Frequently Asked Questions

Hi guys!

This is Ilinca :). If you would like to learn more about my Piano Coaching Program before registration – our FAQ page is the best place to start! ;)

Simply click on the question(s) that interest you – and my super-detailed answer will appear below! 8)

If the information you’re looking for is not covered in the FAQs – don’t hesitate to Contact Us, and my assistants will be happy to help!

So, here we go! ;D

1. What is PianoCareerAcademy?

PianoCareerAcademy.com (PCA) is an Online Piano Coaching Program that shares the professional principles of the Russian piano school in a detailed, holistic, very in-depth manner – offering its members premium quality tutorials that cannot be found anywhere else (unless you study with a professor trained in a Russian-style Conservatoire).

I created this Coaching Program because I have a dream: I strongly believe that each student or piano enthusiast, regardless of age or skill level, regardless of country and the specific piano school of that country – deserves to learn how to play with ease, in a professional manner, by having easy access to the secrets of the Russian piano school and to all those discoveries I have made the hard way during my own piano quest.

PCA is addressed to ALL levels – from absolute beginners to advanced pianists and piano teachers. Our courses for Beginners have a step-by-step format – while the tutorials for intermediate and advanced students target specific pieces or piano topics/problems.

The Members Area of PCA can be compared with an enormous library – the equivalent of many hundreds of books and DVDs (which you can access for the price of one book! :D). Plus, new tutorials are being posted on a weekly basis!

Once you become a member, you’ll have instant and unlimited access to an enormous database of exclusive tutorials: many hundreds of videos and articles (including step-by-step courses) focused on a very wide range of piano playing topics, being structured according to categories and levels. We also share many scores and teaching resources (including unique materials we use in the Russian piano school). Find the full list of features included in the membership in FAQ No. 2!

As a member of PCA you will:

  • Learn the professional secrets of the Russian piano school via my holistic approach to piano playing;
  • Learn how to play piano from scratch by following our step-by-step Video Course for Beginners based on Nikolaev’s Russian School of Piano Playing (more info about this Course in FAQ No. 17);
  • Learn how to play expressively and convincingly – in a ‘scientific’, thorough, step-by-step manner, by understanding HOW exactly to create specific expressive effects and emotional images; you will discover that expressiveness is not a gift you’re born with – but a skill that anyone can master; an inspired artistic performance is 99% correct practice – and only 1% ‘talent’! :P
  • Develop your hearing and your mental ‘super-powers’ (that will make ALL the difference in your playing!): awareness, imagination, concentration, memorization etc;
  • Learn how to practice correctly, mindfully and efficiently: the way you practice determines the way you perform!
  • ‘Skyrocket’ your technique by learning very efficient ergonomic professional secrets (such as whole-arm action, weighted playing, relaxation and freedom of movement, wrist navigation etc.), and by following our step-by-step Scale Course (more info about this Course in FAQ No. 19);
  • Improve your posture, your key attack and get rid of tension for good!
  • Improve your theoretical knowledge and analytical abilities;
  • Learn how to analyze and practice hundreds of specific pieces – in a detailed step-by-step manner!
  • Discover the great piano repertoire (and download hundreds of scores!);
  • Learn how to increase your productivity while staying relaxed and enjoying every step of your piano quest;
  • Learn how to deal with performance anxiety, so each concert will become a pleasant, liberating experience;
  • Widen your musical horizons by learning more about music history (the main epochs/styles/genres, great composers and their works etc.);
  • Ask questions and get feedback to your playing by participating in our awesome interactive projects: the MasterClass, the Q&A etc. (more details in FAQ No. 2);
  • Get inspired and find motivation whenever you feel down;
  • Share your piano goals and your progress;

… and much much more! ;)

2. What is included in the membership?

Whether you choose the monthly or yearly subscription – the PCA membership includes:

  • 24/7 unlimited access to ALL our hundreds of exclusive, in-depth, premium-quality video and written tutorials;
  • Unlimited access to our step-by-step courses (the Course for Beginners, the Scale & Arpeggio Course, the Sight-Reading Course);
  • New tutorials every week;
  • Downloadable scores and method books (including unique materials we use in the Russian piano school);
  • The Questions & Answers project (monthly videos where I answer our members’ questions!);
  • The possibility to submit recordings in our MasterClass and receive detailed feedback;
  • Thousands of captivating piano conversations with piano students/teachers/enthusiasts from the entire world;
  • The possibility to chat with other members of our big community, to share your recordings and your piano progress with them;
  • Piano motivation, inspiration, health advice;
  • Top-quality customer support;
  • … and much much more!

Do you want to take a look at the FULL list of tutorials available for the members of my Coaching Program before registration;D You can find it here: PianoCareerAcademy – Complete List of Tutorials.

Besides the enormous database of existing tutorials, I’m also posting new ones on a regular basis.

I’m currently working on the following projects:

1. Piano Masterpieces – Detailed Video Lessons for All Levels. Each lesson is dedicated to a Masterpiece of the piano repertoire (pre-classical, classical, romantic, impressionist or modern piece of high artistic value), comprising a detailed analysis and a step-by-step, super-thorough practice guide. The Masterpiece tutorials are structured according to levels – featuring pieces for beginners, intermediates and advanced students.

2. Practicing Scales and Arpeggios – The Art Behind the Exercise. This step-by-step holistic course comprises many progressive episodes, covering the entire scale system we use in the Russian piano school, with super-detailed practice tips for every level (from absolute beginner to virtuoso). Learn more about this Course by reading the FAQ No. 19.

3. Step-by-Step Video Course for Piano Beginners (based on Nikolaev’s Russian School of Piano Playing – the most fundamental method book that we use in the Russian Piano School). By following this progressive Course, you will learn how to play piano from scratch, in an enjoyable progressive manner, discovering all the professional principles of correct practice and developing all your artistic/expressive/technical/sight-reading/analytical skills in a harmonious manner. Learn more about this Course by reading the FAQ No. 17.

4. Piano Masterclasses. Once in several months, you can share your recordings in our ‘online masterclass’ – and get my detailed video feedback! ;)

5. Questions & Answers. I answer our members’ questions in a monthly video!

Besides teaching the secrets of correct, productive and enjoyable piano playing, our Piano Coaching Program also helps each student to grow, to discover his/her unique talents, to learn more about the psychological aspects of musical performance (including how to increase our confidence, how to get rid of performance anxiety etc.), to improve his/her health and well-being and so on.

On our site you’ll also find support and motivation – and an awesome community of piano enthusiasts!

And, at all times, you will have our special Table of Contents as your main guide. It will offer you direct one-click links to ALL our lessons, making it super-easy to decide where to start and what tutorials to watch next (not to mention that we have detailed videos that will show you how to use our site, how to browse our database and find any tutorial you might be looking for).

3. What is not included in the membership?

The PCA membership does not include:

  • Unlimited individual piano guidance (read below what type of individual guidance IS included!);
  • Replies to unlimited complex questions posted in the Members Area (read below what types of questions you CAN ask!);
  • Piano discussions via email, phone or Skype with me or my assistants (except for customer support, as explained below);
  • Downloading our videos (they can only be watched online for as long as you remain a member).

Here is why these things are not included in the PCA membership:

1. Unlimited individual piano guidance.

My Coaching Program was designed to offer you easy access to a huge database of exclusive video and written tutorials (and much more!) :). You can compare the Members Area with an enormous library – the equivalent of many hundreds of books and DVDs (which you can access for the price of one book!). Plus, new tutorials are being posted on a weekly basis!

Once you register, you’ll have instant access to ALL our tutorials (more info in  FAQ No. 2) and also to lots of useful guidelines that will help you how to browse our database depending on your level/goal. However, it will be up to you how you use the available information – and how you apply it to your practice. For reasons that I will explain in a minute, I cannot be there for you 24/7, guiding you every step of the way.

Still, limited individual guidance IS included in the membership! A good example is our MasterClass project (where I offer in-depth video feedbacks to our members’ recordings), or the Questions & Answers project (where I offer detailed video replies to your questions in a monthly video). Both these projects are scheduled – it means that you can participate in a MasterClass twice per year, and you can ask one question per month as part of the Q&A.

If you’re still wondering why I cannot be there for you 24/7 :P – please allow me to explain:

PCA has hundreds of members – while I am only one person. I am currently dedicating my entire work time (6 days a week, 10-12 hours per day) to designing, recording and posting video tutorials beneficial for ALL our members (not to mention all the tasks associated with running a large online Academy). Offering unlimited individual guidance to all of them, on TOP of all the other things included in the membership, would be physically impossible, as you surely understand :).

Another reason why in-depth individual guidance is not included in the membership is the very affordable price (only $47 per month – when the price of an individual piano lesson ranges nowadays between $40 and $200 per 45 minutes). I’m sure you understand that Conservatoire-level unlimited individual guidance cannot cost only $47 per month! LOL

2. Replies to unlimited complex questions posted in the Members Area.

Still, you CAN ask short questions if you don’t understand something in an existing tutorial – and you’ll always receive a reply from me or my assistants! And, as I mentioned above, you can also ask questions as part of our monthly Questions & Answers project!

3. Piano discussions via email, phone or Skype with me or my assistants.

This restriction only applies to piano guidancenot to customer support! You can always ask customer support questions via emailwithout ANY limitations – and you will get a timely reply from my assistants!

WHY is piano guidance via email/Skype/phone not included in the membership? For the same reasons explained above! Imagine that you’re a member of PCA and you’re eagerly waiting for the next Lesson from our Beginner Course (or the next Masterpiece tutorial etc.). Wouldn’t you be disappointed if instead of designing/recording/editing/publishing the promised lesson, I would chat via email/Skype/phone with some of our members, neglecting my work and letting down our entire community? For this reason, if you have a question, you should post it as part of the Q&A project – and this way, ALL our members will benefit from my answer (as compared to detailed answers via email, which take a lot of time to write, but are are beneficial to only one person). I believe in 100% transparent work accountability – and all our members know that my entire work time is dedicated to them!!!

4. Is there a difference between the monthly and the yearly subscriptions?

Both memberships give you access to our ENTIRE database (more information in FAQ No. 2) – and the only difference between them is the price: the yearly membership helps you to save $94, but it requires a longer commitment :).

5. How many tutorials can I watch/read per month/year?

You can watch/read as many tutorials as you wish per month/year – and you can also go back to older tutorials as often as you choose.

