Families new to piano lessons can find the search for a new piano teacher quite confusing. I write this post to help these parents and students who have difficulty assessing which piano teacher or lesson format is the best for them.
Your child’s first piano teacher will set the foundations of his/her musical growth. The quality of learning at beginner level is important, as it determines whether the student will stay motivated enough to continue learning more.
The topics covered in this post are :
- Piano Lessons – the traditional lesson format
- Group Piano Lessons
- How to make the most of your pre-enrolment interview
- The purpose of Teaching Terms & Policies
- When budget is an issue
1. Piano Lessons – the traditional lesson format
Most teachers and musicians of today have learned the instrument the traditional way, in Solo Piano Lessons. This lesson format where the teacher teaches each student individually, lends itself to complete flexibility in the hands of an effective piano teacher. Here, each student gets taught differently, and at a pace of his/her choice according to his/her learning style and goals.
What makes this lesson format special is the working relationship teachers develop with piano parents and students. A lot of the personal growth that students experience when learning to play the piano stems from this relationship.
Piano teachers often push their students to think and work beyond their existing comfort zone (in small, achievable steps), and a relationship with mutual respect, trust and belief in each other is essential for effective teaching. Essential on the part of the parent/student, as well as the teacher.
This is often the only lesson format that families that understand piano teaching consider here in India. Because they want a pace that is uniquely suited to their child and value one-on-one teaching.
2. Group Piano Lessons
Group Piano Lessons are a good option for families that want very budget friendly lessons and are happy to learn at a pace determined by the group. I write this section of my post based on what is available in Navi Mumbai and some parts of Mumbai at the present time.
- Many students are taught at one class. The group size averages 6 students a class, but can vary with each Music School or batch.
- Each student sits at a different instrument – a digital piano with headphones. Solo Piano Lessons are usually conducted on acoustic pianos.
- The teacher might teach the same topic to the full group, or divide class time between the student, spending between 5 to 10 minutes with each child individually, teaching different topics or pieces.
- Young children here from age 4 to 14 vary very widely in English language proficiency and their general music exposure. This means that each students lesson needs a different focus, and this often isn’t possible with group lessons.
Why many experienced teachers won’t venture into group lessons, and why some innovative teachers will :
Group lessons often attract families new to the instrument and many families here tend to undervalue the subject of piano playing, thinking it’s easy. I wrote about respect for the subject in an earlier post titled ‘Respect and Effective Learning in Piano Class’. Piano teachers who take on group teaching must also take on the challenge involved in making student families aware of the demands of the subject. They do this on a much larger scale than the teacher who teaches just one student at a time, and this take time and effort. This takes a professional focus that is very different from teaching Solo Piano Lessons, and often is the reason why teachers here, who teach higher levels in piano, won’t venture into group lessons.
Many students who start off with Group Piano Lessons move to Solo Piano Lessons later, as they advance to higher levels of piano playing.
3. How to make the most of your pre-enrolment interview
It helps knowing more about the piano teacher and the studio you wish to enrol in, before the pre-enrolment interview. Prepare as much as possible, so that you are in a position to ask the right questions and be clear before you enrol.
- Ask around, in case anyone you know learns there.
- Decide if you want Solo or Group lessons and look for a teacher based on this.
- Check out your teachers website, blog or youtube channel.
- Ask about your teachers qualifications, experience and his/her outlook and attitude towards piano teaching.
- Does your teacher study and learn or is his/her knowledge static and limited to a degree obtained many years ago? Remember that a teacher’s personal growth as a musician, as a student of psychology, and as an educator has a huge impact on the quality of his/her students learning experience.
- Does the teaching method include rote, as well reading & writing music?
- Different age groups or different kinds of learners need different skills and some teachers won’t teach certain age groups if their skill lies elsewhere. Ask about this.
- Be clear about what you want :
- The genre of music or type of music you wish to learn.
- The level of commitment you will give to daily practise.
- The style of learning if you have any preferences. For example – do you want rote only, reading only, or a combination of both.
- Does your teacher provide performance opportunities, or lessons where you can interact with other students? These are a lot of fun and a great motivator, and very essential to growth in localities with poor music exposure.
Ask, if there’s anything that you need to know. Your first piano lessons will go faster, if you and your teacher understand each other, and work with the same goals.
4. The purpose of Teaching Terms & Policies
It’s always best for parents/students and teachers to be clear about policies and know what they’re getting for the fees they pay. It avoids confusion, so the teacher can focus his/her knowledge, experience and creativity on what the students really wants, which is – an excellent lesson!
Here are some of the things the policy usually covers :
- Working hours, including teaching hours and phone call hours.
- Rules for when students miss class, or for when teachers take leave.
- Rules for the safety of students and the premises being used.
- Fee options and due dates.
- Whether the fees cover books and teaching materials.
- Rules for examinations and concerts.
Teacher education & policy – an important thing for parents to consider :
- A good policy helps reduce administration work, so that your teacher gets time to further his/her education and knowledge, and keep improving the quality of the lessons taught.
- Flexibility that increases administration work costs more, because this is an additional service your teacher provides.
- Teaching with caring and patience comes from your teachers knowledge and competence, and also from reasonable working hours and teaching breaks.
5. When budget is an issue
Your budget for piano lessons should include the cost of teaching fees, books and buying an instrument to practise on. Some teachers have a fee which includes books. Your teacher will guide you and help you buy an instrument that suits your budget.
If your budget is limited, consider the following :
- Talk to the piano teacher about a shorter Solo Piano Lesson slot or look at a teacher who does Group Piano Lessons.
- Many students here start piano lessons practising on basic 5 octave keyboards and budget to invest in a piano after sometime. An acoustic piano is the best option, but a digital piano is more budget friendly. There are a lot of options in different budgets.
- If buying a digital or acoustic piano is way out of your budget even in the long-term, enrol in Keyboard lessons. This is usually taught on basic non-weighted keyboards, group or solo, depending on the teacher or music school.
Dear Piano Student,
Piano teaching and music education has the power to change the way you think and work. My own teachers did this for me, and I, and other teachers like me work to do this for our students.
Be clear about your goals, as well as your level of commitment to learning, when looking for a teacher. Look for a teacher and a lesson format in your budget, where the teaching content and policy suits you. This will help you learn best, and make music a part of your life.
I wish you all the best, and hope this post has helped you make the right choice for YOU.
A related post on the confusion about what ‘piano class’ is here in Navi Mumbai : This class called Piano Class.