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#2189409 - 11/27/13 09:37 PM Student stuck in "positions"
ceg_piano Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/18/11
Posts: 20
Loc: Alberta, Canada
Ok. I feel like I had a similar post before.

I have a transfer student I've been working with since September. She's in Alfred's Premier 2A (or is it B? the green ones!). Has been taking lessons for 3 or 4 years I think. 10 years old.

Problem? the book is starting to move around a bit on the keyboard, and she's stuck in "positions". For instance, "C Position", "D position", "E Position". I don't know where she got this from since I'm pretty sure Alfred's doesn't teach specific positions beyond C and G.

We are only working on 2 songs, max, per week, because it takes a long time to go through and learn every note. Her theory book is no help. smile

We are working on Christmas songs now. This is good. After playing Silent Night (and not moving her hands once), I asked her if it sounded like Silent Night. She said "No". I'm trying to seize this as an opportunity. If it doesn't sound right, let's figure out how to fix it. Same thing with Deck the Halls - I was able to utilize her "ear" to figure some things out. (Where does it sound wrong?)

She knows the notes! I ask her and she knows! I've even done "speed notes" (a bunch of notes on a page and I time her to see how many she can do in a minute)

Thoughts? Ideas?

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#2189412 - 11/27/13 09:45 PM Re: Student stuck in "positions" [Re: ceg_piano]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4739
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: ceg_piano
Ok. I feel like I had a similar post before.

I have a transfer student I've been working with since September. She's in Alfred's Premier 2A (or is it B? the green ones!). Has been taking lessons for 3 or 4 years I think. 10 years old.

Problem? the book is starting to move around a bit on the keyboard, and she's stuck in "positions". For instance, "C Position", "D position", "E Position". I don't know where she got this from since I'm pretty sure Alfred's doesn't teach specific positions beyond C and G.

We are only working on 2 songs, max, per week, because it takes a long time to go through and learn every note. Her theory book is no help. smile

We are working on Christmas songs now. This is good. After playing Silent Night (and not moving her hands once), I asked her if it sounded like Silent Night. She said "No". I'm trying to seize this as an opportunity. If it doesn't sound right, let's figure out how to fix it. Same thing with Deck the Halls - I was able to utilize her "ear" to figure some things out. (Where does it sound wrong?)

She knows the notes! I ask her and she knows! I've even done "speed notes" (a bunch of notes on a page and I time her to see how many she can do in a minute)

Thoughts? Ideas?

Playing in positions is a mindset. I can't remember one student who did not assume that the hands stay in the same place, using the same fingers on the same notes, so people have an idea that there is a "home row", sort of like on the computer.

It's a logical assumption. It is WRONG, but it is logical.

Once students have gotten used to thinking in positions, and depending on them, whether your student or a transfer, it is not easy moving out of this mindset.

That's the elephant in the room.
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#2189414 - 11/27/13 09:46 PM Re: Student stuck in "positions" [Re: ceg_piano]
stalefleas Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/16/13
Posts: 249
Demonstrate?

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#2189431 - 11/27/13 10:32 PM Re: Student stuck in "positions" [Re: ceg_piano]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5415
Loc: Orange County, CA
If it took her "3 or 4 years" to get to Alfred Premier 2B, then don't expect her to get too far. That's slower than a crawl. She probably doesn't practice piano very much.
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#2189445 - 11/27/13 11:23 PM Re: Student stuck in "positions" [Re: AZNpiano]
ceg_piano Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/18/11
Posts: 20
Loc: Alberta, Canada
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
If it took her "3 or 4 years" to get to Alfred Premier 2B, then don't expect her to get too far. That's slower than a crawl. She probably doesn't practice piano very much.


I'm not entirely sure it's actually been "3 or 4 years" of true piano lessons. I think they did MYC too… I can't remember what mom told me.

The one that's not taking piano lessons in the family is the one with the most talent….(he decided to join junior high band and doesn't have time for both).
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Royal Conservatory of Music (Canada) Grade 9 Piano
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#2189446 - 11/27/13 11:24 PM Re: Student stuck in "positions" [Re: stalefleas]
ceg_piano Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/18/11
Posts: 20
Loc: Alberta, Canada
Originally Posted By: stalefleas
Demonstrate?


I do!
_________________________
Bachelor of Music Ministries with Performance Major (piano)
Royal Conservatory of Music (Canada) Grade 9 Piano
RCM Grade 4 Theory
2nd year teacher. HELP!

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#2189651 - 11/28/13 12:58 PM Re: Student stuck in "positions" [Re: ceg_piano]
stalefleas Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/16/13
Posts: 249
Well I figured but you didn't mention it so I thought it wouldn't hurt to bring it up.