You’ll have unlimited access to our entire database for as long as you remain a member :).

6. Do I have to take action for renewing my membership every month/year?

No. Membership payments recur automatically on a monthly or yearly basis (depending on the membership option you chose when you subscribed). All you have to do is register – and then relax and enjoy the experience! ;) You’ll simply receive an email notification when your membership payment has recurred.

For example, if you subscribe on March 15th for a monthly membership, your payment will recur automatically on April 15th, and then on the 15th of each following month (unless canceled in advance). If you subscribe for a yearly membership, your payment will recur on March 15th next year (unless canceled in advance).

Canceling your membership is very easy: all you have to do is contact us at least 3-4 days before the date of the next recurring payment – and we’ll take care of all the technical details!

7. Can I switch from Monthly to Yearly?

Yes, of course! :)

You will find detailed instructions in the FAQs from the Members Area.

8. Do you have a free trial membership?

No – because it’s very easy to assess the quality of my tutorials and my teaching style before registration, by watching/reading the 40+ FREE videos and articles that you can find on PianoCareer.com (my free piano blog). This Archive contains the direct links to ALL my free tutorials (including the ones available on my YouTube channel).

In other words, if you enjoy my free tutorials – you will definitely enjoy the ones available in the Members Area – they are even more detailed and comprehensive!

If, on the other hand, you are looking for something else (a different teaching style, or maybe you’re not interested in classical piano) – then there’s no reason to subscribe at all! :)

10. Can I pay via PayPal?

Yes, certainly!

Here is what you have to do:

During the Payment Step No. 3, select the PayPal option:

PayPal_CheckOut

However, this option will not appear for all currencies (it works only for major currencies like USD or Euro). So make sure that you go to the right sidebar, to the Change Currency tab, and select USD – U.S. dollar (or Euro, or another currency supported by PayPal):

Payment_change_currency

This will work no matter what currency you have on your card (the conversion will happen automatically, according to the exchange rates of the day!) ;)

11. Can I pay via Bank Transfer?

If you don’t have a credit/debit card OR a PayPal account and you wish to pay via direct bank transfer (or another money transfer method), unfortunately this option is not available at the moment.

When (and if) this becomes possible, I will immediately update the answer to this question! ;) Thank you for your understanding!

12. Can I buy your tutorials on DVD?

No. PianoCareerAcademy.com is an Online Piano Coaching Program – and our database of tutorials is too enormous to fit on DVDs :). If we would ever decide to sell our courses and lessons on DVD, we would probably need many hundreds of them, and their price would be so huge (because of the actual physical costs of burning/printing/shipping) that nobody could afford it LOL.

Moreover, I publish new tutorials every week – and it would be impossible to keep shipping all the new DVDs to our customers – while our online database is always up to date (for the same price!).

In other words, you can compare the Members Area with an enormous library – the equivalent of hundreds of books and DVDs (which you can access for the price of one book!). It’s actually really wonderful that the internet makes it possible to share so much at such a low cost – and this way our tutorials are affordable for many people (as compared to expensive DVD courses or real-life lessons of the same premium quality, that only a few could afford).

To have a better understanding of what you can find in the Members Area once you subscribe, please read my answer to FAQ No. 2.

13. Do you offer individual lessons (in real-life or via Skype)?

Not at the moment.

I am happy and honored to receive lots of emails with inquiries about individual lessons (thank you so much for appreciating my work!). I would love to offer individual lessons to all of you who are interested, but unfortunately I am only one person and there are only 24 hours in a day. I currently dedicate 99% of my work time to my Piano Coaching Program, where I have to post new video tutorials every week (not to mention all the tasks associated with running a large online Academy comprising hundreds of members) – and for this reason it’s simply physically impossible for me to accept new students in my class.

Therefore, if you wish to study with me, joining PianoCareerAcademy.com is a much better option than individual lessons (and so much more affordable!!!).

Once our database of tutorials at PCA grows to even more enormous proportions LOL, and I find a few assistants to help me with designing and posting even more videos 😀 – I will be happy to resume individual lessons! ;)

14. Do you offer free individualized piano guidance (via email, Facebook or YouTube)?

I wish I could! :)

I receive so many piano questions from you guys – via email or Facebook, on my blog (PianoCareer.com) or as comments on my YouTube channel!

I would LOVE to offer detailed answers to all of them (or at least point you in the right direction when you’re facing a dilemma) – but this is unfortunately physically impossible! :( At the moment, I am the only teacher at PianoCareerAcademy.com (and there are only 24 hours in a day!) – and the slightest glitch in my super-heavy schedule leads to learning interruptions for our members. I do my best to post new detailed video tutorials every week (hundreds of people are waiting for them!) – and every minute of my work time (6 days a week, 10-12 hours per day) is already fully booked.

So, if you send me an email with a piano question, I apologize in advance for not getting back to you with a detailed reply. You will still get a reply from my assistant Natalia: she will let you know why I cannot answer your question, and where you can find more information on the topic that interest you (99% of the time, the answers to the questions I receive are fully covered in the tutorials available on PCA!). Our policy is to reply to each and every decent email/message (we do NOT reply to silly ones such as ‘Hello beautiful!’ or ‘Will you marry me’? LOL)!

I make an exception for short, relevant YouTube or Facebook comments – which I do my absolute best to answer (but really shortly!).

I will also mention that we maintain a very affordable membership fee for PCA (it hasn’t changed in more than 3 years, regardless of currency oscillations and depreciations!). This quick comparison will help you to have a better understanding of the price/value ratio of my Coaching Program: you have access to our entire database (and benefit from ALL our projects!) for only $47 per month – when the price of an individual piano lesson ranges nowadays between $40 and $200 per 45 minutes).

Thank you for your understanding and see you in the Members Area! Wink

15. Do I have to pay extra for the required materials (books, sheet music etc.)?

No! :)

All the needed books, scores and other materials are already included in the membership fee.

Once you join, you will have instant and unlimited access to hundreds of downloadable materials (including unique resources we use in the Russian piano school):
– method books (and graded repertoire books) for beginners,
– collections of piano masterpieces for all levels (albums, chrestomathies etc.),
– hundreds of other scores (pre-classical, classical, romantic and impressionist piano music),
– repertoire suggestions for all levels (with scores attached),
– detailed fingering charts for each Lesson from our Scale Course – and much much more!

Plus, all my video tutorials have the needed scores attached! ;)

16. Can I watch your videos on my iPad (iPhone, tablet, smartphone)?

YES! ;)

We are proud to let you know that ALL our hundreds of video tutorials are 100% compatible with all devices: PCs and Macs, iPads and tablets, iPhones and smartphones! 8)

I personally tested them on the most important operating systems (Windows, iOS and Android) and I also know that they work on other OSs as well.

17. Can you tell me more about your Video Course for Beginners?

Yes, of course! ;)

My step-by-step Video Course for Beginners is based on Nikolaev’s Russian School of Piano Playing (the most fundamental method book that we use in the Russian Piano School).

This Course will help you to learn how to play piano from scratch, in an enjoyable progressive manner, harmoniously developing all your artistic/expressive/technical/sight-reading/analytical/pedaling skills – for setting a professional, stable, comfortable piano playing foundation. You’ll gradually discover all the secrets of the Russian piano school – they will allow you to ‘conquer’ any piece with ease! ;)

The Course consists of MANY progressive Video Lessons ::), structured into 3 main Chapters.

Chapter 1 is based on Book 1 Part I from Nikolaev’s method book, and it comprises 29 Lessons.
Chapter 2 is based on Book 1 Part II – comprising 46 Lessons (30 to 75).

Chapter 3 is focused on Book 2 from the Russian School of Piano Playing – having a more advanced ‘program format’, suitable for the late beginner level (aprox. level 3).

Once you join, you will have unlimited access to ALL available Lessons for Beginners – and to our ENTIRE database, comprising many hundreds of exclusive tutorials (more info in FAQ No. 2).

On the Complete List of PCA Tutorials (that you can access for free on PianoCareer.com, my piano blog) you will find the direct links to ALL the existing Lessons from this project – structured according to number and chapter, and also featuring a short summary of the main things covered in each Lesson!

What piano skills will you develop by following the Course for Beginners?

By following this step-by-step Course, you will:
1. Learn how to play piano from scratch – in a professional, in-depth, very detailed manner;
2. Discover the professional principles of the Russian piano school;
3. Master the whole-arm action principle (weighted playing involving your entire relaxed arms – not just the separate movement of your fingers, which is an old-school approach);
4. Learn the basics of correct posture and key attack;
5. Learn the basics of tone creation;
6. Learn theory and musical notation in a fun, practical way;
7. Learn how to analyze and practice a piece correctly;
8. Learn how to easily memorize a piece;
9. Develop your expressive and technical skills harmoniously;
10. Discover the secrets of piano phrasing;
11. Develop your hearing, your imagination, your awareness and your focus;
12. Develop your sight-reading skills;
13. Learn the secrets of piano pedaling;
14. Develop your ensemble skills by playing duets together with me ;D;
15. Discover the main musical styles, get acquainted with great classical composers and learn more about the history of universal music;
16. Increase your productivity;
17. Avoid tension and tension-related injuries;
18. Manage stress and performance anxiety;
… and much much more!

Even though this Course is designed for beginners – it can be very useful for experienced pianists and teachers as well! ;)

How to follow this Course, depending on your level/purpose:

Absolute beginners:

Piano playing is an enormous universe – a very complex art where thousands of different fascinating elements need to be harmoniously combined for allowing us to play beautiful music artistically and expressively! So please leave behind the silly myth that says ‘piano playing is about pressing the right notes with the right fingers’ :P! Burn that deceiving bridge once and for all, open the door to a whole new world – and get ready to be blown away by the depth and usefulness of the information you’re about to discover! 8)

During this journey, please be patient and take it one step at a time! Learning the fundamentals correctly is a wonderful investment in your piano future, and it will save you lots of time and effort in the long run! So don’t hurry, watch one Lesson at a time, and move on to the next Lesson or piece only when the previous one is properly mastered (as I explain in each tutorial).

Now – how much time it will take you to finish a Lesson/Chapter?

It all depends on YOU – on the quality of your practice, on your available time (practice schedule), and also on your goals!

Quality is the most important thing when it comes to piano playing. You will learn all the details of mindful correct practice by following this Course!

