Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What are your rates for teaching and how long are the lessons?
A: I charge $40.00 for a 45 minute lesson, and $50.00 for an hour lesson. I do not teach 30 minute lessons, because they are a joke! There is not enough time to work on technical issues, or music theory, or repertoire. Some parents may have concern about this for young children, but I have found that if you vary the activities during the lesson, it is not a problem. However, some exceptions may apply if the student is very young, such as a 4 or 5 year old, and what their attention span is. These issues I would have to discuss with the individual parents.
I have talked with my own students about this, and they have other friends that study the piano, or whatever the instrument may be, and they can’t believe that their friends are only getting 30 minute lessons. One piano student of mine who is only 8 years old was in disbelief and amazed that her best friend was only getting 30 minute lessons on the piano, with another teacher.
Q: What are your rates for violin performances?
A: I charge $100.00 an hour within any performance arena. I perform Classical music, usually with piano accompaniment, and Jazz and World music and hot Latin with guitar. I am available for solo recitals, Salon (Home) concerts, private parties, hotels, weddings, benefits/fundraisers, and corporate events.
Q: Where can I buy a piano for my child?
I recommend AZ Piano in Phoenix.
Jason Sipe is the owner. This is where I bought my piano. It is one of the largest piano stores in the entire Southwest. They do have sales at least once a year, and have used pianos in pretty reasonable price ranges, and many brands of pianos to choose from.
I recommend Yamaha or Kawai pianos the most.
If you buy from craigslist, there is no guarantee that you won’t get a piano with a lot of problems to come along with it. You don’t know how well the piano has been taken care of, and you could end up with a piano that needs a lot of repairs. The pianos at AZ piano have been tuned and maintained regularly.
One should expect to pay around $2-3,000 for a good quality used piano. Now, are there exceptions? Yes, sometimes you can get lucky. A local church may be giving away or selling a piano at a very low price, for example. And as I mentioned before, buying from a website such as craigslist can be risky, however, if you find a piano that looks like it could be a good contender, before you buy it, hire a piano tuner and technician first. You may be able to pay them a small fee for their time to help you evaluate the piano, and ask them ask them how much they would charge for their time, to go online and look at it, or to physically go look at the piano you’re considering purchasing,~and, their professional opinion . as to whether you should buy the piano or not.
For those who have a smaller budget, there are basic pianos called spinet pianos. I call them the “model T” of pianos. They are harder to keep in tune because of the way they are made, but you can potentially buy a spinet piano for about $1,000. This is a good way to find out if your child will become serious about the piano. If your child ends up not liking the piano, and doesn’t take their practicing seriously, then you can easily sell it. Someone is usually looking for a spinet piano. They are smaller and don’t take up a lot of space in your living room. Or, it can also be used to sell and upgrade to a better piano in the future, if your child excels or does really well on the piano.
In addition to purchasing the piano, one needs to include in their budget the price of moving the piano, and especially in Arizona and the Southwest, the cost of installing an internal humidifier.
This can be $300 or more to move a piano, depending if it’s a local move, or if it’s a piano that’s more than 100 miles away. Do not attempt to get a truck and move the piano yourself! You could injure yourself! Hire a professional piano mover. Please. They have the right truck, and the experience of moving pianos without damaging them. Often upright pianos can be on wheels, and they would roll around the truck. They are extremely heavy (the average upright piano can weigh anywhere from 200 to 1,000 pounds!), and it’s much better overall to spend the money and hire a professional piano mover.
As for humidifiers, the internal humidifier I purchased with my piano at AZ piano was professionally installed when I bought the piano, but I imagine that somehow it can be installed separately. It is called a dampp chaser. (It really has two “p’s” in the name-that is the correct spelling!) I highly recommend the dampp chaser because it can preserve the life of the piano; prevent cracks and preserve the wood from the dry weather in AZ, and it helps to keep the piano in tune. I am not sure of the cost, but you can find out if you call AZ Piano. They would know the prices, and be able to install it for you if you’re buying your piano there, or hire a piano technician that knows how to install one.
Here is more information on the dampp chaser
Q: Is it okay to start piano lessons on a keyboard?
A: Yes. While it is not ideal, I would say a digital piano is the best alternative to a piano, and a regular keyboard is adequate, if it has all 88 keys.
However, if you want to find out if your child would be dedicated enough to warrant the investment of a piano, I would recommend the “middle ground” choice, the digital piano. The keyboard can be fun, and makes different sounds, like horns, and drums, and synthesizers. If you want to think long-term, you will almost always lose money when it comes time to sell the keyboard in favor of a piano. If you buy a digital piano, you may not lose quite as much money, though I am not completely sure of that.
Digital pianos usually have the “action” of a regular piano. In other words, the keys are weighted and it takes a bit of effort to actually push the key down. Whereas if you play a keyboard, you could practically blow on the key and it would go down. 😊 This does not help the student develop any strength in their fingers, and, when they go to play on the regular piano at their lesson, it would be a bit jarring for the student. It would be kind of like taking a leisurely walk around the block, compared to a brisk walk, or running around the block. Maybe that’s not the greatest comparison, but you get the idea.
Also, digital pianos usually come with a sustaining pedal, or sometimes 2 pedals. At least one pedal is necessary to have after about 6-8 months study, as a student will incrementally get introduced to using a sustaining pedal in some of their music, to be able to sustain the notes longer than a few seconds! Also, digital pianos are more stationery. Like pianos, they are not moved around a lot in a home. If you do plan on moving the instrument a fair amount, to play in a band for example, then perhaps a keyboard is a better choice, or get an instrument that is more lightweight.
Here is a good article on digital pianos and some recommended brands.
Q: How much should the student practice?
