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Differences of Adult piano/music lessons

27 Oct

Live without piano lesson regrets.

Piano teachers everywhere have heard parents talk about their own experiences with piano, and with some hint of regret that they didn’t stay with the piano. Adulthood is a wonderful time to learn the piano as a safe and enriching hobby that can be done easily in one’s home or office.

Why piano?

There is something, as an instructor, that makes me giggle when I hear colleagues who made the life commitment to teach stringed instruments. It usually occurs sometime when I’m walking down the hallway and I can’t help contain my laughter. I’m happy as a piano instructor that I don’t have to focus on getting a student to improve the sound quality of a squeaky tune. However, that’s probably the only laughter I get to have as a piano instructor. The things that I focus on improving as an instructor with pedagogical technique/method are far more serious in producing quality and quantity of piano music.

The Focus and differences of Adult piano/ music lessons

1. Training hands that are accustomed to other movements & using fine motor skills that are previously untapped.

2. Ear training in tonalities;-  the Adult ear has a musical awareness the new child learner is only forming.

3. Memory work that can, for some time at the beginning, be inconsistent from week to week. One week it’s easy for an adult to remember something and the next week the focus isn’t there. We adults simply have more pressing matters on our mind than most children. And, we have to mentally prepare ourselves to block out those thoughts and keep the cel phone turned off for the time that we are practicing, if possible.

Memory and focus for adults is one of the biggest trials for me as a piano instructor. And, I can also relate in adulthood. Adults simply have more things going on in life. And, unlike a life threatening rock climb, piano doesn’t require complete focus to stay alive, as an enriching hobby. For this reason, it’s important for adult learners of all ages to treat their time at the piano as a musical meditation time. When one begins to equate learning slow finger movements to a slow walking meditation, we have begun to enter a more focused mindframe. This level of awareness is needed in the first months of adult lessons so that performance frustrations don’t overwhelm the chance of success at the piano.

4. Performance self-conciousness for adult piano learners is usually higher than for children (who accept that performing is another kid thing they’re supposed to do, and all kids understand this). It’s important for beginning adults to perform in a peer friendly environment. Everyone has different amounts of time to give to their piano study in adulthood in order to maintain their adult responsibilities. And, this time is everchanging in our adult lives. We must be patient with ourselves and our life circumstance, breathe, and accept where we are at the instrument. It’s more important to embrace our piano study as a gift to ourselves, and accept any performance opportunity as a step in our progression at piano learning.

5. Musical awareness is a bigger difference with adults taking piano/music lessons. Adults simply have heard more, seen more, and experienced more in life than a child. Because of these factors and the life long experiential depth that has developed a full range of emotion;- adult learners who take their time at developing tonal/muscular control of sound will have more to express than many adept child performers. In part, as performers, we call this practicing the aura or emotional maturity of a piece rather than just practicing getting the keys and basic rhythm.

I hope that this helps adults who are looking into taking piano lessons. The most important thing though is to have fun with playing the piano and performing. For adults who want to begin on their own, I suggest checking out Alfred’s Adult Piano Course level one with CD. The CD is a bit “fast”, but work through the book at your own pace. Find a teacher to correct your written work in the book (which may be a good review if you’ve had prior lessons), and maybe if you feel ready;- assign some pieces.

I have my own 2-3 year syllabus that has 14 pieces selected from the Classical Repertoire for children or adults to learn from, and to expand their understanding of the Classical piano performance and dialogue. The pieces range from simple Bartok to Mozart and Bach, and then Mostly the Great Romantics – Beethoven & Chopin followed with Debussy and Shostakovich.

Aside from the above mentioned syllabus, I primarily teach adults how to work on anything that they want to play.

Black notes create imaginative rainbows

26 Oct

Black notes created dark Gregorian chant  music scores.

Black notes created sacred Baroque period music scores.

Black notes created noble Classical period music scores.

Black notes created passionate Romantic period music scores.

Black notes created the colorful Impressionistic period music scores.

Black notes created revolutionary Contemporary period music scores.

