Finding the right piano (or even music instrument) teacher will have a very important impact on you or child’s learning and the way you or they view music in the future. Selecting the wrong tutor may even cause an aversion to learning due to the bad experience. Trust also plays a very important part in selecting a piano teacher as do confidence in their abilities. The challenge is in the beginning when you find there are endless teachers around yet where do you start?
Go where the music is
Your nearest music shop will usually have a list of instrumental teachers in your area. If they sell pianos or sheet music, they usually also recommend experienced piano teachers.
Look in the yellow pages of your telephone directory under “Music teachers/tuition”.
Check your local newspaper and internet for classified ads. Of course, personal references from friends and family are often the most valuable.
Visit your local school/college/church/newsagent and check for adverts (usually in postcard form) on the noticeboard or for newsagents on the front windows.
Speak with friends. They can sometimes be the best sources as they themselves or their friends might know a teacher that comes highly recommended.
Finally, use the good old internet. Simply type “piano teachers /tutors in …” (whichever area you live). Or search for “music teachers directory” and search on the relevant sites for tutors in your area.
Know what you are looking for
A piano teacher with a list of credentials might seem a perfect candidate. However this is not always the case. Many teachers may have years of experience with all the top qualifications but if they have a particular way of working that does not gel with what you are looking for (e.g. they only teach a certain style, age groups, don’t travel etc) they are a non-starter. It is hugely important for a teacher-student chemistry to develop. You should find a piano teacher who is able to build confidence, be enthusiastic as well as keep the lessons moving towards a motivating, worthwhile goal. The key point to remember is that the age of the teacher and qualifications are not the be-all. If you want the lessons to be fun for yourself or your child, a young teacher though preferable, is not a necessity. Likewise, don’t think finding a piano teacher with loads of experience and certifications, means they have to be older.
Setting up a Meeting
The right teacher can shape your learning experience for better or worse. Again, it is important to find a teacher whose style and personality fit well with yours. If you are a beginner, you will want an especially patience teacher (though this should be a prerequisite).
When enquiring/arranging a lesson for yourself or for a child, know what you want to ask the teacher and don’t deviate/compromise. Trust and feeling comfortable with the teacher you speak to is paramount. Therefore the first step should be to phone the tutor where you make a better judgement. Whether on a consultation lesson or over the phone, ask the following questions:
- How many pupils do you teach currently and would you mind if I spoke to them about the service that you offer?
- What is your level experience and your general background? Do you have references? An experienced teacher will happily explain their background and credentials.
- I have a child /children that want(s) to learn piano. Is it ok if I attend the lessons?
- Do you offer concessions e.g. a discount on the first lesson or block bookings/consultation lesson prior to any formerly beginning?
- Do you work on piano technique? If so, how do you approach the teaching of this? (if you/your child have been learning piano for some time but have problems with this area)?
- Do you encourage your pupils to learn certain piano styles/repertoire? If so why?
- Do you teach theory?
- Do you prepare your pupils for exams, such as the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM)/Trinity College of Music?
- Do you encourage your pupils to perform whenever possible in public, such as in festivals, competitions and concerts? If so, how many of them do?
- What are your standards, and general expectations of your pupils?
- How do you measure progress with your pupils?
- Do you make notes for your pupils during lessons?
- What amount of practice do you recommended a week for my/ my children’s level (ask this especially if you’re a beginner)?
The more open you are about your expectations and interests, the more useful the consultation will be. After speaking with the teacher, don’t feel you have to make a decision there and then. You may need to make more than one approach before you find the teacher for you.
If you are happy with everything, then it’s time to formerly arrange the first lesson. When you do make a financial arrangement with a teacher, be clear about the lesson rates being charged and how and when they are to be paid. Some teachers charge a travel fee for coming to the pupil’s house. You should also ask if the teacher has a cancellation policy (e.g. how many days notice should be given for canceling a lesson) and who should be responsible for the purchase of lesson materials and music.
If you have arranged lessons for your child, you should show interest in the progress being made. This means sitting in on some if not all of your child’s lessons so that you get a good idea of the style of teaching and the progress being made. At some stage you will know when you are fully comfortable with the teacher. If lessons are at your home but you’re at the stage where you don’t sit in on every one now, it is still good to ask the tutor at the end of the lesson for progress updates.
As mentioned earlier, you should be clear on where the lessons will take place and if the tutor charges extra for coming to your home. It is important for piano lessons to be convenient. Whether at your home, your teachers’ home or an outside venue, ask about the recommended length of a lesson for your/your child’s level. For example, beginners’ piano lessons generally last 30 – 45 minutes depending on the pupil’s age. For a child beginner, 30 minutes is usually the norm.
Put the work in yourself
Piano tutors enjoy teaching new students who are passionate about learning the instrument. Like with all skills though, the responsibility lies with you as the pupil or parent of the children to put the work in. Standard things which are overlooked like doing the right amount of practice suggested and being prepared and on time for lessons etc. By holding yourself or your child accountable, you take your investment in music learning seriously. And the rewards can be enormous!