- Do I need an acoustic piano for my child?
- Pianos are very expensive and I'm not sure my child will continue. Should I still buy one?
- How often and how long should my child practice?
- Do I need to sit with my child when he/she is practicing?
- But I don't have a music background, how can I help my child?
Yes, an acoustic piano is recommended so that your child starts to develop finger muscles and tonal control right from the very beginning.
Agreed, pianos are expensive and there is no guarantee that your child will pursue lessons in the long term. Parents do need to realize that if their child takes lessons on an acoustic piano in their teacher's studio and then returns home to a "mini keyboard" or one that is not touch sensitive, their child will become discouraged during practice time. The sound and touch will not be of the same quality. Also, as an RCM piano examiner, I have witnessed the frustration of the piano candidate whispering under their breath at how the piano is so hard to press. An examiner or adjudicator can immediately spot the performer who does not have an acoustic piano, by their tonal and finger control. "Keyboard" students are unable to control their touch and tone resulting in an uneven tone.
If finances are an issue, then I would recommend either renting a piano until you are ready to purchase. Or purchase a reconditioned piano at a reputable dealer, simply state your budget and see what they can offer you. Purchasing from "craigslist" or "kijiji" is risky without having a tuner take a look at the piano. There may be hidden issues, like a cracked soundboard that will be expensive to repair.
Practice times vary on the amount of homework your teacher has assigned. In the beginning, practice times may be short, i.e. 10 mins. The key is to develop a consistent schedule for your child and ensuring that your child has done enough repetitions to master the new skill. Age and attention span are also key factors to a productive practice session. Younger children require more supervision from the parent and may also benefit from practice charts, earning "points" for the amount of repetitions, etc. Your teacher should be able to give you strategies in this area.
Young children from ages 4-9 will require assistance from the parent to set up a practice schedule and to ensure that all homework is completed before the next lesson. This includes any theory, ear training or sight reading homework as well.
Having a music background does make it easier for the parent, but there are many who do not and take time to learn with their child. The early years of lessons are easy enough for parents to keep up with their child's progress. If a young child is left to fend for themselves, they will become discouraged at the lack of progress and will eventually learn to dislike lessons. Sometimes just reading the homework notes or helping with theory homework is enough to boost their confidence. Another suggestion is to hire a piano tutor, i.e. an older, more advanced student to come to your home in order to practice with your child.