Start your fun adventure of self-discovery
I teach kids 4+ and adults of any age (beginner and intermediate levels).
Motivated kids under 4 may be enrolled on case-by-case basis.
I encourage everyone to participate in student concerts to share what you learned with your family and friends!
The mission of my piano studio goes beyond teaching “how to press the right keys at the right time”.
My goal is to help you to learn who YOU are through music. Together we will find repertoire that fits you best, brings you joy, and helps you stay motivated. With kids I like to start with their favorite Disney songs that we are going to play AND sing too! Piano is a whole new world, and it is fun to explore it through your favorite characters and stories.
Find music about yourself and play it
I am not just going through the method books page by page (although I use them too) – I am giving you a lot of music in various genres to listen to (not only classical!) so you could find something you like.
Piano playing and singing
Piano lessons are one-on-one lessons. If you are interested to play 4 hands ensembles with other kids (not only with me) -- I can arrange that. Also I would be interested to create a small singing ensemble and learn songs from musicals with my piano accompaniment (and I am open to your suggestions as well -- whatever you want to sing).
Schedule your first 30-minute FREE consultation/lesson
Please feel free to ask any questions. This time is to determine if we are a good fit for each other.
Discover the beauty of the piano art
In my teaching I am using a mixed approach of traditional and non-traditional methods. There are many ways to learn piano, different students of different age with various goals.
1. Traditional method is great for those who want to learn sight reading and wants to play wide range of music genres, especially classical repertoire. Sight reading is not as hard as some people think: in fact, reading music notation is easier than reading a book, just because it is so graphical, and even if you don't remember the placement of every single note, you can learn some "landmark" notes and see if the melody goes up or down, etc. You don't really read every single note, the same way as when you read you don't read every single letter - you read only the beginning and the end of the word. So I think some people struggle with sight reading mostly because they start learning with this mindset that it is hard, although it is not. I had an experience learning Korean language, and I am familiar with three kinds of alphabets -- latin, cyrillic, and Korean, and I will tell you that music notation is easier than all of them.
The benefit of learning music notation is that you will be able to read nice written arrangements of music, it does not have to be classical, there are very nice arrangements in various genres including pop/rock/musical... If you don't read music, you have to play by ear and improvise, and it is also a skill that takes time to develop, or it can be a natural talent.
2. Music notation of a melody + chord charts. This method is used by jazz players: you write down the melody on a staff, but everything else is an improvisation based on chords. Non-classical guitar/bass players also use this method. There are many books with the chords guide that show you the placement of each chords on the keyboard which makes the process of learning chords way easier and more graphical.
3. Play by ear without any notation, by listening to the recordings and the teacher. This is usually a good exercise anyway to add to any previous methods, but also can be used as a main method for those students who struggle with notation. After all, learning music by ear was the primary learning method of early jazz musicians in the beginning of 20th century, and is a primary learning methods of musically gifted kids who start playing as early as the age of 3.
Piano Studio News
Piano Garden Studio at Upstate SC Homeschool Expo - 2022
July 21, 2022, Children's Museum, Greenville, SC
I was happy to participate as a vendor and meet many lovely kids and their parents. Homeschool community is growing and reached 1000 participants this year!
Learn efficiently and have fun!
No boring lessons!
Play what YOU want!
You chose what songs and pieces you want to play. Any genres are welcome. Your favorite music will help you to stay motivated, have fun and advance your musicianship and technique. Speaking of technique, I will still assign you some little exercises which help your fingers move faster, but repertoire is always a priority. I am also sharing my favorite pieces on Repertoire page that you can use if you are looking for music to play.
Duets and Ensembles
Play a melody - sound like an orchestra!
I like to play 4 hands duets with my students. It brings joy to students of all levels, and especially beginners: even if they only thing you can play is a melody, with my accompaniment it will sound like a full arrangement. Also playing duets is a fun way to introduce young beginners to public performances (concerts) public. Your 5- or 6-y.o. may feel way more comfortable playing together with a teacher rather than solo.
Play along with a pre-recorded band
Play piano, sound like a full orchestra
There are some very entertaining piano "karaoke" resources on internet like Hal Leonard where you can play along with a band or an orchestra. Check out your favorite tunes in Instant Piano Songs, Easy Piano Play Along, Keyboard Play Along, Piano Play Along.
