week to start with. As said before, a child cannot sit still and concentrate for more than 30 minutes (as a matter of fact, even adult’s concentration span is less than 30 minutes!). But a 30-minute lesson goes by really fast (I like it when a student tells me with a disappointed face, “wow, are we finished? I want to play more!”, than when a student feels bored and refuses to play, wishing the lesson can finish earlier.)

Depending on the progress, students usually proceed to 45-minute lessons after 2-3 months. Young beginners may even take longer time to go through the 30-minute lesson period (e.g. 4-6 months). Most importantly, we want your child to enjoy the piano lessons but not to detest them. However, some brilliant students who are fast learners would even take 1-hour lessons when 45-minute lessons are not enough to go through everything.

Some students who are siblings would take an extra lesson together for theory and composition. It is a wonderful thing to do so since they can learn more with less cost and time. There are many ways to improve and progress on piano playing away from the piano, and this is one of them.
Students of grade 8 and above must take 1-hour lesson every week. Some would take 1-and-a-half-hour lessons if resource and time are allowed.

Q3. Do you teach adults?

Yes, I do teach adults, from absolute beginners from scratch to diploma-level students. If you have never learnt playing the piano, start NOW! You have probably heard the old saying, “late is better than never”. It is true. Have you ever regretted that you never had the chance to learn playing the piano when you were little? Or you have stopped playing because of study, work or simply too many other things to learn or do? Do not think, “oh, but I am much older now, I cannot compare with the young children who start learning from early age!” Why do you think you have to compare yourself to them? You are you, you have your strong points and individuality. And you know what? Adults have their advantages in learning the piano. First of all, it is YOU who want to take lessons, not your parents. That is why you are here reading this. Second of all, adults know much better than kids, right? (Well, not in that tone as you think). But you have learnt much more during these years, you can process datas quicker, you can associate different materials easier, your hands and feet can coordinate better, you can read and understand faster, etc, etc. So start today, start now. Do not even hesitate for another second. Because, before you know it, it would be another month, another year, and another decade past, and you still have not started playing the piano.

For adult beginners, I suggest you start with 45-minute lessons first. Depending on the progress, you would proceed to 1-hour lessons when appropriate. Adult students with some experience should take 1-hour lessons weekly.

Q4. What do you teach in a lesson?

This is a simple question with a complicated answer. Although I have a teaching philosophy and methodology, I do not teach every student the same way. Every student is different and unique. I have to understand the way that is most effective for him or her to learn easily and efficiently in an enjoyable manner. Of course, sometimes there would be obstacles and difficulties in playing and students just have to deal with them, tackle them, and move on.

In general, I teach the classical repertoire as the mainstream but add music of various styles and genres (e.g. jazz, pop, musical etc.) to it on the side. I focus on building a solid foundation of piano technique and musical knowledge pertinent to a beautiful and individual playing. I also emphasize developing a good sight-reading ability and improvisation skill; these are the most neglected, ignored and underrated capacities so far among teaching nowadays, yet they are crucial for piano playing that lasts for a lifetime. For every student, I have a personal and detailed learning progress report. I make yearly plans for each student of what techniques and repertoire they have to learn and what goals they have to achieve (e.g. performances, competitions, exams). I review my reports frequently and communicate with the students and/or their parents regularly.

Q5. Can I buy an electric keyboard instead of a piano?

I understand the concerns behind buying a piano: one, buying a keyboard is much cheaper; two, you are not sure if you or your child is serious about piano playing or how long you will be staying in Hong Kong; three, Hong Kong’s homes are way too small to even fit in an upright piano! Yes, I understand all of these, but I do not suggest buying an electric keyboard. If all you want is to be able to play some music on a keyboard, an electric one would suffice to perform such trick. However, if you want to “play the piano”, then you need a real piano! The action of a piano is totally different from an electric keyboard (in fact I do not see any action there in the latter but an electric one) and it thus requires a special kind of technique and touch to play it and produce the diverse and beautiful nuances from it. The sound of a piano produced is also unique of its own that that of an electric keyboard cannot compare (the “grand piano” sound from a keyboard is so fake!). The technique required to play an electric keyboard is limited and therefore much simpler. Students should definitely buy a piano as soon as possible. And for those who haven’t bought an instrument and are considering about getting one, I suggest buying a good quality second-hand piano when there is a limited budget. You only have to be very careful about finding a piano company that you can trust. Even the so-called “new” pianos sold at some prestigious piano companies are not that well-maintained. You should ask your teacher or someone who knows piano to check it for you if possible.

For the parents are not sure if their young children are serious about learning the piano, I suggest you rent a well-maintained piano from a local piano company. You can use a decent quality piano at a lower cost. And when you like to buy it, the rental fee paid can be deducted from the selling price as well.

Q6. Do you teach at students’ homes?

My answer is NO. I strongly suggest students take their lessons at my place, for: 1. I have all my teaching materials and equipment here; 2. Students concentrate and learn much better at my place; 3. I don’t have time to travel to students’ places.

