Frequently Asked Questions
This is a list of brief answers to some of the most common questions I hear from new and prospective students. Please contact me by email to schedule a meeting if you would like to talk further before signing up for lessons.
1. How do I know if my child is ready to start piano lessons?
The normal age to start piano is at 5-7 years old. Your child may start piano lessons sooner if she knows and recognizes the alphabet letters A-G, and the numbers 1-5. She should also be able to concentrate on something for 10 minutes and be willing to follow instructions. At the beginning, daily practice time will only be 15-20 minutes, but this increases as the difficulty of the music does.
2. Is my child or am I too old to start?
No, you are never too old to start. You just need to be patient with yourself, and consistent with practice. It takes about 6 years of lessons and daily practice to become a good pianist. Sometimes adults think they can achieve more quickly. Adults can process information more quickly, but practicing time may take even longer than children’s. So patience is required.
3. How long should a weekly lesson be?
Beginners’ lessons can be 30-45 minutes. Intermediate students who have had about 3-4 years of lessons should have a 45-minute lesson. Advanced students with over 6 years of lessons should have an hour lesson.
4. What kind of an instrument do I need?
You can begin with a touch-sensitive keyboard with a minimum of 61 keys, but you will need to move to an instrument with a full 88 keys and 3 pedals within a year. The best instruments are acoustic, even though the marketers try to say the weighted keys on a digital piano are the same. They are not. Volume control is best attained in a larger range by a grand piano or a studio upright. Good pianos will run between $5,000 and $20,000. Most piano dealers will let you rent a piano with option to purchase. Tuning the piano annually or semi-annually is extremely important.
5. Why is learning theory important?
Music theory is the study of the language of music. It includes note-reading, rhythm concepts, harmony structures, compositional devices, scales, chords, arpeggios, inversions, Italian (and other languages) words, and a host of other items. All of this must be understood in order to be able to ultimately teach oneself new music. The work of the teacher is to put herself out of a job. That means that she wants the student to be independent enough to understand the instructions on the music page so he can interpret and perform the music on his own. The study of theory begins this process.
6. Is there a parent guide available to assist students’ learning?
Yes. Gabriella Ryan has written a manual called “A Parent’s Guide to Piano Lessons.” It is available for $10 by contacting her. It contains much more information for parents to help their children, even if they themselves have never studied music.
About Gabriella Ryan Studio
Gabriella Ryan, NCTM, is a nationally certified piano teacher, with over 30 years of teaching experience. Originally from Italy, she has been president of both the Richmond Music Teachers Association and the Virginia Music Teacher Association, and is an active member of the Music Teachers National Association. She offers piano and music theory lessons for all ages, from beginner to advanced levels.