Black notes create our now Modern period music scores.

Children and adults alike are to imagine the colorful, articulated sounds that breathe life into the music. It doesn’t matter what color one prints the notes on the score, there are more techniques to learn than ever. Black notes have worked for over  since 6 BC. And, coloring those notes various colors does not necessarily make one a more articulate player on the modern piano.  However, the common modern tactic to keeping interest at the piano is to make it a more interesting experience to sit at the piano. Black notes, rewrote and written for over 2000 years of the human experience…now in color.

When I started my Studio

26 Oct

by Angela M. Kneale

I had been competing at the then named
MTNA Baldwin piano competition 1986 and MTNA Yamaha Piano Competitions 1989, 1990 etc. at
the Pennsylvania state level for 3 years (when making state level
just 1 year was unusual). I also had at least 2 years of choral
accompanying under my belt in High School for an approx. 80 voice
choir, and other special choirs. Though mostly I focused on my solo
work, outside of the occasional concerto competitions (reserved wins
for a particular other teacher’s daughter in the area, known fact
going into the competition) And, since I was a child, I alongside my
brother had some publicity playing at various local & Lehigh
Valley events and college repertoire classes for the better part of a
decade. This first 8 years of experience was the precursor to my
first advertised piano teaching in my 9th year at the
instrument prior to starting my undergraduate degree at age 17. I
can’t say there would be that many teachers/piano instructors like
myself who had success at competitions prior to commencing teaching.
I was never encouraged to obtain even an MTNA certification in
discussion of my “teaching career” for which I prepared for from
age 12.


The first method books that I used at
that time for beginners were Alfred d’Auberge, and the John
Thompson’s Scale Speller and Chord Speller for music theory. And, I
used Chopin Preludes and other Technique books with some older
students. My starting lesson rate at that time in the early 90’s was
a meager $14/ hr. And, my parents controlled how much time I was
allowed to teach on my piano, enough to pay for my own lesson for the
week with additional class and maybe part of my brother’s lesson. The
money I made teaching as a known child pianist went right back into


The good part of having such a low rate
was that I quickly secured a waiting list. I advertised in a local
area Penny Power for a reasonable/affordable rate with my lunch
money. Having the waiting list allowed me to be more selective about
choosing who stayed in my studio. And, I even had a small number of
intermediate students who were close to being my peers. I was able to
pick and choose who I liked to teach because some personalities were
not compatible with my own. This way I began to develop my
instruction style, and learned to have parent – teacher meetings.


My pedagogical study preparation was to
read two books about teaching piano under tutelage of my teacher at
the time. I knew from the Sokoloff influenced lessons I had, what
scale requirements were for Curtis Institute at the time (no internet
then). And, later heard that everyone thought I’d be wasting my time
to audition at Curtis due to my mixed-race and my family’s lack of
money in the US (the Curtis Institute supposedly seeking large
donations from any place). However, I barely touched on scales with
my first group of students and I had a more interesting time to teach
a student who had permanent dyslexia.


That was the start of my studio, I had
not many more than 10 hours of teaching at any time. It was my last
year of Senior High School that I began advertising my teaching. I
had other audition requirements, accompanying commitments,
performances, and schoolwork that last year. However, I completed
High School performing at my Baccalaureate service. I had scholarship
offers from every school to which I applied including;- University of
the Arts, Temple University’s Esther Boyer School of Music,
Westminster Choir College, Ithaca College to name a few. And, after I
left Pennsylvania;- decidedly for my safety (though proving untrue
later on), I managed to secure a handful of students while at


My sophomore year of my undergraduate
degree was the beginning of my second decade at the Piano, and my
third year as a piano instructor.


FAQ- When to start a studio?

26 Oct

In the USA, business is business. Parents can start businesses to support their children’s futures. Though, for most people at the piano, it is a luxury and not a way of life. The time to start a studio, depends largely on one’s goals, their training, and their instructor’s tolerances. The downside of this is that Pianism is still an art and even the surly mobs of the USA consider almost anything they do “Art”.  So, for those people who actually have some respect left for the art of pianism;- there is tradition that is handed down to us, even in small quantity;- is better than none.