Consistency is very important as well – so I strongly advise you to practice at least 4-5 days a week (minimum 45 minutes of correct practice per session – but not longer than 2 hours per day during the first 6 months).

So, depending on your individual schedule and learning speed (we all learn differently, which is perfectly ok!) – you might complete one Lesson per week or per fortnight (or even one Lesson in 2-3 days – especially for the pieces analyzed in Chapter 1).

The pieces covered in Chapter 2 are more complex, and it will probably take you about 1-3 weeks to complete one Lesson (again, more details in each individual tutorial).

Therefore, it might take you from 6 months to 2 years to complete the first two Chapters :).

Most Lessons from Chapters 1 and 2 are mandatory (you cannot skip them!). Several Lessons are optional, though – and you will learn why/if you can skip them (depending on your goals) above each tutorial.

Also, after you complete Lesson No. 47, you can simultaneously start practicing scales and arpeggios – by following my step-by-step Video Scale Course entitled How to Practice Piano Scales and Arpeggios – The Art Behind the Exercise (more info about this Course in FAQ No. 19).

Experienced players (late beginner, intermediate and advanced levels):

If you want to (re)discover the basics and get rid of bad playing habits, to acquire a new perspective on piano playing and build a stable, professional piano foundation – than this Course can be very useful for you!

In your case, the step-by-step approach is not mandatory (but it is not forbidden either! LOL). You can simply take a look at the summary for each Lesson – and watch/follow those Lessons that interest you more :).

The more Lessons you watch, the more pieces you practice – the better you will assimilate the basics, and the stronger your analytical/expressive/technical/sight-reading skills will become! ;)

Piano Teachers:

Everything I wrote for our experienced players is 100% applicable to you as well: you can follow the lessons in a progressive order (for your own benefits) – or simply go directly to a certain Lesson that interest you more.

Plus (and here you’re up for a treat! :P), because in this Course you will find detailed tutorials for each and every piece from Book 1 (Parts I and II), and for most pieces from Book 2 – this can be a tremendous help for your own teaching experience!

So, if you have beginners in your class and you decide to assign them ANY (or all!) of the pieces from our Nikolaev book ::) (lots of them can be found in other method books as well) – then all you have to do is open the needed Lesson, and voila! You have a complete Analysis + Practice Guide of the needed piece, and you’re ready to teach it to your students! ;D

18. I can’t read musical notation. Can I still benefit from your program?

Yes! :)

You will learn how to read musical notation from scratch, in a fun progressive manner, by following my step-by-step Video Course for Beginners (learn more about this Course by reading my answer to the previous FAQ).

I also have to mention that learning how to read music is very important – and also very easy if done correctly! ;)

So if you’re thinking that this is a skill you don’t need, and you simply want to learn to play by ear (or by mechanically memorizing chord progressions), then I strongly advise you to reconsider! :P

Playing without knowing how to read musical notation can be compared to speaking without knowing how to read/write in your language. So why would you choose to be illiterate, when learning how to read is fun and easy? LOL

By developing good reading skills you will open the door to an amazing universe of beautiful music, being able to decipher and learn ANY piece independently – may it be a Nocturne by Chopin, a Sonata by Beethoven, a Prelude by Rachmaninoff or Debussy, or a complex 5-part Fugue by J.S. Bach! 8)

19. Can you tell me more about your Scale Course?

Yes, of course! ;)

My step-by-step Scale Course is entitled How to Practice Piano Scales and Arpeggios – the Art Behind the Exercise.

It consists of many progressive Video Lessons where I share, in a very detailed manner, the entire scale system we use in the Russian piano school.

The Lessons are structured according to 8 progressive levels, that can be grouped in the following manner: Beginner (1-3), Intermediate (4-6) and Advanced (7-8):

  • Beginners can start from Level 1 (but only after at least 6 months of regular practice, or after finishing Lesson No. 47 from my Course for Beginners!);
  • Intermediates can start directly from Level 4;
  • Advanced pianists can start from Level 7.

There are many lessons (4-12) in each level – and each lesson is dedicated to a certain tonality (advancing according to the Circle of Fifths), with lots of scale & arpeggio variations.

Practicing scales in a systematic manner will improve four fundamental aspects of your pianistic skill-set:

  • Your technique,
  • your theoretical understanding of tonalities and your harmonic thinking,
  • your hearing, and also
  • your expressive skills.

In each step-by-step lesson we will go ‘behind the curtain’ and discover things that you will not find in typical scale books or tutorials!

For each scale or arpeggio variation I analyze, in a very detailed manner:

  1. Its structure – according to the Russian method and also to the Circle of Fifths;
  2. Its ‘key formula’ – or the specific technical patterns (hand positions) that it will help you develop;
  3. Its benefits;
  4. Its main technical difficulties – with detailed ‘smart’ solutions;

I also share with you:

  1. Preparatory exercises (which are especially useful for beginners);
  2. Detailed downloadable fingering charts for each lesson;
  3. Special expressive tasks according to the best traditions of the Russian piano school, and – the most important thing –
  4. Lots of video practice tips that will help you to master each scale and play it with ease, fluidity, brilliance and comfort! ;)

Because of the detailed progressive structure of this Course, you’ll never have to wonder again what variation you should play next – or if the scale you’re practicing is suitable for your level or not. I’m going to guide you every step of the way  – so that you’ll always know WHAT variations to practice (in how many octaves, in what order, with what fingers), HOW to practice them and, of course, WHY should you practice them in the first place :).

Once you join, you will have unlimited access to ALL available Scale Lessons – and to our ENTIRE database, comprising many hundreds of exclusive tutorials (more info in FAQ No. 2).

20. Can I share my video/audio recordings in the Members Area?

YES!!! Grin

As a Member of PCA, you will have the opportunity of sharing your video or audio piano recordings, as follows:

1. Share your recordings with our awesome community of piano students and teachers – as many as you wish, as often as you like! All our members are extremely positive and supportive, and you you will get invaluable performing experience as a result (not to mention the positive energy and motivation!).

2. Get my detailed video feedback to your recording by booking a spot in our online MasterClass (more details in FAQ No. 2 and in the Members Area).

21. Can I/Should I keep seeing my real-life teacher after joining?

It all depends on you – and also on your teacher, on the quality of his/her lessons and the piano system he/she follows (Russian, Western, old-school etc.).

Please allow me to explain:

After joining my Piano Coaching Program, you’ll notice that I share the professional principles of the Russian piano school, and that all my tutorials have a premium quality, being super-detailed, in-depth and very comprehensive (which in real life is accessible only in Conservatoires).

So here is what usually happens: after several weeks on PCA, some of our members decide to stop seeing their real-life teachers (in case they had one when they joined). The reason is simple: they watch my tutorials and they discover that until now they have been taught incorrectly (or in a very shallow manner). A few symptoms of incorrect teaching: you are learning the notes, rhythm and fingering (and also maybe basic articulation and dynamics), but your teacher doesn’t pay attention to your posture, use of the arms, wrist flexibility/relaxation, key attack, sound quality and color, phrasing, sound balance/voicing (and other expressive requirements), artistry, in-depth musical analysis and understanding etc.

Other members, on the other hand, are happy to discover that the teaching method of their real-life teacher is in perfect tune with the professional method I use (or, if it’s not in perfect tune, it is very serious and professional as well) :). This is actually the ideal solution – to continue to see a very good real-life teacher, complementing your knowledge with the super-detailed information you can find on PCA.

Important: I will never encourage/discourage you when it comes to continuing your real-life lessons or not. This is your decision alone :) (not to mention that unfortunately I don’t have the time to communicate with all our hundreds of members OR offer them individual lessons – as explained in questions No. 3 and 13).

22. How much should I practice after joining?

It all depends on you and on your specific goals! :) By watching my tutorials you will learn many professional secrets that will help you to practice correctly and efficiently, in a mindful, safe (tensionless!) manner – but it will be up to you how many hours per day/week you dedicate to piano playing. You will also learn that the quality and consistency of your practice are much more important than its quantity (1 hour of correct practice is much more efficient than 5 hours of harmful mechanical practice!). By using this knowledge, you will be able to organize a practice schedule that is enjoyable and efficient for you.

A couple of examples: if you’re a beginner – you’ll be able to play easy pieces within a couple of days of practice! :) For beginners, I recommend at least 45 minutes of correct practice per day, 4-7 days a week.

Intermediate and advanced students can start with 1 hour per day and gradually reach 3-7 hours per day, 4-7 days a week! But in the end (as I mentioned above), everything is up to you – you can practice for as long as you wish (as long as your practice is mindful, correct and consistent) and then adjust your practice time depending on how fast you want to progress.

I will also remind you that once you join, you will have unlimited access to our ENTIRE database: You can watch/read as many tutorials as you wish per month/year – and you can also go back to older tutorials as often as you choose.

People also ask me: How long should I practice to become a good pianist?

Again, it all depends on your goals. If you want to become a professional pianist – then you need to practice regularly (with a good teacher) for at least 15 years :). For example, I studied 19 years to get all my teaching and performing degrees (12 year of Professional Musical Lyceum, 5 years of Conservatoire and 2 years of Masters). During this time, my average practice time was 3-5 hours per day, 6-7 days a week.

If, on the other hand, you want to learn piano for yourself (to be able to play beautiful pieces that you love, of a reasonable difficulty level), you’ll be able to do so in about 2-3 years (again, if you practice regularly and you have access to correct information).

23. I am 30/40/50/60 years old. Is it too late to become a good pianist?

No!!! It’s never too late to learn how to play piano!!! :)

Yes, many people will tell you differently, but my experience (working with hundreds of adult beginners!) taught me one important thing:

When it comes to mastering an art (such as piano playing), age is NOT the most important thing. What matters is the time you put in, the quality of your practice – and also your exact goal.

For example – it usually takes at least 15 years of regular, correct, dedicated, mindful practice (under the guidance of a good teacher – real-life or online) to become a professional concert pianist. During this time, a student has to practice at least 3 hours per day, 5 days a week (but I will repeat that the quality of your practice is more important than quantity, and that mechanical practice doesn’t lead to ANY progress). So, if you’re 6 when you start practicing, you CAN become a professional by the age of 21. If you start at 20 – you can become a very good pianist by about 35 – and so on!

However, not everyone wants to become a professional and earn their living by giving concerts! In this case, you will reach a very good level (which will allow you to play beautiful pieces that you love) in only 3-7 years!

