How to Prepare for Your First Piano Lesson
Although piano is a common instrument to study, it can be complicated getting ready for your first lesson. Instruments are large and can be expensive. We turned to our teachers to help advise future students on how to prepare for lessons, even while on a budget.
Piano vs. Keyboard
Experienced educator Dawn Linebarrier explains, "It is not important whether the student has an acoustic piano over an electronic keyboard for lessons. There are pros and cons to each, but these pros/cons do not hinder the student from being able to learn to play the piano. Factors that help decide which a student has include finances, available space, availability of a local piano tuner, goals of the student, and more."
In addition, professional music and acting teacher Heather Lanza indicates, "Most students, at least until they are at the stage of competing in piano competitions and playing advanced piano literature, don't need a piano, or even a full keyboard."
Professional Oboist and Pianist Grace Mehm advises, "In my opinion, either a piano or keyboard will work for beginning students. Of course, having a 'real piano' is always the ideal, however it's not always practical for the student. Especially with online lessons, a keyboard gives you more options with your setup for lessons."
It is important to discuss your instrument access before beginning lessons. Many teachers are open to assisting students with different set ups, but some are particular about the supplies their students use. Composer and instructor Rob Kovacs simply states, "It’s important to have one or the other - a piano or a keyboard. They both feel different but either is sufficient to learn the instrument."
How to Obtain a Piano or Keyboard
Social music expert Rosemarie Rodriguez offers, "My advice is to have your teacher come with you, if your teacher is in another state, have him/her recommend a store where you can buy your piano or keyboard. Such as Sam Ash Music, Guitar Center, or a local dealer."
Jazz specialist Sean Steeves recommends, "If you get a 'real piano' make sure to get it tuned first. Used pianos are great but get it checked out by a professional. You can find them at piano stores or craigslist or a friend/relative who has a piano and is looking to free up some space in their home. If you are purchasing a keyboard, do not buy an old one because technology changes so fast. Be sure to get weighted keys and a full 88 keyboard. Yamaha and Korg are great brand names to choose from. Both a piano and keyboard need to have a bench that you can adjust to your height."
As Steeves notes, there are some great resources for obtaining free or cheap used pianos. Often times the most difficult part is moving it!
Instructor and composer Ron Ferlito says, "I usually recommend a Google search by specific product name and number before purchasing anything in person or online. There is often someone selling the same thing for less money if you hunt. However, local stores are great for follow up, instruction, and hands-on experimenting and may be worth a few extra dollars."
Actor and musician Liz Turner gives some recommendations if looking for a piano, "I have had a Kawaii baby grand piano for over 15 years, and love it! Also check local newspaper and online ads for old schools, churches, community centers, and private sales selling, or giving away older pianos."
Experienced instructor Elizabeth Rentas alternatively suggests, "Local music stores will sometimes rent pianos/keyboards."
There are lots of options for students on a budget and with limited space, so don't let this stop you from beginning piano lessons!
Supplies for the First Lesson
Lanza does not require supplies going into her beginning lessons. She states, "My students are usually assessed in their first lessons, when I'll determine the best book for them. A book is usually all that's needed in the beginning stages of my piano lessons."
Mehm suggests, "Pencils! It seems like a no-brainer, but it's surprising how often having a pencil is overlooked by students. Having a pack of post-it flags is also a real quick and easy way to highlight what needs to be practiced during the week."
Teachers unanimously agreed that pencils and an instrument are important for the first lesson, but that no other supplies were necessary right off the bat. Many teachers will suggest a method book during the first lesson to use going forward.
All of our teachers at Lessonface agree - there is no background knowledge needed to begin piano lessons. Ferlito beautifully states, "Students need more of a desire than any knowledge. Many of my best students have started from scratch not even knowing where any of the notes are and unable to play anything. But they want to learn how to play something and grow and that is the gas that makes music education go."
Mehm also encourages adults to begin lessons, "This notion that students need to know anything about the piano or music before starting lessons, I think, is one of the main reasons adult students are hesitant about starting lessons. As long as you have a piano/keyboard and the desire to learn, you're ready for lessons. Everything else will come with time and practice."
Songs for Inspiration
Kovacs loves playing and improvising on the classic Maple Leaf Rag by Scott Joplin.
Ferlito is inspired by the emotions in Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven.
Steeves enjoys working on Chopin's Mazurka in A minor.
|Dawn Linebarrier has been teaching adults and children for over 16 years. In addition to playing piano, Dawn is also an accomplished clarinet and flute player.|
|Heather Lanza has been a music and acting teacher for over 14 years. She has traveled the country performing and acting. Heather also teaches guitar, voice, and acting in addition to piano.|
|Grace Mehm is a professional piano and oboe player. Grace also loves teaching an effective but fun style.|
|Rosemarie Rodriguez is a passionate church musician and educator. Rosemarie is also an expert in social music.|
|Sean Steeves has been a piano and brass teacher for over 15 years. Sean enjoys playing classical styles as well as jazz, pop, rock, and blues.|
|Ron Ferlito is a professional instructor and composer with over 20 years of experience. Ron enjoys playing church music and recording, but has a special passion for teaching.|
|Liz Turner is a professional actor, singer, and songwriter. Liz loves teaching piano, voice, clarinet, and recorder.|
|Elizabeth Rentas has been a piano teacher for over 18 years. Elizabeth enjoys teaching children and adult students.|
|Rob Kovacs is a passionate composer and educator. You can catch Rob as the first pianist to perform Steve Reich’s Piano Phase as a soloist, as it is meant to be played as a duet between pianists.|