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#2189692 - 11/28/13 03:00 PM Re: Student stuck in "positions" [Re: ceg_piano]
hreichgott Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/13
Posts: 867
Loc: western MA, USA
Try a couple of easy-for-her pieces that require a slight change of position, sometimes over more than five notes. For example a simple piece with LH chord C-E-G alternating with B-D-G. Or Alberti basses or broken chords in similar patterns. Or a single-note melody requiring more than five notes (Twinkle Twinkle Little Star).

I don't really understand teaching from five-finger positions at all, especially because the methods that use it the most claim to teach reading effectively, but when students get used to positions they only read finger numbers, not notes!

I do understand that when a student gets accustomed to one way of learning, especially in the earliest stages, it can take the student a long time to break out of it into new ways of learning, especially if the student does not naturally get excited about new information and new challenges. It is possible; it just takes a long time and a lot of patience and praise for tiny steps.


Edited by hreichgott (11/28/13 03:01 PM)
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Sounding the depths of small pieces: Beethoven Op. 33
Daily attempts at 16th notes: Chopin Op. 10 no. 4, Pischna
Totally loving Fauré/Barcarolles and Ravel/Tombeau de Couperin
I love Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and new music

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#2190243 - 11/29/13 07:46 PM Re: Student stuck in "positions" [Re: ceg_piano]
ezpiano.org Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/10/11
Posts: 1002
Loc: Irvine, CA
Originally Posted By: hreichgott
I don't really understand teaching from five-finger positions at all, especially because the methods that use it the most claim to teach reading effectively, but when students get used to positions they only read finger numbers, not notes!


I disagree.

Students will read only finger numbers when either teacher write in for them or the editor of the book provide all for them. When finger numbers are not there, then they are forced to read the notes or to read in intervallic way (skip and step)
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#2191487 - 12/02/13 03:13 PM Re: Student stuck in "positions" [Re: hreichgott]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5415
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: hreichgott
I do understand that when a student gets accustomed to one way of learning, especially in the earliest stages, it can take the student a long time to break out of it into new ways of learning, especially if the student does not naturally get excited about new information and new challenges.

You have just described 90% of the kids who transferred to me from Suzuki teachers.

But your description of the 5-finger positions is not quite accurate. I think you're confusing books that came pre-printed with a godzillion finger numbers with books that emphasize intervallic reading.
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#2191500 - 12/02/13 03:43 PM Re: Student stuck in "positions" [Re: ezpiano.org]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4739
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: ezpiano.org
Originally Posted By: hreichgott
I don't really understand teaching from five-finger positions at all, especially because the methods that use it the most claim to teach reading effectively, but when students get used to positions they only read finger numbers, not notes!


I disagree.

Students will read only finger numbers when either teacher write in for them or the editor of the book provide all for them. When finger numbers are not there, then they are forced to read the notes or to read in intervallic way (skip and step)

That is true, but when they get used to strict hand positions they make up "rules" in their heads about what fingers can play what notes.
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#2192161 - 12/03/13 10:09 PM Re: Student stuck in "positions" [Re: AZNpiano]
hreichgott Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/13
Posts: 867
Loc: western MA, USA
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano

You have just described 90% of the kids who transferred to me from Suzuki teachers.

Yup. It happens with 90% of my students (Suzuki) when I introduce reading, too. It also happens with 90% of transfer students from traditional teachers when asked to do anything by ear. I had a traditionally trained student who was playing Chopin nocturnes but fell apart when asked to play Twinkle Twinkle and Mary Had a Little Lamb without a score. As in, could not find the opening fifth of Twinkle.

Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
But your description of the 5-finger positions is not quite accurate. I think you're confusing books that came pre-printed with a godzillion finger numbers with books that emphasize intervallic reading.

I may be confused, for sure. I'm just going by what I've seen students do.
_________________________
Heather W. Reichgott, piano http://heatherwreichgott.blogspot.com
Sounding the depths of small pieces: Beethoven Op. 33
Daily attempts at 16th notes: Chopin Op. 10 no. 4, Pischna
Totally loving Fauré/Barcarolles and Ravel/Tombeau de Couperin
I love Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and new music

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#2196289 - 12/11/13 09:00 PM Re: Student stuck in "positions" [Re: ceg_piano]
ceg_piano Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/18/11
Posts: 20
Loc: Alberta, Canada
I still haven't figured out what to do.

I'm entirely sure my student was completely upset after her lesson today, though I am not convinced it was entirely my fault. I think she didn't get to practice that much this week (nothing written down) and maybe she had a bad day at school or something.

