Teaching

Q: Should I rent or buy an instrument?

A: A rent-to-own plan which is usually offered by most music stores is the most practical way to start. This allows for freedom and flexibility if the student decides to change instruments.

Q: Where is the best place to purchase an instrument?

A: It is always best to purchase an instrument from a reputable dealer, preferably a music store. The store will usually provide repair services as needed, and often when the instrument is a student model, it will have a rent-to-own program.

Q: Is it a good idea to purchase a used instrument over the internet?

A: Frequently the people that are selling these instruments don’t really know the playing condition of the instrument, even though it may aesthetically look fine. Although good instruments can be purchased online the buyer has to be very careful. Most of the time it is a final sale. When considering purchasing an instrument over the internet, consult with a professional musician or teacher. Ask the seller if there can be a trial period where you can have its playing condition appraised.
If you are interested in a used instrument, many of the music stores that sell new instruments also offer used ones. This would enable you to have a place for servicing.

Q: What is the difference between the various sizes of saxophones and which one is the best to start leaning on?

A: The most popular saxophones in the saxophone family starting with the smallest to the largest are: soprano, alto, tenor and baritone. The smaller the saxophone the higher the pitch. As the saxophones increase in size, the sound gets deeper. Most children start on the alto because it is the perfect size for small hands and is not too heavy on the neck.
Once the alto saxophone is mastered, the student can move to the other saxophones as desired.

Q: When first learning an instrument, why is it better to have a private teacher?

A: Learning an instrument is not a “one size fits all” proposition. A private music instructor is able to address the individual student’s questions, weaknesses and strengths and develop a teaching method tailored to that student’s learning style. Each minute of the music lesson is spent with that one student making the lesson more productive and rewarding for both the student and teacher.

Q: How long should a student practice?

My teaching method is goal oriented. Practicing an instrument is quality vs. quantity. I encourage my students to forget the clock and to set a goal for each practice session. For example, if the goal is to practice a scale or learn a passage of their school band music, I instruct the student to make the goal of the practice session the task, not the amount of time spent practicing.

Here are some practicing tips that I have found work well:

  • Keep your instrument ready to play out of the case in a safe place, preferably on an instrument stand. It is a good idea to have a ‘music corner or place’ with a music stand and the music for the various weekly practice sessions in view.
  • Warm up on a piece that you really enjoy and that is fun to play.
  • Practice playing long tones as a part of the warm up and then move on to scales. Try to learn a new scale a week.
  • Focus on your band music and concentrate on whatever sections you are weak in. Play them very slowly over and over. As you feel more comfortable, add speed as necessary.
  • Have fun. Play for your family, friends and yourself.

Tuning

Q: How much is my piano worth?

A: It all depends on the brand, condition, age and size of the piano. The value of any instrument is subjective. An appraisal should be conducted by a qualified piano technician.

Q: How often should I have my piano tuned?

A: Your piano should be tuned with the changing seasons. During times of high humidity, doors, windows and anything made of wood swells. Your piano is constructed mostly of wood, with the exception of the cast iron plate that holds the strings. Your piano is affected by heat and humidity the same way as those sticking doors and windows. This causes the strings to be under too much tension, which brings the piano out of tune causing it to sound sour and at a higher pitch. In the winter, when the heat comes on in your home, the opposite happens. Most home heating in New England is dry heat and this causes the piano to go flat as the wood dries out. At minimum, to maintain a stable tuning, you should have your piano tuned at least twice a year.

Q: Why are my keys sticking?

A: The piano keys are made of wood. In the summer when the air becomes humid, the wood swells causing the keys to stick. In the winter dry heat causes the wood to shrink and the keys may rattle and sound noisy. This can be remedied by controlling the environment the piano is in with either a humidifier or de-humidifier, depending on the time of year.

Q: What is the best place for my piano?

A: In a perfect world the best place would be on an inside wall of your home or establishment, away from windows and heating or air conditioning vents, doors and anything that will cause sudden changes in temperature. However, if this is not possible, proper and routine piano tunings will keep your piano stable.