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FAQ

We are professional teachers and musicians who take pride in what we do. Just as employees in other industries must focus on their jobs during work hours, so must we.  We don't answer our phones during lessons, unless there is an emergency on our mobiles. Please consider that outside of teaching hours, we also have our own repertoire to learn, lessons to plan, repertoire to choose, rehearsals, and family commitments.  We frequently receive calls at all hours of the day and night, and while we do genuinely try to help everyone as best we can, quite simply we cannot answer everyones calls and enquiries as immediately as they would like.  For this reason, we have compiled a list of the most common questions we receive almost daily.


If you have a question, please check here first.  If you still have questions, we respectfully ask all existing and new students to email their requests to us at music@saaom.com.au so that we can respond when we have appropriate tine to do so, or speak to your teacher at your lesson. Your assistance in this regard is greatly appreciated, and allows us to focus on what we do best, teaching and making music.

DOES MY CHILD NEED A PIANO OR IS A KEYBOARD OK?

This is a good question, and depends on the level of the student.  If your child is intermediate to advanced level, we strongly encourage you to invest in a piano; it really is imperative if you intend to be able to perform on the graded hammer systems of an acoustic piano.


If your child is just starting out, and you don't want to make the financial investment in a piano, then it is a appropriate to buy or rent a keyboard. If you are in the Hills area and want to see how your child goes for the first term, you may request to book practice time on our digital keyboards. If purchasing a keyboard, please ensure that you invest in a quality keyboard with weighted keys, and preferably 88 keys. This is essential for developing correct finger technique. it may seem 'easier' or 'cheaper' to buy the $100 toy keyboard you found on gumtree, but the reality is you will be throwing that money away and needing to buy a quality keyboard soon after.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A PIANO AND A KEYBOARD?

The difference is in the sound the instrument makes, and how the sound is produced. A piano is an acoustic instrument, with a weighted feel in the keys which is graded from the lower bass end of the piano up to the highest notes.  When the keys are pressed on a piano, this causes the internal hammers to rise and hit the strings, creating an acoustic sound caused by a physical action. A keyboard on the other hand is an electric instrument, requiring a power source.  The sound produced when pressing the keys on a keyboard is a digital sound, the volume of which can generally be adjusted with volume controls.  The action, weight, and sound decay of the two instruments therefore is drastically different at an advanced level.  While a beginner can easily get away with learning on a good keyboard, a more advanced student requires the action and physical sound of a quality acoustic piano to develop correct technique and to appreciate the decay of sound & listening techniques that help them to create long lines, and achieve a high performance level.

CAN WE HAVE A FEW FREE TRIAL LESSONS?

The resounding answer to this is no, but sadly you will see some studios resorting to this to attract students. The flow on effect of this is that other studios feel they need to follow suit to compete. At SA Academy of Music, all of our teachers are minimum Bachelor degree qualified, many have completed postgraduate study, and in most cases have at least 20+ yrs teaching experience and have studied with some of the finest musicians in the world. Depending on the location you choose you will either be learning on hand-made performance quality grand pianos, or if learning in a keyboard studio, you will have access to quality keyboards.  All of these things are at considerable cost to us. Additionally, the prime times sought for these trials are valuable teaching sessions for those who do wish to learn regularly. In the same way that you wouldn't go to your lawyer or doctor and ask for the first few appointments free of charge, we cannot ask our teachers to teach for free; as it is they spend significant amounts of time outside of hours preparing lesson plans and on repertoire selection.


That being said, we do wish for our students and families to feel comfortable with their choice of teacher, as such we allow potential students to book in to observe a lesson (by prior appointment only), we also hold a Meet the Teachers Day before the commencement of each new term (where possible at the end of the previous term) where you can come in, have a coffee and chat to the teaching staff. Meet the Teacher days are advertised as they are scheduled.  You must book in for these sessions as space is limited and access is strictly by appointment only. 

WHAT AGE SHOULD MY CHILD START TO PLAY PIANO?

