Entries tagged with “lancaster pa”.

Are you trying to find a piano teacher for your child but know nothing about piano? Here are a few questions that you might want to know and a few possible answers that you might hear.

1. What methods does the teacher use when he or she teaches? The teacher might mention some of the following.

Classical method:
This is the most common method for piano teachers. This involves teaching sight reading, rhythms, finger/hand technique and theory.
Pros: A student of the classical method has a very well-rounded understanding of music.
Cons: Students don’t learn how to play lead sheets (or real-life music) or improvise.

Suzuki method: this method is mainly training the child by ear and having much parental involvement.
Pros: The parent is highly involved in the child’s music training. The child focuses more on good technique and learns things by ear.
Cons: The child does not usually learn to sight-read notes. This is a major hindrance to children using this method unless it is combined with note reading exercises.

Simply Music (or the Australian method)
This method teaches how to read lead sheet and improvisational playing through chordal understanding.
Pros: the student can play many well-known songs quickly. The student learns chord use and lead sheet reading early, and eventually learn to transpose. Much is learned by ear. The student learns improvisation early on, jazz techniques and accompaniment techniques. It is recommended for children that struggle with normal piano techniques.
Cons: Although this method is strong on teaching in lead sheet format, students do not learn how to read traditional two-handed music. The area of classical techniques and sight-reading is very minimal.

Kodaly method: A method designed more for singing. Most know it as the Do-Re-Mi method. It uses speech patterns to help children connect with rhythm and notes. It’s unlikely that a piano teacher will mention this one, but there it is just in case.
Pros: It’s highly effective to help children feel and understand beat.
Cons: The names used for rhythms (like ti-ti to signify 1 and for eighth notes) and note names (do for c, etc…) is somewhat confusing for children if they are going to switch over to classical method at any point.

The next two methods are mainly used in the classroom, but I have heard teachers mention these methods when talking to parents interested in lessons. These teachers are taking advantage of the parents ignorance because the parents don’t know that these are not regularly used in piano lessons.

Dalcrow method: this method combines movement with music (used mostly in classrooms)
Pros: helps children to feel a steady beat.
Cons: You probably won’t do much dancing for piano lessons

Orff: Using musical instruments to play patterns of music.
Pros: It goes well with Dalcrow and Kodaly.
Cons: Again, not used in piano lessons.

I use a combination method of the kodaly method for beginners (to establish feel of beat), classical method for all, and Australian method for older students (after they are proficient with in their theory, rhythms and sight reading).

Many teachers say that they use a combination method. Don’t let them stop there. Ask them about specifics like those question 2.

2. Does the teacher focus on ear training, sight-reading, hand/finger/playing technique, rhythms and theory?
Each one of these is very important.

3. What books does the teacher use?
Although the books that they use do not matter so much, sometimes teachers use the books to describe their methods. For example, the teacher might say, I use Alfred’s basic piano library, Bastien series or the Piano Adventures series. There are plenty of other good ones out there, but keep in mind that you want to know what they teach.

4. How much do the lessons cost and how long is the lesson? Depending on the teacher’s degree, location, and demand, lessons can range anywhere from $15-65 per half hour or hour lesson. The current average for Lancaster, PA is between $20-35 per half hour.

5. At what age, does the teacher recommend giving lessons?
My personal preference is begin when the child can read or the age 6. Generally, they are much better equipped to start at 6 then at 5.

6. How much should you as the parent be involved?
Depending on the teacher, you might be highly involved or not. It depends on what you want and what the teacher allows.

7. What are the suggested requirements for the student’s practice?
For young students (6-7) that are just beginning, I usually recommend 10-15 minutes of practice a day. For most other students, 30-45 minutes, and those that are serious and able, 1 hour.

This past summer, I had the opportunity to teach far outside of the box.  There were several students that expressed a desire to learn to play the piano and were all very eager to do so, the only  difficulty was, most of them did not have hands or had only partial hands.  This was a new challenge that I had not previously faced, but was excited about this opportunity nonetheless.  Thus, with insight from their mom (who said that her children were inspired by this man), we found an adjustable stool, I rearranged and wrote new music to make it physically possible to play, and they learned to play with their toes. It was wonderful to see how much progress they were able to make over just one summer!

So what is the point?  It took extra time, me getting over my dislike of feet, and learning to understand how much each student could be pushed and what was actually possible.  I had to be flexible and willing to delve into the territory of the unknown (creativity).  This is not to toot my own horn, but simply to say, if you are willing to try something new, wonderful things can happen.

