Music Teacher's Helper Blog

Taking care of your piano is something that goes beyond lessons but teachers would do well to remind their students how to maintain their piano, keep it clean, in tune and in the best condition possible.

Before the actual playing, a piano beginner should learn a few basic needs for every pianist.

Teachers need to remind students that the place where you play your piano matters, that keeping it in tune is a must, dealing with rust, dust as well as knowing what things to avoid.

Here are a few tips on how to keep that piano in perfect condition for playing.

Piano Placement

This is something every pianist needs to consider, not just to play comfortably, but to avoid anything that may affect a piano in a negative way.

There are a few things that cannot be close to a piano:

  • Fireplaces
  • Radiators
  • Air vents
  • Heaters
  • Air conditioners
  • Gas Heaters
  • Stoves

Remember that a piano is mainly made up of metal and wood so it needs the right type of care to avoid the wood from swelling from humidity.

Swelling can cause the wood to press against the metal parts which is not good for the instrument.

If there is no way to avoid these issues, there is the possibility of having a humidity control system which regulates any changes in humidity with a built-in humidifier and dehumidifier, keeping the humidity level controlled.

Maintain Piano in Tune

The most common concern is, how often should I tune my piano? Well this depends on a few things but the general rule is a minimum of 2 times per year.

However this can change for a number of reasons, the first one was already mentioned and that is humidity and temperature.

A common misconception is that playing a piano frequently is what makes it go out of tune, but it’s not.

Still even if the piano is in perfect temperature conditions, it will most likely go out of tune as the strings stretch.

It’s really easy to know when it needs a tune, just noticing changes in the usual sound is enough, from buzzing and twanging, to changes in pitch or tone.

Another big reason for a piano to go out of tune is when it is moved from one place to another, which makes sense and happens to most string instruments.

Always keep your instruments in tune, otherwise you won’t be able to play it properly.

Also, the more time you let your piano be out of tune, the worse it’s going to get, and you need every key to play the note it’s supposed to

How to Maintain Your Piano Clean 

maintain

Of course part of the maintenance is to keep it clean by removing any rust, dust or anything that shouldn’t be there.

First of all, something that is very important to everyone these days is disinfecting, so how do you disinfect your piano keys?

Well according to steinway.com these are the right steps:

  • To disinfect your piano — the keys are the most important part. Over-the-counter hydrogen peroxide available from any pharmacy, is safe for piano keys.
  • Dampen a cotton pad with hydrogen peroxide and use the pad to wipe down the piano keytops (back to front) between players.
  • Use diluted alcohol-based disinfectants, do not use bleach-based disinfectants or any product containing citrus.
  • If using a spray or liquid bottle, use disposable pads or soft cloths. Put the disinfectant on the towel and not the piano.
  • Always follow up with a dry towel and never leave any liquids on the piano or keys.

Then comes the general cleaning part.

Voicing and Regulation

Regulation is approximately 37 adjustments per key of the pianos action mechanism to enable it to play as it should, this is without any noticeable change in sound quality.. 

This fixes many issues such as wear and tear to the action, excessive expansion and contraction of the wooden parts, loss of strength in the steel springs, normal felt compression, damage from moths or just general neglect.

Voicing on the other hand is an altering of the tone quality within each note throughout the piano by adjusting the tension of the hammer felt. 

That said, voicing is something that may give different results depending on the pianist’s preference, but it is a much needed part of piano maintenance nonetheless.

Things to Avoid!

Some of these above  warnings may be a little obvious but it doesn’t hurt to include the obvious, and there is no such thing as caring too much about your piano.

Once your piano is clean, in tune and ready to go.

Also, avoid this becoming lost in time, don’t forget your piano maintenance as well as teaching your students about it. 

With MTH you can easily get reminded about it as a calendar event, even if your week is full with lessons!

 

 

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The piano is one of the most popular instruments in the world for many reasons, from its sound to its welcoming nature to beginners, however there are a lot of exercises to be done before fully learning the instrument.

While it can be easy to play at first, there is a lot to learn and a very high skill ceiling when it comes to the piano.

In order to continue developing piano skills, teachers need to remind their students the importance of practice and exercises.

Warm Up Exercises

Just like any sport, you need to be in control of your body and muscles by having warm ups and exercises to avoid injuries and improve your performance.

This applies to a pianist’s fingers, so remember to stretch your fingers, your arms and get ready to start playing piano.

The Hanon Exercises

The Hanon exercises for piano were created by French piano pedagogue and composer Charles Louis-Hanon, these exercises consist of independent finger practice. The main goal consists of training the pianist in speed, agility, strength and precision of fingers, as well as training wrist flexibility and endurance. There are 60 finger exercises that were made into a book called The Virtuoso Pianist which was first published in 1873. The exercises include beginner level, moderate and advanced level of training.

There are three main areas that you can improve with the hanon exercises, these are:

  • Finger strength and independence
  • Overall endurance
  • Strength in the wrist and the forearm

These are two of the most effective exercises:

This one improves finger strength and independence, as well as wrist and forearm strength.

This one helps with wrist and forearm strength and endurance.

There are many many more but this is just a taste of what these wonderful exercises offer.

Exercises for Children

Exercises may not be as fun as playing a complete piece, this is specially true to younger piano players.