I did put my hand on her shoulder (not a normal occurrence), looked her directly in the eye, and told her that I was not upset or angry that she wasn't able to do this yet (I can't remember the exact words).

I think I might pull her back, get a variety of music, and exercises (maybe arrange some stuff myself). My friend gave me some ideas to do exercises moving around the piano. Particularly to do a contrary motion scale. I think it's genius. (she can accomplish it quickly!) I'm also not convinced she knows her notes as well as I thought.

We will conquer! (she WANTS to do this!)


Edited by ceg_piano (12/11/13 09:05 PM)
Edit Reason: grammar
_________________________
Bachelor of Music Ministries with Performance Major (piano)
Royal Conservatory of Music (Canada) Grade 9 Piano
RCM Grade 4 Theory
2nd year teacher. HELP!

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#2196292 - 12/11/13 09:01 PM Re: Student stuck in "positions" [Re: hreichgott]
ceg_piano Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/18/11
Posts: 20
Loc: Alberta, Canada
Don't knock the Suzuki students! I was one for 4 years and I turned out just fine! smile laugh

(though I think it helped that I had a few months of "reading" lessons prior and my teacher wasn't a Suzuki "purist")
_________________________
Bachelor of Music Ministries with Performance Major (piano)
Royal Conservatory of Music (Canada) Grade 9 Piano
RCM Grade 4 Theory
2nd year teacher. HELP!

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#2199415 - 12/17/13 09:35 PM Re: Student stuck in "positions" [Re: ceg_piano]
Sweet06 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/22/13
Posts: 389
What do you mean "hand positions"?
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#2199448 - 12/17/13 10:43 PM Re: Student stuck in "positions" [Re: ceg_piano]
hreichgott Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/13
Posts: 867
Loc: western MA, USA
Originally Posted By: ceg_piano
Don't knock the Suzuki students! I was one for 4 years and I turned out just fine! smile laugh

Sorry, I didn't mean to. I am an old Suzuki student myself, and I am a Suzuki teacher. I think it is an excellent way to learn. I was talking about the transition into reading, which occurs *during* Suzuki music education, just later on than in traditional.
_________________________
Heather W. Reichgott, piano http://heatherwreichgott.blogspot.com
Sounding the depths of small pieces: Beethoven Op. 33
Daily attempts at 16th notes: Chopin Op. 10 no. 4, Pischna
Totally loving Fauré/Barcarolles and Ravel/Tombeau de Couperin
I love Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and new music

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#2199705 - 12/18/13 12:38 PM Re: Student stuck in "positions" [Re: ceg_piano]
re22 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/04/11
Posts: 147
Hi,

Did this transfer student come to you in Alfred's Premier 2B or did you choose this book for her? Before taking her on did you evaluate her?

I received a lot of transfer students with this issue. I would switch to another method book (slightly easier) or work sideways with some easier material that lacks "positions". Maybe a fun popular book?

I tell my students that they must read every note because there is no such thing as "positions". I will also mention something like how they have 10 fingers but know a lot more notes than 10 and moving around the piano is so much fun, creates interesting harmonies, and they see that they get to play like the teacher by moving around.
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#2199731 - 12/18/13 01:42 PM Re: Student stuck in "positions" [Re: Sweet06]
TimR Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3151
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: Sweet06
What do you mean "hand positions"?


My impression is that there is a distinct mental difference between thinking in terms of keyboard geography and thinking in terms of what the hand does.

So there's a difference in viewpoint, between how I get a finger, any finger, somewhere near the D key, and how I get my finger 2 to play a key, hopefully the D. One requires you to know where the key is, the other where the finger is.

Or maybe I've completely misunderstood.
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#2199757 - 12/18/13 02:19 PM Re: Student stuck in "positions" [Re: TimR]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5415
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: TimR
Originally Posted By: Sweet06
What do you mean "hand positions"?


My impression is that there is a distinct mental difference between thinking in terms of keyboard geography and thinking in terms of what the hand does.

So there's a difference in viewpoint, between how I get a finger, any finger, somewhere near the D key, and how I get my finger 2 to play a key, hopefully the D. One requires you to know where the key is, the other where the finger is.

Or maybe I've completely misunderstood.

That's the problem with some books (old Alfred, Bastien) because kids are so used to thinking fingers 1-5 in certain positions (middle C, C, F, G, D) and that's all the kids know to play.

