hristmas, birthdays and similar family occasions are
times when families consider piano lessons, often to accompany the
purchase of a piano. You can find a short sketch of how to proceed when
buying a piano in my article, Top Ten
Considerations in Giving the Family a
Piano. However, once you have the
piano, how do you find not merely a good teacher, but the best one for you
or your children? In this article, I'll give you the "bottom line" version
of how to go about this important process. The article includes lots of
links to other articles on the site where you can get more detail, if you
need or want it.
- Private Lessons or Learn at Home? - For
most people, private lessons from a good piano teacher are the best and
fastest way to learn piano, because you get personalized help and the
knowledge of someone who knows piano and how to teach it. For more on
the advantages of private teaching, see
You Should Consider Private Lessons.
However, some individuals may lack time, funds,
mobility or motivation to learn to play from a private teacher
and will seek to train themselves, perhaps with the help of software,
videos or other modern learning aids. Learning at
home requires more dedication and effort, but it can be a good way to
get started for those with special considerations. You can find out more
about the options in our article,
Learning to Play on Your
- Do you and your children have the
time to learn piano? There isn't much point in beginning to learn,
no matter how you do it, if you
and your kids are so busy that you can't devote the serious time and
effort required to learn to play. Most piano teachers would say that you need an
absolute minimum of a half hour per day of
Many would say you need an hour of practice.
You also have to allow for time to take and travel to lessons and other
piano studio events, unless you happen to be lucky enough to live in an
area where there are teacher(s) who will
teach in your
home. Even if you're learning at home, you'll have many
of the same constraints on time and environment that you'll have in a
teacher's studio. We have discussed these issues more fully in our
Before You Start Lessons.
- Finding teachers to interview - You can
find teachers by looking in the Yellow Pages, getting recommendations
from others, contacting the local music teachers association for
recommendations, checking the Web for teachers in your area sites, or,
if you have a college or university in your area, contacting the music
department there for faculty who may teach privately. However you might
find candidates, be sure you have more than one and that you allocate
time to visit the teachers' studios (see below). Take your children with you if they
are to take lessons. For more detail on this topic, see
Finding Piano Teachers.
- Interviewing teachers - Keep foremost in
your mind that all teachers are not made equal; a good teacher
for someone else may not, necessarily, be best for you or your
children. Take the time to interview the prospective teachers in their studios. You can find an
extensive list of possible interview questions in my article,
A Teacher Interview Checklist.
This list is extensive, but you can choose those question which matter
most to you to ask of the teacher.
Be open and honest in the interviews and expect the same from the
teacher. In particular, tell the teacher what your expectations are and
ask the teacher what his/hers are for the student.
- Get personal - Because taking lessons is
such a personal interaction with a teacher, you must feel comfortable
with the teacher and her approach. If you don't, find another teacher.
If you're looking for a teacher for your children, the ability of the
teacher to relate to and motivate them is critical. For more on the
topic of choosing the right children's teacher, see my article,
Picking the Right Children's Teacher.
- Avoid mistakes - Don't assume that the
"cheapest" or closest teacher is the right one for you. Make your choice
based on the knowledge, training, experience and personality of the
teacher. An extra 5 minutes or an extra $5 are well worth it to get the
best teacher, rather than a merely acceptable one. My article,
Choosing a Piano Teacher,
has more detail on this topic.
- Expect more -
Some essential basics that the teacher with a studio should have include
acoustical piano or a full sized electronic keyboard, with all the keys
and pedals in good working order. The teaching atmosphere should
be as free from outside distractions as possible. Your teacher should
keep records of student progress so that, should questions arise, records will exist to answer them. The teacher
should, at a minimum, provide a list of music and lesson materials to be
obtained for lessons or provide these either on a loan or purchase
basis. However, a great teacher will offer much more
than these basics. A short list of extras might include performance
opportunities, music appreciation training, competition participation, a
computer learning lab, a music lending library and many more. For more
on what you should want from great teacher, take a look at the article,
What to Expect
from Your Piano
- Be reasonable
- Your teacher should be the person you go to for piano lessons, not
free child care for students outside their appointed lesson times. The
teacher should be paid for extra time given your student. Most teachers
these days are degreed people, many with advanced degrees. They deserve
respect, just as you would expect it from the teacher. Many of the
misunderstandings which lead to improper or unreasonable requests and demands that people make of
teachers are described in my article, Some Common Misconceptions
About Piano Lessons. This article will help you
understand not only what requests may be unreasonable, but how to interact
most effectively with your teacher.
- Observe studio etiquette - Most teachers
will tell you what they expect from students in terms of practice,
preparation, attitude and behavior. Many will have those expectations in
a written studio policy. Either way, if you can't or won't observe
proper etiquette and behavior as defined by the teacher, it would be
best to find another teacher whose views are more like your own. For
more, read the article,
- It's the music! - At root, lessons for
most people should be about more than learning to press the right keys
at the right time. If
playing is the only thing you learn from music
lessons, you've been deprived of much of the joy and wonder of music!
Lessons should be about having a knowledgeable person
lead you into the larger world of understanding and appreciating music of all
types. Find a teacher whose attitude, approach and motivations are
consistent with teaching and exciting you about good music.
You'll find the lessons more enjoyable and you'll take away something
that will last, even if you never play piano again.