Q7. Can I take a trial lesson?

Yes, you can. I am flexible on this issue. I call this an “evaluation lesson”. Although I do not think you can see how I teach and how you or your child learn in one lesson, I think a trial lesson is good for us to meet and know each other a little before we venture into a long-term teacher-student relationship. In the trial lesson, we first share about our beliefs and goals for your/your child’s piano learning, then I assess the potential student’s playing and conduct a mini-lesson.

The trial lesson fee is the same as the fee for one regular lesson.

Note: All new students are required to take a trial lesson before I officially take them in as my students. (updated July 12,2011)

Q8. What is a consultation session?

A consultation session is a session in which we focus on solving specific problems regarding student’s playing or teaching. Examples are selected technique training, advices on exam pieces, preparation for diploma exams, etc. Such consultation is an one-off session, while a trial lesson is suitable for students who wish to take further lessons from me in a regular basis.

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In case of any discrepancy between the Chinese translation and the original English text, the English text shall prevail.

鋼琴教學《二》

[anti-rclick]Read English Version: Piano Teaching II

二零一零年四月四日
作為一名教師,我要面對不同類型的學生。我遇到最多樣化的個性、品格、家庭或教育背景的學生。「困難」 一詞絕對無法開始描述老師這工作的複雜性。有時這工作讓我覺得自己擁有世界中最累人和令人沮喪的工作,但更多時候,我發現自己很幸運,選擇了最有價值和最有意義的事業。這兩種極端情況可能帶來流淚: 第一種是抑鬱的淚水而第二種為歡喜的眼淚。

對我來說,每一個學生都是獨特的,他或她有自己優秀的方面。過去,我認為好學生所具有最重要的品質是勤奮:有點才華的學生因為認為自己是「聰明」便可以偷懶,錯誤地相信自己應該藉此而用較少努力、逃脫練習(相反地,這種行為其實是說明所謂的「才華」及「智慧」真只有一丁點兒了,否則便知道自己所懂得的只是九牛一毛吧!?),而勤奮的學生即使在他或她的才華被發現是微乎其微時,其毅力練習將彌補他們缺乏的所謂「天分」。今天,我已經認識到,好學生所具備的首要條件是對彈鋼琴的熱愛,而這是推動學生學習,實踐和成功最重要的因素。

如今的孩子(兒童和青少年學生)具有很強的頭腦和獨立的思維,我對此是全心全意的珍惜及讚賞。但是,有時他們反抗學習或實踐只是刻意為了去違背、抗拒別人的想法而已。他們還不夠成熟到足以決定什麼對他們是好還是壞的階段。他們有時候太情緒化去處理如何學習,如何面對失敗,如何繼續前進。換句話說,他們是不夠勇敢。他們的自我意識太強,令他們變得非常害怕犯錯,誤把小小錯誤當作大大失敗。

作為一個成人、一個音樂人和一名教師,我很清楚知道有關的錯誤和失敗。成長的過程,是一個犯錯和從錯誤中學習的終身經驗。彈鋼琴亦然:它是一個過程,不是一個終點。古語云:「失敗是成功之母」,我堅定地認為,世界上沒有任何一個成功的鋼琴家在他或她的職業生涯從來沒有遇到至少一次或兩次的障礙。我記得有一次,我驚訝地聽到一個著名鋼琴家在其鋼琴協奏曲的表演中間突然腦子一片空白,停止彈奏。指揮給他顯示了總譜,回復了他的記憶,讓演奏會能繼續進行!事後今天,這鋼琴家仍然保持世界著名演奏家中的一席位。

學生一般很害怕嘗試和發生錯誤。隨著不斷鼓勵,並積極強化,我讓他們認識到,一個人彈奏時是不停嘗試 ,發生錯誤的時候,是沒有什麼可失去、沒有必要感到尷尬的 ,並應藉錯誤及改正令自己最終成功。

教了這些年頭,我覺得自己成為一個激勵人心的演說專家。事實上,過去我不是一個很樂觀的人。相反,我是過於追求完美,不停自我批評,變得非常消極和容易悲觀,沮喪。我也認為人需要感到痛苦和壓力,才能彈奏、發揮得好。即使別人提醒我彈奏得有多好,我也覺得自己是不夠好的。

我不記得我是如何成為現在的我, 一位對她的學生最積極的老師(仍然不是對她自己最樂觀,但比以前好多了)。我想我只是意識到,為了使我的學生相信自己,相信自己的能力與才華,我要為他們變得積極。我要讓他們知道,他們也能彈鋼琴,欣賞音樂, 而同樣的原則去生活其他方面實踐。這不是一條容易的道路,但只要持之以恆和努力,我們知道大家是能夠到達目的地。此外,讓我們把目光集中於過程,而並不是目的。如果我們只着眼目標而忘記過程,我們將永遠不會實現目標。相反,如果我們專注於經歷和了解過程,我們永遠不會失敗,而且,我們通常可以比預期更快實現一個更大的目標。

讓我們有信心,並積極學習吧!

Teresa Wong

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