It is important to note that each child is different and there is no strict rule here. I started as a 3-yr old, but have met 3 year olds who are nowhere near ready for piano lessons. In my experience, anywhere between the ages of 5 - 8 is a suitable age for a child to start learning to play the piano. However, as early as 4 is realistic.  This is why we offer the Music for Little Mozarts course for 4 - 6 year olds which though it commences a little slower, is a great way to see if your child is ready for piano lessons, and without even knowing it by the end they are reading and playing music in two hands reading two seperate clefs. It is important to understand that even in that age range there is a significant difference in intellectual, physical and emotional development, that is why wherever possible we will regroup students in a group class to match their peers and learning styles. 


As an example: I have an 8yr old beginner who has had a handful of lessons, reading and playing at the same level as a 12 year old who has played for a term. The 8-yr old fatigues faster so is monitored in this regard, and teaching language and style is adapted to the needs of each student, but the 8 year old can comfortably keep up with the older students learning progress, they just have different ways of getting to the same point.

SHOULD I ENROL MY CHILD IN GROUP CLASSES OR INDIVIDUAL LESSONS?

This is a long answer, as there are several variables, and ultimately it comes down to your personal preference.  But as a teacher, there is a reason I decided after many years to offer group lessons for beginners, and it is something we will continue to do.


Of course, it depends on the students level, learning style, personality and also if they have any special needs that have to be taken into account. There are benefits to both, and in fact even in the beginner stages it is beneficial to have a combination of group lessons with the occasional 1-1 lesson. Just as masterclasses are a great opportunity for the advanced student to learn/observe in a group setting.

Intermediate to advanced students: If your child is intermediate to advanced then they should be having weekly individual lessons.  Students at this level are working on their own choice of repertoire, may be preparing for exams and have set pieces and technical aspects that need personalised attention. While the fundamentals are the same, each student will have their own unique approach/technique, and at this level teaching must accomodate this. However, ensemble playing is not only an important skill for musicians to develop, it is also a lot of fun. So we do encourage students taking 1-1 lessons to also participate in either piano duets, multiple piano repertoire, or chamber music which can also be worked in on their individual lessons. Throughout the year we will offer a variety of ensemble opportunities, along with various masterclasses which can be booked as they are scheduled. Two piano pieces are a lot of fun, and you may see your teachers having a run through between lessons, we are happy for you to observe.

Beginners: For absolute beginners or beginners who learnt a little years ago but need a solid refresh, or students who can play a little by ear but can't read music, then it is absolutely possible to learn the fundamentals of reading and playing in a group lesson.  Not only is this option more affordable for the beginner student (the most important query we have from parents who aren't sure if their child "will even stick at it"), but it is a lot of fun to play as a group and make new friends, it removes the formality and pressure of 1-1 lessons, and provides ensemble experience, which is an invaluable skill for musicians to have from a young age and is something that will benefit them in any future path where they are required to work as a team.

Special Needs: If your child has special needs that need to be taken into account this may dictate which lesson format would be best suited to them. Please see FAQ Special Needs.  (which can include anything at all that might affect how we teach or how they will handle lessons, including but not limited to autism, ADHD, anxiety/depression, etc) it is probably best to include this in your request to book, or send as en email separately after you register. This may require further consultation between teacher and parent as how this will affect them in a group environment as there are many different levels of affect

Our students success is paramount though, and If we need to make alternate lesson slots available to ensure they are catered for at the correct level, we will do so. We also try to spend some one-on-one time with each student to ensure they are keeping up with the group, or not feeling held back. It's a fine balance, but something I feel we do well.

SPECIAL NEEDS

Music is for everyone no matter their age, ability, or circumstance.  Special needs students are more than welcome to learn with us, however to help them best it is important we understand what they need from us.  Also, it is important we can allocate the appropriate teacher.  For example I have heard reports at other music schools where a special needs child suddenly became aggressive at the first lesson and the teacher had not been informed about their needs before.  This can be quite confronting for both parties and easily avoidable before lessons even begin.  