Many times, I come across students that have no “disabilities,” but are just as handicapped by their lack of self-confidence.  This is one of the most common things that I see as a vocal teacher.  How you think, affects how you sing.  If you think you can conquer a high note (that is of course, within your range), than it’s much more possible to do that.  Many times, students look at a note and because it looks high on the staff, they can’t seem to reach it because they don’t think they can (even though they warmed up much higher than that minutes before).  Thus, part of my job as a teacher is to be the cheerleader, the counselor, the coach.  Sometimes, lessons end up being more of a pep talk than anything else.  And if I’m willing to be flexible with the time, and am willing to set aside goals for the lesson, sometimes those pep talks are the turning points for students.  With those students that tend to be high stress, it helps to be silly, joke, and do lots of breathing, stretching, and relaxation exercises for they even play or sing one note.  It takes time from the lesson, but it’s very important.

A good example of this is an adult student that I taught.  When she first began taking voice lessons, she was not able to sing above an F4. She had a big personality, and a big speaking voice, but her range was very, very small (less than one octave) and singing anywhere above F4 was very quite and barely audible.  After a few weeks of trying out that new higher part of her voice, and after much encouragement, she was able to use it.  It took many times of my saying, “You may not like the sound at first, but keep using it and it will get stronger and stronger.”

To conclude, if you have the opportunity to work with someone that has a physical or mental disability, or if they are just “stuck,” don’t be afraid to try new things.  Good luck!


This is a pretty rough recording of an old hymn I arranged. I was going through a hard time and the words to this song helped me, but the old tune didn’t seem to fit. Hopefully, this hymn can encourage you too 🙂

Though the angry surges roll
On my tempest-driven soul,
I am peaceful, for I know,
Wildly though the winds may blow,
I’ve an anchor safe and sure,
That can evermore endure.

And it holds, my anchor holds:
Blow your wildest, then, O gale,
By His grace I shall not fail,
For my anchor holds, my anchor holds.

Mighty tides about me sweep,
Perils lurk within the deep,
Angry clouds o’ershade the sky,
And the tempest rises high;
Still I stand the tempest’s shock,
For my anchor grips the rock.

Troubles almost ‘whelm the soul;
Griefs like billows o’er me roll;
Tempters seek to lure astray;
Storms obscure the light of day:
But in Christ I can be bold,
I’ve an anchor that shall hold.

Here’s a fun little song that I sang for my student’s at the spring recital.

Not long ago, I received some good questions and thought that I might share them with you.  These are in regards to some popular misconceptions about the use of the diaphragm.

Q: Here are some of the things that I’ve heard: breathing from the diaphragm may not be helpful when singing and may actually have negative effects.  Also, I’ve read that taking deep breath does not necessarily result in more oxygen.  Continued deep breathing could have very negative effects on the body, in hyperventilation, oxygen supply, eyesight, and more.  What’s your opinion on this?

A: Thank you for your comments. To respond to the things that you have read, here is what I have found in my own research and what I’ve also experienced. Breathing by using your diaphragm is mainly used in singing because it supports a musical tone much better than does JUST breathing from your lungs. It also is faster way to get air through than just your lungs. That is why any professional singer knows how to use his/her diaphragm when singing.

When you breathe from your diaphragm, you’re also breathing from your lungs, but you’re breath is more deep and powerful. Breathing from your diaphragm is a natural way to breathe when you are in a very relaxed state. If you’ve ever seen a baby breathing while sleeping, you’ll notice that their belly is moving up and down–this is breathing from the diaphragm–the breath is slow and steady. Also, a dog uses its diaphragm when it is panting. In yoga, they tell you to breathe deeply from low down–essentially your diaphragm.

For everyday purposes such as walking or running, we DO NOT purposefully breathe from the diaphragm because it can cause light-headedness, or hyperventilation (because there is much more air coming in and out at a faster rate than normal breathing).  Also, from personal experience, if you try running while forcing yourself to breathe from mostly your diaphragm, it’s much easier to get side cramps 🙂

As for worse eyesight, etc…I have never come across this in any of my research (assuming the deep-breathing is used correctly). If you’re only using this as a technique when singing, it is good for you and has no harmful effects. It’s only when used improperly or out of the singing/relaxing context that it might cause hyperventilation.

I hope that this has been helpful and informative. Thanks again for your questions.