How to Choose the Best Piano Teacher
So you’ve found a few piano teachers, and now you’ve come to the hard part: which one do you actually choose? Maybe they all seem the same to you, or maybe they are impossibly different. Either way it’s a tough decision. (If you haven’t even found piano teachers yet, and don’t know where to start looking, check out our previous post “How to FIND a Great Piano Teacher.”)
There are several important considerations you want to account for when making your decision, as well as a collection of questions to ask any teacher you are considering hiring. However, before we get into the nitty-gritty, understand what matters MOST. Here it is: You have to like the teacher. If the lessons are for your child, your child has to like the teacher. If the student does not like the teacher, the student will not enjoy playing the piano, and will not appreciate the wisdom of the teacher. The student will not practice as much as they should. The student will NOT be inspired to progress to the heights that they are capable of. You must like the teacher. You must like their personality, you must like their teaching style, you must feel comfortable at their studio, and you must like how they play the piano.
Now that you’ve narrowed down your list to only the teachers you LIKE, here are some finer details (which are still quite important):
What is the piano teacher’s skill level?
You don’t have to be a pianist yourself to be able to evaluate whether or not the teacher can play at a high level. ASK the teacher to play a few selections for you. In my 10+ years of teaching, I am absolutely amazed how few times a parent has EVER asked me to play at a trial lesson. I have literally only received this request twice. Twice. Ever. If you are feeling generous, it would be kind to let the teacher know of your request when scheduling the trial lesson, so that they can come prepared with some nice selections.
What style do they teach?
If you are interested in your child becoming a concert pianist, be sure to select a teacher who is trained in (and teaches) the classical style. If, on the other hand, your child just wants a fun little hobby and has some pop songs they enjoy, please find a teacher with that approach. Everyone will be happier. Many teachers offer a good middle ground of classical theory & technique, mixed up with fun song selections. This is ideal for most “average” students.
What qualifications do they have?
What is their education? A music degree can be a good starting place, but doesn’t at all guarantee that they are a good teacher, or that they are the right fit. On the other hand, just because someone has “years of experience” doesn’t mean they are doing it right. Choose a teacher who is well trained (whether at a university, through a private music school, or through private teachers and state testing, such as OMTA’s Syllabus), a talented player, and explains things in ways you can understand.
Are they a good TEACHER?
Aside from the music part, do they teach well? A good teacher is someone who you a) understand, and b) inspires you. You need to understand how to do things, and you need to be motivated to practice so that you can develop those skills. This ties back into choosing a teacher that you LIKE.
Choose a teacher with an engaging personality who makes the lessons come alive. A teacher who loves what they are doing will exude that, and spread the love of music to their students as well. Of course, the obvious applies here as well: choose a teacher who is patient and kind, while still strict enough that your child will respect them. Choose a teacher who is organized and efficient with the time at hand.
Choose a teacher with a convenient location– if lessons are inconvenient, eventually you’ll probably quit when something else becomes more important. Some teachers will even come to your own home. What could be more convenient than that?
How much do piano lessons cost?
Different teachers have different rates, and this depends on their level of experience, demand, and location. Most teachers charge about $20 – $35 for half hour lessons (which is the standard lesson length for beginners). Find a teacher who fits your budget, but don’t sacrifice quality for cost. A year of high quality piano lessons will get you twice as far as a year of inferior lessons that cost a few dollars less.
References– ask for them!
If a teacher can’t provide you will a number of good reference, then look somewhere else. If the teacher is employed by a music school, then you have a great reference right there– the reference of the school! Music schools know that their teacher’s represent them to their students, so they choose their teachers very carefully and fully research their qualifications and other references.
I’ll say it one more time– choose a teacher you LIKE! Choose a teacher who motivates you to be great and inspires you to enjoy music.