Piano Playing, Mental Health, and Self Care

Piano Playing, Mental Health, and Self Care

This past year, self care has taken on an entirely new life. Stress is a part of our everyday lives. It’s here in ways we never thought possible, and it’s impacting all of us in new ways. 

While staying in place had an impact on all of us, it did make us look at ourselves and try and find ways of bringing peace and calm to each new day. People picked up new hobbies at record-breaking speed. Making bread became a new norm. 

But once we settled into our homes, and realized we’re home to stay, we started finding new opportunities that passed us by before. 

Is piano playing a new hobby for you? Congratulations. Studies show it’s one of the best activities you can take on for your mental health. It’s not just good for living through a pandemic; it can help you with stress relief for life. 

Piano playing relieves stress – when you sit down to play the piano, you can’t bring your problems to the keyboard. It requires full concentration, which makes you leave your cares behind. It gives you something else to focus on while you’re creating music. It’s also a booster to your self-esteem, as well as gives you a more positive outlook on life. 

Piano improves concentration – had brain fog this past year? A lot of people have. It’s difficult to concentrate when the world is changing at break-neck speed, and you’re doing everything you can to keep up. When you sit down to play the piano, it regulates you to split your concentration to read the music, interpret the notes, and move that down into your hands to take action on the keys. Don’t forget about your foot to tap the sustain pedal as needed. You can’t have other things on your mind and play well. Playing allows you to push “stuff” away for a while, and focus only on what’s important now. 

Piano improves language – when you’re playing the piano, your listening skills automatically gain a boost. You listen for intervals and chords while playing, and develop voice and a sense of pitch. This transfers into your language skills as well as your memory. It helps you pick up the fine tonal qualities that make you better at listening, as well as hear sounds and differences in a new way. This helps kids become better at school, learn foreign languages faster, and do better on tests. It continues throughout life, assisting seniors to remember better and be more concise with their language skills. Hand-eye coordination also improves as you connect with the keyboard with all of your senses intact. 

Sometimes taking control over your mental health starts with stress relief. Whether you’re just starting to play the piano as a new hobby, or have played for years, it’s the one activity that you can carry with you through life, and have it inspire you every time you sit down. 

Back Ache? You May Be Sitting at the Piano Wrong

Back Ache? You May Be Sitting at the Piano Wrong

Why do you have a back ache when sitting at the piano?

You may be sitting at the piano wrong. 

You may have also experienced it when sitting at a computer. Your shoulders tense up. Your arms tighten. Your hands feel sore. It may even hurt to breathe. 

What’s wrong? 

Part of playing the piano correctly comes from your posture. If your hands can’t move freely across the keys, it impacts the way your body moves. You’ll feel it long after you step away from practice. 

If you’re feeling any back pain after practicing, it’s time to ensure you’re sitting correctly at the piano. 

Start by straightening up. Your parents may have told you as a child to sit up straight, shoulders back, feet on the floor. The same applies to sitting at the piano. This makes you stronger at your core, and instantly gives you more confidence in the way you play. 

Evaluate your bench. Not any old chair will do. If you’re sitting improperly in front of the keyboard, it can lead to aches and pains throughout your body. Your feet should never be dangling. In fact, you should have weight on your feet, with them both solidly on the ground. This allows you to lean in and use your core power as you maneuver through octaves on the keyboard. 

Relax the wrists. But not too much. Think of an invisible bubble underneath, as you move it while you play. If your hands “hang”, you can injure your wrists. They need to stay flexible yet firm, giving you full control over every note you play. 

Pedals. Think of your body creating a base while you play. It moves from solid feet on the floor, up through your legs into your core. It centers on your buttocks on the bench, and back down again. When you move your right foot onto a pedal, it should never take away from the core structure you create to hold you in place. The left foot is on the floor, helping control the weight while you move and play. 

Stretch. Let the music move you while you play. And in between, take a breather and move your arms overhead. Wiggle your fingers. Rotate at the waist. Give yourself permission to relax, from your head to your toes. This makes you aware of where your tension is, and helps you focus on being in a better position when you return to the keyboard. 

Whether you need a new piano bench to ensure better placement, or want a new piano for better playability, we’re here to help you with all of your piano needs. 

Stopped Playing The Piano? Take It Up Again!

Stopped Playing The Piano? Take It Up Again!

For our kids, we tend to keep their days a little more rigid. School. Afterschool activities. Homework time. Practice time. Family time. Their days are carefully chunked into a variety of things to keep them moving throughout the day. 

But for adults, it can be a bit more challenging. We have to get the kids to school and their activities. We have to get to work. But the days can quickly spiral out of control with a phone call or a sudden emergency. 

Your mom calls and needs a little help. 

Your furnace stops working – it’s cold in the house!

