How to Make Piano a Fun and Productive Part of Homeschooling

Integrating piano practice into homeschooling routines offers a unique opportunity to cultivate musical skills, enhance cognitive development, and provide a sense of accomplishment. However, finding the right balance between fun and productivity can be a challenge. In this article, we will delve into the key factors that impact how to make piano practice a rewarding and productive part of homeschooling. We'll explore tips for effective practice, the role of progress tracking, the potential of healthy competition, the art of continuous learning, the power of rewards, and the critical aspect of timing.

Tips for Effective Piano Practice

Creating a conducive environment is vital for fostering an effective and enjoyable piano practice routine. After all, if the circumstances around playing piano aren’t tuned perfectly, then it’s likely that there will be issues. Here are some essential tips for this:

Establish a Routine

Set a consistent practice schedule that aligns with your homeschooling timetable. This routine will help create a sense of discipline and habituation. Also, having a consistent routine will help you keep track of progress, since the amount of time your child practiced to make that progress is consistent.

Short and Focused Sessions

Instead of lengthy practice sessions, break the practice into shorter intervals that are more focused and attentive. This approach helps maintain enthusiasm and prevents burnout. You should only have longer sessions if your child is super interested in what they're playing; if this happens, don't cut the session short!

Set Clear Goals

Define achievable goals for each practice session, whether it's mastering a specific passage, improving hand coordination, or learning a new piece. This provides a sense of purpose and direction. Be sure to always have a goal set; without any goals, there is no motivation or progress.

Variety in Repertoire

Include a mix of musical genres and styles to keep the practice interesting and engaging. This exposes learners to different techniques and musical expressions. By doing this, you’ll also eventually find a genre or style that your child really enjoys and will even start learning on their own.

Incorporate Games and Challenges

Introduce creative games or challenges that focus on specific skills. For example, timed note identification games can make learning to read music a fun activity. These engaging activities not only break the monotony but also make the learning process enjoyable for students.

Effective Use of Technology

Leverage technology to enhance the practice experience. There are numerous apps and software that provide interactive lessons, sheet music, and even virtual accompaniments. Integrating technology can make learning more dynamic and appealing to students.

Progress Tracking: Balancing Achievement and Enjoyment

Monitoring progress is crucial for motivation and assessing growth. However, balancing achievement with the enjoyment of learning is equally important. If progress isn’t achieved fast, loss of interest can definitely occur. On the other hand, fast progress will keep your child’s interest in continuing to learn and play piano. Make sure to keep the following considerations in mind:

Recording Progress

Maintain a practice journal or use digital tools to document achievements, challenges, and breakthroughs. Tracking progress fosters a sense of accomplishment and provides insights into areas that need more attention. Looking back on old videos will give a sense of pride and will give a chance to acknowledge how far you’ve come.

Celebrate Milestones

Acknowledge milestones, whether they involve successfully learning a new piece, mastering a challenging technique, or achieving a personal best. Celebrations can be small rewards, family acknowledgments, or even musical performances for relatives. These celebrations not only reinforce the sense of accomplishment but also create a positive association with piano practice.

Constructive Feedback

Incorporate feedback as an essential part of progress tracking. Regular feedback from teachers or parents helps students understand their strengths and areas for improvement. This feedback-driven approach makes learning more targeted and rewarding.

Goal Adjustments

Be flexible in adjusting goals based on progress. If a particular piece or technique proves challenging, it's important to adapt the goals to maintain motivation and prevent frustration. Goal adjustments demonstrate a supportive and understanding approach to learning.

Healthy Competition: Motivation and Collaboration

Introducing healthy competition among homeschooling peers or family members can boost motivation and collaboration. Without competition, there’s definitely less motivation to become better. However, it's essential to strike the right balance in order to not discourage anyone:

Friendly Challenges

Organize friendly piano challenges that encourage participants to showcase their skills. This fosters a sense of healthy competition and mutual support. Competing in a positive environment not only motivates students to excel but also promotes a supportive community of learners.

Collaborative Projects

Encourage learners to collaborate on musical projects, such as duets or ensemble performances. Collaboration enhances teamwork and allows students to learn from each other. Working together on a musical piece not only improves musical skills but also teaches valuable lessons in cooperation.

Recognize Effort and Improvement

While competition can highlight accomplishments, it's important to recognize and celebrate effort and improvement. Acknowledging the journey and progress encourages a growth mindset and minimizes the fear of failure. When you notice true effort and perseverance, be sure to congratulate your child.

Emphasize Personal Growth

Encourage students to view competition as an opportunity for personal growth rather than just comparison with others. This perspective shifts the focus from winning to self-improvement. Allowing your children to think this way will also set them up for the reality of life: competition is constant and it does indeed motivate.

