“The musician is perhaps the most modest of animals, but he is also the proudest.” - Erik Satie
So, you're setting out to learn the piano. A noble goal! But like any field of study, finding the right teacher is essential.
Perhaps you don't know much about the world of piano - perhaps you've never even played music before! So how can you choose the right tutor for you among the many candidates out there?
What To Ask Your New Piano Tutor
When you hire a piano teacher or private tutor to start learning how to play the piano, you're looking for someone with whom you can form a strong bond. This person will nurture and guide your creative self, so you want someone you trust and get along well with. To start, you'll need to read your potential tutor's profile carefully.
If you choose to hire a teacher at a music school or through a conservatorium, you'll find most have similar backgrounds and qualifications. Many of them will have followed a similar path to become a teacher, and may even have studied at the conservatorium themselves!
On the other hand, when contacting a private music tutor, you should be aware that there is no minimum standard or qualification requires to teach privately.
It's a good idea to ask lots of questions up front to ensure they're the best option for you.
Some questions to ask before you start :
- Where did you do your musical training?
- How long have you been playing the piano?
- What genres of music do you teach?
- Do you play other instruments as well?
- What teaching methods do you follow?
If you are selecting a private piano tutor through Superprof, you can benefit from a free trial lesson.
This is a great opportunity to talk to your teacher about your current level of experience, any music theory knowledge you already have and what your musical goals are. Perhaps you want to become a professional musician, start a rock band, play with your children or simply jam for fun.
Or perhaps you want to take singing lessons? Many music tutors actually teach many instruments alongside the piano, so if you're tempted to learn the acoustic guitar, cello, clarinet, flute or saxophone, you may be able to learn two instruments with the same teacher, or even split your lesson time between instruments!
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Student Piano Tutors
Throughout the web and on noticeboards and tutoring platforms such as Superprof, you're sure to find lots of music students who wish to earn extra money offering piano tuition alongside their studies.
Students love teaching the instruments they are passionate about and sharing their musical skills. Whether they are accomplished in accordion, banjo, guitar, ukulele, drums or piano, students can make great teachers.
One benefit to student teachers is that they are still in the education system themselves, or even studying music whilst they teach. Many will launch their music teaching careers, tutoring privately before they finish their studies. If you have a child at home who could benefit from a young, passionate, vibrant teacher, you need to look no further than your local conservatorium or music school.
Another advantage of choosing a student is that you'll generally pay a lower price than for a more experienced private tutor.
On the other hand, student-teacher rates will vary depending on your level - the more advanced your level, the more they will charge.
You'll also need to book lessons around their university timetable, so they may not be free during all business hours.
Student teachers generally advertise on social media, notice boards, or on tutoring platforms like Superprof!
Independent Private Music Tutors
If you're starting to learn the piano, you may also seek out a private tutor who teaches music lessons independently from home.
Many experienced tutors leave strict establishments such as conservatoriums and music schools and instead opt for the flexibility and convenience of teaching privately. They benefit from all the perks of being self-employed - teaching to their own schedules and in their own homes.
Many of these independent private tutors are advertising on platforms such as Superprof, looking for regular students to fill their weekly timetables.
If they are teaching music full-time, they will usually have a lot of teaching experience and may have already taught in conservatoriums and music schools.
You can tap into this wealth of experience by hiring an independent tutor who can adapt their methods and techniques to your strengths, weaknesses and personal learning style.
You can expect to pay more per hour for an independent private tutor than for a student who teaches part-time. However, the saying "you pay for what you get" rings true here - you're likely to get much higher-quality lessons from a teacher who dedicates their career solely to piano pedagogy. Don't necessarily be put off by higher lesson fees - they often indicate you'll get more out of each lesson and progress faster!
You may wish to dip into a few different piano styles - moving beyond classical music to jazz piano, rock or chamber music. In that case, it's important to find a tutor who can work will many different genres.
So - how to find this kind of tutor?
If this information isn't already on their profile, you can get in touch and ask about their teaching experience, whether piano teaching is their main job, and if they teach a variety of styles.
Retired Piano Professors
Once a musician, always a musician! After a long career music teaching, many older teachers keep teaching well after their "official" retirement.
Even once they bow out of their official posts at music conservatoriums, many music teachers continue to teach privately.
These teachers often how many years of wisdom to share, and can offer tuition on advanced music theory and performance practice.
Whether you're learning on a grand piano, upright or electronic piano, you can benefit from employing a retired music professor. These ex-conservatorium teachers are particularly suited to students who wish to become music teachers themselves.
Other retired private music teachers may have worked previously in schools, where their main job was to introduce primary or secondary students to the basics.
Teachers who have previously worked in schools are often great at instilling a passion for music in young people and keeping teenagers interested. They may approach the piano with a more flexible teaching style, which could be great if you have a young musician at home.
Many music teachers working in schools also have experience preparing students for their HSC, VCE or university entrance exams.
These music teachers know how to work musically with young people, utilising effective teaching techniques whilst keeping lessons engaging and fun.
Whether they have a background in conservatoriums or schools, retired music teachers are a great choice thanks to their years of experience and longstanding passion for the piano.
Piano Teachers Who Are Self-Taught
Now is a better time than ever to be a self-taught learner! Thanks to the explosion of blogs, websites, apps and video channels aimed at helping people learn the piano, students are picking up new skills without any input or feedback from a teacher.
This phenomenon isn't limited to music - people are learning languages, taking dance classes and brushing up on any number of academic subjects with the help of online resources. And once they've picked up their new skills, they are often passionate about passing them on.
However - student beware! It can be difficult to gauge if a self-taught teacher is right for you, as they can't exactly prove their level with no qualifications behind them.
These teachers may follow very different methods to those teaching in conservatoriums or music schools. They may give stellar performances, but it is our view that piano pedagogy generally needs to be taught in a conservatorium. That said, if you or your child have found other teachers too technical, and are looking for an original, out-of-the-box way of learning music, these musicians can be a refreshing alternative.
You may also like to employ a self-taught teacher for a handful of lessons to get familiar with the piano and then move on to someone more qualified.
A self-taught teacher might not be right for you if you want to learn to read music or practice flawless classical technique. Whilst many beginners bemoan the need to learn music theory and play endless scales and arpeggios, these set the foundations for good technique and ensure that you are playing comfortably and effectively for many years to come. Without good technique, wrist strain can become a real problem!
In general, we would advise starting with a qualified teacher to learn good technique, and only employing self-taught teachers for one-off lessons in their areas of specialty. Employ a self-taught jazz pianist for a masterclass in improvisation and expression, or a self-taught piano composer to learn more about writing your own music.
Now you have an overview of the different kinds of teachers out there, it's time to find your new piano teacher. Whether you're learning classical piano, improvisation, sight-reading or pursuing a passion for a particular style of music, there is a teacher out there for you on Superprof!