This is where Classical piano tradition has diverged from America’s passion with originality that consists usually of a daily burger. And, so many people enjoy the simplicity of knowing what to expect. Music itself is not a game of anticipation. Music has become something where the American audience likes to know that they were right. So, most performers who are winning over Audiences are simply giving the audience members key items, musical phrases that end simply as expected. There is no need for originality in music. There is only making sure that most people, who listen to simple music are always comforted with knowing that they are “correct” in their anticipation of where the music is going. This is difficult for most any composer to call original since it is a pattern that has been repeated, regurgitated, and embellished upon for over 3 centuries.

So, why on earth would anyone in their right mind start a studio at this point in time? What are they going to prove to the world and how will they make their mark? We know there are 1000’s of home studios that are springing up in the advent of major studio collapse. Like buzzing of bees that stimulates current hive collapse, the music industry is finding the sound frequency of anti-freeze more appealing than “intellectual” music.

Anyone can start a studio when they want. Music has simply become a generic version of the “hallmark card syndrome”. It’s simply a matter of maintaining a balance sheet where profits can outweigh the investment. Disrespect and annihilation of those of us who have cleared a small path to a higher perception has totalled the need for payment of our services, unless of course someone really expects and wants a reward for their hard work and appreciation for pianistic art.

Starting a studio solely depends on cash at hand, rewards, and parents or students playing a financial card game to run away with the grand piano dream. Anytime would seem to be appropriate, even if it is a plan over generations.

Student Fundraiser Recitals

25 Oct

It’s a joy when a piano instructor has students who love to perform. Now, let’s add to the skill set of the compassionate intellectual artists and make the recital a fundraiser. I like choosing a good US-based International Organization so that the children especially can also learn about the world outside of the USA. One that I chose for my students at the time the Thailand Tsunami happened was WSPA (World Society for the Protection of Animals). One of the first things I did was contact WSPA and they kindly sent materials (age appropriate) for my students to read and watch. This opened their world to the interrelationship of sick and multiplying animal populations abroad, and how it affects human populations. Maybe a bit heavy, but a good topic in my mind.

I created some  fundraiser drive sheets for the students. They had two options and could either collect donations in practice hours or as a flat donation. The next thing, was of course practicing. Meanwhile I went to some local businesses & product sales reps to seek out prize donations and contributions for the students efforts. When it was time for the recital, and I had secured all the basic recital necessities, I had the students vote democratically on making the event public or private. I felt this was important so that if they wanted to have their efforts noticed locally, they had the control.

The fundraiser recital was a bit more humble & fun than a more dressy event. I baked a super healthy vegan apple cake with fresh berries that vanished quickly. All of the students played well and seemed to have a great time. I handed out the prize awards for their efforts at different donation levels, and the donations were totalled in front of the group. The check was sent to WSPA who later sent a nice letter of thanks to all of my students, which I distributed amongst them.

Many of the children in this area where I have taught since I was a teenager are very proactive about putting on their own events. So, my hope is that some of these students will venture out as musicians later in their lives with a mission to help others.   Within 2 months of this recital fundraiser, I was busy on my own independent project affording, organizing, & coordinating teaching 20+ Chinese exchange students as through PeopleLink for August in the Doylestown Area.  more later…

Things for a Student Recital List

25 Oct

Student Recital:

1. Students

2. Students with memorized pieces for a recital,  3 to 4 pieces from each student is preferred or more than 4 for a better time.

3. Student recital agreement contract (I’m finding that this is a MUST in the 21st century, and for Adult students)

4. Venue & piano

5. Concert Piano Tuner

6. Chairs for hall

7. Refreshment Table

8. Flowers of some sort (nicer though not necessary)

9. Recording equipment

10. Printed Programs

11.  Certificates

12. Camera/ Video Camera

13. Chair for a page turner ( if works are not memorized)

14. Refreshments – Non-dairy, no-eggs, no meat

15. Table Cloth

16. Press Release (possibility if students vote for public concert)

17. Prizes (if Fundraiser event with recital)

18. Give notice to students that 10 days to 1 month before recital they should be ready to perform.

19. Students/ school  should have mechanical licenses for copyrighted works, register each song @ $15/ song even for video taping.