Listening and inspiration
Gain listening experience
Check out Listening and Repertoire pages on this website to enjoy outstanding performances of pianists of any ages. When you are working on your repertoire, search for other performances of this piece (piano versions and especially orchestral versions, when available). Youtube is a great source to use for a quick search!
Games and drawing
For young kids
Young students (ages 4-12) will learn basic music theory through games, drawings, and fun rhythm exercises
Sight reading and improvisation
Learn to read music and to play by ear
Learn music notation and create your own music
Start your own Youtube channel!
Learn how to record, edit and release your music performances and music videos. Be your own producer!
Learning piano in 21 century: how to stay motivated
Piano learning process is always a balance between entertainment and a hard work. This balance is always a struggle, because if you are doing too much entertainment -- you are not learning much and not progressing; if you are doing too much hard work at the expense of entertainment -- then you lose motivation and will eventually drop out.
There are a lot of methods to teach piano: traditional methods like Faber's or Alfred's books, Suzuki method, Russian piano school (Artobolevskaya, Nikolayeva). I am teaching all of them, depending on which one fits better for a particular student. I often combine the best features of each method to find the right path for each student.
I also found out that just following method books is not enough. The main motivation for students of any age is repertoire. What often happens with traditional methods is that students get bored with endless exercises and their teachers never assign them to play something they would really like. And here let's be honest: many kids are exposed mostly to a pop culture in everyday life, and they relate to Baby Shark way more than to a Mozart's Menuet. However, piano method books are based on classical repertoire that is often completely foreign to kids. These books are designed for those with more professional approach to music: kids that have been exposed to classical music since very early age, or kids who naturally like this music, or who can naturally focus on tasks for a long time...
This is a very small percentage of kids. The rest (most) of them who learn piano just for fun to play for their family and friends only get disappointed that they don't play their favorite pieces.
That's why I always ask parents (and students) to make a list of their favorite songs for me so I could find easy arrangements of these songs so students could play things they really enjoy.
However, myself I love playing classical music and I like to introduce kids to classical music. I like to play short classical pieces in class for my students so they could listen a live performance and sometimes I assign them to watch some videos on youtube. This is when they often say -- wow, this is beautiful, I want to play like this too!
So I use method books to teach concepts and I am looking for a custom repertoire for each student in books and on internet.
Most beginning students ages 4-7 start with learning concepts rather than repertoire. In order to learn repertoire, students have to be able to stay focused for longer time and to follow teacher's directions.
Kids develop these skills at a different age: a few kids are able to do it as early as the age of 4-5, so it is always worth trying to learn their favorite songs with them. If it does not work (which is the most likely scenario), you can always start with concepts instead -- it is very fun to learn through games, drawing, flash cards, etc... At this age they can start learning to read music notation and write, and these activities will also train them to stay focused longer (again, the most important skill for learning piano!).
Ear training at early age is also a very important activity you can do if it is too early to play repertoire: teach a kid to recognize long and short sounds, high and low register, where the melody goes (up or down), loud or quiet, clap the rhythms, recognize intervals and even chords. It is a great idea to start with ear training, notation, and singing, and starting learning repertoire a little later.
Some thought on different piano methods and cultural context
There are a lot of traditional methods to teach piano: Faber's and Alfred's books, Suzuki method, Russian piano school (Artobolevskaya, Nikolayeva) and just some of them. The strength of traditional methods is that they give a solid foundation about music concepts and develop piano technique (in other words, you play a lot of exercises to make your fingers move faster in order to play more complicated repertoire later, mostly classical). Also these methods develop patience, diligence, attention to details, and other good work habits.
The problem with this approach is that for most students the repertoire is not very exciting. If you go by the book only, most students get bored not because of the concepts, but because of repertoire. However, young kids under the age of 8-9 often don't really know what they want to play, and this is when methods books become very handy. But for older students it is very important to know what music they want to play. Often it is not classical -- it can be something from movies or their favorite rock bands or other pop culture. Sometimes student's choices do not seem interesting for teachers, but it is actually the best tool to keep them motivated and make them practice more. You can use it as a leverage to spark their interest in piano and music, and you have to at least include pieces of their choice in their repertoire.
