Piano Lessons Designed for You

Stan Watkins Piano Studio offers lessons for ages 5 to adult. Lessons are always planned to meet the needs and personality of each student, as well as their age and life experience.

Beginning piano, ages 5-7

Some young children are ready for individual piano lessons, but others are not. I would be happy to help you evaluate your child’s readiness. I tend to use far more games and activities with this age and I have a whole cabinet of music learning manipulatives to assist with learning.

Beginning piano, ages 7-10

This is the traditional starting age for piano lessons. Beginning to play piano involves a number of different skills which need to develop simultaneously in a balanced fashion. Among these skills are theoretical understanding of music, technical skills, artistic interpretation, and creative expression.

The theoretical understanding of music begins with music reading, and traditional piano lessons have focused almost exclusively on reading music at the beginning.

Reading music involves a number of ingredients, 1) understanding musical patterns and theory, 2)seeing contours and patterns in notation, 3) feeling rhythm in terms of a steady beat and relating rhythm notation to that beat, and finally 4) recognizing the written notes on the page, being able to name them and play them in the correct location. Those who have studied music themselves often assume that naming the notes is the beginning and ending of music reading and they are surprised that it takes their children so long to be able to name notes. In fact, many of them have been successfully reading music for a long time using the other approaches to music before they can consistently name the notes. True fluency in reading occurs when all these approaches become integrated. No matter when a child begins music studies, true integration of reading skills tends to happen about age 9. By that time, most children have learned to read their mother tongue and have begun developing abstract thinking.

I follow a specific order teaching the beginning technical skills at the piano. One of the first learning tasks is to support the weight of the arm with one finger. Many children have not developed the strength and coordination to do this and it can sometimes take several months of patient repetition and trial to learn this beginning skill. Another early skill is developing a flexible wrist. Again, many children have not learned to mentally differentiate one muscle group from another, so it can take a long time to learn these seemingly simple skills.

From the very beginning children are encouraged to become young artists. They will play music that stomps like an elephant or tiptoes like a cat, tells a story or paints a picture. They will also express themselves with improvisation and creative assignments.

Beginning piano, ages 11 to adult

Older beginners differ from their younger counterparts in many important ways. They have learned to think abstractly, so they can learn the theoretical aspects of music, such as music reading, more quickly. Usually they also have a better developed concept and control of their physical bodies, so they are able to individualize the muscles in the arm and wrist, controlling their hands and individual fingers more easily. For all these reasons, piano lessons for the older beginner often progress more rapidly, but playing the piano remains a complicated skill which will require significant time to master.

Elementary, intermediate, advanced piano, all ages

Once students have learned the basics of rhythm and note reading, they need structured, leveled learning experiences. One of my basic tools for accomplishing this is a set of graded repertoire selections. There a variety of options from several publishers but these are some of my favorites

Another tool to motivate advancement is the Royal Conservatory Certificate Program, an extension program of the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, Canada. This provides a recognized national standard of musical success through an effectively sequenced course of study from beginner to advanced levels. The program inspires excellence through individual student assessment, allowing students to celebrate their accomplishment and parents and teachers to track their progress in comparison to others across the country. Assessments are offered three times a year. Check out this video for comments from participants. Additional fees apply for this program.

Transfer students

When students transfer to me for lessons I begin with a period of evaluation to determine their strengths and weaknesses. While I can make some initial assessments at our first meeting, it is only after working with a student for a while that I have an accurate evaluation. I usually discover that some aspects of their musical development are more advanced than others, so our first goal of study is to strengthen those areas which need growth, bringing their musicianship into balance.

Refresher piano, adults

Many adults returning to piano study as adults are delighted to discover that they remember more than they thought. Each course of study is highly personalized, so that every student begins at the appropriate skill level. Adults return to piano with varying interests and desires for learning and those are considered with the curriculum design.

You might also be interested in my blog, What Really Happens in a Piano Lesson

Learn more about additional programs offered.