Continuous Learning: Cultivating Curiosity

Incorporating continuous learning into piano practice nurtures curiosity and a lifelong love for music. Eventually, after cultivating this curiosity, your child will find interest in playing piano themselves. Here's how to keep the spirit of learning alive:

Explore Diverse Styles

Encourage learners to explore different musical genres and historical periods. This broadens their musical horizons and instills a deeper appreciation for the art form. Learning to appreciate diverse styles enriches the musical experience and makes practice sessions more engaging.

Incorporate Improvisation

Allow time for creative exploration through improvisation. This not only boosts confidence but also helps students connect more intimately with their instrument. Improvisation fosters creativity and allows students to express themselves through music.

Regular Skill Expansion

Introduce new techniques or concepts gradually, ensuring that learners are consistently challenged without becoming overwhelmed. Gradual skill expansion maintains a sense of progression and prevents students from feeling stuck in their learning journey.

Encourage Self-Driven Learning

Foster a sense of curiosity by encouraging students to explore topics that interest them within the realm of music. This self-driven learning instills a sense of ownership and passion for the instrument. In the long run, this passion will be the only thing that matters, keeping your child interested in playing for however long they want.

Rewards: Balancing Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

Using rewards as motivational tools can be effective, but it's crucial to strike a balance between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. It can sometimes be very challenging to motivate using only one, so a combination is best. 

Intrinsic Rewards

Emphasize the intrinsic rewards of playing the piano, such as the joy of creating music and the sense of accomplishment from mastering a piece. Encouraging students to connect with the emotional aspects of music deepens their appreciation for the art form.

Extrinsic Rewards

Use external rewards sparingly, such as small treats or extended playtime, as incentives for consistent practice. However, avoid making these rewards the sole focus of practice. External rewards should complement the internal satisfaction gained from musical achievements.

Long-Term Goals

Teach students to appreciate the long-term benefits of consistent practice, such as improved skill levels and the ability to play more complex pieces. Instilling a sense of patience and perseverance ensures that students remain committed to their musical journey over time.

Personalized Rewards

Tailor rewards to individual preferences. Some students may find joy in a special outing, while others may prefer additional time for creative expression. Personalized rewards demonstrate a thoughtful approach to motivation.

Timing: Finding the Optimal Practice Moments

Choosing the right time for piano practice can significantly impact the quality of the learning experience. In fact, timing your practices perfectly will entice your child into playing and learning even more. They can also learn to identify these moments themselves and even begin to practice on their own, unprompted. Consider the following:

Energetic Moments

Schedule practice during periods when the learner is most energetic and focused. This can vary from person to person, so observe your child's or your own natural rhythms. Practicing during these peak energy times maximizes concentration and effectiveness.

Preventing Frustration

Avoid practicing when the learner is tired or frustrated from other activities. A calm and positive mindset contributes to more productive practice sessions. Taking breaks and ensuring a relaxed state of mind helps maintain a positive attitude towards practice.

Balancing with Other Activities

While piano practice is important, it should be balanced with other homeschooling activities, leisure time, and rest. Overloading the schedule can lead to burnout. Striking a balance between various activities promotes holistic development and prevents practice from becoming overwhelming.

Integrating piano practice into homeschooling can be a rewarding endeavor when approached with a balanced perspective. By implementing effective practice techniques, monitoring progress, encouraging healthy competition and continuous learning, recognizing the value of intrinsic rewards, and considering optimal practice timing, piano practice can become an engaging and productive part of the homeschooling routine. Always prioritize the enjoyment of music and the development of a lifelong passion for playing the piano. Through thoughtful planning and mindful practice, the journey of learning the piano can become a fulfilling and enriching experience for both students and their families.

Should I Rebuild My Piano?

The key to maintaining a piano is servicing its parts routinely. However, since there are so many mechanisms within a piano, they will inevitably wear down over time, creating more frequent problems. 

Eventually, there comes a point at which the defects in your piano make it less enjoyable to play. Finer tweaks and fixes stop being effective, and more significant repairs must take place. That’s when rebuilding a piano might be an option. In this article, we will answer your questions regarding piano rebuilding and whether it is right for you.

When do you need to Rebuild a Piano?

First, if you notice that most of your instrument’s parts are out of shape, then it is time for a rebuild. The rebuilding process can cover all of the parts of a piano, unlike more specific processes like action regulation. 

If you would like to preserve the value of your piano, then it is necessary to rebuild it. A piano will always deteriorate over time, and keeping it fit for playing will retain its value as well.

