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Define Your Goal

Before you undertake the task of looking for a teacher, you must first think about setting the goal for your child. Once you've decided the level you want your child to reach, you can better prepare yourself to commit the time and energy necessary to get there. This will also prepare you to find a teacher that would match your criteria.

I have divided piano achievement (goal) into two major stages - Musical Foundation (MF) and Total Musicianship (TM). Children who complete Musical Foundation will acquire a substantial amount of knowledge in piano playing, music theory and music appreciation. Children who reach Total Musicianship will build a solid understanding of piano playing, music theory and music appreciation. You will find a complete description of both achievement stages in Setting Your Goal. I have further divided each achievement area into two phases - MF I & II, TM I & II. These are defined in Reaching Your Goal where you will find specific skills your child needs to fulfill that level of study.

This guide is not based on any educational study nor referenced from any publications. The ideas were created based on my personal experience. When I realized the need to educate parents about piano education, and knowing the difficulties many parents with no musical background are facing, I thought a step-by-step guide would give parents a better grasp on what piano education encompasses. I hope this guide will steer you in the right direction and help you make an informed decision.

I. Musical Foundation

I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to establish a solid foundation in any kind of musical study that your child pursues. This requires a teacher who knows the importance of acquiring good habits from day one. Once this foundation is set, your child will not only play the piano beautifully, but will also able to start a different instrument with ease. This process may seem frustrating and time consuming at first, but you should never rush your child through this critical phase. It will take more time to correct bad habits later than to get it right from the start.

There are two phases in Musical Foundation - Musical Foundation I and Musical Foundation II. The initial phase is for children who are first time learners and plan to reach phase II or even Total Musicianship. It is also ideal for students who intend to switch to another instrument in the near future or for those who thrive under minimum pressure and enjoy playing the piano 'just for fun'. Whatever your final goal may be, I believe the following areas of learning are the minimum requirements you need to obtain a quality piano education.

The following chart illustrates the importance of each area of learning at this level:

Musical Foundation

Musical Foundation should include but not be limited to:

Physical Placement:
25% Excellent posture at the piano
Excellent hand position on the keyboard
Piano Skills:
40% The ability to read music
Solid technical skills
Strong sight reading skills
Good aural skills
Good practice regimen
Music Appreciation:
10% Music appreciation
Composition
Good understanding of musical styles
Good sense of music
Music Theory 25%

Students should be actively involved in programs outside regular piano lessons (i.e. auditions). I also highly recommend supplementing your regular repertoire with the The Associated Board of Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) for its rigorous program in Music Theory and Piano Examinations.

II. Total Musicianship

This stage is for students who have already established a solid foundation and are ready for a more intense level of training with a serious commitment to daily practice. There are two phases in total Musicianship - Total Musicianship I and Total Musicianship II. Both phases are considered great achievements and children who reach this far will always enjoy playing the piano their entire life. Total Musicianship II is meant for the exceptional few who love the competitive edge and extra challenge, or perhaps for those who consider a college degree in Music.

The following chart illustrates the importance of each area of learning:

Total Musicianship

Total Musicianship should include but not be limited to:

Physical Placement:
10% Excellent posture at the piano
Excellent hand position on the keyboard
Piano Skills:
60% The ability to read music
Strong technical skills
Strong sight reading skills
Excellent aural skills
Excellent practice regimen
Music Appreciation:
15% Music appreciation
Composition
Strong understanding of musical styles
Strong sense of music
Music Theory 15%

Students should be actively involved in programs that offer auditions and competitions. I also highly recommend supplementing your regular repertoire with the ABRSM for its rigorous program in Music Theory and Piano Examinations.

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