And suddenly, all your plans for extra activities go by the wayside. 

That’s how many adults stop playing the piano, even though they have the best intentions. They skip a day of practice, planning to catch up tomorrow. One day goes by, then two. And before you know it, you haven’t played in weeks. 

That’s normal!

Every piano player has experienced that from time to time. 

The key is in recognizing it and doing something about it. 

Start with your why – why did you take up the piano in the first place? Did you want to play a favorite song? Did you use it for relaxing at the end of a hectic day? Use that to recharge yourself and get started again. 

Create a new plan – why did you stop? Was something not working with your playing schedule? Too often, we try and place activities at a time that doesn’t make sense. Maybe we’re tired at the end of the day. Maybe that’s the timeframe when friends and family call with questions and problems. Re-evaluate your piano practicing schedule and see if there is a better time you can play. 

Calendar it – whether you take lessons from a teacher is up to you. Whether you work with someone, or choose to do it on your own, if it’s on your calendar, you’re more likely to do it. You block out the time, and you have it facing you each day. Keep things simple. This gives you a visual cue to stay on track. 

Motivate – give yourself a reason to start up again. What song have you really wanted to play? Find music that challenges you to play it, yet isn’t so difficult it’ll take you months to get there. 

You can also find a community that helps you stay on target. The great thing about the online world is you can find all kinds of resources to help you stay on track. Whether you’re playing with a local group, or simply have a forum to stay in touch with other pianists, it’s a great way for you to stay on track playing the piano throughout the year. 

Age is an Advantage When Taking Up The Piano

Age is an Advantage When Taking Up The Piano

One of the most common questions we get is: can adults learn the piano? 

We believe age is an advantage when taking up the piano. Here’s why. 

You’re ready to commit to learning

We place kids in activities to introduce them to new things. We have no idea what they’ll take to, what they’ll like, what they’ll enjoy. As adults, we have a deep understanding of what brings us joy. We’re ready to commit to the things we want in our lives. If you’ve set your eyes on playing the piano, you’ll be more dedicated to its outcome. 

You can process through holdbacks

Kids can get frustrated and not have a voice to tell you what’s wrong. As an adult, we have the power to ask questions, do research, and discover solutions to our problems. A top complaint for adults learning to play the piano is figuring out how to put all the pieces together – reading music, and having the left and right hands play differently on the keyboard. With a little research, you can discover how others get through this process. You’ll learn patience and discover how others manage. You’ll have the knowledge to keep working through until you figure things out. 

You can be flexible with the process

Like other hobbies, piano playing isn’t meant to be an end result. It’s the process. It’s the journey. And you can discover a variety of ways to keep it fresh in your life. While you may wish to work with an instructor, you might also choose to find a group to share your newfound hobby. Maybe you sign up for a membership with your local symphony, seeing firsthand how others take it to the top. 

You can ask for help

For many adults, we understand help is just a phone call (or internet search) away. You’re not the first to start down this path. There are many others just like you facing challenges and enjoying the new hobby you’ve decided to pursue. Whether on an online forum, or asking someone in your local community, there’s always a resource waiting and ready to help you along. Just ask. 

What questions do you have about starting up piano? What advantages have you found at piano playing at your age? 

When you’re ready to take your piano playing to the next level, we can help. Let us know what questions you have about playing the piano. 

Easy Ways To Soundproof Your Piano Room

Easy Ways To Soundproof Your Piano Room

Depending on your living arrangements, you might have your piano mixed in with other pieces of furniture. Or maybe you’ve dedicated exclusive space to a piano you’ve saved up for for years. 

Do you enjoy playing? Is the sound enjoyable to listen to?

Is it tinny? Do you hear echoes? 

Are you tired of playing?

It might not be your piano or the way you play. It might be the environment your piano sits in. Consider soundproofing your piano room to make you a better player. 

Look for gaps

If you’re trying to create a warmer, more efficient home, your heating technician may have told you to add insulation around the doors and windows, installing weatherstripping where there are gaps. That doesn’t just apply to weather; it’s also great advice for sound. Wherever air escapes, sound moves right along with it. If you create a tighter, more efficient home, you’ll enjoy the sounds produced during your practice sessions more. 

Reduce hard surfaces

Across the US, we love tile and hardwood, granite on the countertops, and a nice, clean look. While you might like the way that presents, your piano doesn’t like the way it sounds. Every note created bounces off these hard surface areas and reverberates around the room. It can muddy up your music, and make it more challenging to practice and enjoy the sounds you create. Soundproofing includes adding reflective items like thick rugs and fabric for the walls. If you’re creating a music room dedicated to playing and recording, you can even select soundproof curtains and acoustic insulation. 