Moreover, many people think that children can learn a musical instrument faster than an adult – but they forget that children do not have jobs, families, serious responsibilities etc. etc. All they need to do is study (practice) – and they have plenty of time for it. Adults, on the other hand, usually do not have lots of time for practice – and this is the only reason they do not make such fast progress.

And, last but not least – learning how to play a musical instrument makes us younger by improving our mental acuity and flexibility, our imagination and creativity, our speed of reaction, our spontaneity – and the list of benefits has only started! So instead of thinking “I’m too old for this, because my mind/fingers are no longer flexible enough!”, you should think “Ok, so my mind/fingers have grown a bit stiff and rusty over the years (because I didn’t learn anything new in a long time) – and for this reason, I will start to play piano and reverse the process!” ;D

It’s just like in physical training: we don’t workout because we’re already strong and flexible (mentally or physically). We workout because we want to become healthy, strong and flexible! ;)

Conclusion. If you love music and you want to learn how to play piano, you should start today, no matter how old you are!!! One year from now, you will look back at the enormous distance you have covered, and you will be so happy that you made this decision! Don’t forget that the time will pass anyway – so it’s up to you how you will use it! 😉

Yes, you might not become a professional concert pianist if you start after 35-40 – but you CAN become a very good musician, acquire wonderful skills, grow and enrich your knowledge, AND learn how to play TONS of beautiful music, which will offer you (and your loved ones) lots of happiness and fulfillment! ;)

Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.
~ Mahatma Gandhi

 

24. Can I join if I only have a digital piano (or a keyboard)?

Yes! :)

Obviously, there’s nothing better than a real acoustic piano.

If you can’t afford one (or you don’t have space for one, or maybe you don’t want to make noise while practicing and you need headphones etc.) – then a good digital piano is the next best thing, and it’s totally ok to practice on one!

However, please be aware of one important thing when choosing your instrument: for developing all your expressive/technical skills, a digital piano has to have good weighted action and touch-sensitive keys! :)

Weighted action means that the keys offer a certain amount of ‘resistance’ when being depressed – replicating the weight and action of a real piano (where by pressing a key we launch a hammer to strike the string). Because depressing the keys of a real upright/grand piano requires some effort, we use ergonomic techniques such as whole-arm action and weighted playing. Shortly, this means channeling the entire natural weight of the arms (and even upper body) into the keyboard (through a combination of arm/wrist relaxation and hand/finger strength), this way achieving technical stability, control and brilliance without overtiring our muscles (which happens when the keys are depressed by the effort of your fingers alone).

Touch-sensitive keys allow you to create different dynamic gradations by modifying your touch (a powerful touch equals a louder sound, a soft touch produces a softer sound – with many gradations in between).

Conversely, if the keys of the instrument are very light and easy to depress (as in case of many keyboards), you risk creating the habit of playing only from your fingers, in a ‘suspended’ manner, without arm weight or wrist flexibility – and if you ever decide to switch to a better instrument in the future, this old habit will be difficult (but not impossible!) to overcome.

Therefore, for developing professional playing skills and learning the basics of ergonomic, relaxed, tension-free playing (that leads to technical and expressive brilliance, also protecting you from tension-related pain and injuries), I recommend an instrument with a weighted mechanism.

People also often ask me: Can I join your program if I only have a 5-octave keyboard?

Yes, especially if you’re a beginner – but before you do , you must know the following:

It’s not so much about the number of octaves – it’s first and foremost about having an instrument with weighted action (or at least touch-sensitive keys that allow you to create dynamics!).

A more detailed explanation:

Almost every modern piano (grand or upright) has 7 octaves plus a minor third (52 white keys and 36 black keys for a total of 88 keys). Many older pianos only have 85 keys (7 octaves).

However, there are lots of keyboards that only have 5 octaves – first of all, for convenience of transportation, and also because these instruments are mostly used for playing modern pop/rock music, where the extreme registers are not used very often.

The good news is that if you’re a beginner, you can definitely learn how to play on a 5-octave instrument – the extreme registers are very rarely used in pieces for beginners. If you’re an intermediate or advanced player, however, you must have a 7-octave instrument (acoustic or digital).

The bad news is that most 5-octave keyboards do not have weighted action (some have only touch-sensitive keys) – and for this reason, you risk creating bad playing habits (like I explained above). But you can still learn a lot with such an instrument – theory and musical notation, sight-reading, basic fingering patterns etc.

I hope that this answer will help you to choose the best instrument for your current goals! ;)

25. Do you teach jazz/rock/pop music?

No :).

My Piano Coaching Program is focused on classical music and the professional principles of the Russian piano school. However, even though I don’t teach jazz (or other modern musical styles), you can still learn a lot from my tutorials and set a very stable, professional expressive/technical/analytical/artistic foundation by following our step-by-step Video Course for Beginners (more information about our Course for Beginners in FAQ No. 17). Then, you can certainly apply your skills to other types of music, because a classical foundation is the best one! :)

Still, you WILL find several tutorials dedicated to jazz/pop pieces in the Members Area – most of them being Dessert Lessons as part of our Course for Beginners! You will also find detailed tutorials dedicated to Christmas pieces – and many other ‘yummy’ treats! ;)

26. Do you teach in-depth theory, composition or improvisation?

I will explain everything one topic at a time :).

Theory.

Yes, I cover LOTS of theory in my tutorials:

  1. All the piano-related theory that a beginner should know is covered in the Course for Beginners and in the Scale Course: musical notation (explained in a progressive fun manner), modes and tonalities, intervals, chords, the Circle of Fifths etc. etc.
  2. I also have many tutorials focused on theory and music history only (you can find them on the Complete List of Tutorials, under the Piano Theory Category); still, all of them are closely related to the art of piano playing.
  3. In all my tutorials dedicated to specific pieces I make a thorough analysis of the genre and the style of the composer, the form (macro- and micro-structures, from movements to phrases and motifs), the layout of the musical text, the tonal plan (harmonic analysis), the rhythmical formulas – and I also share many other important theoretical details that will help you to have a holistic, super-detailed understanding of the piece you’re about to learn! 😉

However, I do not teach in-depth music theory on its own – and on PCA you will not find step-by-step courses on subjects such as solfeggio, harmony or polyphony (in our country, they are taught by musicology experts, not by piano teachers).

Composition.

No, I do not teach composition :).

PianoCareerAcademy.com is focused on ALL the aspects of professional piano playing. I have a Masters degree in piano performance and teaching (which means that I am a professional pianist and teacher, not a composer). Many people nowadays think that all musicians can do anything music-related (play any instrument, compose etc.) – but the reality is very different. Mastering an instrument at a professional Conservatoire level is an enormous task that takes at least 18 years of extremely serious practice – and in the Russian piano school everything is very specialized: a piano teacher teaches piano, a composition teacher teaches composition, a theory teacher teaches solfeggio and harmony, and so on. Otherwise, if one person would try to teach ALL these things (as it often happens nowadays in the Western world) – his/her level of expertise would be rather shallow! They would know a little of everything – instead of knowing one art (such as piano playing) in depth – and teaching it in depth (as I do in my tutorials). Yes, there ARE performers/teachers who are also composers (Liszt and Chopin are wonderful examples! LOL) – but Conservatoire-level piano teachers usually do not teach composition (unless they are licensed composers as well).

However, if you wish to study composition and you’re wondering if PCA can be helpful for you – it also depends on your current level:

Are you a beginner or an experienced piano player?

If you are experienced and you want to learn professional composition – then, as I mentioned above, our program is not suitable for you.

If you are a beginner – you have to know one fundamental thing:

It’s impossible to compose without learning how to play at least one musical instrument – and without learning at least the basics of musical theory! This includes studying pieces by great composers – because otherwise, you will be simply trying to re-invent the wheel 🙂 . Professional composition students study in-depth theory and harmony, musical history, musical analysis, stylistics etc. – without that, their work would be amateurish at best. I’m mentioning this because sometimes I get emails from beginners who wish to learn how to compose, but without learning how to play properly, or without studying pieces by other composers LOL – which is, naturally, a very naive approach 😀 .

Think of it this way. In order to become a doctor, one has to major in at least a few other fields (because being a doctor is VERY difficult, and the person needs LOTS of knowledge). Being a doctor is a top-level multi-functional skill – and it needs to be based on other skills (chemistry, biology, physics etc.).

The same can be said about being a composer – it’s a top-level skill that needs to be based on many other ones.

Therefore, first you need to learn how to play piano correctly and professionally – and you also need to know theory very well.

Luckily, you can do so by following our step-by-step Course for Beginners based on Nikolaev’s Russian School of Piano Playing – and our Scale Course.

Then (or simultaneously), you can also study composition by taking lessons from a professional composer.

Improvisation.

PCA is focused on classical piano and the professional principles of the Russian piano school. Most of my tutorials are dedicated to specific pieces by pre-classical, classical and romantic composers, and to many other important piano topics – and I don’t have detailed tutorials about improvisation.

Actually, I have only one article about improvisation. You can read its first half on PianoCareer.com (Awakening Our Creativity: Mastering the Art of Piano Improvisation) – and the entire article is available for our PCA members.

So if improvisation is your main objective and you want to study it in-depth, then I’m afraid I cannot help you.

27. Who is Ilinca Vartic?

I really don’t like to talk about myself LOL (I’d rather allow my work to speak for itself) – but because I get lots of questions from you guys about my background, my degrees and experience etc., I will have to include this one in the FAQs as well:

So, here we go – very shortly: :P

My name is Ilinca Vartic, I am a professional pianist and piano teacher.

I have a Masters degree in Musical Art – Instrumental Performance (the Academy of Music, Theater and Fine Arts from Chisinau, Moldova, 2006).

In 2004 I graduated the same Academy with the University degree of Bachelor of music, specialization Piano.

In 1999 I graduated the Republican Musical Lyceum “C. Porumbescu” from Moldova, specialization Piano.

In other words, I studied piano (professionally) for 19 years: 12 years of Lyceum, 5 years of Academy (University-level education) and 2 years of Masters (post-University degree).

I began to study piano at the age of 6. I had the great honor of being the student of two renowned piano professors: Lia Oxinoit (during the lyceum years) and Ludmila Vaverco (during the Academy years). Combining the best traditions of the Russian piano school with top-level western musical achievements, they took the pianistic art from Eastern Europe to new heights! 8) ( I could write many volumes about my wonderful teachers and how much I learned from them, but I did promise to be concise! LOL).

