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5 Ways Playing A Musical Instrument Can Benefit Your Health

 

Besides being fun, learning and playing a musical instrument can have many positive effects on your health and mental wellness. Research shows that these benefits can occur at any age and come from playing any instrument. Keep reading to see why people are playing instruments to improve their general health.

Stress Relief – Playing an instrument can help refocus bad energy into something positive and enjoyable, which in turn can help alleviate stress. Reduced stress levels lead to slowing down your heart rate and lowering your blood pressure. Research shows that playing and composing music can reduce stress by lowering cortisol levels.

Improves respiratory system – Whether you’re singing show tunes or blowing into a saxophone or oboe, one of the most important things you can learn is how to breathe properly. Producing a good sound on any wind instrument is dependent on your breath, making breathing with the proper technique a must.  So while you are in the pursuit of becoming a great singer or woodwind player you are actually also improving your respiratory system.

Exercise – Playing an instrument can be a great form of physical activity. Playing the piano, guitar or drums takes a lot of upper body strength and playing  for extended periods of time can help build muscle while also improving your posture and increasing your stamina.

Improves Cognitive Performance – It has been shown that playing and listening to music can help improve memory in  people suffering from  Alzheimer’s disease. Playing music has even been shown to help people recover from strokes as well as slow down the onset of dementia and Alzheimers.

Improved Immune System -Research between Tenovus Cancer Care and the Royal College of Music has found that singing for an hour can increase levels of immune proteins, reduce stress and improve people’s mood. Studies have also shown that making music enhances the immunological response, which enables us to fight viruses.

 

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3 Reasons Why Your Child Must Take Piano Lessons

 

Between baseball, soccer, karate and cell phones, our children’s schedules are packed with  fun activities. If you were on the fence about adding piano lessons into the weekly grind, here are a few reasons why piano lessons might be an important activity for your child to be involved in.

  1. Learning to play the piano helps teach children how to concentrate, focus and be patient. During a piano lesson so many different skills are being learned. Students are essentially learning how to read an entirely new language. Children are learning to be present and in the moment and to focus on the music and the technique it takes to make the music.  It’s a great way for kids to clear their minds of stress for an hour a week and concentrate on an amazing art. Piano lessons are also a great way to challenge kids into learning a new skill. Learning how to sit down and focus on a task will help them in many different ways as they get older.
  1. Piano lessons help develop speech, cognitive skills and social abilities. Music study requires a high degree of precision in auditory processing: being almost in tune is not good enough. This means that musically trained children are better able to distinguish subtle details of speech, leading to improved reading, better comprehension, and also a greater ability to interpret what other people– children and adults – are really saying.” (The Royal Conservatory) https://www.rcmusic.com/sites/default/files/files/RCM_MusicEducationBenefits.pdf

     3)  Piano lessons boost self-esteem.

Piano lessons offer an activity where children can learn to accept and utilize constructive criticism.          Overcoming negative feedback with practice and accomplishing goals will help build confidence and self-esteem in students. Recitals and other other performances will help build confidence in other non musical areas such as public speaking. Also, having a musical skill can help a child stand out from everyone else, further adding to their self confidence.

Are you ready to take your skills to the next level? Sign Up For Piano Lessons Today!

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10 Reasons Why Music Lessons Are Highly Effective: An Infographic

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5 Tips to Get You to Practice Your Instrument

If you really want to get yourself into a routine and stay motivated while practicing your instrument, then it’s best to have a solid plan. The following are five tips to keep you going:

1.   Create the right atmosphere

Nothing will motivate you in your musical practice like the right environment. You might be one of those people who prefer a quiet room. Others need a little bit of stimulation. Whatever setting you like, try to be consistent so as to enter the right mindset when you start practicing. If you will need water, snacks, picks, pencils, manuscript paper, and sharpeners etc. have them with you. If you use apps, download them in advance.

