Learning to play the piano is a popular activity at the moment with both children and adults turning to the instrument during the lockdown. Choosing the right piano teacher is central to the success of the project. So if you are a parent or an adult wanting to learn here is the first part of our top tips, on what to consider.
WHAT’S THE REASON FOR LEARNING THE PIANO?
Before you get down to the serious business of how to choose the right piano teacher think about the reasons and rationale for learning the piano.
Is the aim for your child to develop a lifelong love of music and the piano? A journey that you are going to support them in all the way for as long as it takes. Or is learning the piano something for the short term as you just want your child to get a few grades and certificates on the wall? You don’t expect piano lessons to last for more than two or three years and it doesn’t matter if most of the skills get lost very soon after lessons stop.
Establishing this is important before moving onto the next stage.
We strongly recommend that you shop around. Did you know, for example, that anyone can set up as a piano teacher in the UK? No qualifications are required, not even the ability (believe it or not) to play the piano. So, unsurprisingly there can be considerable variability between teachers.
Finding a teacher isn’t hard; you can ask around at school or do an internet search and this will quickly give you some choices. But, finding the right piano teacher, who can play the piano and understands how to teach it, well that takes some work!
Do your research before contacting anyone. Find out as much as you can about the way they teach and what they offer. If the teacher has a website spend time exploring it and getting to ‘know’ them. Remember, you are going to be investing quite a lot of money and time in lessons over the years!
If you want your child to develop a lifelong love of music and the piano then lookout for words such as making music, holistic, simultaneous learning, curiosity and learner-centred.
FINDING THE RIGHT MATCH OF PERSONALITIES
This is a really important matter when working out how to choose the right piano teacher! It’s impossible to do on paper and the essential thing is to talk to the teacher.
An initial phone call is a good starting point. You can ask them about their availability, their fees, their expectations regarding commitment and practice and what to expect from lessons. If you are a parent establish what your role in the learning process will be. Are you expected to sit in on lessons and take notes, will you need to help your child practice between lessons?
This phone call will give you a sense of the person you are talking to. If you like the sound of them then request a consultation lesson so that you can meet them in person (more about that in part 2).
WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT TO PAY?
Teaching the piano is a profession and comes with all the associated costs of running a business. Teachers have to buy resources, including music, pay for insurance, public liability, membership of professional bodies (ISM, MU, EPTA UK), studio upkeep, piano maintenance, continuing professional development etc. All have to be factored into lesson fees.
In 2021 the average cost of instrumental lessons in the UK is approximately £32 per hour. We would advise proceeding with caution with anyone who is charging too far underneath this average. Having said that it does depend on the area of the country so check out this survey from one of the industry’s professional bodies: CLICK HERE FOR ISM SURVEY
If the teacher you really want is too expensive it will still be worth giving them a call. Many piano teachers are often mindful of family circumstances and might be able to offer bursaries if there are financial problems and enough family commitment.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A PIANO TEACHER
It’s important to keep in mind that beginners really do need the best teachers. Teaching the early stages of the piano requires a highly skilful blend of breaking down complex concepts into simple, bite-sized pieces, igniting a love for music and establishing a healthy playing approach at the piano.
Whilst every piano teacher is different there are certain traits that many have in common. Enthusiasm is one of the most important. The teacher should demonstrate an enthusiasm for music, the piano and for passing on their love and knowledge. Without this core characteristic lessons will be flat and learning probably short-lived.
Another vital attribute is whether the teacher has a warm and sympathetic manner. This is known to be especially important with younger pupils. Alongside enthusiasm and warmth sits firmness. A good teacher establishes fair boundaries and knows how to set appropriate expectations.
If you aren’t sure what to look for in a good teacher a useful starting point is to think about your favourite teacher at school. Make a list of their characteristics and why you liked them so very much. They were your favourite teacher for a reason!
THE IMPORTANCE OF CONTINUING PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
When you are considering how to choose the right piano teacher lookout for a teacher who is doing some sort of continuing professional development. Being willing to learn demonstrates an openness to new ideas, curiosity and a desire to improve. If you can find a Curious Piano Teacher in your area (it will say on their website) then we recommend you give them a call.
Other indicators are a certain level of qualification, such as a performance or teaching diploma, and/or a degree in music . Any qualification at this level indicates a dedicated approach with a very significant amount of time and money spent on developing their skills. However, it is important to remember that a very highly qualified teacher isn’t automatically the right match for you or your child.
We’ll be back next week with the second part of our top tips on how to choose the right piano teacher.
 the number of qualifications available is vast. Here are some examples to look out for.
Performing and Teaching Diplomas: ATCL, LTCL, DipABRSM, LRSM, DipLCM, ALCM, LLCM.
Graduate degrees: GGSM, GLCM, GRNCM, GRSM, GTCL, B.A., B.Mus, M.A., M.Mus.
This blog post was written by Dr Sally Cathcart, co-founder and Director of The Curious Piano Teachers.