When you decide to take your first steps into the world of the piano, it's important to prepare yourself. You need to be prepared to wait for progress to take its natural course, to be patient and persevere.
You must also be aware that support is important. There are your closest supporters (friends and family), but beyond that the support of others around you will be essential pillars in your musical life.
Your piano teacher is at the center of this group. Over time, your teacher will become more and more important.
Your teacher will become a friend.
It's thus very important to choose a piano teacher wisely. Because you're embarking on a long journey together.
Let's look at how to make sure you're taking piano lessons with the perfect match!
What Does the Ideal Piano Teacher Look Like?
We would never suggest there is one ideal type of private piano teacher.
The decision you'll make is based on what qualities you're looking for, based on your own personality and skill level.
A particular piano teacher could suit one person, but not another. This isn't a critique of their competency. It's merely what we call a feeling.
Man or woman: what are the differences?
There is no sexism when we say that having a man or a woman as a piano teacher can change the approach and content of the lessons considerably. And the relationship as well.
Everything depends on the student. In a general sense, we can say that when learning to play the piano, you're more at ease with someone of the same sex.
The rapport tends to be established more quickly, facilitating the relationship.
When you decide to take lessons with a teacher of the opposite sex, the trust is generally slower in coming. But on the other hand, this relationship could become much stronger, deeper, and with more chemistry.
These are the basic advantages and disadvantages of the two choices.
The age of the student also plays a role. A child will naturally be more at ease with a woman. She represents a gentle authority, somewhat maternal.
But an adult will find it easier with a man, at least according to years of serious research on learning to play the piano and music in general.
Experience? Degrees? Both?
In any kind of education, credentials are necessary. And teaching piano lessons isn't exempt from this rule. There are well-known techniques, theories, and teaching methods that your average musician needs to master in order to be a good piano teacher.
- Experience by itself could be enough to make for a good piano teacher. That's if they've utterly mastered the instrument and its challenges so they can pass that crucial information on to students of the piano. Even if you have the necessary understanding, it's more important that you be able to explain them to someone else. This is the most difficult hurdle to overcome. And it requires certain human characteristics that are not necessarily within everyone. The ability to clearly explain, and explain again. The ability to break something complex down into simple language. Not timid, and above all FRIENDLY. That famous smile often makes all the difference, and enables a teacher to invest even more in a student. And besides, everything goes better with a smile.
- Diplomas are a measure of competencies. These various competencies are supposed to allow a teacher to more quickly pass on these abilities and quicken the pace of a student's progress. Furthermore, they should have the teacher adapt to the rhythm of lessons, to quickly explain certain things based on the rapport. A diploma from a conservatory, of course, gives you some guarantees, some security. The only risk here is that you'll find your education to be a little "scholarly," a little monotone, even plain. But many students feel reassured with this kind of scholarly musical education.
The ideal, in theory, is to choose a piano teacher with a balance of these two facets. Someone with verifiable and assured technical competencies (a diploma satisfies this criteria), and then with human qualities and an adaptable teaching approach. More of a partner than a teacher. And that's why someone who teaches based on their own experience is preferable.
But it's up to each student to decipher which type of teacher is best for them.
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Is it better to go with an older teacher or with someone closer to your own age?
Just like issue of experience, the ideal teacher's age depends on the student's personality and characteristics.
We can put students into two distinct categories: the independents and the dependents.
An independent student won't need an ultra-present teacher, and definitely not an ultra-authoritarian one. This kind of student will only need a partner who can open the door to the new world so they can immerse themselves in it. By understanding that the majority of the work is done between lessons, this kind of student does most of the work. The teacher guides, like a captain at the helm of a boat. The boat advances on its own, but the teacher needs to give directions in order to make the most of the time.
An independent student will advance much more rapidly. The main challenge for a teacher with this type of student, over the long term, is to avoid distractions, to avoid heading off in several different directions at the same time. Because for everything else, the independent student already has the proper instincts to progress as quickly as possible.
These are, unfortunately, strengths and habits that a dependent student doesn't have. Students who are often young (even children) and inexperienced. Students used to strict, traditional academic environments.
In this case, self-motivation is almost non-existent. A "scholarly" teacher is indispensable. This kind of teacher will take a student completely under his wing, directing almost every aspect.
Whereas the independent student does the majority of the work in between lessons, it's the opposite with a dependent student.
So it's essential that progress be made during the lessons. Beyond that, the student will also need to be supervised while they practice (by a family member, for example), so they don't slip up.
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What Does a Piano Teacher Need to Provide to a Student?
A piano teacher is not a school teacher, never mind a preschool teacher. He doesn't provide scholastic knowledge. But he does bring other competencies, other abilities that are often forgotten by representatives of our school system.
Playing and learning the piano are methodical processes. There are steps to be taken and levels to climb. All of which requires a logical sense of work, and organizational skills well suited to the approach, fulfillment, and sequence of playing songs.
The teacher has great influence here. Like an archer, he will quickly find which song of the thousands available will enable a student to progress as quickly as possible. All a result of his competence and practical experience.
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A strong work ethic
This should be obvious. A piano teacher needs to be a perfectionist. Both in terms of helping students and of their own efforts. Artistry and effectiveness are the budding pianists best allies.
There are pitfalls to avoid that hard work can help with. Being satisfied, for example, with a piece that's played correctly, but that lacks life because the teacher failed to impart his knowledge (melodic variations, or personal stylistic effects, for example).
You'll also want to do two things at the same time, to address them both. The obvious example is learning the piano and music theory at the same time. These are two separate disciplines. Guiding a student through both is possible, but requires strong organizational skills and hard work.
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What Do We Have to Say about Great Piano Teachers?
The notion of quality is something of an abstract idea. I think we can say, however, that a piano teacher should be flexible to the personalities of the students who hire him. It comes down to a question feeling out between student and teacher.
When an instructor's qualities are matched to the characteristics of the student, a constructive and fruitful relationship can develop between the two.
Choosing a piano teacher is no minor decision. It determines the musical future of the student. This future can be dashed when the relationship is complicated or full of conflict.
Don't minimize this decision. Because when you find the right one, it'll be like finding a patch of blue sky on a cloudy day.
And it could open professional doors in the future.What a bonus!
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