2.   Warm up

Musical instrument practice is much like a physical workout. To get yourself in the mood, ensure you do a warm up every time before you start. That way, you will be able to prepare your mind and body before the actual practice. It doesn’t have to be 15 minutes of fiddling with scales but can be something like sight reading or playing a familiar song if you like. Also, get into the right mindset by considering the keys of the pieces you are rehearsing.

  3.  Set Goals

Practicing is not synonymous with just playing through your music. You need to have the end in mind at the start of each practice session. With a prior goal for each practice session, you will find yourself progressing more quickly and effectively. Only that each goal needs to be broken down into smaller and focused objectives. Every time you complete a goal should help you feel more accomplished.

  4.   Be realistic

Many people – including your teachers – have told you to “get a lot done now”. Of course, it’s not realistic for you to do all your practice in one go. It gets even worse when you have a tough part to practice. The best way to go about this is to practice a little but more often. That way, you can go through a long-drawn process bit-by-bit. Think more about quality and not the quantity of your practice. Practice smarter and not necessarily longer if you want to have the willpower to keep going. Small and realistic goals should help you overcome areas that looked tricky and accept any missteps you might have made.

  5.   Identify and overcome problems

There is no need to ignore any areas you might find problematic. Learn to identify where you are using the wrong fingering or stumbling out of time. Decide why it’s going wrong and make up your mind how you will fix it. Obviously, different problems require different techniques. Problems with rhythm call for steps at mastering it. You may want to practice rhythm by simply clapping it out or use one note alongside a metronome. That way, you will know when to increase the tempo and when to slow it down. With time, you will master your musical instrument. Having the right music teacher is also a huge factor in overcoming plateaus and ultimately making the most progress. That’s where we come in, contact Music to Your Home to set up your NYC music lesson today!

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What is the best age to start music lessons?

Many people ask us “what is the best age to start learning music?” Honestly? The answer varies from person to person.

We currently teach in home music lessons to students of all ages, ranging from two years old to senior citizens. Learning music is like learning another language and many studies show that the earlier children are exposed to a new language, the easier it will be for them to learn it.

Each student is different so what might work for your three year old might not work with another child the same age. Here are some questions to ask yourself before deciding to enroll your child in lessons:

Does he/she express an interest in music? If not, it doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t ready, but if you have a child who really responds to music, through dancing clapping, even banging in the table, that’s a sign that it’s time to channel that excitement into one on one music lessons. A teacher can show them how to clap on beat sing songs, explore different percussion instruments and start to identify basic note reading and rhythmic patterns.

Do you notice your child constantly playing on your piano? Do they gravitate towards other instruments? If you start noodling on your guitar, are they at your feet either listening or attempting to strum some chords? Those are pretty good indications that they might really benefit from more structured music lessons.

Five years old is an optimal age to begin lessons. At that point, children are usually pretty good at being able to sit and focus with a music teacher in their home. But if you have a curious four or even three year old who you know has the attention span for a music lesson, by all means, give it a try!

How about adults? Here’s our rule of thumb, just do it! The only criteria for learning music as an adult is the desire to go for it. One of our talented teachers will take care of the rest, right in your home.

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Picking the Right Small Piano For Your NYC Home

id-100249788With many of our piano students living in NYC, I thought it would be useful to talk about finding the right instrument for your city apartment or home. For many of our clients finding enough space for a full size piano can be a real challenge. Here are our recommendations for pianos that will fit in tight spaces.

