Learning = Challenges = Fun
This summarises my approach to piano teaching with students of all ages. My youngest student so far has been 5 and my oldest 55, and I am happy to teach any age group.
Students learn to play the piano, by reading music from different genres – western classical, jazz, pop and hymns. I teach music theory at the piano, so that my students understand them well and written work follows. I’ve sent student up for piano exams upto grade 8 level so far, and music theory upto grade 6.
- How I teach
My teaching methods are flexible. I teach students to play the piano by reading written music. I also use 10 minutes at each class to teach by rote – this means that I demonstrate and students copy me and learn to play. Some students learn to read small sections of music at a time, memorise them away from the piano, & play from memory immediately. I use these methods in rotation or set aside sections of class time for them, because I’ve found it helps students develop a deeper understanding of music theory, and how it fits into their pieces.
- Learning issues and discipline with young children
I’ve taught young students with mild learning difficulties effectively. Today many young children in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai have difficulty thinking, reasoning and connecting related ideas, so I’ve adapted my piano teaching methods to help them do so.
I discipline some of my young students by using their ways of ‘indiscipline’ to teach a musical concept or an idea – letting them have the freedom to do what they want, but using that for a purpose. It’s been very effective at getting my students to be diligent and well behaved, and creative at the same time. Piano class for young children has a lot of movement, and my students are allowed to ask for breaks to do activities of their choice. I find doing this gets fidgety kids sitting still when they get onto the piano stool.
I love teaching the piano! It’s wonderful to see my students grow in music and to see the personality growth that results from all that goes into learning the piano. Every day as a teacher is new – there’s always new music to teach and new ideas and techniques on how to teach, There’s always a student who needs a different approach that I’ve never tried before. Being effective teacher for me means being aware of different ways, so that I can choose the best way to teach. It means being open to trying the new when it’s needed. So I practise the piano and study.
I’m a piano teacher, and I’m also a lifelong student.
Frequently Asked Questions
1) What students learn in piano class
Learning to play the piano includes learning to sing at the correct pitch and ear training, so that students develop the resources to listen to a tune they like, sing it & play it.
Playing the piano engages different parts of the brain.
- Students need to read written music or play from memory.
- Play with both hands.
- Keep the pulse and rhythm of the music.
- Listen when they play, so they focus on playing better every time.
All of this from the very first class.
This is beginner level piano. It gets more complex later.
Older students learn how to fit daily piano practise into their busy schedules, and use practise techniques taught in class to practise in smaller slots and get more done. Students learn to understand what good playing technique and tone production mean, and learn from the very first how posture and hand position affect the sound they produce at the piano.
2) Is piano class fun?
My teaching approach depends entirely on the age and learning style of the student. My young students learn by playing music games, and there’s enough movement in class to keep my fidgety students engaged. Older students get taught differently.
When we talk about fun we often think ‘easy to do’ and ‘lack of commitment’ and piano class is the opposite. The student who wants to learn and practises has fun in piano class.
The question students need to ask then, is whether a student really wants to learn to play the piano and is willing to make a commitment to practise. Because that’s really what makes the challenge of learning fun. There’s an ease in taking up challenges in learning, that comes from daily practise.
3) Do students need to have musical ability
There’s a misconception that there should be visible signs of talent, before a student starts learning music. The average student has enough musical talent to learn to play. Many students come from backgrounds where they lack exposure to music and musical activities. Starting piano class gives them this exposure. What matters more is that the student has chosen an instrument that he/she has a keen desire to learn.
4) Will young students practise daily
‘Parent support is the single and most important factor that determines whether a child continues or gives up once the novelty wears off’
I read this in a wonderful article written by another piano studio and just can’t find the link to the full post.
I work with families with stay-at-home as well as working Mum’s. I talk to parents over the phone and email class recordings and important communications. And all my piano parents have an open invitation to attend class whenever their schedules permit.
The piano can be a very lonely instrument. There are limited opportunities to perform & listen to other students play, and busy parents often give these a miss, thinking it’s not important. Children who practise alone often practise erratically, get disheartened and stop class. The child that continues usually has parents who keep them company when they play.
5) What books are required
Students at beginner level start with piano method books, and easy repertoire books, and then move on from there. I sometimes teach using exercises and short pieces that I’ve written for my students. Students who wish to appear for piano and theory exams will need the relevant exam books – piano, theory, aural, scales & sight-reading.
