A Beginner Piano Buyer’s Guide

Beginner Piano Buyer's Guide

This year I have had the pleasure of working with some of our youngest pianists and helping them grow in their skills. With this has come many questions about which piano is right for a given student and how to know where to begin the purchase process as a parent. Those questions have inspired this beginner piano buyer’s guide!

Number of Keys- These can vary but the most common is a 61-key and an 88-key. These are measured by how many keys are on the piano. A 61-key keyboard is smaller and will be lower in cost and vice-versa for an 88-key. Eventually a student will need an 88-key piano or adapt music, but this doesn’t need to happen until book 2 or 3.

Brand Name- The most common brand names offering affordable keyboards are Yamaha and Casio. These are both wonderful and reliable brands. With these you can’t go wrong.

Accessories- There are so many accessories that can be used with your keyboard here are a few that you should consider:

  • Piano Bench or Seat- these are usually adjustable along with the height of the keyboard.
  • Keyboard Stand- Most keyboards come with a stand. I would recommend checking to make sure because this is a must!
  • Music Stand- Keyboards should come with a music stand, attached to the top of the keyboard to hold music at a comfortable level. Once again, this is a must have.
  • Weighted Keys and Key Size- Key size is very important. You should check to see that they haven’t slimmed the keys on your keyboard to provide for ease of transition from practice to lessons and performance. Also, there are a large variety of keyboards out there that have weighted keys. Weighted keys require more resistance when playing to more closely relate to the feel an acoustic piano.

Altogether your choice will largely depend upon whether you would like to get a starter piano or something more long term. I still use my 88-Key keyboard that I started my piano journey with 12 years ago. My recommendation would be, if it is within your price range, to invest in an 88-key keyboard. You don’t need an upright piano, or a keyboard with all of the bells and whistles to give your child what they need to excel in their music lessons.

Best of luck in your piano buying journey!

Instruments and Materials: Thinking Outside the Box

Instruments & Materials

I love working with instruments. I could entertain myself all day with a djembe, guitar, piano, and an endless supply of sheet music. But sometimes my students and clients don’t share my endless love for all things instrumental so… what else is there? Well, I’m glad you asked!

  1. Musical Props and Manipulators- Hello Connect-a-band! This category is a great love of mine. I make use the stretchy band and parachute with almost every group and music class. These are great for gross motor movement and getting those jiggles out! A few other great options include bean bags, streamers, scarves, and of course- the balloon ball.
  2. Stuffed Animals and Adapted Toys- Stuffed animals are a great way to create a different sensory experience with common instruments. Like playing stuffed animals on a drum for “5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed” or “5 Green and Speckled Frogs.” Even large bean bags can be a great way to provide a new musical experience.
  3. Laminated Visuals- This is something that our team has been doing for the last year. For each class session we have written a special seasonal song accompanied by five visual counting aids. We have done everything from flowers to trees, and raindrops to snowflakes. What is truly wonderful is seeing our class grow in their counting skills as we work together. If you would like to check out our counting books and songs, click here.

If you are a parent of a young child, check out our Listen & Learn for Little Ones class. Led by board-certified music therapists, this class is structured to support growth in play and musical exploration! Come join us!

Pinterest for the Modern Music Therapist

Pinterest for the Modern MT-BC

Pinterest is well known for being the place where connoisseurs of the latest and greatest information get lost in endless pages of ideas, projects, and graphics. Most people use it as a way to explore their hobbies, but did you know that Pinterest can also be used as an effective tool for marketing, collaborating, and even research?

What is the purpose of Pinterest? For those of you who have never used this platform, Pinterest is basically a virtual cork board where you can use “pins” or graphical links to put on a “board” which you can label and is now saved in your account. One of my favorite boards right now is my “sensory” board which focuses on resources related to sensory awareness, care, tools and more. My favorite place to get resources about sensory needs is from pin boards about Occupational Therapy. Which brings me to my next point…

Why should I use another social media platform? My absolute favorite use for Pinterest is to collaborate! Now, of course it is hugely beneficial to collaborate with local professionals when you can, but in the case that those resources are not present or available Pinterest allows you to share ideas with others, professionals included!

