Do I need to have an instrument to learn? How long does it take before you can start playing?
  Can I learn on an electric keyboard? What happens in the first lesson?
  How much do I have to practice? When do the terms start?
  How old do children need to be to start lessons? What about school holidays?
  What will I/my child learn? What if my child won't practice?
  Can I stay for my child's lesson? How much does it cost to get a piano?
  Can friends or siblings come to lessons? How much extra will music books cost?
  What if I can already play?
  Do I need to have an instrument to learn?

Yes! Practice should be daily, so most people find that they need to have the instrument in their possession, not at the neighbour's or Grandma's house. If you do not practice, you will not progress in skill. Imagine trying to learn to ride a bike when you can't get your hands on one, you could read a book about it but its unlikely to stick or be all that effective.


  Can I learn on an electric keyboard?

Keyboards are alright at the start while you are learning to read music and note positioning, but they feel very different to pianos and this may present problems when learning to play with expression, and developing fine motor control. Understanding that pianos are a significant investment, if a keyboard is chosen to test the waters, it must have the following minimum specifications:

88 keys
Touch sensitive (loud and soft depending on how hard you strike the keys)
A sustain pedal
A height adjustable stand and seat

Instruments bought at stores like KMart and Aldi are toys, and will waste the quality lessons you are buying. It would be the equivalent of sending your child to tennis lessons with a top coach and equiping them with a table tennis paddle! Only invest in instruments from a music shop.


  How much do I have to practice?

Most students just starting out, need to practice ten minutes a day - the pieces are too short for more than this. Practice time should grow as music pieces get longer and more complicated, the more effort you make, the better you will be. Very young children that have a short attention span benefit from breaking practice up over the day, and mixing theory and practical work.

More important than the quantity of time, is how effectively it is used. Good practice requires concentration, planning and intent, and a positive approach. Children require help to develop good practice habits.

Daily practice is important, because information is 'lost' from the brain very quickly if it is not reinforced. Infrequent practice usually means poor retention of learned material - this makes it hard to build new skills and make progress - which leads to a loss of motivation, and is usually the beginning of the end. Developing a routine where practice is an expected part of the day is the most important approach.


  How old do children need to be to start lessons?

Every child is different, but generally 7 - 8 years old is an optimal starting point, less than this and strong parental involvement will be needed. Children below 6 will not be accepted unless the parents are musically capable and willing to commit time to practicing with the child daily.

Children need logistical thinking, reading, and some mathematical skills to do well on their own, and a couple of years of school has set them on the right path. It is possible to start earlier, however progress may be so slow that you may as well have started later, when learning would be faster and easier (and often happier). Most learning methods that involve children miraculously playing advanced pieces at 4 years old, generally rely on 'parrot' learning and repetition rather than a true understanding. True understanding leads to independent playing and self motivation.

Some consideration also needs to be given to the size of the child. Piano keyboards do not come in half and quarter sizes like violins, a very petite child's fingers may not be big enough to navigate the keyboard, or even press the keys down - and this causes physical issues right from the start.


  What will I/my child learn?

> how to read music
> the notes on the piano
> pieces of music
> general theory
> music history
> aural skills
> music styles and interpretation
> rhythm

> concentration techniques
> how to practice
> accountability
> confident presentation


  Can I stay for my child's lesson?

Absolutely, I wish every parent could do this.


  Can friends or siblings come to lessons?

If they are capable of sitting quietly for the entire lesson time, then yes. If they are going to require 'minding' then no.


  What if I can already play?

That's fine. We will assess the standard you have already achieved and formulate a plan for the direction you wish to proceed in.


  How long does it take before you can start playing?

You will start to play in the first lesson.


  What happens in the first lesson?

You will learn the basics of music symbols, keyboard reference, and begin playing your first pieces of music. You will go home with some information to memorise, and pieces to play from your new books that will have backing tracks to accompany them so you can sound awesome straight away!


  When do the terms start?

Your term starts on the day you commence your first lesson regardless of school terms.


  What about school holidays?

School sites take a break, Redwood Park studio lessons usually continue through holidays, however if you wish to have a break then simply provide appropriate notice.


  What if my child won't practice?

Firstly be sure that your child really wants to learn the piano and not the drums! After that, if the child really wants to learn, it needs to be made clear to them before committing to lessons that learning an instrument involves a commitment from all parties and that you expect a daily effort. Even students that are doing well and enjoy playing, have lulls where practice is down. Occasionally it will be necessary to apply some parental discipline - the thought that 'if they really want to learn, their practice will be entirely self motivated' is simply not true for the majority. Even famous musicians will tell stories of times they didn't want to practice! Application and self discipline is learned, and mostly from parents through example and teaching. Don't forget that learning an instrument is a long process, and new students need time to get use to this concept. Practice and achievement have ups and downs, and as a parent one of your toughest challenges is to ensure that you don't let the 'downs' turn into an out. This builds resilience in children and they learn the value of perseverance.

That said though, if practice is not done properly as per the explicit instructions your quality teacher sets out every week, then the resulting lack of progress will further detract from the motivation to practice (what's the point of practising if it doesn't work?). So making sure that the work set out is actually done in the way prescribed is important, and falls under the banner of parental involvement. If your current teacher is not delivering detailed instructions, then you need to address this.

Motivation to play will be increased if the child's exposure to music is also high. They will recognise music from the radio and concerts they might go to, and be motivated to play the same thing. Therefore it is important that they have access to a wide variety of music. If you want your child to learn classical piano, then have that music playing on the radio, play CDs etc so that they have an expectation of where their learning is heading.

Make sure that good practice is recognised and reinforced. Be positive and appreciate your child's efforts. Never ever make fun of mistakes, or laugh at difficulties.


  How much does it cost to get a piano?

Anywhere from free to $250,000, however $5000 will get you a reasonable new budget piano. Second-hand pianos are obviously cheaper than equivalent new ones, and different brands and sizes will have different price points. Check out your local piano shop to see what is available. Play the pianos - even if you don't know how to play, press some keys because you can hear how it sounds (mellow tone or tin can?) and if the keys are hard or easy to press (light or heavy action - children will struggle with a heavy action).

Pianos are a big investment to purchase. If you are not sure of you or your child's level of commitment, then hire one. For around $80 a month you can get a nice piano.


  How much extra will music books cost?

You should budget for $100 per year in books. The more material a student learns, the better their reading will be, they will also enjoy the learning process more when able to sample a large variety of styles, learn about music history and do theory work to support their playing. Many teachers photocopy from books however this practice is illegal and amounts to stealing from publishers and composers, we require students to purchase their materials. The studio also owns many print licences and is able to provide some low cost repertoir options.


  I don't know anything about music, how am I supposed to help my child?

There are alot of 'facts' to learn in playing an instrument, you can help your child learn these from the tables and workbooks given, by testing and using flash cards etc. That way, you will learn along with your child. When you are present in the lessons you will hear the instructions given, and help your child to remember what to do during the week. You can serve as a reminding and reinforcing service, that gets extra value from your child's lessons. Regardless of how good a lesson is, if the practice is not done, or not done as the teacher said, the results will not meet expectations. Time management is a skill few if any young children possess, so assisting with organising what to do when in practice helps your child learn this. And the very most important job is to be your child's chear squad - no qualifications necessary!