20. not may be safer for posting video.

My Piano Syllabus & Method

22 Oct

20 years of my teaching & creating successful students. Yesterday, I spoke briefly with someone in my family who works for Czerny, a music publisher, about my publishing my piano method. I will most likely self publish, though securing library matters is necessary for future consideration. I have been teaching mostly and successfully producing quality students without following any particular method book;- though I have delved into several beginning method books. My focus in my teaching has not been financial. My syllabus simply is an outline of the Method and how I have successfully taught hundreds of children and adults. It is a complete method with all elements of pianistic skill for Classical & Jazz that include: Rhythm, Theory, Sightreading, Fingering, Artistic development, Memorization, Performance, Quality Recording level, Composition & Arranging.  Though I have used portions of this method for children as young as 3 years old, the age level may vary greatly for each student as well as the depth and immediacy of understanding concepts.

My Method book title is: “A Performer’s Piano;- Learn a Virtuoso’s Perspective.” for ages 3-adult

It is meant for a 2-3 year course of piano study that should be conducted by a well-trained pianist. This is not meant to be taught by piano teachers who still cannot clearly voice or play the works of Chopin.

Though the onset of my method is very accesible to nearly everyone, the method is for those who truly desire to play piano well in a non-competitive forum. This isn’t a method where one is going to learn to play… and then somehow fail to meet the Classical Literature that is performed by virtuosos. There are select pieces from the Great Masters for the student to choose from. Younger students will spend more time in Bach, Bartok, & Mozart. The adult student will learn from Bach, Bartok, Beethoven, Chopin, Debussy, Mozart & Shostakovich. And, the study of these pieces and my Stamina & Technique excercises that include Performer’s theory should aid beginning pianists of all ages in understanding the piano virtuoso a little more. That is aside from developing skills from the first months of lessons that can last and be useful into a concert performing career should one desire a more serious course of piano study.

Please write to on Facebook if you have any interest.


Happy 200 to Franz Liszt!!!

22 Oct

The Grand Piano Concert Master. I think you, Franz Liszt, were the Ultimate control freak, yet admireable in every facet of his control and his success. Happy Birthday!

My only reflections of Liszt in my life…so far below:

Liszt; When I was 12-15 I dabbled on my own in the Transcendental Etudes that captivated me, as well as the Hungarian Rhapsodies (which seemed “not so bad” to me at that time). Yet, I had to work on my Beethoven Sonatas that I loved playing and which they said I would grow into someday (with emotional maturity). Aside from later being assigned exercises from a Master Teacher who was a Liszt Academy graduate, I never really had a lesson on any of the Great Master Liszt’s works. I had studied a variety of techniques to add to my private pedagogical studies. I read nearly every book in the library that I could one summer when I stayed and lived at Music School on piano teaching.  And, it was nothing like sitting as an audience member to witness Mikhail Yanovitsky’s performance of Totentanz. Or, witness Eugene Albulescu’s (winner of the Grand Prix du Liszt) demonstration of his musical intellect and technical aptitude that was compared to speeds of a downhill skier in some lesson I scheduled. Not even then did I touch on Liszt.

