You love passing on your piano skills and interacting with music students, so now you're interested in teaching piano to a regular roster of students.
Lucky for you, the piano is one of the most popular instruments in Australia. In a survey conducted in 2007 by the Australian Music Association (AMA), the upright piano was ranked equal first with the acoustic guitar, with 31% of respondents saying they played.
The same survey found that 4.25 million households own one or more musical instruments, which is equivalent to 53% of the total number of households in Australia. On the other hand, the study found that over a third of households that own a musical instrument contain no current players.
That's a lot of sad, unplayed pianos sitting around!
So how can you succeed in advertising and giving piano lessons in this context?
Read on to find out all our best tips on how to teach piano, whether you decide to work in a music school or give private piano lessons in your home.
What skill level do I need to become a piano teacher?
There is no minimum skill level needed to become a keyboard or piano teacher. This means anyone can call themselves a piano teacher and offer lessons to aspiring musicians.
However, when offering piano lessons, you should hold a higher level of certification than the students you are teaching. You should also be able to adapt your teaching to your students' levels.
All private piano teachers should:
- have a passion for teaching
- be able to simplify popular songs for beginner pianists
- design a method for beginners that is accessible and effective
- have considerable mastery of music theory, sight-reading, accompanying and performing
- hold at least ten years experience playing the piano
- cultivate a patient and friendly manner to help students relax at the piano
The best piano teachers will have already mastered their own artistry and skills at the piano.
At the highest levels, piano teachers may teach at:
- University Conservatoriums: these include places such as the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music (MCM) or Sydney Conservatorium of Music (SCM). These conservatoriums offer intense programs across multiple years and graduates gain a Bachelor or Masters or Doctorate degree in Music. These will usually be attached to larger universities.
- Independent Academies of Music: such as the Australian National Academy of Music or Australian Institute of Music these are not generally affiliated with larger universities and offer a range of degree programs and shorter courses in music performance.
There are also opportunities for piano teaching roles at:
- small, local conservatories
- private music classes in primary schools and high schools
- musical organizations and cultural institutions
- school holiday music camps
- local piano and music shops with music studios attached
- private family homes
The demand for private piano tutors is enormous! Especially if you are willing to travel to a family's home and save them the stress of after-school travel, or host lessons in your home or studio space that is conveniently close to their home or school.
How to Price Your Piano Lessons
When you become a piano teacher, one of your first challenges will be setting your rate. In your initial research, look into how other piano teachers are pricing their lessons to formulate a reasonable price.
The price of an hour-long piano lesson can be anywhere from $30 to $120. But you'll find in your research that teachers charge very different rates depending on several factors.
- the teacher's background and years of experience: put simply, the more experienced the teacher, the more expensive the lessons
- the level of piano being taught; a beginner class generally costs less, whilst intensive lessons for conservatory auditions are priced higher
- travel costs; if the student comes to you, you do not need to include these, but if you travel to students, you need to factor in travel time, petrol, car insurance and/or public transport costs
- studio costs; if you hire your own studio space, these need to be factored into your hourly lesson prices
- conservatory fees and status; if you work for a renowned institution your fees will generally be higher (and a percentage of your earnings will go straight to the institution)
When setting your rates for piano lessons, take care to balance quality and price. High prices may scare away students, whilst prices that are too low may make them suspicious of the quality of your teaching.
Finding Students for Piano Lessons
Broadly speaking, there are four main paths to finding piano students.
Word of Mouth
We're listing this first because it is by far the best way to start finding piano students if you're new to teaching. Mobilize your family and friends to spread the word about your lessons, and once you've taught a few lessons with your first few students, ask them for a small, written review. Word of mouth works best when you have business cards to hand out to interested friends or family, with links to your social media accounts or personal website.
Leverage platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to your social circles know you're teaching piano. You can start with your personal page, where you probably already have plenty of friends and followers, and then build up to creating a page dedicated to your piano teaching business.
A Business Website
Creating a website makes your piano teaching business look more professional, and you can link it to Facebook or Instagram posts to help potential students gather more information about you. Your personal website can also promote your teaching method, qualifications and teaching and performing experience to help entice students to sign up for piano lessons.
You can create a personal website for free through WordPress, but keep in mind that domain hosting costs around $50 per year. However, if you want people to find you in Google searches, you'll need to do some search engine optimization (SEO) and create new content for your webpage regularly to increase visibility.
Flyers and paper advertisements
You don't need to be an expert at website design, SEO and blogging to promote your piano teaching business. Paper marketing materials can still be very effective. Just be savvy about where you're placing your ads; they need to be somewhere where prospective students and parents will see them. Why not ask local schools if you can post ads for piano lessons in their school newsletter? Or put up your flyers in places that students and parents frequent, such as nearby libraries, newsagents, cafes or cultural institutions.
Make sure any paper or online marketing materials you put out specify your experience and what you are offering - for example, jazz piano lessons, improvisation, songwriting, classical piano or helping students with AMEB music exams...
Once you've found your first students, here are our tips on preparing for the first session.
Structuring Your Piano Teaching
In your very first session, you'll need to assess their piano playing ability. Follow the link for more information on how to structure piano lessons.
In the first lesson, you'll need to evaluate the student's background experience and current level by asking questions like: Can they read sheet music? Have they played before, perhaps casually in a band? Did they take lessons when they were younger? What do they know about music theory or playing chords? If they've played before, ask them to play something they love. Then, you need to help them establish their tastes and musical goals with questions such as: What genres of music do they love? What kind of music would they like to play? How much time per week do they have to dedicate to piano practice?
Make sure you arrive prepared; have lots of sheet music and teaching materials on hand to suit a variety of levels and interests.
Once you've established skill levels and goals, you can set:
- Technical work and scales - something challenging but not impossible, and not too much or they may get bored!
- A piece that challenges them, and a piece you think they'll pick up quickly to build confidence
- Music theory homework, if appropriate
- Clear expectations around practice to keep students motivated consistently
No matter your preferred genre or teaching style - as a classical or jazz piano teacher, make sure you listen patiently to your students' needs and adapt to their preferences to create a strong student-teacher relationship.
Assess your students' capabilities regularly - at least two to four times per year - to highlight progress you've made together and motivate them to keep practising. You may also like to have them sit piano exams or perform in a yearly concert for a sense of achievement.
So what are you waiting for? Now you have our best tips on how to teach piano, find your first students for piano lessons, and many other tutoring jobs, through Superprof!