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.
*Note: This is also a good reference for teachers who want to set up their studio policy.
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.
In case of any discrepancy between the Chinese translation and the original English text, the English text shall prevail.