There are various levels of special needs we might need to factor into our approach (these may include anything at all that affects how we teach or how they will handle lessons, including but not limited to autism, asperger's, ADHD, anxiety/depression, etc).  If we understand what to expect, then it allows us to modify our teaching approach.  For example if you have a child who is significantly affected by autism and will be unable to sit focusing in a group lesson for 40minutes, who can be disruptive, or maybe isn't suited to method book learning, then it would be more appropriate to enrol them in individual 1-1 lessons as they may fall behind in group lessons and/or be disruptive to the learning of other students in the group, causing frustration for all concerned. We will quickly identify if we need to adjust the lesson plan to suit the student, which may include a slower or just entirely different approach.  It is best to include as much information as you can in your request to book, or send as en email separately after you register.  The more information you can give us about your child's needs and learning abilities, strengths, etc, the greater the outcome.  There are many brilliant musicians who are classified as having special needs of some form or level.  In fact, often, music is highly beneficial for these students. However, it is also important to understand that we will not force a special needs child to meet any particular milestones that all too often parents wish to see.  They will progress in their own time and be where they need to be.

If you have a special needs child we encourage you to book in with Lian, she is extremely patient and adaptive and will spend time with you in the lesson to work out the best approach to take. She does book out though so if you see a free time in the calendar, book it!

WHAT ARE YOUR OPENING HOURS?

Due to the nature of our lessons and the hours they occur, we do not have standard 'open' hours.  All lessons are strictly by appointment only.  This is the same for collecting any materials you may have purchased. We do this to ensure that lessons that have been paid for are not interrupted, and so we can keep on time.  If you are not yet a student and want to come in, please either book one of our scheduled Open Days, Meet the Teachers Days, or book in for an observe session during one of our lessons.

I WANT TO ENROL 2 CHILDREN, DO YOU OFFER A DISCOUNT?

For individual 1-1 lesson, no.  This is because of the amount of time we prepare for each lesson, and the attention required for each student and their individual repertoire, learning needs.

For group lessons, we do offer a discount depending on the number of students enrolling.  We offer discounts of 5% for 2 students and 10% for 4 or more students.  The discount codes are advertised where applicable, if you need to obtain a discount code, please email music@saaom.com.au or ask your teacher.  Alternatively, if enrolling 2 students at one time, we will see this on the registration form, and will make adjustments on the invoice.

WHY DO I NEED TO FILL IN THE BOOKING FORM AND STUDENT REGISTRATION FORM?

All students (individual and group lessons): Every student must fill in the New Student Registration form.  This automatically adds you to our waitlist in the student portal which is where we communicate with students, schedule lessons in the calendar and where we invoice all future lessons from.  it is also where students will go to view their repertoire lists, recital lists, and to record their practice in the online practice diary.  Lessons and masterclasses will appear on the students personal calendar inside this student portal.

Book Online (Group classes & Request to book individual lessons for new students): The booking form also needs to be filled in for students enrolling in a group class for the first time and can be used (but doesnt need to be) for new students requesting to book a specific time with a teacher for recurring lessons.  Because our group classes have limited numbers, this secures your place in the course advertised.  You do not need to pay for the course online at time of booking if you choose not to, in fact we prefer it if you don't as we will issue you an account from within the student portal anyway and the course will only proceed at that time if minimum enrolment is met. You can still use any discount codes you have been given at time of booking and this will be reflected on your invoice from the student portal. If you do pay online at time of booking however this is perfectly fine too, and rest assured your payment will be recorded against the student portal and will be visible when you login.  You will not be charged a 2nd time, but an invoice number will be allocated for the purpose of recording the payment only. Requests to book individual lessons are requests only, we will confirm in writing once we have been able to offer you a specific day and time.  Multiple people can and do request the same times from this page, we process those in order of receipt and then on to the next student and so on.

FAQ: FAQ
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