Here is one recent example. Our friends visited us last week. Their son has been studying piano for a few years using Suzuki method. He enjoys playing piano, self-motivated, plays his favorite tunes by ear, and now he wants to learn the 1st movement of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata! But his teacher did not assign him this piece. Technically it is not a hard piece, it is slow (but beautiful!), and it is a beginner's repertoire. And there is so much artistry you can learn from this piece: voicing, tempo, tempo stretches and dynamics to emphasize some interesting harmonies, and even the history behind the piece (Moonlight is not Beethoven's title, he never gave a name to this piece, and in fact it is way more deep and tragic than just a music about the moonlight... compare it to Debussy's Claire De Lune!) But the main thing is that he wants to play it all the time!
I think one of the reasons teachers don't let students play certain pieces is in the mindset of a professional concert piano player. They are used to master every piece to perfection, meaning that you have to move gradually and gradually increase your technical level. If you don't have enough technique to play a piece, you continue with exercises and easier pieces. But the only technique you need to have for Moonlight sonata is fingers long enough to reach an octave. If you have that you can play it!
Is it that important to master every piece to perfection? I think that staying motivated, keeping practicing and enjoying your own performance is way more important.
There is a famous quote of Beethoven: "To play a wrong note is insignificant; to play without passion is inexcusable".
Even if a piece has a few bars that are too hard, but the student is passionate to learn the piece, there are a few things you can do. Of course you should try to learn the hard moment first. Start your practice not from the beginning of a piece, but straight from this hard moment. If after some time you realize it is still too hard, you can either:
- simplify it (chose which notes are less important and throw them away... e.g. if the chord is too big for your hands, play only that part that you can reach)
- find away how to "cut out" that moment and transition to the next one
- find an easier arrangement of this piece (there are a lot of them on internet)
Now a few thoughts about Suzuki method.
I actually like a lot of things about this approach, and this is how most professional concert piano players start at the young age.
This method is based on "mother tongue" approach. Children are taught music as if they were being immersed in a foreign language. They are exposed to music, learning to listen to the piece before any attempt at reproducing the song is made. Sight reading music is not taught until the child is successful with reproducing music by ear. Since children learn to play music “by ear,” they learn to play music with feeling. Music does not sound mechanical or halting as a child tries to decipher sheet music.
Then later children learn sight reading, though.
The only problem with Suzuki method is that significant parent's involvement is required. If parents treat piano lessons just as a day care for their child, then Suzuki method is not for them. At such young age (3-7) children need help with their piano studies. If you want your kid to actually start playing at this age, your should attend lesson with your child, and the teacher is going in fact to teach both of you, so you could help your child practice at home. Parents should also sing to the child frequently – even if the voice quality is off-key, children learn by listening and will develop a basic ear for music. Singing is the most important first step in training the ear for music. Parents should pay attention to a hand posture and how their child sits at the piano: it is something young pianists often forget and end up with the wrong posture and tension in their arms. Parents are also expected to playback music assigned by a teacher for their child at home. These will be not only songs but also piano and orchestral classical pieces so the child is exposed to this kind of music from a very early age.
As you see, it is a lot, and it is understandable that not every parent has time and energy to be involved that much. The children of professional musicians usually grow up in such environment where music is their primary language, and this is how they become world famous concert soloists. That's why most world class musicians are actually at least a second-generation musicians in the family.
However, historically Shinichi Suzuki's main goal was not to create professional musicians but to create better citizens of the world: “If a child hears fine music from the day of his birth, and learns to play it himself, he develops sensitivity, discipline and endurance. He gets a beautiful heart." So the method is designed for any kid who wants to learn.
to make your learning more effective
I have to admit that sometimes I did not follow some of this advice and it really slowed down my progress. That's why I want to share this here so your could check this page from time to time and make sure you use your practice time wisely.
Find the best time
Find the right time for you to practice. Notice when you have more energy, when you are more focused and have a fresh mind. Piano playing is not only about fingers, it is probably 80% of brain work, very intensive multitasking. I once noticed that when I practice at the end of the day when I am already tired, it is very ineffective for me.
