First Things First
Before deciding if your tween or teen is ready for piano lessons, parent’s should look over this list to see if they are ready.
Yes, for your child to succeed at Piano Lessons, they need to have daily access to a piano. An acoustic piano is preferred (I’ll explain why in a bit) but an electronic keyboard is acceptable.
Electronic keyboards come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and have mostly replaced the piano as a “starter” instrument. Electronic Keyboards for Piano Lessons should have 88-keys like a standard piano keyboard. The keys should be full sized just like on a piano.
The number and variety of instrument sounds on the electronic keyboard are really not a factor in terms of piano lessons. The variety of sounds is fun to play with but you should be sure that your electronic keyboard has a realistic piano sound(s), harpsichord and, possibly organ sounds. That’s really it. If the choice is between a large variety of sounds and and a few really good sounds like the three listed above.
Where real, old-fashioned pianos have it all over electronic keyboards is in the important area of piano action which affects the instrument’s “touch”.
Piano action is the term used for the mechanism that works between the piano keys and the piano strings. Every time a key is pressed down a complex series of wooden pieces, springs, hammer etc. (the “action”) are needed to transfer that energy to strike the string and make the sound.
This piano action mechanism give each piano its feel or touch.
Simply put, “touch” is a way that piano players describe how a piano/keyboard feels to play.
Most non-piano players will logically think that the easiest or softest touch is the best choice. But this is not so.
Piano players like to feel a little resistance when they play. It gives them more control of the sound.
I have two electronic keyboards. One was relatively inexpensive and it has a very light touch. I find it difficult if not painful to play that instrument for more than an hour or so. My other, high-end keyboard has a touch that is very similar to that of a real piano. I can play that one for hours without any pain.
In better electronic keyboards with more-piano like touch, the keys are often referred to as being weighted or the user will have options such as: “Hard”, “Medium” or “Soft”. More expensive keyboards like mine actually have some kind of physical mechanism in place to mimic the traditional piano’s action or feel.
What all of this discussion of “touch” means for a beginning piano student: some resistance in playing a note on the piano is actually a good thing, a very good thing! This resistance will help strengthen those young finger muscles.
To me that piano “touch” is the biggest benefit of a real piano. You and your family will have to weigh this major benefit against the cost of the instrument and the fact that acoustic pianos need to be tuned about twice a year.
I use the Faber Piano Adventures piano method books with all of my students. Pre-teen and teen students will use the Accelerated Piano Adventures book. Older teens will use the Adult Piano Adventures book.
Tween and teen piano students often come to me after they have had some piano lessons with another teacher. If they already have a set of appropriate piano books from that teacher, I will be happy to work with those books.
Since tweens and teens have likely had General Music classes, and been in Band and/or Choir, much of what we do early on during their piano lessons is really a review of what they already have learned. I help them to see how what they already know applies to playing the piano.
So, again, unlike my younger students, tweens and teens will usually finish these method books within six to twelve months. Younger students may take 2-3 years to reach that level.
After they graduate from a method book, I will help them to use their musical literacy and newly-gained piano facility to play music that interests them.
This is extremely important for all piano students of any age but I believe it is really critical with tween and teen piano students. So, I always give my tween and teeen students a large say in what music they will learn once we have finished with the basics.
Thanks to the internet, I help my tween and teen students find and download individual songs that they want to learn and them assemble these songs into their own piano book.
Playing for Your Family
Looking back on my own musical development, I think that one of the key ingredients that got me where I am today was the practice that my Dad started of having me play for him and my Mother after church every Sunday morning.
This performance experience was priceless. It also gave my week of practice a focus as I knew that my Mom and Dad would be listening to me on Sunday. Of course, they where listening to me all week while I practiced but playing for them on Sunday felt special, more like giving a recital or concert.
So, I would strongly recommend that you start this tradition with your tween or teen. Set aside a regular time every week that works for your family and have your child play through some songs for you. If other members of the family are also studying music, have them participate as well.
This should start right away after just a lesson or two. Initially, the performance may last just ten minutes
The sooner that you start doing this, the more natural it will become for you tween or teen piano student and your family. As you know, students at this age are very self-conscious. Unfortunately, they may already have developed “stage fright” or anxiety about performing for others in other areas such as talking in front of their class. The best cure or prevention for these kind of jitters like is to have their playing for the family become a very natural part of your home life. It can become a family tradition that every one will long cherish.
When you decide to do this, I would strongly recommend that parents and other family members follow these two rules:
1) Pay attention — Sit quietly and listen. Your tween or teen will love that you are focused exclusively on them and their music.
2) ABSOLUTELY No criticism — Tween and teen piano students need all of the encouragement that you can give them. I am sure that you have some of your child’s art work hanging in your house even if you know that it will never hang in the Milwaukee Art Museum. Well, when your child plays for you, you really need to have that same sense of un-critical appreciation of their piano playing as you have had about their art.