New Student Guide: Piano

Modified on Tue, 20 Jun 2023 at 12:52 PM

Thank you for choosing Octopus Music School for your or your child’s musical education! Learning to play music can be a fulfilling lifelong journey and we couldn’t be happier that you have chosen us to be your guide! 


What to expect

Piano is one of the easier instruments to begin learning. It is recommended that your child should start with piano before moving on to a more complex instrument that would require intonation, like strings or woodwind. However, despite it being one of the easier instruments, daily practice and patience is vital for the student to master this instrument.

First song

Most students over the age of five can learn their first song within a few weeks of lessons. The fundamentals must be in place first: regular practice habits, correct posture, finger placement, and the basics of producing a clear sound.

OPUS curriculum

Students studying at OMS will benefit from our proprietary curriculum and assessment system, OPUS (Octopus Poly-instrumental Units of Study). OPUS comprises ten grade levels, each with an accompanying assessment. Our voice curriculum emphasizes key skills that are crucial to students’ proper development. From the beginning, we emphasize safe vocal practices, sight-singing, aural training, proper breath control techniques, and overall musicianship to ensure vocal students are not just learning to use their voices, but developing skills that will translate to other musical ventures.


Ensembles at OMS are an integral part of our OPUS curriculum and are designed to provide students with a collaborative environment to experience the joys of making music in an intimate group with their peers. Students may begin signing up for ensembles the moment they begin studying at OMS! Barnacle Band (OPUS grade 1) is designed for complete beginners  with absolutely no experience whatsoever! Tentacle Band (OPUS grades 2-4) is for students who have completed grade 1 and have more experience than complete beginners, while OctoRock (OPUS grades 5+) is for advancing students who are very proficient at their instruments.

Advancing grade levels

Our curriculum features a 10-tiered program of advancement wherein graduation from each level is increasingly difficult. For reference, we expect students on the traditional track to graduate from Level 1 in 3-5 months. In contrast, students in Levels 8-10 who practice regularly are expected to advance in a year, or perhaps even longer, depending on the challenges presented in their studies.  In order to advance to Grades 2, 5, and 7, students must complete an ensemble class; Barnacle Band (for grade 2), Tentacle Band (for grade 5), and OctoRock (for grade 7) are our OPUS curriculum ensembles that are open to any currently enrolled students.

Practice, practice, practice!

The absolute most important aspect of learning any musical instrument is consistent daily practice. Students should aim to practice each day for the same amount of time they spend in their weekly lessons. If a student is taking a 30-minute lesson, the daily practice goal should be 30 minutes. Of course, that is the goal, and students shouldn’t aim too high in the beginning!

Tips for practice success

Facilitate success by setting a time each day for practice. At first, it can be just a few minutes, with the goal of increasing as the student progresses. Set a timer and have a “practice space” where the instrument and all of the necessary materials are easily accessible. Practice should be associated with positivity rather than negativity. Instead of an ultimatum (“Practice, or no screen time), try to make it a reward (“Every 20 minutes of practice earns you 20 minutes of screen time”). Talk to your child’s private instructor to form a plan if you have ongoing concerns.

How can I help my child?

The amount of adult help students need varies by age; very young students may need 15-30 minutes of parents’ daily, hands-on attention. Students should become increasingly independent in their practice over their months and years of study. If your child has trouble making practice part of their daily routine, we recommend starting small and making goals to increase time as your child’s attention span and interest is cultivated.

Listen, watch, repeat

Encourage your child to listen to music that prominently features the instrument they are learning. This can be done by simply listening to music in the car or at home, or, taking your child to live music events so they can see first-hand where all of the hard work they are putting in can lead.

Instrument selection & care

Students will usually begin with a full-sized digital piano as opposed to an acoustic piano. For our instrument recommendations, please consult our piano purchasing guide on our Purchasing Your First Instrument article. An acoustic piano is a much larger investment and we generally recommend waiting until you are 100% that your child is going to continue learning before purchasing one. This is something you can speak to your child's instructor about.

•Yamaha U1 acoustic upright

•Cavendish Contemporary acoustic upright

•Yamaha NU1X Avantgrand Hybrid (hybrid, half acoustic/half keyboard)

•Schiller Concert 48

Yamaha U1

•Steinway Essex EUP-123S

•Kawai K Series

•Baldwin B Series

Pre-owned or new?

Pre-owned acoustic pianos can offer a significant savings but come with inherent risks. For example, the instrument may need multiple tunings to bring it to concert pitch, there may be broken strings, dampers, or other mechanical issues present. Before purchasing a pre-owned piano, find a reputable piano technician to come with you for a pre-purchase inspection. They will charge a small fee, but it will be worth it to avoid more serious repair bills and future issues.

Acoustic piano care tips


• Place your piano in an ideal location relative to the sun. Direct sunlight can cause the wood to fade.

• Place your piano in a regulated temperature room. Big changes of temperature/humidity can cause finish of the piano to crack and the instrument to go out of tune.

• Dust the piano with a feather duster or lightly dampened cloth. Dust particles can be abrasive, try to avoid using a dry cloth, as it will scratch the piano.

• Have your piano tuned two to four times the first year, at least two times the second year, and then a minimum of once per year thereafter.

• Keep keys clean using a lightly dampened cloth and mild soap. Clean white and black keys with different cloths! (paint from the black could create smudges on the white keys).


• Place anything directly on the piano. Use a soft cloth to place lamps or books on the piano, as piano finishes can be easily scratched.

• Dust the interior of the piano. The inside of the piano is very fragile, please have a qualified technician do any cleaning of the interior.

• Over polish; most piano finishes are designed to last for years. If you want to polish, make sure you use polish that is specifically formulated for your piano. Be sure to dust and clean the piano before polishing.

• Play with dirty hands.

Other tools of the trade


A metronome is a simple, yet vital tool and absolutely essential for success in learning any instrument! Our recommended metronome app is called Pro Metronome. It requires a one-time fee of $2.99 and is available on Android and iOS. A physical tuner/metronome device can generally be between $15-$30.

Performance opportunities

OMS holds two yearly Showcase Series, one in the spring, and one in the winter. Students are usually ready to perform after a year of lessons, however this of course varies. Before you register your child for a showcase, first discuss the possibility with their instructor to make sure they are ready to perform! Besides our school recital series, we also cultivate performance opportunities outside our school. These events are limited to intermediate to advanced students who show a serious interest in performance.

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