The idea is that exercises should be fun for children, it needs to feel like a game, for example, teachpianotoday.com has a few good ideas like:

Have your student place their hand on a table top with their wrist resting on the surface and their fingers nicely curved.  This is the “spider”.  He needs to stretch each of his legs.  Have your student reach one finger at a time starting with their thumb and reaching in an upward motion while keeping their other fingertips touching the table top and without allowing their knuckles to collapse.  You can hold something for the spider legs to reach  up to touch, giving them something to aim for.

Once your student has mastered this, this you can give the spider specific exercises for his legs.  Write out finger numbers in random order and have the spider’s legs lift accordingly (ie. 1-3-5-2-4).

So the main thing should be to find fun little twists in order to make it feel like a game.

Mikael Pettersson Tips

Exercises

Mikael Petterson is Swedish concert pianist. He obtained a B Mus (Hons) degree at Birmingham Conservatoire the year 2000 and also attended  Masterclasses with Prof. Hans Leygraf and Prof. Peter Feuchtwanger.

After that he became inspired during his time at the Birmingham Conservatoire, he began teaching piano at various levels which eventually took him to become the Head of Keyboard Studies for Undergraduate and Postgraduate students completing a Music Degree at the University of Wolverhampton.

In an interview with crosseyedpianist.com he talks

I wanted to pass on my ideas on the physical approach to piano playing.  Following my studies with Peter Feuchtwanger, I teach my students various exercises where the focus is on the ‘how’ rather than the ‘what’.  So the movements, relaxation of certain muscles and tension of others are all important, while the notes in this case are almost incidental. I therefore  encourage the students not to be overly concerned with accuracy but instead to learn a new movement and degree of relaxation that can then be incorporated into the repertoire.  There is a great advantage to having this one aspect in isolation since when performing a piano work there are so many musical elements to consider.  Technique and teaching of movements at the keyboard is often neglected until the teaching becomes quite involved, by which stage bad habits have often set in and are hard to correct.  The DVD may be used to learn the exercises from scratch in which case it is paramount to try copying the movements demonstrated as closely as possible.  In the case of my own students the DVD is used as a reminder of the exercises and to support the information I give in the lessons.  Closely related to these exercises are fingerings which are chosen to encourage a particular movement when working on repertoire.  The traditional ‘five finger position’ is not present; in fact there is rarely a position but always a movement which gives much more suppleness and freedom at the keyboard.

There are always new techniques and discoveries in order to make learning piano a lot easier so be on the lookout for new ideas to improve your piano lessons.

 

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Just like any instrument, a singer needs to take care of the voice, this includes good and efficient vocal warm-ups.

When it comes to music education, most teachers will make use of their students’ voice, so singing is an important part of learning music, even if being a professional singer is not your students’ main focus.

Of course, if you are teaching how to sing, you have to take your time with warm ups, not just so they can imitate the teacher and do it well in class, but help them learn to make it part of their routine.

Why Warm-Ups Are Important

Most students just assume that everything the teacher says is ok, but there are some things that should be justified, not because they are that cuestionable but because a singer should know what every warm up is for.

There are several ways to do vocal warm ups, each for a different function, for example, some improve your breathing, help you relax and others improve your range.

Explaining what every warm up is to your students will improve the exercise and make them take it more seriously.

Monitor Warm-Ups

A teacher should be very present during these warm ups, so that he can correct them and make sure that they will do it the right way when nobody’s watching.

Many students can get very dependent on their vocal coaches and teachers when it comes to warming up their voice, and this is not ideal at all, mostly because singers also have to warm up their voice hours or even days before a performance.

Breathing

This is maybe one of the most important and most overlooked aspects of singing for beginners but it should be made very clear that it can do a lot of damage to your voice if not done properly.

It is very clear that there is a specific way your students should learn how to breath instead of just breathing as they would normally.

You can show them the importance of breathing by telling them to sing while breathing normally and then try again after teaching them how to breath with their diaphragm.

The difference will be very obvious, and of course they will want to do it after that, but as a teacher you have to check once in a while that your students are breathing properly in order to avoid

Cooling Down After Singing

This may seem strange but it’s actually very important and recommended to cool down your voice in order to avoid vocal fatigue.

However, it’s also something that it’s very easy to forget for your students, first because it’s not a common thing you hear, second because all you want to do when you stop singing is to rest and that’s it, but if you take 15 minutes to do some exercises to cool down your voice, resting will be more effective.

According to Francisca M. these are some of the best exercises to do to cool down your voice after singing.

  • The Siren Wail – move from your highest (comfortable) note on an “ahh sound,” sliding down to the octave below
  • Chords – move from your highest note down 5 steps
  • Bubble Trill – Similar to your vocal warm-up exercises, incorporate lip trills into your cool-down

Warm-ups

The most important thing to have in mind as a singing teacher when it comes to breathing and vocal warm-ups is to be constantly on the lookout for lack of warm-ups, bad breathing techniques or anything that can put strain on the voice and eventually contributing to not learning how to sing properly.

Remember, your students can only reach their full potential if they take care of their voice.

Did you know it’s easy to add vocal exercises as an assignment in your students’ lesson notes within Music Teacher’s Helper software? MTH likes to make things easy for you and your student to remember what was assigned each week and lesson notes are a great feature for this!

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