Upgrading your materials

As you are building or remodeling your home, it’s just as important to consider the materials you’re using for finishing. Upgrade from hollow doors to solid wood. Consider adding a drop ceiling to give added protection to the rooms that sit above your music space. You might also consider placement of your room – can you move it to a place with minimal impact, both from other family members in your home as well as away from common walls that may impact people in other apartments or houses? 

Soundproofing your home doesn’t take a lot of special equipment. To create a comfortable space you look forward to playing in, it just takes a little foresight to understand the best placement of your piano, and an area where you’ll enjoy what you do every day. 

Understanding a Metronome

Understanding a Metronome

A metronome is either a mechanical or electronic device that produces short sound bursts at regular intervals of time. Click. Click. Click. It’s designed to help you set a beat and stick with it as you play. 

Metronomes are common instruments used in practice for helping you establish a beat. It’s been used by composers for centuries to help people better understand how the composer designed their songs to be played. 

Every song is created with a specific beats per minute – BPM – to let you know how fast or slow the music should go. BPM is also known as tempo. 

Think about the tick of a second hand on a clock. It moves at a regular beat – 1, 2, 3, 4, – and so on, always remaining at a steady pace. 

BPM is designed to work in a similar way. Some songs may match the natural rhythm of a clock – 1 beat per second. Some songs speed it up, going much faster. Some songs slow it down. 20 BPM isn’t unheard of. 

Why use a metronome? It’s designed to help you gain strength in the way you play. It establishes the way a composer created the song. And it also helps you build up your strength in the way the piece should be played. 

When you sit down to a brand new song, at the top of the page should be a tempo marking. It might be written as BPM (120 bpm) or as a tempo marketing such as “allegro.” Especially as you are learning more about music, it may be difficult to fully appreciate at what level the song should be played. A metronome gives you that sense of rhythm. It can keep the beat for you to follow as you play the song. 

If it’s a fast tempo, it may be hard to begin. Slow it down a bit. Become familiar with the notes and the way the song is played. As your comfort grows, you can increase the beat and pick up the pace until you get it to the desired bpm. 

It’s a way to keep you on track throughout your practice. 

Of course, you can stick with a traditional mechanical metronome. Or invest in an electronic metronome to sit near your practice area. 

Thanks to technology, there are also a variety of apps that can produce the same practice, and allow you to take the technology anywhere. 

What type of metronome do you use during your daily practice?  

How To Improve Your Sense of Rhythm

How To Improve Your Sense of Rhythm

Want to be a better piano player? Maybe it’s time to improve your sense of rhythm. 

To get a true sense of how a composer wrote a song, it’s equally important to pay attention to rhythm and tempo. Yet that’s one of the hardest things for a pianist to learn. 

You get stuck in the notes. You practice at your own level, and can lose a sense of how a song is meant to be played. Adding this one piece back into your playing will not only make you a better piano player, but it will give you a better sense of rhythm overall. 

Using a metronome

A metronome is a mechanical device you use while you play to establish a musical tempo. You can have a mechanical one sitting nearby, or use an app on your phone. Play around with what’s available and find one to suit your needs. 

The key is to use it regularly when you’re first starting a new song to help you develop a stronger sense of how the music should be played. Decrease your usage of it over time as you begin to build your own rhythm and how it should be played. 

Adding rhythm into your practice

It’s easy to get addicted to outside influences. If you automatically turn on a metronome at the beginning of each session, you won’t develop your own sense of rhythm. This comes naturally over time. Composers suggest specific tempos based on the way they write music. It’s how they intended a song to be played. 

For a pianist, that’s a good starting point. It takes time and patience to get into a song. But as you learn to feel your inner voice, you’ll also feel the rhythm and interpret it in your unique manner. Trust it. Move with it. This allows you to add your own spin to the tune. 

You can also use a metronome to work out inconsistencies within a piece of music. Can you play one section well? Having trouble with another? A metronome can give you the steady beat to catch up in tougher places where you have trouble. It can build the rhythm stronger for your inner voice. 

Piano playing is never just about the notes. Developing a sense of rhythm gives you even more strength in the way you play. It allows you to feel how a song is meant to be played, and add your own spin to the tune. 

It can allow you to be the best piano player you can be. 

Learning To Play Piano As An Adult Is Easier Than You Think

Learning To Play Piano As An Adult Is Easier Than You Think

Want to pick up a new hobby, something that will carry you through your life? Always had a desire to play the piano, but think you’re too old? 

Think again. 

It’s a myth that kids have an easier time learning the piano. It discourages adults from trying it, assuming they’ve passed the point where they will be able to learn. 

The truth is it might be easier for adults. Here’s why. 

You already have a greater understanding of music than kids

Think about your relationship with music. Even if you’ve never played an instrument before, you still have a history with music. What songs did you listen to in high school? What music has influenced you throughout your life? Do you hum in the shower? Do you sing with the radio while driving your car? That has taught you music theory. You understand how music is put together, what rhythm is, and how different beats work in a song. All of that helps you pick up playing faster.