And now – a few (very short!) glimpses from my musical journey:

During my studying years, I participated in many hundreds of concerts – solo, in various ensembles (duets, trios, quartets, quintets), and also with symphony orchestras (performing concerts such as Chopin’s Concerto No. 2, or Rachmaninoff’s Concerto No. 1 etc.).

In 2006, simultaneously with preparing for my Masters exams, I became the piano soloist of Moldova’s National Radio Symphony Orchestra. Professional audio recordings were our main focus – but we also had hundreds of live concerts each year, and many international tours (we usually toured in Switzerland, France, Italy and South Korea).

In 2007 I also began to teach piano at the Academy of Music from Chisinau.

In 2008 I founded PianoCareer.com – my free piano blog, where I started to write articles focused on my holistic approach to piano playing, music and lifestyle (you can find out more about this approach – which combines the professional principles of the Russian piano school with all the lessons I learned the hard way during my own extensive piano experience – by reading/watching all my available tutorials).

My readers started to encourage me to record video tutorials ;D – and so in 2010 I bought a video camera, recording my first video tutorials, which are still available for free on PianoCareer.com and YouTube:

The 5 Basic Elements of a Correct Piano Posture
The Secrets of a Correct Piano Key Attack
Using the Piano Pedals – The Art Behind the Mechanism
Using the Piano Pedals – On Style and Notation

I started to receive hundreds of piano questions, and – inspired from the amazing online dialogue I was having with my readers – I decided to launch PianoCareerAcademy.com, a Holistic Piano Coaching Program that would allow me to teach in (a very detailed, step-by-step manner!) all those things that I was mentioning in my free tutorials.

Because PCA started to take up 500% of my time LOL, I had to let go of my real-life jobs – which was not easy, because I was very fond of the orchestra and my Academy students! I sooo wish there were 100 hours in a day, so that I could do it all! LOL

PCA was launched on February 15th 2012 – and since then, the journey has been absolutely mind-blowing!!!!!! These three years (I’m writing this post in Febuary 2015) have been amazing, fabulously inspiring, exhausting and super-energizing at the same time, full of wonderful people, many discoveries and adventures  – and this is only the beginning! :P I am sooooo grateful to ALL my hundreds of online students for believing in my work and for choosing PCA as their main piano-learning resource! I’m always doing my absolute best to offer you guys the most enjoyable, comprehensive and productive piano experience – and I hope that this journey will continue for many years to come!

Our List of Tutorials has grown to enormous proportions during this time – and in only 3 years I have published many hundreds of tutorials (probably more than one thousand already, but I never tried counting LOL)! I continue to publish new tutorials every week – simultaneously working on several exciting projects (learn more about them by reading FAQ No. 2).

That’s it for now! The PCA journey continues – and I’m looking forward to seeing you in the Members Area! ;)

P.S.

My biggest passions are music and teaching (of course! :P), training and self-improvement (I am a training addict – with a focus on strength training and yoga), languages (I speak 5 of them – perfect Romanian, Russian and English, and pretty decent French and Spanish), writing (online work will do that to you! LOL), reading and philosophy, travel and photography, drawing (I’m currently taking online drawing courses just like you guys learn piano on PCA), animals, technology (I love computers, WordPress and web-design, PhotoShop and graphic design etc. etc.) – and again I could write a novel but I promised to be short! ;D

And, last but not least – a few words about my holistic approach:

I created PianoCareerAcademy.com to help pianists (and musicians) of all ages to find joy, balance and fulfillment in their piano practice. During many years of extremely demanding piano challenges, I learned the hard way that only a holistic approach toward musical performance can make our activity truly rewarding, meaningful and eye-opening.

In order to have a fulfilled piano career, practicing piano and studying the theory of music (and other related subjects) is absolutely not enough. Everything has to be balanced in our life – body and mind, practice and theory, movement and stillness, music and silence.

It’s impossible to make considerable progresses in a certain field (in our case – piano playing) without deeply knowing yourself, the surrounding universe and your mutual interaction. That’s why, for a musician, the word ‘harmony’ has to reach its true complex meaning given by the ancient philosophers, thus helping us to have a fulfilled life, where music and piano will have a special, shining place 8).

On PCA, I share things that you will not find in official piano playing handbooks and courses. If applied correctly, these secrets will help you save precious time and effort, and will make the difference between a tiring and frustrating musical activity – and a productive, enjoyable one.

28. Do you live in Russia?

No – we live in the Republic of Moldova, which is a small Eastern-European country not far from Russia. Moldova was part of the Soviet Union until 1991, that’s why our entire musical educational system is based on Russian tradition. We speak two main languages – Romanian and Russian (and our team obviously speaks English as well ;)). You can learn more about me (Ilinca) by reading the previous FAQ.

29. Do you have tutorials in French/Spanish/German (or other languages)?

No, not yet.

At the moment, ALL the hundreds of video/written tutorials available for our members are in English (without French/Spanish/German etc. subtitles or translations).

So I’m afraid that you can benefit from PCA’s online piano lessons ONLY if you understand at least some English.

If one day we will find the time/possibility to add subtitles in other languages to our videos (and/or translate some of our articles), we will immediately announce all our subscribers! ;)

29A. Do your videos have English subtitles?

No, our videos don’t have subtitles. Don’t worry, though: because English is not my mother language, I speak very clearlyslowly and with good diction.

Therefore, if you prefer watching videos with subtitles because English is not your mother language either, you will find my speech very easy to understand :).

Also, each video tutorial comes with a detailed written breakdown (with time stamps for each main idea) – that will greatly facilitate your understanding.

Here is an example of a video breakdown (a screenshot from one of our tutorials):

 photo Video Highlights_zpsbfrtwavu.jpg

As you can see, the Video Breakdown offers you a clear ‘map’ of each tutorial: it comprises all the terms and ideas covered in the Lesson – not to mention that you don’t have to scroll through the entire video in order to find a certain spot that interests you at the moment.

Also, we DO have subtitles for all complicated terms (and also for composer’s names, piece titles, professional Italian musical terms etc.). So each time I pronounce a complicated word or phrase – there WILL be a subtitle for it!

Here is an example:

 photo Subtitle_zpsuebgcc2d.jpg

And, last but not least – we also have TONS of written tutorials (not just videos). Therefore, if you’re a visual learner, there are hundreds of detailed articles to explore (besides the videos)! ;) I’m a visual learner too, I know how you feel – and I always make sure that my tutorials are 100% accessible for those of you who don’t like to rely on their hearing alone.

30. Do you recommend Hanon?

;D This question is not related to the functionality of PCA – but because I receive it sooooo often LOL, I decided to cover it here as well. I hope my answer is helpful! ;)

I will begin with the fact that the most important thing in piano playing is HOW we practice!

If practiced correctly, Hanon exercises can be useful; and they can be a total waste of time if you practice them mechanically, ‘only from your fingers’, with tensed arms and wrists!

Still, I do not recommend Hanon. These exercises are outdated and they don’t target the entire spectrum of an ergonomic piano technique. They were written during the epoch of the harpsichord-inspired ‘finger-only’ approach, while nowadays we play by using whole-arm action and weighted playing (the technical foundation we use in the Russian piano school).

Moreover, Hanon exercises lack meaning and artistic value (being focused on technique alone) – while the most productive practice method is developing our expressive and technical skills simultaneously (where expression ALWAYS comes first, while technique is simply a necessary means to an end).

Yes, we can certainly use whole-arm action in practicing Hanon exercises (and even strain our imagination to invent some interesting artistic concept behind each exercise) – but there are much better (and more useful) Etudes out there, combining a wider technical spectrum with TONS of expressive benefits (you can find super-detailed Etude recommendations for all levels in the Members Area). Here is when WHAT we practice becomes important as well!

And, of course, if you follow the step-by-step scale system that I cover in my progressive Scale Course, you will get a super-comprehensive technical & expressive training as well. More information about this Course in question No. 19 ;).

In other words, ANY exercise, Etude or scale can be useful if practiced correctly and mindfully – but because we have a limited number of practice hours per day (and the piano repertoire is sooooo enormous!), why not spend these hours in a smarter, more efficient (and enjoyable!) manner and practice Etudes of real artistic value, where technical benefits are harmoniously balanced with artistic and expressive ones? 8)

People also ask me: Do you recommend Czerny’s Etudes?

Yes, but only in very limited quantities! ;D

In my opinion, Czerny’s Etudes are a bit more interesting (and useful) than Hanon, but the difference is not THAT big! LOL So you can incorporate some of them in your practice – especially if you’re a beginner. By the way, I will remind you that for a harmonious development of ALL your piano skills, your program should comprise (at any moment), scales & arpeggios + 4-5 pieces of different styles/genres/characters (more information about the professional structure of a piano program in the Members Area). One of these pieces should always be an Etude – and once a year (for example), this Etude can be by Czerny.

However, if you’re an intermediate or advanced student, then Czerny’s Etudes are definitely a waste of time! Why practice them when we have amazing Etudes by Chopin and Liszt, when we have Rachmaninoff and Scriabin? 8)

Conclusion: Focus on meaningful pieces first! Explore those works that develop ALL your skills – mental, emotional, spiritual AND technical. Only then, if you have extra time and nothing more to practice :P – you can ‘play’ with some Czerny or Hanon.

31. My hands/wrists/thumbs/shoulders etc. hurt (are very tensed)! What should I do?

This question is not related to the functionality of PianoCareerAcademy.com – but because I receive it (and other similar ones) all the time, I decided to address this issue here in the FAQs as well :).

If you’re experiencing hand/wrist/elbow/shoulder tension, discomfort or pain (or if you have developed a hand injury), you have to begin by identifying the cause of your problem – and the first step is determining if your pain/discomfort/tension is piano-related or not. The fact that you’re a pianist doesn’t automatically mean that your hand/wrist pain is caused by your practice! For example, your hands/wrists might hurt because of a medical condition (such as arthritis), or you might be recovering from a surgery, or maybe you’re experiencing the side-effects of a trauma (which had nothing to do with your practice), or maybe you have developed a RSI (repetitive strain injury) as a result of some activity you perform at work. If this is the case, you should speak to your doctor, and you could also look into holistic healing options (such as a healthy balanced diet, a progressive exercise program tailored for your specific needs etc.).

