Music lessons are important. Children who learn to play piano experience all kinds of benefits which will stay with them for the whole of their life. There is a great deal of evidence which supports the thought that learning a musical instrument is good for your children.

Canstock kid writing in classroomIt helps in the development of language and reading skills, motor skills, problem solving, maths and general accelerated learning for all other subjects. Better memory, better concentration, better concentration and focus, team building, improved social skills, the list goes on and on. It is also good fun!!

image2So, how good should your first piano be? Surely a new player won’t know the difference between a good or bad instrument and you may as well get the cheapest piano? Sounds like a good plan?

Barber Name Plate


A new piano pupil and pupils right through the early stages really should have the best piano that you can afford. The reason for this is that a new player doesn’t as yet have the necessary skills to properly control the instrument and so using a piano that doesn’t function properly will actually instil bad habits.

canstockphoto1693447Don’t forget children have very elastic brains and adapt to situations more easily than us adults. If a piano has a keyboard that is uneven in touch, some keys working more slowly than others, some sticking down, some not even working at all, will contribute to the development of poor technique.

Added to that if the tone is uneven, or the piano won’t stay in tune, or the sound is of poor quality due to a cracked sound board, the pupil will not be able to develop a good ‘ear.’

I still remember the first two piano pianos we had at home. My parents were innocent to the requirements that were really needed for learning piano and information wasn’t so easily available in rural Worcestershire in the 1970’s. Our early pianos were forever suffering from keys that didn’t work efficiently, hammers would break and one piano just couldn’t hold its tuning.malvern-hills

I grew out of our local piano teacher and we eventually found a much better teacher  who, fortunately was great at advising us on what piano we should get. When we finally had a decent piano installed I realised that much of the way I played didn’t work and had to spend a great deal of time figuring out how to use a piano that actually worked well. With the help of my teacher I had to rewire much of the way I played and hear the piano. This took a great chunk of time, effort and patience (for me, my teacher and long suffering parents)

Barber August 2014 071A decent piano that works as it should will encourage your children to keep practising and they will then learn much more quickly. Think of a piano in the same way you would when purchasing a car. Very old pianos and poorly maintained pianos can have sluggish mechanisms which is a bit like learning to drive a car that has worn brakes or an engine that isn’t firing properly.

I do feel it is my mission to help as many families as I can, find the best piano they can afford and help young pianists grow into excellent and happy musicians.

Elsewhere on the Pianolobby website is our Used Piano Guide and our Easy To Buy Guide which is free to download and I hope of some help to you.

Thank you for reading.

Do You Suffer From Piano Playing Injuries?

Lady Playing Piano


Playing piano just isn’t natural! We are not born with the ability to play piano, it has to be learned. Due to the physical nature of playing the piano and the repetitive nature of practice, injuries can occur. Even the most relaxed players can experience difficulties. However, piano practice shouldn’t result in an injury and regular practice done correctly with relaxed shoulders, elbows and wrists will not lead to discomfort.

It might be that the pianistic challenge is too high resulting in tension in the hand and stress in the mind.

My first comment, playing piano isn’t natural may appear flippant, but it is quite true. Most musical instruments puts the body under a certain amount of unnatural strain and the piano is amongst the most guilty.

This strain can be complicated by the age of the pianist, physical development, technique and demands of the pieces being played. Sheet musicAnyone studying piano should practice playing as naturally as possible. Some pianists I have seen adopt contorted postures, lifting fingers at odd angles, leaning too far forward, and move in other unnatural ways.  Much of this takes place in an attempt to execute difficult passages, or to bring out emotion, or it may be simply a bad habit. Forming good habits is essential, as is learning appropriate technique.

What are the main problems? 