Don’t be surprised if, in the beginning, your child or whatever age the student is, practices 5-10 minutes a day.
They will have likely only one or two pieces of simple music to learn. Or, if you are like me, I played the same silly simple pieces over and over, because I was so excited about learning how to play the piano! (This applies to the violin too, of course, or any instrument you are beginning to learn.) I have a lot of explaining to do in the first lessons: about the keyboard itself, and symbols in the music, posture, how to sit at the piano, how to hold the violin and bow, etc.
This takes time.
Incrementally, the student will practice more~20 minutes up to an hour or more a day. I recommend to practice 6 days a week, with one day off.
Pick your day off. However, I always tell my students, “Don’t be an all-or-nothing practicer!” I apply this philosophy to my own life. In other words, if you think to yourself, ‘I only have 15 minutes to practice, so I won’t bother with it’ – I won’t practice at all. I’ll do something else. And we all know how many distractions there are all day long, with smartphones being the main culprit…and the list could go on and on!
This is the wrong attitude.
Put your phone on vibrate if you have to, if you have one. Leave it in another room. Unplug. Make sure you, or the student has a peaceful and quiet place in your house where you can practice, and be free of distractions. Preferably not *too close* to a T.V., or where other members of the family are walking in and out of the room. However, if the piano is in your living room, as they often are, have a clear understanding with the other family members that “I have to practice now, so please do not disturb me and give me some peace and quiet.” Like other routines your family may have, try to work out a schedule for the student that is best for them. If they are an early riser, that could be before school, or if not, after school, or before dinner. And before the student gets too tired. If you leave practicing for the last activity of the day, they are less likely to do it. It is like brushing your teeth. Make practicing part of your/their daily routine.
I have had countless times over the years, when I’ve been so busy, that all I have is 15 minutes to practice. And if you’re a really good, efficient practicer (which I teach my students how to do~very important to be efficient and not repeat the same mistakes over and over again!), you would be surprised at how much you can accomplish in 15 minutes if you really focus. Practice one line of music, or work on one or two measures of music that give you problems. You will feel so much better about yourself!
*Inspiration and motivation*!!
These are some of my two favorite words in the English language. And I say these two words a lot to my students.
Because we all need to be encouraged, and inspired, and motivated. And there are so many great musical artists to inspire you in the world, outside of their lessons with me.
There also may be other stories of human interest that may inspire you or your child~struggles with life issues, struggles countries go through.
Then take that inspiration, and let your child, or you, put it into the music.
Q: What inspires you, or the student to practice??
I strongly encourage the student and parents to listen to good quality Classical, Jazz, or Broadway music in the home, or your car. Make good quality music a part of your life.
Some pop music is fine, and I will be the first to say that there is some good pop music out there, but if that’s all that you or your child listens to, that would be the equivalent of eating only American food every day. Have you ever tried Mexican food, or Thai food, or Indian food? Whatever it is. There is so much more good quality food to eat~tastes to experience, and, with music, sounds to experience, with good quality music to listen to. Music is food for the soul.
Watch videos on YouTube. Stream Classical or Jazz music on Pandora or Spotify. Play C.D.’s. Listen to the Classical station on Public Radio. PBS has a lot of great concerts that you can watch, if you are a PBS Passport member. I love the PBS concerts! They have great Classical and Jazz concerts, all seen from the comfort of your living room. Being a Passport member on PBS only costs $5.00 a month, which is the bare minimum you can contribute to be a Passport member. It is some of the best $5.00 a month I have ever spent!
Go to live concerts (when there isn’t a pandemic 😊). It can be life-changing sometimes! I know it was for me as a child, to go to live concerts~ when it’s safe, and when you can.
Give your child, or the student, and yourself, the inspiration and motivation to practice. Watch and see how other pianists or violinists that are the best at what they do, and see how they do it. This is so important!
Q: Do you have recitals or performance opportunities for your students?
Yes. This is also so important!
I have what are called “Performance classes”, which are in-home performances for my students, with constructive commentary from me, and the other family members on their performance, with refreshments afterward. It is like having a performance and a lesson, combined. I think the student learns more, rather than playing in a recital, which is great, but then all the student does is perform, and then they go home. They get no feedback from the teacher on their performance. Usually, I will host a Performance class with 2 students, with all their family members. That is all I can fit in my home. I have them every 2-3 months, when I feel the students are ready. This casual performance environment helps the student feel less nervous, hopefully, and prepares them for the time when there are more live performances with larger audiences. When there are a large number of people in my studio, I usually host recitals at a local church.
During the pandemic, I have hosted Zoom recitals. I have them 2-3 times a year. Zoom recitals, I have found, are the next best thing to live recitals, just like online lessons are the next best thing to live lessons. They work pretty well, and more students can participate, because it is all in cyberspace. And more family members and friends can listen in. I am not confined to the size of my living room. 😊 No one has to go anywhere. Also, as the student gets more advanced, they may want to participate in talent shows at school, or play in nursing homes, play at birthday parties for their family members, play Christmas music for their family and friends; there are competitions, or whatever performance opportunities arise for them. This helps cultivate in the student their confidence as a performer, and, as a human being.
Q. What is your music education and background?
The person who provides music lessons for your child ideally should have a university degree in music. Formalized instruction provides your child’s music teacher with knowledge in all aspects of music.
My own formal music education started in High School while I attended the National Academy of Music on a full scholarship in Champaign, IL, studying violin with pedagogue Paul Rolland for 2 years. I received my Bachelor of Music Degree from Eastman School of Music in Violin Performance, and Masters Degree in Violin Performance from the Manhattan School of Music in New York City.
Ask for the instructor’s own educational background.
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