It took until late 2001 for me to actually have a Liszt lesson (on a piece).  My UnSospiro (Liszt’s 3rd Concert Etude) went in a matter of a month from being an assignment 12 hrs before my sitting in a Lehigh Valley Music Teacher’s meeting with Gary Graffman giving a master class (Un Sospiro on the repertoire) then being pushed up front by other teachers (iow: not my idea to perform again) to have a quick hearing at the piano. I had virtually stopped performing in the area for fear of physical battery by white supremacists (usually female) who didn’t like me at the Piano at all. Each time I performed, I had to be practically forced.  I took some notes on Graffman’s class on UnSopiro. Thankfully, I practically grew up performing in that difficult Peter Hall not far from the Founder’s room, where America’s Founding Fathers once met, that muddies sound instantaneously. Then later that month I went to Faust Harrison in Manhattan. I was so surprised that they sat me in front of a restored Steinway from the 1800’s. I asked “are you sure?” as I took the bench. They said yes, and something to the effect that someday the piano will bloom and I was permitted to help that process happen. My only lesson in Liszt, aside from Thomas Michael handing me the Liszt Sonata with yet another copy of Paderewski’s Edition of the Chopin Preludes (a book people seemed to like to give to me frequently and that I would re-gift).  Happy Birthday to Liszt. Maybe sometime before his 201st birthday I will perform some Liszt program and work it to completion. I can only hope that I could do so.


200 years of Franz Liszt on Oct. 22

19 Oct

Liszt  birthday concerts & available tickets are posted here to celebrate the Father of the Solo grand piano concert.


I recollect that I was at Faust Harrison for some “blooming” hammer trial and was taken to a restored later 19th century Steinway. I decided trying yes, that Un Sospiro would be fitting for the instrument. And, yes it sounded more beautiful than I ever imagined it could, and got an immediate grasp of an entirely different piano sound. It was stunningly beautiful and I felt it belonged on the period instrument. Throughout my “competitive” childhood I used to love listening to the Transcendental Etudes. I felt they put Chopin’s etudes to shame. And, one teacher said to me at a lesson after I explored the Chopin Etudes;- so how do you like them? I said “not really”. He told me (pre internet era) “you’ll find some other ones you’ll like someday” (Godowsky reference). I used to sit with the book and recording, too afraid to touch the pieces on the piano most of the time. I think I set my fingers into the Wild Jagd or Chasse Neige as my first exploration in Liszt’s repertoire and then left it for lack of time. I dabbled in the Hungarian Rhapsodies when I could pull a book aside. My mother was strict about what she heard coming from me at the piano (lesson material only for fear I would be called Lazy again). I never really spent time on Liszt, even in adulthood. Most of it thrown together for the first time, as a reading. I’ve worked casually on about 10 pages of the Liszt Sonata (the past week or so) after giving it a complete reading some 8-9 years ago. Today, I’m rusty from life in Hawaii. I miss the real piano world, the one that kept me inspired to keep going with my music endeavors. (All this reminds me that I’ve been chased out of my life in the USA to this Hawaiian water park.)

Lang Lang will be performing in Philadelphia. I know, it’s not a place I can go safely;- despite Philadelphia area being my home for over a quarter century. Eugene Albulescu, a former Grand Prix du Liszt winner, was residing in the Lehigh Valley before I left nearly 3 years ago. I’m sure there will be some splendid concerts this week/weekend. I wish everyone the best.

Holiday songs uploaded

18 Oct

Christmas Day. Video recorder. Photos. And everybody happy singing and playing on camera! Watch out though, not all our favorite Christmas Carols and songs are going to be left alone if posted on You Tube. Whether you are a seasoned performer or not, you may want to check the list of public domain and non-public domain songs to avoid potential legal complications. So the kids playing Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer— yes, you might want to keep things covered as they are in the Public Domain.

One good website to see if your favorite Christmas carol is listed is:

For the Classical music buffs you can read through the copyrights and public domain info usually posted at the International Music Score Library Project:

Generally for any performance, whether school, home, private, or public concert;- we need what’s called a mechanical license when releasing recordings (even as memorabilia) that costs about $15 to perform the work/song, record it, and release it to the public. This is usually necessary for anything that happened in and after the Rockefeller era @ the 1920’s. So,  is the easiest all round issuer of mechanical licenses. It’s nearly the equivalent of paying the original artists to use their work and doing an at home family sing-a-long cover on video and then post it to You Tube.  I feel it’s paying for some performing rights even if I’m not making money- see article on Performing Rights for those who are getting paid.

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