You have the discipline it takes to learn music

If you decide learning to play piano as an adult is at the top of your to-do list, you’ve set your mind to put it into action. You don’t have a parent making you do it. You don’t have pressure to practice even if you don’t want to . With so many other hobbies and interests behind you, you know what it takes to get good at something. 

You want to learn

Is this something you’ve always wanted to do? You have that on your side. The hardest step is taking action. If you really want to learn the piano, give yourself one step to put it into action today. Buy the piano. Invest in piano lessons. Buy your favorite song in sheet music as motivation. All of it will set you up to succeed. 

Go into it with your “why”

Maybe you’ve wanted to learn to play the piano because you want to play your favorite song. If you’ve done any research, you also know that playing the piano has a lot of other benefits too. It relieves stress. It helps with cognitive skills. It’s something you can do for a lifetime. 

If you’ve always wanted to learn to play the piano, make this the year you do something about it. 

Weighted Keys vs Unweighted Keys – What Does That Mean?

Weighted Keys vs Unweighted Keys – What Does That Mean?

A piano is a piano, right? 

Think again. 

While that might have been true years ago with acoustic pianos, with the onset of digital and electronic keyboards, that’s no longer true. 

Those keyboards you can pick up cheaply from your local big box store? They might look good on display. But once you sit down and try to play them, they might hold you back from learning. 

One of the biggest differences is the way the keys work. Are you working with weighted keys or unweighted keys? What’s the difference? 

Let’s start with a traditional acoustic piano. If you’ve ever sat down and pushed the keys, you might have felt a little resistance. That’s known as “weight”. The keys are weighted for spring action, to be sensitive to the way you touch and play them. 

If you want to play a traditional piano – vertical or grand – knowing how to play weighted keys will be a distinct advantage. 

When you move to the digital and electronic niche, you’ll find that keyboards typically come with unweighted keys, and digital pianos have weighted keys. 

The difference usually comes with cost. Less expensive models won’t create the weighted feeling. They don’t do what’s necessary to mirror the experience of an acoustic piano. 

The touch sensitivity is subtle. However, having a weighted keyboard allows you to practice and build up finger strength as you play. 

Before you invest in a piano or keyboard, as yourself one question: What is your ultimate goal? 

If you hope to transfer your skills to learn piano in many different ways, starting with a weighted keyboard will help you in the long run. It will give you the skills necessary to move freely from one instrument to another, without having to retrain for a new feeling. 

4 Things Piano Players Have Learned During a Pandemic

4 Things Piano Players Have Learned During a Pandemic

Whether you’re a new piano player, or have been playing for decades, chances are playing the piano took on new meaning this past year. Suddenly, every day was spent closer to home. You looked for things to do to stay busy. Finding a hobby was no longer optional, it was mandatory. Luckily, playing the piano offered many benefits to getting through the year. 

Expanding your piano talent

There are so many ways you can improve your piano playing skills, right from the comfort of your own home. Want to improve the way you play your favorite songs? Sit down and play. But there are many other ways to improve as well. Download one of the many apps that can improve your skills. Want new music? You don’t even have to leave home – there’s an app for that. You could even find a variety of ways to perfect your skills. Whatever you’re looking for in a piano teacher, with a few clicks of your mouse, you can find a teacher offering you those skills. And you don’t even have to leave home to attend the lesson, which means your instructor can be anywhere in the world. 

No more busy schedules

Hobbies take time. Even with just a thirty minute lesson, you still have to account for driving time, traffic situations, running errands while you’re out – it eats up a great deal of your time. With online courses, you can login seconds before your scheduled lesson, and when you’re through, you can immediately turn around and move to your next task. That can build hours into your day that you’ve never had before. Maybe you can use that time to relax and play for fun?!

Productivity

Have you ever arrived at a music lesson … and forgot your music? It happens to the best of us. But when your music lessons are online, everything you need is right there with you, waiting. If you use an electronic piano and can move it from room to room, you might need a second or two to retrieve your music from another place in your home. But you won’t try and fill thirty minutes of time because you don’t have access to your current materials. 

Computer skills

Thanks to months of staying in place, many of us have picked up computer skills we never thought we’d learn. You might also have been introduced to things you didn’t know were possible. Have you added more equipment to your home office – a microphone and a Zoom light? Have you boosted up your internet connections, and upgraded your wifi? Connectivity is king in the future we’re moving towards, and you’re ready to use it in new ways.

As we move forward, take time to think about what has mattered most to you these past few months. Piano playing allows you to relax and enjoy a hobby you can spend a lifetime with. 

What have you learned about your piano playing skills these past few months?