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Piano Study Q & A

Q: Is it better to learn to play piano on a keyboard or a grand piano and why?

 A: Definitely a grand piano or at least a real upright piano. The way keyboard and piano designed are very different thus, the weight of keys, speed of key reactions and etc are very different between keyboards and real pianos. For beginner who just start learning notes and basic theory, keyboard could get them start. However, when they're more established and when they need to make their technique and overall performance to the next level (play faster, more dynamic control, sound quality etc ), they do need to practice on real piano to experience the different touch and that's when keyboard is limited. 


Q: Should I tune my piano by myself or have a a professional tune it for me? 

A: Certainly a professional tuner regardless if you're using upright or grand piano. Piano tuners are trained professionals who know how to take care of a piano and who knows the pitch standard. Many people are out of tune to be honest that they don't know the right pitch when they're doing it themselves. They will also give you advice such as  humidity and temperature you need to keep for your piano. Just like cars, you always take them to a car dealer to get the maintenance and fix done. 

Q: What city do you live in? Do you know of any restaurants or venues in your city that features professional piano players? 

A:I live in Chicago. I know the Peninsula Hotel in Chicago sometimes features Sunday brunch with pianist. The Chicago Chop house sometimes features piano players too. Years ago when I was still in college, one of my summer jobs is to play piano in Mariano's!! It seems like they don't do that anymore now.

Q:If I didn't take piano lessons as a child, will it be more difficult for me to take piano lessons as an adult? Why or why not?

A:Certainly NOT!! From my experience, adult has much better understanding of concepts and basic and actually much faster to pick things up. They also show sincere appreciation of music. When I was 22 I was an teaching assistant of piano class/lessons that's for adult who starts from ZERO. After one semester, they all can play Jingle Bell in F Major and A Whole New World with both hands fluently! The only difficulty I could see was the time commitment for adults. However, it's the same difficulty for everyone. If a child and the parents don't spend time on it, they will NOT progress either! 

Q: What are some of your favorite things about teaching piano? Do you have a preference for adult or children piano students?

A: My favorite things about teaching piano is that I can deliver the right method/approach and establish a deep foundation to the next generation or music lovers. There're so many places/people teaching piano in the wrong way such as teaching wrong technique or no technique, jumping the progress, ignoring the sense of rhythm or exaggerating the musicality that students will just carry the wrong approach over years and it made them stop from progressing. I teach children who're beyond 4 years old and adults in all levels. Discipline and time dedication is REQUIRED in piano learning.  


Q:How long and/or how many lessons will it take for me to progress from a beginner to intermediate piano student? How long and/or how many lessons will it take for me to progress from an intermediate to advanced piano student? What are some subjects I will need to cover as a beginner piano student vs an intermediate piano student vs an advanced piano student? 

A: Great question! It all really depends on how much time and effort you put into it and how disciplined you're with piano practice.  Tons of scenes could happen. A 6 year old child who practice 2 hrs everyday with parents watching them strictly could progress into intermediate level in 3-4 years with the right method. A 5 year old child who practices one hour every week without parents's overseeing would NEVER progress in to intermediate level and eventually they will want to drop the piano lessons. Trust me, it happens. From beginner to intermediate level, note-reading, correct & steady rhythm, correct fingerings & hand positions are the MUST COVERED objects. From intermediate level to advanced level, different technique, sound quality, musicality, playing rubato perfectly would be the main challenge.

Q: Is it easier to play contemporary piano songs or classical piano songs? 

A:They're difficult in different ways. Overall classical piano songs are more difficult in terms of technique, understanding of music theory and just hard for memorization. However, contemporary songs are difficult mostly due to their compound rhythm( a lot of syncopation, ties, change of beats frequently). John Legend's ALL OF ME's beginning piano part is a good example of that.

Q:Can I practice piano online using a virtual keyboard? 

A:Not recommended. Again, you won't be able to develop your technique, dynamic control, speed etc on a virtual keyboard. 

Q:What are several quality websites for obtaining free or affordable sheet music? Which websites are your favorite for downloading sheet music? 

A:For free and affordable sheet music, I usually just google them and see where have it. I personally use for downloading pop and contemporary piano sheets. For piano students who're not advanced level yet, I would still recommend them to purchase piano method books from Amazon and just use online music sheets as supplementary materials. 

Q: What tips do you have for pianists that want to write their own songs? 

A:First, make sure you really know music theory. You know all your chords and major, minor keys, dominant & subdominant chords, form (structure: is it ABA form? or AABA? etc) and more. The more you know the better. Second, choose several of your favorite singers and just listen to their songs as much as you can. You'll gradually grab the sense of the musicality of their music. Then try to write something similar( not copying). After you write something similar, you'll be able to develop your own version based on that established sense of musicality. 

Q: What bizarre songs, if any, have students asked you to teach them to play on piano? Can you play any quirky songs or theme songs on the piano? 

A: I haven't had any bizarre requests on songs yet. And yes, I have no problem to play theme songs or "quirky" songs on piano. 


Q:What are some of the best keyboard and piano brands and why? 

A:YAMAHA, STEINWAY, FAZIOLI, KAWAII are all good piano brands. YAMAHA and KAWAII are affordable Japanese brands with good quality. They are perfect for people who needs to practice technique. STEINWAY and FAZIOLI are artisan German pianos. They're more luxury and a lot more expensive. They would have more different levels of depth of keys and the sound quality is rounder instead of sharper.

Q: Do you recommend I buy a piano online or from a store? What websites and/or stores are the best places to purchase a piano? 

A: Definitely buy it from a store because you need to try (play ) it in person first before you buy! I would just search on Google to find local piano dealers. For more experienced piano players, they can go to eBay to find good deals from personal sale at home.

Q: What tips do you have for students about to have an audition? 

A: LIVE WITH THE MUSIC FOR AT LEAST 5 MONTHS BEFORE your audition. That means not only you'll practice hard everyday, you'll also listen to CD, mp3 of these music to enhance your memory. You need to feel they're as natural as a part of your body. Remember, you'll ALWAYS need to prepare 120% to play out 100%. I'd also suggest students imagine the location, audience and facility of the audition. Put yourself into that situation would make you feel different and prepare yourself any possible problems you might counter. For example, if you forget about your left hand, where should you pick up and continue with the music? If you're prepared for all these situations and imagined them in your head beforehand, you would be ready for your audition.


Q:What tips do you have for pianist that want to sing and play at the same time? 

A: Take it at a slow tempo first. Make things right at first instead of singing wrong pitch or play wrong chords!

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