But more than anything else, Pinterest is a great tool for advocating! There are already pages upon pages of informational graphics about what Music Therapy is, who provides Music Therapy, and why it is effective. When these images are re-pinned they become more and more popular and are then seen more and more. In the end there are so many uses and benefits to using Pinterest as a Music Therapist that I didn’t even touch on.

There are endless possibilities.


The “It” Instrument

Ukulele Class

In case you haven’t heard, ukuleles are all the rage these days. They are super popular with singer-songwriters, and we’ve had so many of our students spark an interest in learning how to play. We’ve always loved the uke, but their popularity surge inspired us to create a class for beginning strummers.

We’ve offered the class several times now, and we’re excited to start a new session in a couple weeks! The goal of 1-2-3, Learn Ukulele is to have students (many of whom have never picked up a stringed instrument) playing chords and then songs right from the get-go. Just recently, one of our students who had never formed a ukulele chord walked out of her first lesson able to play the entirety of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”!

While not everyone learns at quite that speed, the ukulele is easier to pick up than the guitar. It only has 4 strings as opposed to 6, and its petite size fits smaller hands better. What I love most about the ukulele is that the simplest chord progressions and songs perfectly suit its sweet sound; I think that’s why it has become so popular. You don’t have to be highly skilled to play, though there are certainly uke prodigies out there.

If your child is interested in playing a fun starter instrument, consider the ukulele! Our 8-week class begins on April 13, and we provide the ukes so that the only thing students need to participate is the willingness to learn. Click here for details and registration.

Set-up and Tear Down – What it Takes

Ever wonder what it takes to prep and clean up an early child hood group?  The short time-lapse video at the end of this post shows exactly what I do before and after a class!

Each Listen & Learn Class requires a little effort to set-up and tear down.  In our recent post “little details, big difference”, I outlined some of the small things we do to make our space more comfortable for the families we work with each week. On top of those small amenities we bring (hand sanitizer, a rug, tissues, etc), we carry instruments, binders, a book, and a guitar to and from our sessions.  At the end of the session, everything gets packed up, taken to the other room, cleaned, and put away.  This setup and cleanup generally takes about an extra 10 minutes before and after the session, making the total time for a class just over an hour. 

Enjoy this short video!!

Little Details, Big Difference

When Rachel and I began working in our new group space, we were both incredibly excited. The space is only feet away from our instrument storage, the room is large, and the building centrally located in town. Even with all of the positives of our space, we had a few challenges to overcome.

Though the space is mostly empty, it is used by several different people so we needed to adapt it to make our clients a little more comfortable and willing to participate in groups. Here are some of the small changes we made to make a big different for our clients.

Adding a Colorful Area Rug

Early Childhood Music Class Having a rug helps define the space and creates a central location for children to come forward during story time or gather to play with larger instruments or movement props. It serves as a wonderful reference point when giving directions as well (ex. “Come sit on the rug”).

An area rug can also help cover unsightly or distracting things on the floor. The shiny outlet cover in this picture was a huge distraction during our first class and was quickly covered for future gatherings.

Not only is our rug functional, it adds to the overall aesthetic of the space, making it more “ours”. It’s also easy to roll up and store away after every class.

Storage on Wheels

Early Childhood Music ClassOur rolling storage cart may be my favorite purchase thus far. This 3-drawer cart allows me to organize the instruments we are using in the group and store things out of sight of our group members.

Because my toddler-age group members like to explore on their own, I face the drawer pulls toward the wall so the drawers cannot be opened without turning the cart around. This usually discourages clients from getting into the drawers and give me more freedom to lead the group.

At the beginning and end of class, it’s so much more convenient to roll the cart back into our storage area then carry multiple bags and bins!

Little Amenities

Early Childhood Music ClassWe try to provide little things to make our clients feel more comfortable.

Anticipating their needs helps them feel more at home, willing to participate, and likely to come back again. Having small things like hand sanitizer and tissues can make a huge difference when someone is in need!