How to Find the Piano Teacher that’s Best for YOU!
Finding a piano teacher is much easier than you think! Likely, your first step would be a Google search for “piano teacher near me.” But once the list of teachers pops up, how do you know which one to pick? Having the right teacher can make or break your entire musical future.
Over the years, I have met so many people who took piano lessons when they were younger, but quit lessons because of their poor experience. They got bored with their songs, they didn’t like their teacher, they thought practicing was punishment, they felt “forced’ by their parents… BUT as adults they regret not having continued with their instruction. (BTW, it’s never too late to start back up again!)
There are several things to consider when choosing your teacher. However, before you even start looking, there are two things you should ponder:
1. What are your goals for taking piano lessons?
Do you want to be a classical concert pianist? Do you want to play every Elton John song ever made? Do you want to kick back with some jazz or blues? Are you dreaming of playing at church one day? Are you hoping for a new hobby that helps you escape the stress of daily life? Or perhaps you are wanting a little bit of everything? Your goals may change as you progress, but it’s good to have an idea before you commit to a teacher. You definitely don’t want to sign up for lessons with someone whose expertise is teaching lead sheets for a rock band if your greatest desire is to be a concert pianist!
2. Practice truly does make perfect!
You need to understand that taking piano lessons is more than just a 30 minute, once per week commitment. It also requires 20-30 minutes of practicing at least 5 more times every week (as a beginner)! As you progress, this can grow to 1-2 hours of daily practice, depending on your goals. Look at your schedule to make sure you have time to work that kind of obligation into your day.
Once you’ve figured out your goals and your schedule, it’s time to look for your new piano teacher! There are several other search options beyond Google, like asking your school music teacher, or putting out a Facebook request from friends for recommendations. Once you have a list of possible teachers in front of you, here’s how to make a decision on which one is right for you!
Ask about Experience
Though it isn’t necessary to have any type of certification to be a private music teacher, you need to find out their credentials. Do they have a college degree? Are they certified through a recognized institution? What type of background do they have? How long have they been teaching for?
Aligning these answers with your goals will help get you going in the right direction.
Follow up on Referrals
Don’t be shy to ask for referrals. Don’t hesitate to call the referral. Ask the referral about their experience with the potential teacher. Ask about the instructor’s teaching style, personality, commitment, studio events, and flexibility.
So now you’ve narrowed the search. Time to ask for a trial lesson, or at minimum, an interview with the potential teacher. It’s very important to meet them first, and best to do this with the one taking lessons (if it’s one of your children, make sure they are with you.) You’ll get a gut feeling with the first meeting. Having a personality that you get along with, and that the potential student gets along with, is SO important, as you will be spending a lot of time with them in the future!
What kind of teacher do you need? If you are a beginner, and just want to test out the waters, do you need a top teacher with a PhD in Performance Piano? Probably not. You need someone good with nurturing a love of the instrument, who is encouraging and motivational, who listens, and teaches with kindness. If you want to be a little more serious about your studies, keep reading! Here is a list of some of the different “types” of piano teachers out there:
General Piano Teacher
You want to take piano lessons because you like the sound, it looks fun, and there happens to be a piano in your house. Awesome! For the average person who has no plan to become the next great Jon Kimura Parker, you just want to learn how to play and enjoy a little music in your life. You’re in luck – this is where the majority of piano teachers excel. Gather your teacher list and conduct interviews. Tell them about your goals. Tell them how much time you are willing to commit to practicing. This alone may shorten your list. Meet with them face-to-face, as first impressions have huge impact. Make sure the fit goes both ways. Look at their studio guidelines. Some teachers are less flexible than others, so go with what works for you.
Pricing will be another factor – and can be all over the place. Are you paying by semester, by month, or each lesson? What can you afford? More expensive lessons don’t necessarily mean a better teacher, so make sure to consider all factors when choosing!
You will want to find out how your teacher actually teaches. Do they have a plan? Maybe it’s a series of method books, such as Faber & Faber Piano Adventures, which is very popular among American teachers. What is their plan once you complete these levels? Perhaps they teach a standardized system like the Royal Conservatory offers. Do they teach music theory, technique, history, ear training, and sight reading? These are all very important aspects of general piano lessons.
Classical Teachers (piano performance track)
Are you wanting to be the next Lang Lang? If piano runs deep in your blood, and you’re prepared to practice diligently every day, you also need to look beyond the teacher at their students. Are they involved in piano exams, competitions, and getting accepted into good universities? Are they established with an excellent track record? Often these teachers require an audition before being accepted into their studios,
Are you wanting to play piano like Duke Ellington? A great jazz piano teacher should have vast experience in performing, can improvise by ear, be adaptable to students, and most of all, be passionate about teaching. My dad, talking about basketball, use to tell me the best coaches aren’t necessarily the players, and the players aren’t necessarily the best coaches. The same goes with teaching – with the exception of the jazz piano teacher! You have to be great at playing jazz AND great at teaching. Follow up with references, interview the teacher, and go with your gut.
Modern/ Pop Teachers
Many people just want to play what they hear on the radio, and Christmas songs during the season. If that’s you, make sure the teacher you choose knows how to teach chords, is strong on teaching sight-reading, and is “hip” with current music!
The one last thing I wanted to touch on is the logistics of lessons: in-person private vs group vs online lessons. Not only do ALL of these settings work, I’ve seen students flourish in each method! DO what works best for you and your goals, and don’t dismiss one way over another until you give a try! I think there is a misconception that private one-on-one lessons are by far superior to group lessons and online lessons. This is absolutely true if you are wanting a serious go at becoming a classical performer! But, if you try that way and end up quitting, and then regret moves in as an adult, consider other options. Group lessons are great for those wanting more motivation and fun! You still learn, and get to share and be social, and isn’t that what music is about? Online lessons work great if you have good WiFi and a tight schedule!
Ultimately, choose the teacher you have “chemistry” with, and the one who can help you achieve your goals!
Best of luck on your piano adventures! Feel free to comment or ask questions about lessons below😊