  • The Williams Allegro Hammer Action Digital Piano: This is a great piano for extremely small spaces. It’s a digital piano so it’s lightweight and easy to move. It can also be put away whenever extra space is needed. I have played this piano and can say that for an entry level keyboard its sounds are very rich and the hammer action of the keys is excellent for an entry level digital piano. Make sure you buy a keyboard stand and have a stool of appropriate height for practice time. The other advantage is that you can plug headphones into it for late night practice sessions.
  • Essex EUP-108C: Let’s talk about acoustic pianos… Whether you are a professional pianist or a child taking piano lessons for the first time, there is nothing like playing on a real acoustic piano. This Essex model piano is one of the most compact and well-made instruments I have seen. The piano is affordable, well designed, plays well and sounds excellent. I had the pleasure of playing one recently and for such a small piano the sound is very big. This piano can fit into very small spaces and as far as pianos go, its super lightweight so it’s easy to move around if you have to. The piano also has a very stylish look that will fit well into any Upper East Side or Tribeca apartment. The best part about this piano is that it’s made by Steinway and Sons so it has all the latest engineering enhancements from their amazing development team at a fraction of the cost of an actual Steinway. This is definitely a great instrument for beginner piano lessons.
  • Boston UP-118E PE: Here’s another great little piano. This one is slightly larger than the Essex but still small enough to fit into almost any room. The design of this instrument is definitely more traditional but the sound and performance is just as good – if not better than the Essex. Also made by Steinway, you are getting the same standards that has made that company famous for many years. Although this piano has a small footprint it is definitely a little heavier than the Essex so moving it around is slightly trickier. Any beginner student or professional would be very happy to own one of these instruments even if space was not an issue.
  • Yamaha M560: This is a really nice piano. It’s definitely compact, so for apartments or small rooms it’s a great instrument. It’s really well made, sounds excellent and in my experience Yamaha pianos are real workhorses and can take a lot of abuse. It has a different sound than the Essex and Boston but all 3 are great when it comes to that experience. The design is very traditional and somewhat ornate. It’s not my favorite piano ascetically but a great instrument nonetheless. The Yamaha is close in size to the Boston but will still fit nicely where space is limited.
  • Steinway 4510 Sheraton: This is my personal favorite of the small pianos. It’s actually smaller than the Yamaha but in my opinion has a bigger sound. It’s also super cool looking and will basically match any décor your home or apartment has. You can use this for beginner piano lessons in your home or it can be used professionally in the world’s best recording studios. It’s compact but maintains that authentic Steinway and Sons sound. The action on this piano is super quick for an upright as well. It’s also handcrafted in the same factory that Steinway grand pianos are made using the same process and craftsmanship. When you sit down and play this you can see it’s solid, sturdy and well-built but extremely artistic and visually appeasing at the same time. You can tell something extra went into this design. If I were learning how to play the piano this instrument would definitely keep me motivated to practice and constantly create.

If you’re someone who is looking for a piano in NYC or anywhere else and have limited space these are my top choices. Choosing the right piano can absolutely make a difference in how you play, practice, learn and create music. These are all winners in my opinion.

Image courtesy of Rawich at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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8 Questions About Piano Lessons Answered by One of Our Experts

13873140_1191854087501350_5915102465032288443_nOne of our favorite NYC piano teachers, Rita R. answered some often asked and important questions about piano lessons, her teaching philosohpy and favorite musical moments.
1) What advice would you give to parents who are considering getting piano lessons for their children?
Rita: Piano lessons are a great way to introduce children to music and deeper understandings of history, culture, and expression in a way that is fun and interactive. Their appreciation for music will stay with them for the rest of their lives and they will grow in every way!
2) Why do you think the piano is such a popular instrument for very young students?
Rita: The piano is a very visual and tactile instrument. Very young children can develop their fine motor skills as well as their ear. They can distinguish different sounds, high and low, patterns and string it all together to make music.
3) What are some obstacles that piano students face when learning how to play and how can they be overcome?
Rita: Many students struggle with not understanding right away, or having a harder time multitasking (thinking about finger patterns, hand shape, rhythm and notes all at the same time), but we work on those things all the time by taking each component and working on it separately, and going at the pace of the student. I tailor every lesson to the student’s interests so that they can progress and enjoy musicmaking.
4) How much daily  practice time does a beginner need to realize steady progress and become a proficient player?
Rita: Daily practice is very important, but the amount is less important than the point of practice. Every practice session should have a goal, even if it’s tackling only one tricky measure. If it takes 5 minutes or 30, it’s still an accomplishment. Practice goals are more important than setting a time.
5) What benefits can come from learning the piano?
Rita: Piano gives an understanding of music, history, and art. It helps students in multitasking, working in an intelligent and time-efficient way, and handling projects easily. Music helps in recognizing patterns, fine motor skills, work ethic, and most importantly gives students an outlet for expression.
6) What do you love about teaching piano and being a performer?
Rita: I tailor my lessons to my students, and the more I teach the more I learn about my own approach. I also really enjoy working with students of all ages – every student brings their own interests and personalities, and we end up learning from each other. It is also a privilege to pass on what I have learned from my own teachers and mentors. As a performer, I enjoy sharing my connection to the music with my audience, and it’s an amazing experience.
7) What was your most memorable teaching experience?
Rita: The moment when a student realizes that they can do what the music is asking is always memorable!
8) When and where was your most memorable performance?
Rita: My senior recital and my Masters recital were both big events because they signified a culmination of my own understanding of music and style, helped by my wonderful teachers. They were also jumping off points for my future performances.
To study with Rita, contact Music to Your Home today! 646-606-2515 or visit our piano lessons page
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Buying a Piano – What You Need to Know