Short and often
Practice for a short time but often. It is way more effective to practice 10 minutes a day every day rather than 2 hours once a week. In addition, your brain needs time to process information, and a lot of this processing is done overnight while you sleep. That's why no matter you learn (piano, math, or languages) -- split your material into smaller tasks and do a little bit every day. You will be surprised how much you can accomplish.
One hand at a time
We all have this temptation to practice both hands right away. It is usually not a good idea. Better split a song/piece into short pieces (2-4 bars) and practice each piece with each hand separately many times until it sounds smooth.
Use the right fingering
Fingering is finger numbers that you see in music sheets next to the notes. Pay attention to these numbers and use the right fingers. It is boring but important! Stop and play a part veeeery slowly. There is nothing worse that memorizing wrong fingering and having relearn it over again.
Learn in small chunks
When you starting learning a piece, try not to play the whole thing from the beginning to end. Stop every 2-4 bars and repeat it until it sounds smooth. Then go to the next 2-4 bars. Playing the whole piece clumsily will not improve anything much.
Soft arms and hands
Very important: your muscles should be always soft and relaxed. No tension. Try to play right after a shower or bath when you are relaxed -- you will feel the difference. Playing a musical instrument is a lot like a yoga exercise in this sense. This is one of the reasons why it is easier to learn piano at a very young age, while arms and hands are naturally soft and flexible.
Play more things that you really like. Take an active part in choosing your repertoire, don't think that your teacher will magically find a perfect piece for you. Tell your teacher about your favorite music and movies, give an honest feedback about pieces that your teacher suggests. My goal is not to make you are concert classical pianist, but to bring you joy with music so you could share it with your friends and family.
Listen to other pianists and orchestra music
Youtube is a great place to quickly find some interesting performances. You listening experience is crucial in your piano studies. Find other piano performances or a song/piece you study and also find versions for other instruments, especially an orchestra. This listening experience will help you create your own vision, and will develop this cool skill to hear piano in orchestral sounds. It will move you to the next level of piano performance.
Share your music and show off
Start your own youtube channel or share your videos on other social media. It does not have to be perfect, it can be even a small piece of a song that you learned, but you will be surprised how fun it is to get feedback from your internet audience. Even if it is only your friends and family! It is very important to see and appreciate the result of your hard work.
How to prepare your young kids (4-7) for music lessons
Train your kid at home (for 4-7 y.o. kids)
Even if you are not a musician
What if you want to teach your kids, but can't afford to hire a teacher? You can actually develop some basic musicianship on your own, even if you are not a musician. For younger kids 4-7 y.o. I would recommend to use books like:
My First Piano Adventure LESSON Book A with online audio ($9.95 on Amazon)
My First Piano Adventure WRITING Book A ($6.75 on Amazon)
And then book B and C.
There are also other books in the same series, flashcards, stickers, whatever you can use that makes learning process more fun.
These books have pretty clear directions about what to do. You may find some tasks confusing (be careful with hand posture! I recommend to watch some videos on this), but a lot of the task are usually pretty straightforward.
Here are some activities you can do with your child even if you are not a musician:
1. Clap various rhythms and ask your kid to repeat.
2. Playback songs from these books or any other songs and ask your kid to move (dance) with a rhythm.
3. Learn songs with your kids using recordings -- to develop music memory.
4. If you can sing yourself a little bit - sing a simple melody and ask your kid to repeat.
5. Learn notes and their placement on a keyboard. This is just memorizing, you can do it on your own, and the most effective way is to make or buy flashcards with one note written on one side and the name of this note on the other side. Do it for both treble clef and bass clef. You can download PDFs of such flashcards on internet for free and print them out on a think cardstock paper. Quiz your kid with these cards several times a week and it will help them to start reading music.
6. If you know a little bit about writing down the rhythm, you can also make flashcards with notes of various measures, create a short music phrase using these cards in different order and clap those rhythms. Be careful with this one though -- do it only if you are confident that you are not making mistakes.
7. If you have a piano or keyboard at home, you can ask your kid to play a simple melody by ear. Do not think about notes or rhythm at this point -- just do it by ear and find the right keys by comparing which one sounds more correct. Before you start, ask your kid where melody goes (up or down), if it goes gradually or leaps by larger intervals. Start with simple melodies without leaps and do not forget that you will probably need to use both white and black keys!