“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.”Albert Einstein
The piano is an incredible instrument with musical versatility unmatched by any other. It can inspire emotions ranging from elation to despair. And when played well, piano music can make you laugh, dance, cry, or simply dream.
And to have the ability to evoke emotions in others through this amazing instrument? It’s a feeling unlike any other.
As someone who has spent the better part of my life mastering the piano, I can say with confidence that learning how to play is freedom. It’s joy, struggle, and personal satisfaction unmatched by few other life pursuits.
Learning to play the piano well is less of a sprint and more the marathon of a lifetime.
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Why You Need a Piano Teacher
Whether you’re just starting out on your piano journey or have been playing for a while, finding a piano teacher is crucial. It’s the difference between the overwhelming frustration which comes by studying on your own or learning and growing through the struggle with someone by your side.
Although there may be times when you can manage learning independently, to truly succeed, you need guidance from someone further along in their journey than you. You need the expertise which comes from the right piano teacher.
Learning to play the piano well is a skill which takes time and considerable practice. There are an incredible number of subtleties you must learn to truly master the instrument. From learning how to voice and shape a phrase to executing stylistically appropriate dynamics, there’s so much to take in!
Although several aspects such as music theory and history can be mastered independently, there are many which simply can’t. Technique, for example, is a crucial aspect which can make or break your playing. Correct technique is the difference between effortless playing and serious injury. And learning correct technique requires outside perspective from a teacher.
Having a piano teacher also adds a level of accountability which can be difficult to achieve on your own. Your teacher can tailor lessons to your individual learning goals and fill in gaps which can happen when trying to piece things together yourself.
Even beyond technique and accountability is the fact that your progress will be so much faster with someone guiding your learning.
If you’re serious about learning to play the piano, finding the right piano teacher for you is a must.
You may also enjoy reading ‘5 Benefits of Learning Piano as an Adult.’
Questions to Ask Yourself
“Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know. That can be your greatest strength and ensures that you do things differently from everyone else.”Sara Blakely
The right piano teacher is out there for you. But finding this person starts by looking within yourself.
The very first question to ask yourself is why you want to learn to play piano. Is it because you want to impress friends and family with your skills? Are you fascinated by jazz and want to improv over a band someday? Or maybe you’d like to be able to accompany the church choir. Maybe you’d simply like to pass the time doing something both creative and engaging.
Whatever your reason for learning, now is the time to get crystal clear on it. Once you start looking, you’ll quickly realize how many different piano teachers are out there. Seeking clarity on your why now will make your search easier later.
After determining your why, think about the amount of time you’re able to devote both to lessons and to practice. Consistent daily practice, even if it’s only for a few minutes, produces the best results. Now is also the time to figure out whether you’re able to dedicate extra time on a weekly basis for commuting to lessons or whether you’d prefer to conserve your time with online lessons.
Next consider your budget. Just as there are many different types of piano teachers out there, so too are there lessons at all price points. In general, you can expect to pay higher prices for teachers with more educational and performance experiences.
You may also enjoy reading ‘Piano Practice Tips to Improve Your Playing.’
Not all piano teachers are exactly the same. Some focus solely on adult beginner and intermediate students. Other teachers prefer working with children. Still others prefer focusing on a specific genre such as classical, jazz, or pop.
Even beyond the individual interests of the teacher is consideration of their background. Did they study music in college? Do they have any advanced degrees in music? And what type of performance experience do they have?
Believe it or not but there are actually groups dedicated to the professional development of music teachers. Having membership in such as group is often an indication that the teacher is serious about what they do and is themselves working towards improvement.
How to Find a Piano Teacher
After you’ve completed self-reflection about your reasons for learning, your time availability, and your budget, it’s time to begin the search for a piano teacher.
One of the best places to start is at your local university. Many college professors also teach lessons on the side and are happy to take on new students. If their studios are full, piano professors are also typically able to give references for other teachers who do have availability.
Interestingly, college students studying music are often themselves great teachers. They are also typically eager to take on new students to gain teaching experience prior to graduation.
Another great place to find a piano teacher is through word of mouth. Try reaching out to others in your community to find the best teachers.
And if you’re looking for an online piano teacher, try posting a question in a relevant Facebook group. There are several aimed towards adult piano learners and they are a convenient way to find teacher candidates and to address general questions about playing.
Yet another great resource is the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA), an organization dedicated to supporting music teachers. Teachers can actually become certified to teach through the organization by completing a series of projects which is then reviewed to ensure competency. Not all teachers on the MTNA website have completed certification however the fact that they are members suggests a dedication to the profession of teaching music.