  1. Tension. Productive practice ceases when the pianist has tension. On top of this it spoils the beauty of the sound and tensed arms, elbows and wrists will hinder mobility. Try to maintain a good posture and beware of tensing in the body.
  2. Finger Tension. Good technique involves the use of the whole arm and if one plays only moving fingers the rest of the arm will become tense leading to discomfort as well as an over percussive sound.
  3. Posture. Sitting correctly is important in preventing injury. Avoid sitting too close or too far away. Slouching, raising shoulders and having elbows too close of too far from the body also cause difficulties.
  4. Irregular Playing. Prolonged gaps followed by sudden and long hours of practice can also cause stress and damage to the hands. It might be that there is a deadline fast approaching and in order to catch up, long hours of practice each day begins. This panic practice is stressful and hurried, skipping over all the necessary good thoughtful practice. The result is a poorer performance and tension affecting those under trained and overworked muscles from the sudden extra playing.

piano-sheet-musicHow can we pianists avoid these problems? 

Play in way that is most natural. Attempt to have an ease of playing making every movement as if the hand is still at rest. Try to stay relaxed avoiding postures and movements that feel unnatural. Taking regular breaks can help in the prevention of injury.

Keep a good posture. Poor posture such as sitting too close or leaning in causes tension. Avoid hunching shoulders too as this restricts movement of the whole upper body.

Make sure to have the most comfortable fingering. Often the fingering in the printed music is good, but treat this as a guide and take time to find fingering that is comfortable as this could prevent injury.

Play repertoire that is appropriate to ones technical level, avoiding pieces that require more physical ability than is currently possible must be a consideration. Selecting pieces that is neither too easy or hard gives the pianist the chance of progressing in stages rather than jumping into overly challenging pieces and then having to face problems and injuries.

There are many techniques in maintaining a healthy posture when playing which are worth detailed study. Generally, focus on avoid stress and tension, try to keep a relaxed manner and use pieces that are technically appropriate, practicing regularly in short bursts.

Prevention is always the best way to go so stay alert and enjoy your healthy playing.









Tips to help children practice

March 15 076Learning a musical instrument is hard work, time consuming too. Put in those terms, it is amazing that anybody learns instruments, especially today when there are so many wonderful and exciting distractions. However, I firmly believe that learning a musical instrument is fun. Even now after playing the piano for 40 years I still get a buzz from figuring out something new and overcoming challenges in a piece of music. I get the same feeling when I see my piano pupils overcoming their piano hurdles too.

Nevertheless, it can be a challenge to get younger piano pupils to practice. The sooner a practice routine has been established, the sooner a pupil will start to find success. I hope that the following will be of help to parents and pupils.canstockphoto24138411

imagesSetting a time for practice and for how long may help. In the early stages it doesn’t have to be for very long, 5 minutes every day can be enough for very young children. This can be built up as they progress. The set length of time can really help focus energies in the practice, bring about more progress and have a greater sense of accomplishment.

Have a goal for the practice. It can be motivating to have a goal to aim for and help keep the practice as efficient as possible. It might be on say Monday to figure out the first phrase of a piece without stopping due to a mistake, the goal for Tuesday could be to play the second phrase. This accumulates and by the end of the week the child will be able to play the whole piece. That is a great motivator and the sense of accomplishment surely adds to the enjoyment.

canstockphoto9290027It might be helpful to have the teacher set goals for each practice. However it is important for the child to try to figure out what feels possible in each practice too. I am a huge fan of self-directed learning.

Parental involvement is essential. In the early stages sitting with your child really helps encourage children get started. Later on it might just be reminding the child to practice. canstockphoto15366624

Being an audience for your child allowing them to show off followed by enthusiastic cheers is also a great motivator.  Make sure to praise the effort, not just the end result. Praising the effort rewards the attempt and encourages your child to keep trying.

Get music that children are keen to play. Buy anthologies of music that the child can browse, so they can get excited by the music. I mix up styles when teaching, from classical music to jazz styles, songs from shows, film music and music from computor games.

Buyers GuideMake it easy for a child to practice and avoid having the piano in an isolated spot. I had a pupil who enjoyed his lessons but was reluctant to practice. The parents moved the piano to the kitchen where the family gathered. It hasn’t been great for the piano, it now has a fair few chips on the casework and in the long term the greater moisture of the air isn’t ideal. However their son practices the piano everyday and makes huge progress.

Inevitably all children have a favourite piece they go back to. They go back to these because they enjoy playing them. And don’t forget, new pieces which feel difficult now could soon become the next favourites….