If a piano is of a valuable brand, it makes even more sense to keep it in shape. Certain models of pianos can rise in value. As long as you have done your research in determining if your model is sought after, then keeping it in shape now can become very useful in the future when a potential sale may come along.

What Parts Usually Get Rebuilt?

Action

Put simply, the action of a piano is the mechanism of the hammers striking the strings after a key is pressed. After years of wear, the parts that make up a piano’s action begin to break down, causing sound and playability issues. Additionally, constant seasonal temperature and humidity changes will, over time, cause increased wear on the action of your piano. 

If your piano’s action is damaged, yet all other parts are working, then consider rebuilding only that specific region. If you would like to look further into the action of a piano, we have another article that you should check out.

Cabinet

The cabinet of a piano is the housing in which its mechanisms are located. A fully rebuilt cabinet can get very expensive as the wood must be either refinished or replaced. Many small piano shops also often have their cabinets painted elsewhere, adding onto the time this process takes. Despite these downsides, an investment into a rebuilt cabinet definitely pays off. A cabinet with brand new wood or finish is downright beautiful and will both add to the resale value and your enjoyment of your instrument.

Soundbox

Another commonly rebuilt portion of the piano is the soundbox, which is the region consisting of the piano’s soundboard, ribs, bridges, strings, etc. All of these components make up the quality of the piano’s sound. 

Over time, these parts can get easily damaged due to the pressure put on them by the strings and by environmental changes (temperature and humidity). A rebuilt soundbox will revive the sound of the piano, allowing it to have a fuller and richer tone. 

Cons of Piano Rebuilding 

If you’re looking to rebuild your piano, you will definitely have to consider several factors before making the big decision:

Cost

First, the cost. Piano rebuilding can get very expensive as it is a very large task. Premium brand pianos can cost up to $40,000 to rebuild. If you are willing to make the investment, be prepared to pay the price.

Timeline

Additionally, piano rebuilding is a very lengthy process. Since the entirety of the piano’s mechanisms are being rebuilt, months can be taken at a time. If you are rebuilding to make a profit, which we will discuss in a bit, then do not expect to make a quick buck by having your piano rebuilt. You must put great consideration and planning into your decision before making it.

The Pros of Piano Rebuilding

However, rebuilding your piano can have several benefits as well.

Playability

Most obviously, the sound and playability of the piano will improve. The process will convert the piano into a beautifully playing instrument. If you choose the right piano shop, the degree of work that can be done to improve your piano is simply amazing.

An Heirloom for Years to Come

Additionally, if you have had a piano in your family across generations, rebuilding it will revitalize it, allowing you to keep it for years to come. For many people, their family’s piano is a prized possession; investing in a rebuilding is an investment in their family itself. A rebuilt piano will be able to last another generation of playing, if not more.

Resale Value Increase 

Lastly, rebuilding your piano typically yields increased resale value. If you are 

planning on selling your piano, rebuilding it (as long as the new resale price will exceed the cost of rebuilding) will provide you with a greater profit. However, as we’ll talk about in our next section, you have to be careful with choosing to rebuild. If you think you will have difficulties selling your piano after rebuilding, then it would be wiser to not do it in the first place.

Is Rebuilding Worth it?

In short, it really depends on the type of piano you own and how long you are willing to keep it. Since rebuilding the entire instrument can become very expensive, you will have to consider whether it will be a good investment. 

For instance, a cheaper piano or one of lesser quality is typically not a good candidate for rebuilding. Even after rebuilding, its resale value will still remain lower than the cost of the process itself.

You can speak with a knowledgeable technician to find out whether it will make sense to rebuild a piano. They will be able to guide you through the best solution. 

Another factor that you should consider is the length that you will own the piano after rebuilding it. Oftentimes, as a private seller, it is difficult to make a profit from a newly rebuilt piano. If you are not willing to sell through a store, It makes more sense to invest in a rebuilding in order to enjoy the piano for years on end.

This brings us to the next point: rebuilt pianos in retail stores are often considered to be like-new, whereas pianos from private sellers are perceived as used. It may be wise to look into selling your piano to a shop, where in turn you will make a greater profit on the rebuilding. 

Final Thoughts

If your piano is showing significant signs of wear across its parts, then you should consider a rebuilding. If this is the case, you should confirm that other processes like tuning or action regulation will not be able to restore the full playability of the piano. Having decided on a rebuilding, you’ll have to consider a few things first:

The financial side of the rebuilding process is much more important than simply maintaining the piano. Rebuilding is expensive. So, you need to consider if rebuilding your piano is worth the money. Will you keep it or will you sell it? If you are choosing the latter option, then making sure that you will profit from the rebuilding is crucial. Sometimes, it may be even wiser to not rebuild it at all. If you have a cheaper piano, rebuilding it before selling will lose you money.

