Category Archives: Uncategorized

Online Theory Building Resources

Learning Music Theory involves the “why” and “how” of music. When learning to play the piano, music theory is a great companion. I make it a point to include music theory in each piano lesson. Feel free to explore and practice skills on the computer with these online games:

Various Beginner Games

Ear Training

Interval Recognition

Tonal Recall

Various Theory Lessons & Games

Rounds and Canons to sing

Tutorials

Also useful for the budding composer in each young student is music writing software. Musescore is a free download with many great options.

If you have any questions regarding these games or the software, don’t hesitate to contact me!

How to Choose a Piano

When beginning piano lessons, a big factor will be the piano you choose. Some students already have pianos in their homes. However, many do not. Many parents have asked me for advice on choosing an instrument through the years, so here are some guidelines.

Guidelines for Choosing an Acoustic Piano

First of all, when choosing a piano, please don’t get a piano without taking a tuner with you to inspect it first.  Even a “free” piano is never free because the work it may take the tuner to get and keep it playable may cost a lot in the long run. My son, Bill, who is a piano tuner trained at North Bennet Street School, offers appraisals to ensure you choose a good instrument and avoid “lemons.”
 
Secondly, Bill says to stay away from spinet pianos if at all possible.  The tuners charge more to service them because it is difficult to access the knobs.  To choose a piano that is not a spinet, the measurement from floor to top of piano should be at least 40 inches.
 
Thirdly, when choosing a piano, remember that it takes at least 4 strong men, blankets for protection, straps for securing, and a truck (preferably with a trailer) with extra suspension to move it.  I recommend a moving service.
 
Fourthly, to keep a piano well, it needs to be tuned at least annually.  Obviously, my recommendation is Bill. 🙂
 
Finally, to keep a piano in good condition, it needs to be where you are, meaning temperature-controlled and against an inside wall.  That also means if someone posts a picture of the “free” piano, and it appears to be in a basement or garage, don’t even look at it.
 

Guidelines for Choosing a Digital Piano

A keyboard with weighted keys is best if you decide to choose a piano that is digital or electronic. Determine if mobility is important for your instrument because some digital keyboards are portable, being sold separately from their stands and seats, and some come encased. Though not heavy like an acoustic piano, these digital keyboards are less portable. Another factor is stability. Some keyboards, while very light and portable, do not withstand the heavy playing of intermediate and advanced students.
 

Pros and Cons of Acoustic Versus Digital Pianos

Pros and cons of acoustic versus digital keyboards must be weighed here. First of all, there is nothing as wonderful as the feeling of the vibrations of real strings as a pianist plays. However, there is nothing so dreadful as the terrible sound coming from a badly kept, out of tune piano. Pros: Good vibrations, stable to withstand heavy playing, aesthetic beauty.
Cons: Annual maintenance & repairs, depending on needs begins at about $150, lack of portability, requires space in temperature-controlled environment.
 
That being said, advantages to digital keyboards would include headphone and computer interface capability, and, as stated earlier, mobility. The obvious disadvantage would be digitized sound rather than the percussive sound from the hammers striking the strings, and perhaps the lack of stability (in some models) that is needed for intermediate to advanced players. Pros: No maintenance (unless digital parts wear out–this is a possibility in older keyboards and those played by advanced students), headphone jacks, computer capabilities, portability. Cons: No aesthetic qualities, lack of acoustic vibrations, lack of stability. The Piano Technicians Guild offers this handy guide for deciding between acoustic and digital pianos.
 
 
Each family should consider all the options when choosing a piano. The Piano Technician’s Guild has a more detailed guide you could also use. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask!   

Practicing When Taking Piano Lessons

Methods of practicing when taking piano lessons can be a mystery to both parents and students alike. However, with a few basic strategies, practicing the assignments given at a piano lesson can be simple and streamlined.

First of all, during the piano lesson, I write down the book name and page number to be practiced. Then I will assign a number of times to play the song or exercise. For younger students, sometimes I make a chart for them to mark off every time they play it. This works well for kids who may forget just how many times they have played the song. It also gives the feeling of accomplishment to mark off each time the song is played.

Otherwise, the assignment may look like this:

Lesson: pp. 22-23, 5 x (I use “x” to represent the word “times”)

In some cases, there is a need to separate hands for ease of learning. In this case, I may use the code “HS” (hands separately) 3x, “HT” (hands together) 3x.  I may also use the code “RH” 5x, “LH” 5x (Right hand and left hand, respectively).

Many parents will ask me how long their student should be practicing for piano lessons. This is a great question, but I find that time is not always a good gauge of good practice. I would rather a student play through the assignment as given than to stare at a clock or timer if he or she has finished the assignment. In the beginning, very young students may only play for 10 to 15 minutes. As their abilities grow, their time at the piano will increase naturally.

The goal of practicing new music is to train the eyes and hands to work together to learn a new song. Once that song is learned, the goal of practicing becomes polishing–working out kinks and trouble spots, perfecting little areas rhythmically and dynamically, until the song really shines.  From this point, that song becomes part of a student’s repertoire. Practicing has transformed into playing! As long as the student plays that song once a week, he or she will always have it!

Piano Lessons

Piano Lessons Available

Piano Student Playing Chopin during Piano Lesson
Piano Student Playing Chopin during piano lesson

Hi, my name is Christy Reynolds. I’ve been teaching piano lessons since 1995 and am now offering lessons in piano for students of practically any age. Interested in picking up a new skill? Have you always wished you could play the piano but think that it is now too late? Please contact me and we can set up a meeting!