There are also state and local chapters of the national organization and reaching out locally is a great way to find someone in your area.
Evaluating Prospective Teachers
After you’ve located a prospective piano teacher, it’s time to see whether you think they will be a good fit for you and your piano goals. Taking time upfront to determine whether there’s a good fit between you both saves time in the long run. The following are several areas to consider and questions to ask when evaluating piano teachers.
Evaluating Piano Teacher Professionalism
Professionalism is the first area to consider when evaluating a piano teacher. This is a somewhat broad concept which includes how the teacher interacts with students and how they conduct their business. It also includes whether they’ve taken the time to come up with their own teaching philosophy and whether they continue to improve their own playing.
Do they have a studio policy which outlines expectations for their students? Is there a weekly practice requirement? Do they teach from a set curriculum or do they individualize student learning? And do they require students participate in performance opportunities such as recitals or contests?
Do they include policies on billing and what happens if you must miss a lesson? Are there make-up lessons available or do you lose out on the lesson fee if you must cancel?
It’s important to figure out expectations on both sides in the beginning to avoid misunderstanding later on.
Is it possible to watch a lesson with one of their current students? If so, are the interactions between piano teacher and student pleasant? Does there appear to be mutual respect between the two? And how does the teacher handle situations in which the student doesn’t initially understand a concept?
It can be very helpful to interview the student independently as well regarding their experience with the teacher. Do they feel that lessons with the teacher have been valuable? And would they recommend their teacher to others?
A positive review from a student is often a good indicator of solid professionalism on the part of the teacher.
Evaluating Performance Skills
After determining the teacher’s level of professionalism, it’s time to evaluate their performance skills. Learning to play piano is a skill and it will be very difficult to learn from someone who themselves doesn’t play competently. Having the ability to demonstrate during lessons is therefore incredibly important.
Are they actively involved in performing and if so, is it possible to watch a performance? If not, are they willing to demonstrate their pianistic skills? Is their playing inspiring and engaging? Does their playing appear relatively relaxed and expressive? And does their technique seem like the type of technique you would like to have at some point?
It’s worth mentioning that not all fantastic performers are gifted teachers and vice versa. Being able to play and being able to convey the information required to play to someone else are two completely different skillsets. It’s therefore important not to base your decision to study with someone solely on their pianistic skills.
As mentioned above, professionalism also plays a key part in evaluating whether you feel they are a good fit for you and your goals.
Next Steps in Your Piano Journey
“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”Seneca
Hopefully by taking the time to clarify your piano goals and thoroughly vet potential candidates, you will find a perfectly compatible piano teacher.
Although professionalism and playing ability are important, keep in mind that studying the piano is difficult. Learning any new skill presents a challenge and the piano is no exception.
It’s therefore incredibly important to find a teacher who is also highly encouraging and inspires you to be better. You should leave your lesson feeling motivated and ready to take on new heights in your playing. If you find that you’re constantly feeling defeated and down on yourself after lessons, it may be time to start the search for an alternate teacher.
Never be afraid to look around if it’s simply not working out with a teacher. It’s your piano journey and you want to make sure you have an optimal learning experience. Sometimes personalities clash or expectations are not aligned and that’s ok. You’re always free to move on if you feel it’s just not working out.
Although I highly recommend having a piano teacher to guide your learning, it can also be helpful to have supplemental resources. And in my opinion, one of the very best resources out there for pianists interested in learning classical piano is Dr. Josh Wright.
I first learned about Dr. Wright through a podcast for piano teachers and immediately became fascinated with his playing and teaching philosophy. Initially I began following his YouTube channel and found so much value in his free content that I decided to invest in his paid membership course called ProPractice.
This course is hands down one of the very best investments I’ve made in my own improvement as a pianist! It’s an incredibly valuable resource for technical development and the artistic interpretation of many classical piano repertoire pieces ranging from the earliest beginner to advanced. I highly recommend the course to anyone who is serious about advancing their piano skills!
It’s Your Turn
As always, I hope you’ve found value in this post. Learning to play the piano is an incredibly rewarding pursuit and one that I’m so thankful to have started! Let me know where you are on your piano journey below and if you’ve yet to start it, please know that it’s never too late. Today is the perfect opportunity to challenge yourself and grow in so many unexpected ways! Cheers to a new year and yet another chance for only getting better!