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So you’re ready to get your child started with piano lessons.  Congratulations!  You’ve taken the first step in what is sure to be many joyous years of beautiful music.  We know the value of music lessons for children.  We’ve all read the studies proving that we are great parents for giving our kids the opportunity to study music.
So now that we’ve collectively patted ourselves on the back, it’s time to make that call and get a teacher in the door.  One of the first questions you’ll be asked by a teacher is an obvious one, “Do you have a piano or a keyboard?”
And herein likes a dilema.  You don’t have a piano, but that’s ok. Here are some suggestions to help you get going.
If space is an issue, we reccomend purchasing a keyboard with weighted, or hammer action keys.  That means that when you press down on the keys, it will offer the slight resistance of a real piano. If you’re worried about noise, you can always plug headphones in.
We’ve found the Williams Allegro keyboard to be a solid choice for students of all ages and levels.  They keys are weighted, it’s reasonably priced and even our teachers are buying it to use for practice at home.
There are keyboards with 61 or 88 keys.  61 is sufficient but 88 is the same size as a real piano, but again, if you’re concerned about space, go for the 61 keys.
Keyboards come with all sorts of bells and whistles, so find one that suits your needs.  Into electornic music?  Want to record yourself playing?  Need drum tracks?  There are different models that can accomodate your interests.
If you have a real piano, make sure it’s in tune and all the keys work.  A lot of our clients have inherited pianos and are worried about their age and sound.  A reliable technician  can make sure it’s in good working condition and make any adjustments it may need.
Thinking of purchasing a piano?   There are spinnets, uprights, baby grands, grands, studio grands, even concert grands!  As you can imagine, the prices vary, as do the sizes so if you’re overwhelmed we can help guide you in the right direction.
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In our experience, generally the young student starting out can study for many years on a keyboard with weighted keys, like the one we suggested above. Find a nice quiet spot, a comfortable bench or chair, then call us to get one of the finest piano teachers to show you how to use it!
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 Top 3 Piano Exercise Methods That Will Boost Your Playing