If your problem is piano-related, however, the answer is very simple: in 99% of the cases, hand injuries (such as tendonitis) and pain/discomfort are a result of an incorrect playing habit (and the resulting tension).

Correct piano playing does not cause pain and injuries!!!

If you’re in pain when you practice, there’s a big chance that you’re using the old-school finger-only approach (playing from the separate movement of your fingers, with stiff arms and wrists – which is counterproductive and dangerous, leading to tension, fatigue and pain), instead of involving the entire relaxed arm in the playing process (which allows you to achieve maximum results with minimum efforts – and play with comfort, freedom and brilliance).

Therefore, in order to make sure that tension (and the resulting pain) does not occur, you need to change your playing habit and learn how to play correctly, by using ergonomic principles such as whole-arm action and weighted playing, arm/wrist relaxation combined with finger&hand strength (and all the other elements of correct posture/key attack that I describe in my tutorials).

Other causes of piano-related hand/wrist pain (we can group all of them under the category incorrect practice):

1. Irregular practice.

It means that you’re not practicing at all for a couple of weeks – and then you practice several days in a row, many hours per day.

Piano endurance is like physical fitness: if you practice only from time to time, chances are you will experience at least some fatigue (because your muscles/tendons are not used to this type of activity). In time, fatigue can degenerate in tension, pain and injuries.

Solutions:

  • consistent practice;
  • after a longer break, resume your practice gradually!

2. Not taking any breaks in your practice.

This is the other extreme – practicing too much, every single day, without allowing your muscles (AND your mind) to rest and recharge.

By the way, in the Members Area you will find a detailed video tutorial entitled When to Take a Break in Your Practice?

3. Repetitive practice.

It means working on the same type of uncomfortable patterns (such as octaves or chords) ALL the time, without alternating them with other, less ‘stretched’ patterns.

The bigger the stretch – the higher the risk of tension. If you add exaggerated repetition to the formula? You risk developing a RSI! Yes, even if you’re doing your best to play without tension, with relaxed arms and wrists! Unilateral and unbalanced practice equals incorrect practice (and no amount of wrist relaxation will help you here!).

Solutions:

  • work smart, in a balanced and harmonious manner!
  • always warm up with easier scales/exercises before playing difficult passages;
  • alternate octave fragments/pieces with works where compact hand positions are predominant;
  • listen to your sensations and take a break (or work on another piece) at the first sign of discomfort;
  • choose your program wisely, making sure that it comprises pieces of different styles/genres/tempos/patterns (you will find super-detailed information about the structure of a professional piano program in the Members Area).

4. Too much fast practice.

The exam/concert is approaching, and you dedicate your entire practice time to playing the piece(s) in the final tempo, from beginning to end, many times in a row, hoping to increase your confidence and technical ‘security’… Does this scenario seem familiar?

Unfortunately, too much fast practice has the opposite effect: instead of increasing your technical stability, it has a negative impact on your control, coordination, rhythmical evenness AND expressive awareness, leading to mechanical playing and loss of quality due to so many ‘automatic’ repetitions – and it can also cause muscle fatigue, tension and pain (especially if the fast ‘tests’ are done in state of anxiety and with a negative attitude – as I will explain below).

Solutions:

  • slow, detailed, mindful practice is the foundation of a healthy practice habit!
  • the tempo of a piece should be increased gradually, one step at a time and one little fragment at a time;
  • even in the last practice stage (1-2 weeks before the performance), the ratio of slow/fast practice should not exceed an aprox. 60%/40%!
  • alternate ‘fast tests’ with slow practice (to avoid fatigue, mechanical playing and loss of quality);

… and you will find out more (and learn how to practice a piece correctly, in a step-by-step manner – including when and how to increase the tempo, how much slow practice is needed for every practice stage etc.) by watching the tutorials available in the Members Area ;).

5. Psychological tension, anxiety & a negative attitude.

Do you often practice in a state of anxiety? Are you afraid that you’re not good enough, that you’re not making enough progress? Do you tend to get angry with yourself, and to push yourself past your limits (not listening to your body, forcing yourself to play through pain and discomfort)? Are you always in a hurry, worrying that you don’t have enough time for all the tasks that need to be done?

These attitudes and ‘mental habits’ can be very destructive!

Our emotions and states of mind are always reflected by our body. Mental tension causes involuntary muscular tension, which can lead to increased fatigue, pain and even injuries (not to mention all the other negative consequences!).

Solutions:

  • learn how to manage stress and reduce anxiety (this is a journey in itself – but worth every single step!);
  • be aware that a negative attitude can only hold you back – being extremely counterproductive (therefore getting upset with yourself – or your teacher, parents, siblings etc. – is not practical at all! LOL);
  • a calm, centered, positive attitude is the best productivity accelerator!
  • be compassionate with yourself: it’s ok to make mistakes, to have bad days, to be tired or unmotivated – as long as you keep moving forward and don’t give up!
  • don’t practice with a negative state of mind, or in a state of ‘inner hurry’: if you can’t get past an anxiety attack (or another unpleasant emotion), it’s better to skip your practice altogether (and resume it when you feel calmer and more focused).

6. Practicing pieces that are too difficult for your current level.

This is actually the ‘disease’ of our century – and I come across this problem every single day!

We live in a fast era, we look for ‘fast-food’ solutions and we want to become virtuosos in only several months! LOL This is obviously impossible – just like it’s impossible to improve your health by eating fast-food: piano playing is a lifetime commitment, and great results require A LOT of patience and correct practice.

So if you’re a beginner or yearly intermediate (having only 1-4 years of piano experience) and you’re attempting to practice advanced pieces such as Bach’s Preludes & Fugues, Liszt’s Etudes, Rachmaninoff’s Preludes (this list can go on and on!), you WILL experience fatigue, tension and pain!

Why? Because your pianistic ‘apparatus’ is not fit/strong/flexible enough (yet!) for conquering such high mountaintops (not to mention that your overall musical awareness/knowledge is not deep enough for understanding the complexity of these masterpieces)!

Can you do a yoga handstand only after several months of training? Can you paint a masterful landscape after only a couple of drawing lessons? Can you be a professional pilot after only 3 flying lessons? Of course not!!!

Similarly, you need a lot of practice and experience in order to play La Campanella or the Winter Wind Etude (or even a slow Nocturne by Chopin) – and you cannot skip any step of this process.

Solution: be patient and take it one step at a time! A gradual, progressive approach is actually the fastest way to move forward – saving you lots of time and effort in the long run (while a ‘hurried’ approach will only set you back, causing injuries, frustration and forcing you to take breaks until you finally give up on your piano dreams). My Video Course for Beginners (described in FAQ No. 17) and the step-by-step Scale & Arpeggio Course (FAQ No. 19) are based on this progressive approach – and you can also find lots of repertoire recommendations for all levels in the Members Area (they will guide you through the ‘labyrinth’ of the enormous piano repertoire, so that you always know what pieces to practice next!). ;)

——

And, the MEGA-cause (that comprises all the causes listed above): lack of correct information!!! Why are you practicing by using the finger-only approach in the first place? Because you don’t know any better, and because you have never heard of the whole-arm action principle! Why are you practicing pieces that are too difficult for your current level? Because you are impatient :P – but also because you have no idea that you should do otherwise! This list can go on – and the solution is obviously professional guidance (from an experienced teacher) – in real-life or online :).

This was a very simplified answer to a super-complex question which involves many different physical and psychological elements (in different combinations) – but the good news is that all the ideas mentioned above are explained in detail, from scratch, in a step-by-step manner, in the hundreds of video tutorials available on PianoCareerAcademy.com.

You’re always welcome to join our community – and you can also learn more about the ergonomic technical foundation of piano playing by watching/reading my free tutorials:

How to Deal with Piano Practice Related Hand Injuries and Muscle Pain?
The 5 Basic Elements of a Correct Piano Posture
The Piano Posture and The Energy of the Sound
The Secrets of a Correct Piano Key Attack
The Key Principles of Correct Piano Practice: A Step-By-Step Holistic Guide

People also ask me: What exercises do you recommend for getting rid of piano-related tension/pain?

This question is probably inspired by the fact that I have published several workout/warm-up tutorials for pianists such as this one: Wrist, Arm & Shoulder Warm-Up for Pianists.

However, if you’re asking this question, you have probably misunderstood the purpose of my workout tutorials: they were NOT designed to help you get rid of incorrect-playing-related hand injuries – they were designed to make you stronger and more flexible, therefore facilitating your practice, speeding up your piano progress and improving the overall quality of your life.

I will remind you that piano-related hand injuries are caused by an incorrect playing habit. Therefore, how can you solve this problem without addressing the cause??? Wouldn’t it be silly to keep playing in a tensed incorrect manner and then do some exercises to counteract the damage – instead of not causing the damage in the first place? Wouldn’t it be much smarter to learn how to play correctly, in a safe ergonomic manner? :)

Doing exercises for getting rid of piano-related pain is just like taking a pill when you have a headache – it might make you feel better for the moment, but it will not cure the problem itself because it does not address its cause! In solving ANY piano playing problem, we have to begin by identifying the cause (like I explained in the beginning of this answer). Then, you should obviously exercise – but for the right reasons!

Another metaphor: imagine that it’s nighttime and you have lost an earring in the grass; you know the approximate place where it fell – but because that place is very dark, you’re looking for it somewhere else (under a streetlight, for example), because it’s more convenient this way. Of course you’ll not find it under the streetlight – your earring is in the grass, and this is where you should look for it!!!

And yet another one: you’re a heavy smoker, but after smoking each cigarette, you’re drinking a green smoothie (or go for a run etc.), thinking that this will counteract the damage. Yes, it might counteract some of it – but wouldn’t it be smarter to quit smoking, and then complement this decision with diet/exercise?

I hope that this answer will help you to understand the basics of managing piano-related injuries – pointing you in the right direction and helping you to take the first step towards your recovery ;).

Good luck, practice correctly and stay healthy!

32. What model is your piano?

I receive this question ALL the time ;D – especially as comments to some of my YouTube videos (for example this one – Correct Piano Practice: a Step-By-Step Holistic Guide. Practicing Chopin’s Nocturne op.72 No.1) where I use my new upright piano :).