There's really nothing wrong with teaching 5-finger hand positions (or pentascales), as long as you teach all of them, eventually, major and minor. That's what's covered in the CM Syllabus for levels Prep and One.
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#2199777 - 12/18/13 03:43 PM Re: Student stuck in "positions" [Re: AZNpiano]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4739
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Originally Posted By: TimR
Originally Posted By: Sweet06
What do you mean "hand positions"?


My impression is that there is a distinct mental difference between thinking in terms of keyboard geography and thinking in terms of what the hand does.

So there's a difference in viewpoint, between how I get a finger, any finger, somewhere near the D key, and how I get my finger 2 to play a key, hopefully the D. One requires you to know where the key is, the other where the finger is.

Or maybe I've completely misunderstood.

That's the problem with some books (old Alfred, Bastien) because kids are so used to thinking fingers 1-5 in certain positions (middle C, C, F, G, D) and that's all the kids know to play.

There's really nothing wrong with teaching 5-finger hand positions (or pentascales), as long as you teach all of them, eventually, major and minor. That's what's covered in the CM Syllabus for levels Prep and One.

Nothing wrong if every finger number is not written in as in Teaching Little Fingers to Play.
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#2199927 - 12/18/13 11:49 PM Re: Student stuck in "positions" [Re: ceg_piano]
Sweet06 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/22/13
Posts: 389
I feel like that's just resistance to change. Am I understanding properly that once you put your thumb on middle C and pinky on G thats the "position" and they can't move from that? Thats just lack of caring lol
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#2200047 - 12/19/13 08:12 AM Re: Student stuck in "positions" [Re: Sweet06]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11555
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: Sweet06
I feel like that's just resistance to change. Am I understanding properly that once you put your thumb on middle C and pinky on G thats the "position" and they can't move from that? Thats just lack of caring lol

What do you base that assessment on?

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#2200074 - 12/19/13 09:34 AM Re: Student stuck in "positions" [Re: Sweet06]
TimR Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3151
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: Sweet06
. Am I understanding properly that once you put your thumb on middle C and pinky on G thats the "position" and they can't move from that?


I don't think that is the problem. It would be okay to put your thumb on middle C. The problem is that middle C is under your thumb.
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#2200119 - 12/19/13 11:20 AM Re: Student stuck in "positions" [Re: ceg_piano]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
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The student ends up associating a finger with a note, so that thumb "is" C. Moving to a new position is totally disorienting.

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#2200224 - 12/19/13 02:43 PM Re: Student stuck in "positions" [Re: keystring]
TimR Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3151
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: keystring
The student ends up associating a finger with a note, so that thumb "is" C.


Exactly. C is thumb, when instead it should be a specific location in three dimensional space.

At least, if I understand correctly.
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#2200282 - 12/19/13 04:17 PM Re: Student stuck in "positions" [Re: keystring]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4739
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: keystring
The student ends up associating a finger with a note, so that thumb "is" C. Moving to a new position is totally disorienting.

Not a problem if there is no 1 marking the Cs, and the student has that.
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#2200283 - 12/19/13 04:19 PM Re: Student stuck in "positions" [Re: TimR]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4739
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: TimR
Originally Posted By: keystring
The student ends up associating a finger with a note, so that thumb "is" C.


Exactly. C is thumb, when instead it should be a specific location in three dimensional space.

At least, if I understand correctly.

Not if this is only ONE position of many used and finger numbers are not used to replace note reading...
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#2200327 - 12/19/13 05:23 PM Re: Student stuck in "positions" [Re: ceg_piano]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11555
Loc: Canada
Sorry, I was too cryptic. I was picturing a student who is forever in a position AND has finger numbers written in - the finger numbers being the primary concern. You want to associate a piano key to a note, not a finger to a note. And you don't want to be reading finger numbers.

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#2200469 - 12/19/13 10:43 PM Re: Student stuck in "positions" [Re: keystring]
Bluoh Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/20/11
Posts: 421
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: keystring
Sorry, I was too cryptic. I was picturing a student who is forever in a position AND has finger numbers written in - the finger numbers being the primary concern. You want to associate a piano key to a note, not a finger to a note. And you don't want to be reading finger numbers.

One problem with Alfred's is it solidifies finger positions. I'd get her to play other pieces that are not from the book, to show that it's possible to get unstuck from a hand position.

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#2202277 - 12/24/13 09:59 AM Re: Student stuck in "positions" [Re: ceg_piano]
wouter79 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/14/10
Posts: 3446
4 years? Playing in 1 position only?

I'm not a teacher but seriously, how can a kid play that way 4 years and keep interest and enthousiasm? And interest is the most important factor to make progress IMHO. Wouldn't it be better to suggest a number of more challenging, nicer sounding pieces? (Of course, make sure the *student* likes them)
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