Updated: Jan 2, 2020
Are all piano teachers the same? What are the characteristics one should look for when searching for a good piano teacher?
Like most things, the questions one ask themselves often provide the best answers. In this article, we will go over four helpful tips to find a piano teacher that is the best match for one's goals and personality.
1. Think About Your Goals
The first thing one should do is think about one's personal goals. What do you hope to accomplish or what do you hope for your child to accomplish by taking lessons? What teacher‘s qualifications are necessary to reach your goals or your child(ren)'s goals? What additional qualifications would be ideal? What is your budget? What are you looking for in terms of time commitment and scheduling?
Not all piano teachers are the same. But if one's goals are modest, a teacher's qualifications and level of expertise might not matter too much. If one has higher goals for themselves, however, such things are immensely important.
2. Think about What Motivates You or Your Child(ren)
Often times, apart from qualifications, the ability to connect on a personal level and to find somebody whose personality resonates and motivates the student is essential. Oddly, many piano teachers don't even like to teach their own children, because children often need a push of motivation that they just can't get from their own familiar parents. As all people are different, different traits are often necessary to motivate a piano student. For instance, some individuals may need constant encouragement. Others may need more stern pressure. Finding a good match personality wise, or finding a teacher who knows how to motivate students with different personalities, is extremely important to maintain interest and consistent improvement.
2. Word of Mouth and Internet Searches
After thinking about one's goals, considerable insight can often be gained from parents of students already taking piano lessons about qualifications, personality, and the pedagogical styles of various piano instructions. Talk to friends, coworkers, community members… anyone who’s willing to share their experience. Also, search the Internet for potential instructors. Remember, though, like most things, seeing somebody in person is often the key to truly finding a good fit.
Note: nowadays, the Internet is a great way to understand the teacher's academic qualifications and years of experience. Because of these searches, one often need not follow-up too much with busy instructors about their qualifications. The best way to assess whether the teacher is a good fit after knowing their basic qualifications, is to schedule a trial piano lesson with that teacher!
3. Scheduling Lessons with Potential Teachers
Scheduling trial lessons with a piano teacher is the most essential task in deciding if they’ll be a good fit for you or your child.
Some teachers offer free lessons, and others charge. Typically, however, good teachers will charge for all lessons, even trial lessons. They are not willing to give away their time for free anymore than a plumber is willing to come to one's house and fix the sink for free. Beware the free plumber!! Of course, with piano lessons, if they are free and the teacher is not a good match, the only thing you are out is your time. There is a caveat with this situation, however: because rarely is anything truly "free" in life, watch out for undue psychological pressure if accepting a "free" trial lesson. A common tenant of the art of sales is that if one gives a customer something, the customer often feels psychologically required to give the salesman something in return. That gift in return is often buying the the product the salesmen are selling. Don't get stuck into thinking one is obligated to use a piano teacher's service because of a free lesson. Sometimes that's easier said than done.
If one wants to avoid this scenario completely, because they know they are soft-hearted, it might be best to just go for a paid trial lesson up front. In the grand scheme of things, the money one spends on a trial lesson is minuscule if one is truly motivated to learn piano. Along the same vein, because good teachers are often picky about what students they teach, if that student or their parents aren't willing to pay for trial lessons, that's often a red-flag for those teachers in itself.
In the end, whether a lesson is free or not, the most important thing is to assess how you feel about the teacher. Does he or she motivate you and your child? Does he or she appear confident? How well do they actually play? Would you or your child enjoy taking classes with this teacher?
4. Don’t Hesitate to Keep Looking Around
If after one's lesson, that particular piano teacher doesn't "feels right" don’t hesitate to continue your search. Or, if you start lessons and they don’t seem to be going well, consider changing teachers. A professional instructor will understand and respect your decision to do what’s best for your or your child’s music education. As mentioned above, good instructors are often as picky about their students as the students are about the teachers.
The first lessons are often the foundation on which you or your child’s entire music experience will depend. A good teacher can make all the difference in a student's life. If one has a bad experience, they may give up permanently.
So when participating in trial lessons, be sure to really think about how one feels about the teacher if the lessons are for oneself, and carefully assess your children's reactions, but most importantly, their consistent progress, if the piano lessons are for them. One can choose the most qualified, highly regarded and qualified teacher, but if your child is not receptive to the instructor, none of that matters.
In the end, the right teacher will foster a love of music, push the student to consistently expand themselves and grow, and will motivate their students to want to become the best musicians they can be.