Very young beginners start learning with WunderKeys, a piano course for preschoolers.
6) Can students do piano exams and music theory exams
Yes. Exams are not compulsory and you may choose to do them if you wish to. My students appear for piano exams held by Trinity College London, which are held in Mumbai/Navi Mumbai from November to January and June to July every year. Students may choose to appear for exams with any other examination board.
7) How soon can students do exams
Most Indian students love music exams. For many, in the absence of a culture of music and performance opportunities, they are the sole motivating factor that make students want to join piano class.
Many beginner students are unaware of what is involved in playing the piano well, as they often can’t hear the difference between good and bad playing. And therefore tend to underestimate the effort involved and to rush into examinations before they’re ready.
My experience with transfer students has been that many of them need to unlearn bad playing habits and learn what piano practise means before they are ready to do an exam. Because they’ve either taken a break between teachers & practised wrong on their own, or the exam focus – learning just 4 or 5 pieces a year has been insufficient to prepare them for a higher level of playing.
8) Costs to consider when budgeting for piano class
Consider the following when budgeting for piano class:
- Class fees. They pay for my time and cover costs I incur to teach you. More on that in What your piano fees pay for
- Music books, exam books & material, and exam fees (if you opt for exams).
- The cost of attending concerts and purchasing music to listen to.
- The cost of buying an instrument for home practise – more on this below.
8) How the class structured
- I teach solo class – that is a single student per class.
- One lesson per week. Except for very young children, where parents can choose 2 x 30minute lessons a week or 1 x 45minute lesson.
- The duration of the lesson depends on the age of the student and their level, ranging from 45 minutes for young children to 1&1/2 hours for older & higher level students.
- Each student will be allotted a class day and time before they enroll.
- Students may book 3 or 4 classes a month – at their choice.
9) What instrument suits piano playing – basic keyboard/ digital piano/acoustic piano
The best choice of instrument for daily practise at home is an acoustic piano. Some students learn on digital pianos with weighted keys, due to space or budget constraints, but they know it’s a second best option.
Many students start piano classes with a 5-octave keyboard, and invest a little later, when they’re sure their child will continue to be interested. And more importantly, when they’re sure they are committed to making time to do whatever it takes to get their child to practise daily.
For reasons relating to piano playing technique, piano teachers always recommend acoustic pianos or a good quality digital piano. You can read more about this in We have a keyboard at home, why should we buy a piano?
10) In-studio classes
I teach in Kharghar, Navi Mumbai and in Bandra. Students visit my teaching studio for piano classes.
11) What are combination classes?
This class structure suits students who live very far away. Combination classes mean some in-studio lessons alternating with some online lessons. The way this is worked out depends entirely on how often the student can commute to my studio. Here’s an article I wrote on Teaching my first Skype piano class
12) The set-up you need for Skype classes
Many Indian students have a limited budget for technology, so we work with what you already have and keep the expenditure minimal. Some of you are new to computers and smart-phones and have never used Skype. So, here’s what you would need for a Skype class :
- A smart-phone and a tripod – with an attachment that fits to your cellphone. Of course, a tablet is better as you will see clearer. Amazon.in has a lot of tripods that might suit you.
- A high speed internet connection.
- Skype needs to be downloaded on your device.
- Test Skype out by adding a friend to be sure it works and get comfortable using it – voice as well as video.
- I will send you an invitation on Skype after you enrol.
13) How to enrol in piano class.
- Fill in your details in the ‘Contact’ page, providing a contact number and your location, and I’ll get back to you.
- Give me a brief idea of your age, current occupation, what you want to learn and any music qualifications or knowledge you already have. This helps me know what kind of class to offer you.
- You will need to meet me for an interview and fill in an admission form.
- All details regarding what you want to learn and the the class and fee structure will discussed with you at the interview.
- After that, the class slot you have selected will be booked for you.
A note to my prospective students
My piano teaching studio has a place for anyone who sees music as a part of education, and is willing to invest time and effort in daily piano practise. I welcome anyone who wishes to learn to play the piano with good playing technique & a full understanding of the theory in the composition of the piece.
I teach students of all ages. I am particularly interested in teaching music teachers who teach vocal, keyboards, or other instruments and wish to learn the piano and eventually expand their teaching to include piano teaching.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Anita E Kohli,
B. Com, PGDBA (Indo-German Training Centre), ATCL Piano