The Foundational Instrument
7 things that make Music Pillars Piano Lessons Unique
There are more than 7 - but we'll stick with these 7 for now!
1. We use a specialized pedagogical piano that students absolutely love!
For starters, we use a very specialized piano that we feel is second to none for educating students. They are about 10 times the cost of a basic digital piano. We initially did try to use basic acoustic and digital pianos, but after testing them against the model we use now - we returned/sold every other piano we had. So I guess you could say we put our money where our mouth is!
The lengthy answer as to how important this is can be the subject of a lengthy blog post, but for now - we'll just summarize the benefits as follows:
- Fully weighted, with adjustable touch strength to match the heavy touch required of a 9-foot concert grand piano or a lighter strength for the young beginner
- Hundreds of Instruments to select from
- Engaging Style Tracks to accompany students as they play (see video to the right)
- A piano that rewards students as they internalize and apply theory concepts in their playing
- Its always in tune, and it never has loose strings...we've been to a lot of parents homes, and seen up close how badly sounding the acoustic pianos can be that their child plays on day in and out
2. We combine learning from traditional books while also using engaging apps
The foundational principles and fundamental elements of piano have not changed for a hundred years or more, and they won't be much different in a hundred years from now either. However, how those principles are learned is becoming more and more efficient through the use of technology. So while technology will never replace a teacher, it can really help both the teacher and the child to learn more quickly, have more fun, and learn the foundational principles on deeper level.
3. We have regular monthly assessment exams to ascertain student's progress on the 8 Pillars of Music
Music Pillars has 8 core "pillars" that make up Music Pillars. They are:
- Pattern Recognition
These assessments are held as a normal part of the student's lessons, and depending upon the level of the student (there are 10 competency levels for each of the pillars) they take between 5 minutes for beginners, up to 20-25 minutes for more advanced students. The results of each exam are scored and maintained in our system (we have nicknamed Einstein) so that students/parents/teachers can see their overall progress at a quick glance.
Monthly Assessment Exams to track/monitor progress
4. We track practice time and Book Progress on a week to week process into an easy to understand visual chart. We create "games" and fun parties to incentivize the development of good practice habits
As the saying goes, you can only expect what you can inspect. And at our studios, we have built a system to help us inspect important factors that we know lead to a student's success in their musical journey. In addition to the regular assessment exams, we also track the following:
- Practice Time spent on each assignment, and
- Progress through their curriculum books
5. Friday Fests - Students perform frequently on stage
Gone are the days when a student learns and works on a few pieces for 5-6 months and then gets up on stage for 30-90 seconds in December and then in May. At Music Pillars, we have our students performing every 6-10 weeks, and playing 2-4 pieces of music! A more thorough description of our Friday Fests can be found on our webpage here. But in short, students are learning music with a short-term goal in mind - TO PERFORM IT SOON! The performances are low-key and casual so that students can get comfortable being up on stage in front of people.
6. Teacher Rotation - Two heads really are better than one
We realize that a student having two teacher is a new concept for many families and students. With all things that are new or different, its fair to expect more information in order to understand them....so here goes.
how does it work?
Its quite simply really. Let's say that our student Thor comes in on Mondays at 5pm for his 30 minute lesson. On week 1 he would have Teacher #1, and on week 2 he would have Teacher #2. Then the next week back to Teacher 1, and the week after that Teacher 2, and so on. (This Teacher Rotation system this only applies to individual one-on-one lessons. Group lessons have the same teacher week over week. )
Why does this method work?
- Accountability - when a professional teacher is writing assignment sheet instructions for the student, and know that the following week that his/her notes will be reviewed by another peer - trust me...they write clear, concise, and descriptive notes.
- Collaboration - Teachers help remove each other's blind spots - Every afternoon before teaching begins, the teachers get together and go over their students jointly. How did things go last week? What ideas did you try with the student to help them learn something? Ect...This collaborative effort helps to take two perspectives and remove the blind spots that all teachers (and people for that matter) have.
- Balancing of Strengths and Weaknesses - All of our teachers are competent musicians, but it should come as no surprise that they have different strengths and weaknesses. Some teachers will naturally focus more on technique, others will lean a little more towards improvisation and applied theory...when those teacher collaborate the students get the very best from both of them! For additional information on this topic, you can visit this webpage.
7. Group and/or Individual
When you contact Music Studios, the studio will many times be either all group lessons, or all individual lessons. And lengthy and passionate blog posts abound as to the superior merits of one or the other. Having done both group and individual lessons, we have seen the strengths and weaknesses of each approach. As a general rule, students in their first 2-4 years of learning piano (and music in general) are much better served in taking group lessons. And also as a general rule, students that are at a level 4 and above are better served through individual lessons. Although we have seen successful programs using group piano all the way up to college admittance. Offering the flexibility for parents and students of offering both group and/or individual provides additional options for families to choose from depending upon their goals and ambitions for their child and family.
8. Building a well-rounded musician through the Music Pillars framework
We want children's musical education to be more than learning a few songs on the piano. The Pillars that make up Music Pillars are:
Each of these play a key role in the musical experience of a child. We want students to play for fun (love) by always having a piece of music that they have chosen to learn. And then to round out their education by holding to these core principles, and regularly testing and monitoring their progress across this comprehensive curriculum outline. We're building musicians here...not just teaching kids to play a few songs on the piano.
Ok - well there you go, these are 8 of the things we do that make us unique in our educational process for students.