If you decide to keep the piano, though, then investing in a rebuilding has no downsides. A rebuilt piano will provide you with enjoyment until the end of its life cycle or until it needs to be rebuilt again.

Since rebuilding your piano is a large decision to make, some guidance can certainly be helpful. If you would like to speak with a piano technician to appraise your piano or speak about rebuilding, visit us or give us a call!

A Guide on The Best Piano Brands: Steinway and Sons

Associated with the finest pianos in the world, Steinway and Sons is one of the most recognizable piano brands. Established nearly 200 years ago in New York, Steinway and Sons pianos are revered for their unique sound and craftsmanship.

Above all else, Steinway pianos produce a sound that is unparalleled in quality. While their piano prices are also unmatched, pianists and piano technicians have mentioned they are worth every penny.

Steinway & Sons – History

Heinrich Engelhard Steinway, a famous piano and cabinetmaker from Seesen, Germany immigrated to the United States in 1850. Upon arriving Heinrich put his piano making skills to good use and established a manufacturing company named Steinway & Sons, which become a symbol of wealth and culture, in early 1900s.

In fact the fine quality of the Steinway construction process and musical designs inspired other manufacturing companies to adopt their patents. Even today, many pianists are fascinated by the features that Steinway pianos offer, some of which are rich and powerful sounds, stronger frame, and sensitive action.

From generation to generation, Steinway and Sons designed modern pianos until the 1960s. During this time, they had no heir willing to continue the business. After some time, however, CBS purchased the company in 1972.

However, running an instrument business took a toll on CBS, which is why it sold the company to an investment group. In 1996, a brass and woodwind instrument manufacturing company bought the ownership of Steinway and Sons and named it Steinway Musical Instruments Inc.

Today, the piano brand owns a factory branch in Hamburg, Germany, and is one of the largest piano makers in the world.

Steinway & Sons – Product Line

This brand manufactures a wide range of hand-crafted pianos with the finest quality. Here are some popular product lines you should consider:

1.      Upright Pianos

The Upright piano’s body has incredible support due to strong braces and beams in the back. The strings, soundboard, and plate are vertical. These pianos are ideal for rooms with limited space.

Steinway’s upright pianos are around 43 to 52 in high, taking the same amount of space on the floor. Despite being suitable for smaller rooms, the performance of these Upright pianos remains top notch.

2.      Grand Pianos

Grand pianos have horizontally positioned strings and soundboard.  The action in Grand pianos is highly responsive as it works with gravity. Needless to say, the quick response action of a grand piano is comparatively better than upright pianos. The special thing about Steinway’s grand piano is three pedals. These pedals perform different functions, which include:

3.      Boston Brand

In 1992 Steinway launched its Boston line of pianos, designed by Steinway & Sons and built by Kawai.

Constructed with superior wood, Boston pianos and grands have a unique and excellent sound.

Several features in the Boston piano are similar to those in the Steinway. In addition tot that, Boston grand action incorporates some of the latest refinements of the Steinway action.

Some find Boston pianos to have a little better sustain and more tonal color than Kawai pianos, though otherwise they are similar in quality. If choosing between Kawai and Boston, trust your ear and your perception of tone and touch.

4.      Essex Brand

Essex pianos are designed by Steinway & Sons engineers and are made in factories in China and Korea by both Young Chang and Pearl River.

This brand was first introduced by Steinway in early 2001.  A major relaunch of Essex was held in 2006, and a new line of 35 grand and 35 vertical models and finishes was brought to the market.

Steinway has invested a tremendous amount of time and effort into the relaunch of Essex. Steinway engineers worked on new Essex design and incorporated many Steinway-designed refinements that resulted in a well-build piano with excellent sound quality and a tone with a longer sustain.

Choosing a Piano

The sound and tone of each piano can vary based on its age, condition, and the way the piano was maintained over the years. Tone and sound are also affected by room size, tall ceilings, hard floors, and other factors. There is no "best" piano. There is only the best piano for you.

Sound and tone of every piano, even in the same model line, will be different.

The piano you choose should be based on how it feels when you play it. It should make you feel good. The quality of the bass, middle, and treble tones should be pleasant to your ear.

Be prepared to try a specific piano out, play it for a while and make a well-informed decision based on your personal impression.

Knowledgeable technician can guide you through the process of choosing the right instrument for you. If you’re looking to buy Steinway, contact Hulme & Sweeny. Call us now and talk to our experts for assistance.