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Have you ever listened to or watched a famous pianist like Lang Lang perform and wondered, how does he move his fingers so fast? Well, we often get that question from our own piano students. The answer is technique!  Great pianists acquire their technique from years of  practicing preparatory exercises and etudes. Here are a few of our favorite proven exercises for achieving  great virtuosity on the keyboard. 
Aloys Schmitt is best remembered for his Op. 16 exercises. The collection is divided into three sections. The first helps  students in gaining finger independence through a variety of single and double-note patterns within the range of a fifth. The second section works on passing the thumb under fingers to prepare for scales and arpeggios. The final section provides traditional scales and arpeggios in a notated format with fingering. The exercises in the book help build not only virtuosity, but also extreme steadiness of the fingers. These exercises isolate weak fingers like 4 and 5 in both hands and slowly build up strength over time to help with a balanced and steady sound. The later part of the book focuses on the very important major and minor scales that every pianist must be familiar with.
These exercises are intended to address common problems which slow down the performance abilities of a student.  Much like the Schmitt exercises, Hanon works on “crossing of the thumb”, strengthening of the fourth and fifth fingers, and quadruple- and triple-trills. The exercises are meant to be individually perfected and then played in sequence. Besides increasing technical abilities of the student, when played in groups at higher speeds, the exercises will also help to increase finger strength. These exercises are also divided into three parts: preparatory exercises, scales and arpeggios and virtuoso exercises for mastering great technical difficulties. A must for any budding pianist!
Here is something a little different from the first two. These exercises are more melodic and actually help prepare the student for the more difficult technical studies. The exercises work on maintaining proper technique, dynamics and tempo. They also focus on playing in a variety of different keys. We like to incorporate these exercises into our lessons because they are more fun to play and students have found them to be more satisfying and enjoyable to listen to.
Although all of these methods are proven effective, it is truly up to the student to practice them on a daily basis to achieve the best results. Adding these exercises into your weekly piano lessons as a warm up can also help enhance your current repertoire. Our NYC piano teachers will be happy to introduce these methods at your next lesson.
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What To Expect At Your First Piano Lesson

music_to_your_home_1809So you’ve finally decided to give yourself or your child the opportunity to learn how to play the piano. Good choice! The amount of benefits that come from taking music lessons is endless, but we can talk about those in another blog. This article will answer some of the common questions we get before someone begins lessons and will also identify the things you need to get the most out of your lessons.

Your first piano lesson should be a very fun and exciting time. You are about to learn how to create music, and most likely this is something you or your child has been expressing interest in. You’re also about to meet your new piano teacher. Hopefully this will be a person you will spend many years learning from and building up a great relationship with.

A few things that you will need before your teacher arrives

If you are taking lessons in your home then the most important thing you will need is a working piano or keyboard. If you have an acoustic piano, its best to have the instrument tuned by a professional piano technician before your teacher arrives. This will make playing on the instrument a lot more enjoyable to listen to. If you are learning on an electronic keyboard, we suggest that the keyboard has at least 61 keys and that all of them are working. Also, the room that the instrument is in should be a quiet place with no interruptions or external noise. This will give you the best chance of keeping your focus on the lesson.

What will I learn at my first lesson?

At your first piano lesson your teacher will assess your current musical skills. Some beginner students have already tried to learn on their own using tutorials or playing by ear, but for the most part, beginner students have no experience whatsoever. Your teacher will go over the very basic techniques about how to play the piano including correct posture, hand position, finger curving and wrist placement. Most teachers will use a method book such as the Alfred or Bastien beginner methods. These books have detailed sequential exercises that help with all of these techniques. An introduction to the keyboard will be given pointing out the patterns that the black and white keys create and of course the introduction of middle C is always an important first lesson staple. After a brief overview of the keyboard, simple rhythms are usually taught. The quarter and half note generally show up during the first lesson and the first few songs learned will be composed of these rhythms. Another important first lesson skill you will learn will be finger numbers. This is so important because it’s something that never changes and will help a lot as you advance in your method book. Depending on the length of your first lesson this is a lot of material to absorb for one week.

What do I do after my first lesson?

When your teacher leaves, you will have an assignment book with detailed notes on exactly what things you need to practice for the week. Generally there is a small amount of writing (theory) that will help you understand musical notation but for the most part you will be getting familiar with the keyboard and setting up your hand and finger positions.

 How long until I can see results?

This is a very common question we get. The answer is very simple. That is up you or your child. Practice is the main factor when making improvements at the piano. If a daily practice schedule is set up, then the skills learned at the lessons will improve consistently and progress will be quick. The same goes for not practicing… results will be slow to none if practice is not consistent.

Hopefully this sheds some light on what to expect in the beginning of your piano journey. Remember to practice and have fun!

For piano lessons in your home, visit: https://www.musictoyourhome.com/piano-lessons-nyc/

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