It’s a Yamaha JU109 PE, and before you ask – it’s definitely not the best Yamaha out there – it’s simply the best upright I could find in my country :) (where we have a limited range of Yamahas). And yes, it does have a very nice sound and good action – but you’ll also find out that when it comes to acoustic instruments, it’s impossible to find two that are exactly the same (even if they are the same brand and model). I also strongly doubt that you’ll be able to find this exact model in your country/city (and you don’t need to – there are plenty of other awesome models out there!).

HOW you play is also super-important: it’s entirely possible to create a beautiful sound on a relatively ‘bad’ instrument (if you know the fundamentals of correct tone production), and it’s also possible to produce a percussive noise on a grand Steinway, Yamaha or Bluthner LOL (if you’re playing incorrectly, in a harsh rigid manner).

Also, if you’re looking into buying a new instrument, I strongly recommend consulting a professional tuner/technician or a local teacher (especially if you’re a beginner/intermediate student and you don’t have much experience when it comes to choosing a piano). Your own preferences of sound/action are very important as well (of course!), but the professional will let you know if the mechanics are ‘in good shape’, what problems you can expect etc.

I hope that this answer was helpful – and lots of good luck in choosing your instrument! 😉

33. How to register for becoming a member of PCA?

People also ask us: I have problems with the registration process, could you please help?

Yes, of course! ;)

Becoming a member of PCA is easy – but in case you’re new to making online payments, here is a step-by-step breakdown of the registration process:

1. Go to the home page of our site (http://www.pianocareeracademy.com/) and then select a membership option below the video (monthly or yearly; more info about these options in FAQ No. 4).

2. Click the button ‘Add to Shopping Cart‘ below the membership option you selected.

3. You will be redirected to the Secure Checkout – which is a 3-step payment process:

  • Step 1: Review Cart. Make sure that the correct membership is displayed (monthly or yearly), that the Quantity is 1 (one) and that you’re happy with the currency that appears automatically (for example, if you live in Europe, the currency will be Euro). If you’re not happy with the currency (for example, you do live in Europe, but you have USD on your credit card), you can easily change it by going to the right sidebar and selecting the needed currency from the drop-down menu:

Payment_change_currency

Also, please pay special attention to the following sentence: Bills every 1 Month Until Canceled! This means that your membership fee will recur automatically on a monthly or yearly basis (more info in FAQ No. 6).

When you finished reviewing your cart, click on Continue to Billing Information.

  • Step 2: Billing Information. Fill in your country, name, address, phone number and email. Make sure everything is spelled correctly (otherwise the payment might not go through)!
  • Step 3: Payment Method. There are two payment options – Credit/Debit Card and PayPal (more info about paying with PayPal in FAQ No. 10). Enter your credit card details (or log in to your PayPal account), and then submit the payment.

4. After making the payment, you’ll be directed towards a Forum Account Creation page, where you’ll have to fill in your desired username and password.

5. With this information (and within our work hours – we live in a GMT +2 time zone), we will activate your account and send you an email with your login details (and several important guidelines and navigation tips). After that, you’ll be able to enjoy all the resources of our site, without ANY limitations!

Important: all new accounts are created manually, that’s why it might take up to 24 hours for your account to be activated (this is also explained in the Account Creation page). We appreciate your patience!

If you encounter any problems during this process – for example, your payment didn’t go through, or you haven’t been redirected to the Forum Account Creation page – don’t hesitate to Contact Us (my assistant is here to help from Monday to Friday)!

34. I want to join PCA for improving my piano technique! Is this ok?

Yes, of course! As a member of our program, you will have the opportunity to learn the technical fundamentals of the Russian piano school. You will discover and master important ergonomic professional principles, such as:

  • whole-arm action and weighted playing;
  • correct key attack and sound production;
  • arm/wrist relaxation – and how to combine it with hand/finger strength;
  • wrist flexibility, navigation and anticipation etc.

By practicing correctly, in the step-by-step manner that I describe in my videos, you will develop your:

  • technical power and endurance;
  • dexterity and velocity;
  • coordination and accuracy;
  • technical freedom, comfort, stability and control.

… and this list can go on and on!

These principles (together with lots of correct practice!) will help you to play in a free, tensionless, fluid manner, without clumsiness and rigidity, without hand injuries and all the other frustrating limitations created by an incorrect playing habit and a poor technique.

HOWEVER,

In order to become a really good pianist and musician, you need to understand the bigger picture.

For this purpose, I created a detailed video tutorial entitled Developing a Brilliant Piano Technique – The Holistic Professional Approach. This tutorial is available for FREE on PianoCareer.com (and also on my YouTube channel).

Please check it out! In only 24 minutes:

  • you will acquire a ‘bird’s eye view‘ on the entire art of piano playing;
  • you will see how technique fits into the bigger picture – and how it interacts with all the other pieces of the puzzle;
  • you will learn how to eliminate the root cause of all piano problems;
  • we will shine a bright light on the mysterious term ‘expression‘;
  • we will debunk some very harmful modern myths and stereotypes…

… and you will never see piano playing with the same eyes again!

This short video will change your entire perspective on piano playing – so please don’t hesitate to watch it!

We do not play piano with our fingers, but with our mind.
~Glenn Gould

 

35. Do you have a step-by-step syllabus/curriculum? How do I choose the right lessons for myself?

PCA offers its members an enormous database comprising many hundreds of tutorials – and many of our prospective students wish to know if there is a path that they can follow (a curriculum or ‘learning plan’ that would tell them which exact tutorials to start with, depending on their level – and which tutorials to continue with).

As mentioned in FAQ No. 1, our Lessons for Beginners have a step-by-step format (following a progressive  curriculum designed for the first 3 years of piano playing) – while the tutorials for intermediate and advanced students target specific pieces or piano topics/problems.

So if you’re a beginner, the answer to this question is YES;) All you need to do is follow the Lessons of our Video Course for Beginners (more information about this Course in FAQ No. 17).

Our Scale & Arpeggio Course has a progressive format as well, and this course is addressed to ALL levels – from beginner level 1 to advanced level 8. So if you follow this Course, every step of the way is pre-charted for you, and all you have to do is practice according to my recommendations, following one lesson at a time (and progressing from level 1 to level 2, then level 3 etc., until you reach level 8). More information about this Course in FAQ No. 19.

If you’re an intermediate student (levels 4-6), the answer is YES as well – we do have a detailed curriculum/guide for the intermediate level. Its purpose is to help you start your learning experience on PCA (and browse our database of tutorials) in a more targeted way (appropriate for your level), so that you know which exact tutorials to watch first (for learning all the fundamentals correctly), which videos/articles to continue with (for correcting your individual bad habits and getting rid of any imbalances you might have acquired in the past), how to follow our Scale Course according to your individual needs, what exact pieces to practice (with a detailed tutorial for each one), in which order etc.

If you’re an advanced student (from level 7 onward), then the answer is ‘not at the moment‘. I’m currently working on a curriculum/guide for levels 7-8 (just like the intermediate guide, it will tell you which tutorials to start with and how to customize your learning experience on PCA according to your individual needs) – and I will write an update as soon as it is published!

The intermediate and advanced curriculums are entirely optional – being designed for those of you who enjoy learning according to a step-by-step studying plan. If you would like more learning freedom, you can skip the curriculums and simply use our Complete List of Available Tutorials (which comprises the links to ALL our available videos and articles – structured according to levels, categories and projects) according to your wishes, watching/reading ANY tutorial that interests you at the moment! ;)

If you are a piano teacher (we have many teachers among our members, who join our program for studying the professional principles of the Russian piano school) – then, of course, you will simply explore our Complete List of Available Tutorials according to your interests (and you do not need a step-by-step curriculum).

Therefore, no matter if you are an absolute or relative beginner, an intermediate or advanced student, an amateur or a professional (or even a piano teacher) – you can easily tailor your learning journey on our site according to your individual ‘set’ of goals, interests, problems, strengths & weaknesses, pieces you would like to learn etc. :).

36. Will you monitor my progress once I join PCA?

Not every step of the way.

As I explain in FAQ No. 3, unlimited individual guidance is not included in the membership.

Once you join, you will have access to an enormous database of tutorials (including step-by-step courses), structured according to categories and levels – plus many other unique features (described in FAQs No. 1 and 2) – but it will be up to you how you implement my recommendations.

In other words, I cannot be there for ALL our hundreds of members, every step of the way (assessing their playing just like in real-life lessons), and simultaneously continue to publish new tutorials every week :). This is not the purpose of PCA (and this is also reflected in the very affordable membership fee; you surely understand that Conservatory-level unlimited individual guidance, on TOP of all the other awesome features our program provides, cannot cost only $47 per month – when the price of one individual lesson ranges nowadays from $40 to $200).

However, you CAN share your recordings (and get my detailed video feedback) in our MasterClass (which takes place twice a year). You can also ask one question per month as part of our Questions & Answers project – and again, I will answer it in video form.

37. How much time will it take me to complete your course?

The answer to this question is partially covered in FAQs No. 22 and 23.

Now I will simply add that PCA does not offer its members only one course – but an enormous database comprising many hundreds of detailed tutorials – including several step-by-step courses (that you can follow according to your level/wishes/needs etc.)!

Also, if you read FAQ No. 22, you know how many years it takes to reach your individual goals – and also how much practice per day/week is needed (again, depending on your goals).

Moreover, we all learn differently (which is entirely ok).

For example, if you’re an absolute beginner, you will start following our Video Course for Beginners once you join. This Course covers the first 3 levels of piano playing – taking you to the intermediary level. In real life, students cover 3 levels in 3 years (considering that they also have extended summer breaks etc.). By learning online, you could complete this entire Course in 8-12 months – and also in 3-4 years (again, depending on your individual learning speed, and also on how much available practice time you have, how motivated you are etc.).

Then you could choose to move on to intermediate pieces and topics – and so on!

So you can remain a member for as long as you wish – and follow our tutorials at your own pace! ;) No matter how long you stay, you will always have new information to discover, new tutorials to watch, new projects to participate in – because piano playing is a very complex art (not a limited topic that can be ‘memorized’ in X days) and there’s always something new to learn and improve!

38. I am a beginner (relative beginner) and I want to learn an advanced piece. Can you help me?

The short answer is – no, not really. There are no ‘magic shortcuts’ to mastering the complex art of piano playing – and it’s impossible to squeeze many years‘ worth of knowledge and skills into several months. If you try to, you risk forming bad habits, developing hand injuries and stagnating your progress.

