Meri’s Musical Musings

Why piano isn’t for everyone (even though most people benefit from 2-5 years of quality instruction)

Posted on: September 3, 2015

First, some people have difficulty deciphering notes, especially multiple notes at one time in two different clefs and might never reach even an intermediate level without really struggling. Some types of learning disabilities, particularly dyslexia, makes the piano doubly difficult, as many will mix up notes no matter how well or badly it is taught. Yet when such students try a single note instrument, they are much more likely to succeed, because it is pretty much mostly one note at a time, except in some advanced string playing.

Second, some people have missing fingers or limited movement making it unsuitable for them. While other instruments require much more limited finger use (most brass) or none, like the trombone.

Third, a few people are simply too short to reach the pedals with good body position for the keys even on the lowest of grands by distance from floor to keyboard. Or they are not able to until they reach the growth spurt of the teen years.

Fourth, some people even as teens and adults have small hands (a ninth (9 white notes) or less, and there are some adults who cannot reach an octave (8 white notes)!), which makes advanced level technical requirements difficult if not impossible and greatly reduces possible repertoire choices at the advanced levels.

Fifth, some to many areas have a glut of piano teachers and not enough students to go around, sometimes reducing the fees to that comparable to babysitters, while bands and orchestras needs all kinds of instruments, many orchestras are short of French horn, viola, and bassoon players, increasingly percussionists are lacking in orchestras, which often need 3-6 players for music of the late 19th and 20th centuries. While teachers of some orchestra instruments the students usually pay the fees or they don’t take lessons. On orchestral instruments, if you’re the only teacher for miles around or the top teacher in the area, you have a good chance of getting the lion’s share of students while being able to charge respectable fees.

Sixth, some people simply cannot coordinate two hands doing very different movements past a rather elementary level; such people should consider studying woodwinds or brass.

Seventh, some people have difficulty memorizing music, which is required for most piano exams and competitions; woodwinds and brass generally only have memorization required for concerto classes, and on exams, it’s usually technical elements only that have to be memorized. (string instruments often require memorization, especially violin)

Eighth, some people like the idea of being an individual that plays an instrument that few people play or have heard; for these people certain strings, middle and low brass, bassoon, and sometimes oboe would make good choices for them, and make it easier to get into higher level groups, especially if they are already disciplined in other areas of study and thrive on a challenge. On the other hand, piano, violin, and sometimes flute can be extremely competitive, even in the developing stages for placement in ensembles.

Finally, some people cannot move their fingers really fast, no matter what their age or when they started piano, especially multiple fingers in the same hand quickly, which happens in upper intermediate pieces like the very fast section of Fur Elise that many people have heard. Woodwinds and especially brass are far less demanding in this regard.

That being said, most students do benefit from having basic piano skills to help them with school music, and gives them a leg up in orchestra, band, and choir classes that read from music. It also aids in understanding music theory in schools that teach it. And even if they end up quitting as children, if they pursue another instrument to an advanced level, like considering going to study it professionally after high school, they come back to it with renewed motivation and often make up a lot of ground in a very short time.

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  • None
  • V V: Wish I had read this before I fell for their scheme ! Oh well - have posted my experience on Yelp and N49 and hoping others can avoid the pain of fal
  • clariniano: Thanks for the additional information. It was actually Yelp that deleted my reviews, because of so-called bias. I too have seen the horrible technique
  • No Thanks: Former Teacher at the Ontario Conservatory of Music I took lessons at the Ontario Conservatory and when I left for private lessons from another tea
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