If you want to learn WHY, and you have an extra 5 minutes – please keep reading:

 

Almost every day, I am contacted by beginners (or relative beginners with only 1-3 years of piano experience) who wish to learn their favorite advanced pieces right now (instead of choosing the progressive path, and moving through the beginner and intermediate repertoire in a step-by-step manner).

While I do understand your passion, and your drive to play beautiful music :), my duty as a teacher is to tell you how piano playing really works – instead of simply telling you what you wish to hear :P.

I call this hurry of mastering very difficult things in a very short period of time the ‘disease of our century‘, or the ‘fast-food mentality‘ – and in this article I will explain WHY this approach is so harmful, and how it actually wastes your time and energy (instead of saving you time).

Imagine that you’re going to a martial arts instructor and telling him: “Sensei, I am a white-belt (or a complete beginner), but I want to fight a black-belt tomorrow/next month. Can you help me”? What do you think the sensei will tell you? Yes, he will say that reaching the black-belt level takes time and A LOT of training, and that this complex process cannot be ‘compressed’ and conquered overnight, no matter how much you would love to! He will also tell you that he can only train you correctly, in a step-by-step manner, and that he cannot help you achieve unrealistic goals (just like he cannot help you fly to the moon without a shuttle!). He will also explain that fighting a black-belt can be very dangerous for you at this moment, and lead to injury!

The same thing happens in musical performance: NO TEACHER, no matter how good/experienced he/she is, can help a beginner play an advanced piece WELL, as it should be played – expressively and with technical freedom! Yes, it’s always possible (at any level) to simply learn the notes of an advanced piece and play them slowly, clumsily, in a tensed manner (which can lead to injuries), without any expressive effects (such as a beautiful sound, dynamics, phrasing, voicing, intonation etc.) – but WHY would you choose to play a beautiful piece in such a terrible manner?

Another metaphor. Let’s say you wish to learn how to juggle – and from your very first attempt, you try to juggle 10 balls at a time. What do you think will happen? Yes, you will drop all of them! On the other hand, if you are patient and learn how to throw and catch one ball first; then juggle 2 balls; then 3, then 4 etc.; after a period of time you will masterfully juggle all 10 balls!

Piano playing is an incredibly complex art. Achieving a very good level takes at least 8-10 years of serious, very consistent practice (under the guidance of a professional teacher). This is how our art really works – and your unrealistic expectations cannot change the natural speed at which our mind and muscles learn new things (just like they cannot change the natural rhythms of the universe, or the rotation of seasons, or the length of the year!).

Quite contrary – practicing very difficult pieces too soon (after only 1-4 years of practice) will make you lose a lot of time and effort: instead of moving forward in a progressive manner, gradually and harmoniously building ALL your expressive/technical/aural/analytical/reading skills (which is the only way of making REAL progress) – you will always stagnate at the same ‘clumsy relative-beginner’ level.

You will probably ask me: why does this happen, and why can’t I make progress while practicing pieces that are too difficult for me?

Let me explain with the help of another metaphor: your brain can be compared to the RAM of a computer. When you only begin studying a musical instrument, the RAM is not very powerful – let’s say only 500 MB. It can only comprise and multitask so much – and if you try to learn a difficult piece, the entire RAM will be spent on coordinating only the notes – there will simply be no RAM left for analyzing/understanding the meaning of the piece, for correct technique, expressive effects etc.

But if you start with a less difficult piece (appropriate for your level):

  • part of your RAM will take care of notes/rhythm/fingering;
  • another part will be focused on developing your hearing, imagination and musical understanding, developing an ergonomic technique, a correct key attack (with the resulting beautiful sound), learning how to create (correctly, in a serious ‘scientific’ manner) a wide palette of expressive effects (such as different articulations, a wide range of dynamics and sound colors, good voicing and sound balance, phrasing, intonation, good sense of tempo/rhythm etc.);
  • yet another part will learn how to practice correctly and efficiently;
  • and there will still be some free RAM left that will allow you to coordinate all these things without putting your brain into over-drive!

Also, the RAM will keep growing as you practice – and one day it will allow you to play advanced pieces properly, without using your entire mental capacity for the notes only!

But if you always force, over-drive and ‘short-circuit’ your RAM with enormous tasks that it cannot handle – it will never grow!

Also, learning the notes of a piece does not equal playing a piece well!!! Learning the notes/rhythm/fingering is only the first tiny step of a very complex and fascinating journey – but if you play an advanced piece too soon, this is the only thing you will be able to do, this way missing out on the most important aspects of our art, and creating LOTS of bad habits!

Playing the notes of a piece (clumsily, without expressive effects) can be compared to admiring a beautiful landscape blindly, with your eyes closed! Again, WHY would you choose to do this, why would you willingly push away the most beautiful and rewarding aspects of our art, instead of being patient and learning all the fundamentals correctly, forming strong expressive/technical habits and making true progress?

If you always play pieces that are too difficult (instead of choosing the step-by-step approach), 10 years from now you will still be where you are right now – or, in a best case scenario, you will reach an approximate early-intermediate level, and you will still not be able to play advanced pieces really well. On the other hand, if you choose the progressive path – 10 years from now you will be an advanced player, with brilliant expressive/technical/analytical skills: you will be able to play almost ANY piece of the universal repertoire – in a beautiful, expressive manner, without any technical limitations! No matter which path you choose, the time will pass anyway – so why not spend it wisely?

Therefore, the tortoise will arrive much quicker than the hare (not to mention the inevitable hand injuries and bad playing habits that the hare will collect ‘along the way’).

So, if you wish to play Nocturnes/Etudes/Ballads by Chopin, Etudes by Liszt, Preludes/Etudes by Rachmaninoff, Beethoven’s late Sonatas, Bach’s Preludes & Fugues, Scriabin’s Preludes/Etudes, Debussy’s Preludes/Etudes (and this list of advanced pieces can go on and on) – please don’t try to learn them after only several months (or 1-4 years) of practice. Be patient instead, form solid skills by practicing easier pieces first (suitable for the beginner and intermediate levels) – and then, after about 6-8 years of serious practice, you will be able to play advanced pieces as they should be played!

Conclusion: Many music lovers nowadays think that playing an instrument is a ‘recreational’ activity that can be fully mastered during the ‘weekend’ LOL – and they do not understand (yet) that achieving a serious level (that would allow them to play advanced pieces) takes at least 6-8 years of consistent practice. The results of this ‘rushed’ approach are quite tragic:

  • tension and hand injuries (as a result of insufficient technical development and also because the student is not familiar with relaxation, whole-arm action, weighted playing, wrist flexibility/navigation etc.);
  • ‘note-only’ playing, with total lack of expressiveness (due to lack of understanding/knowledge, and also because the student didn’t learn any expressive techniques in a correct step-by-step manner);
  • harshness or shallowness of sound;
  • mechanical playing;
  • frustration and lack of progress (the students cannot go beyond the early intermediate level because they keep playing advanced pieces incorrectly; their entire attention is focused on struggling with the very difficult text – and this leaves no ‘mental space’ for expression; and the more they rush, the slower their progress is! The lack of progress leads to frustration and ultimately many students give up on piano playing altogether).

The solution is to move from one level to the next one in a gradual manner, through correct and progressive practice of the beginner and intermediate repertoire, allowing yourself enough time to fully understand and master each practiced piece (and each encountered expressive effect or technical pattern). The step-by-step approach is the ONLY one that allows a student to make real progress and actually reach the advanced level.

If there would be shortcuts that would allow a beginner to play advanced repertoire – trust me, professionals would’ve found it many centuries ago :P, and we would have Richters and Horowitz’es at every corner LOL.

So if you truly love music and wish to become a good pianist – offer yourself the gift of patience, and learn our art in a gradual and progressive manner! This approach is much more enjoyable than you currently think: you will have lots of fun in the process, you will discover many charming pieces for beginners/intermediates, you will form skills you never even knew existed :P – and you will make true lasting progress!

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.
~Lao Tzu

For an even more complete picture of how piano playing really works, I recommend reading my answers to FAQs No. 22 and 34. Also, if you’re a beginner and you wish to join PCA, I recommend starting with our step-by-step Video Course for Beginners (and not with Bach’s Goldberg Variations! LOL). You will find a detailed description of this Course in FAQ No. 17. ;)

39. Is your program suitable for very young children?

Actually, it all depends on the parent’s musical experience (as I will explain below).

Generally – our Piano Coaching Program is addressed to adult learners (and also to teenagers older than 14).

The reason is simple: the learning happens online, without the direct supervision of a teacher – and it requires commitment, discipline, and also a high degree of logical understanding.

Because these qualities are not very developed in young children, they need one-on-one guidance in order to make progress (weekly lessons with a real-life teacher, parental supervision during practice etc.). They also learn intuitively (not logically) – so the teaching methods are a bit different.

Therefore, young beginners should not follow our program on their own.

However, an experienced parent or teacher could definitely use my tutorials as a foundation for teaching a child (‘tailoring’ the process according to the age of the student). So if you are a piano teacher working with young beginners (and you would like to structure your lessons according to the professional Russian system); or if you are an experienced pianist, and wish to teach your child (but you don’t have a step-by-step methodology); then my Lessons can be your guide, every step of the way!

For example:

The progressive Lessons of our Course for Beginners are suitable for absolute beginners (and also for correcting bad habits, and setting a strong technical/expressive/aural foundation). Find a detailed description of this Course in FAQ No. 17.

Our Scale & Arpeggio Course is addressed to all levels (the progressive Lessons start with Beginner level 1 and reach Advanced level 8). This Course is described in FAQ No. 19.

Our Sight-Reading Course is addressed to the late beginner and intermediate levels. It comprises tons of fun exercises (and easy-to-follow explanations) that your child (or young student) will really enjoy!

Besides these step-by-step Courses, our program includes many hundreds of separate tutorials (dedicated to a wide range of pieces for all levels – and also to many important piano topics). Each one of them can be used as a teaching guide for that particular piece/topic!

On the other hand, if you only have a few years of piano experience; or if you’re not a musician, and you’re simply looking for a piano teacher for your child; then I recommend finding a good real-life teacher!

And, last but not least, don’t forget to take a look at FAQs No. 1-6 (for having a clearer understanding of how PCA works, and what is included in the membership).