The benefits of learning to play music are indisputable, and one of the most important aspects in creating an exciting, valuable music education experience for yourself or your child is knowing how to choose a piano teacher. Communication styles, learning methods and preferred genres are highly personal, meaning that it takes a little bit of background work to choose the best music teacher FOR YOU.
Below we’ll go over our 5 helpful tips for choosing a piano teacher, which actually may applied to choosing any music instructor, and our top resources to turn to for additional help. By following these tips, you can be sure to choose a teacher who fosters you or your child’s love of music and encourages him or her to make the very most of their music lessons.
1. Know what you’re looking for
Before you start your search for a teacher, it’s best to outline exactly what you’re looking for in an instructor. If your child is just starting first-time lessons, your preferred qualifications may be much different than if you studied music in college and are hoping to restore your own skill set. Likewise, you have to balance your financial and time commitment with the goals you’re hoping to accomplish. Here’s a quick checklist of important questions to ask yourself.
- What do I hope to accomplish, or what do I hope for my child to accomplish, by taking lessons?
- What teacher qualifications are necessary to reach my goals for myself/my child? What additional qualifications would be ideal?
- What is my budget?
- What am I looking for in terms of time commitment/scheduling?
2. Ask around
You can glean a lot of insight from parents of students already taking piano lessons. Talk to friends, coworkers, community members, your dentist… anyone who’s willing to share their experience. How did they choose their piano teacher? Are they happy with their choice? What would’ve they done differently?
In addition to your peers, local music stores and schools are often able to provide knowledgeable suggestions on local teachers. (Check out our favorite online resource for teacher suggestions below!)
While word-of-mouth is great for making initial contacts, do remember that each person learns differently, and that the best teacher for your best friend’s children may not make the best teacher for your own children.
3. Do some research
Once you’ve set your sights on a potential teacher, it’s helpful to see him or her in action. One great option is to attend a recital of his or her students. Pay attention to how the teacher and student interact with each other. Watch for signs of encouragement and see how the teacher interacts with parents as well.
If it’s not possible to attend a recital, speak with as many of your potential teacher’s students (or parents of students) as you can.
4. Start interviewing potential teachers
Interviewing potential teachers is essential in deciding if they’ll be a good fit for you or your child. You’ll want to interview prospects in person, and ideally in the location at which the lessons will take place. When interviewing, focus on questions both general, like their overall teaching philosophy, as well as specific questions about their qualifications, expectations and methods.
Ask them about themselves:
- What experience do you have in teaching?
- Do you teach multiple instruments? (In our experience, it usually works out best to find instructors who specialize in an instrument.)
- What are your credentials and educational background?
- What would you consider your greatest personal musical accomplishments?
- Do you belong to any professional organizations or take part in any professional development groups? (NAfME, for example)
- Do you teach full time? Are you a student yourself?
- Do you hold any certifications? (MTNA or related state associations, for example)
Ask them about their curriculum:
- What ages do you teach?
- Do you hold recitals during the year?
- Which instructional materials do you use? How and why did you choose them?
- How do you evaluate a student’s progress?
- How much practice time do you suggest or require of your students?
- What kind of music do you assign to your students? How do you choose what music gets assigned?
- Do you have additional opportunities for students who would like to perform often or become more involved in music?
- Have any of your students achieved a high level of musical success?
Finally, ask them about logistics:
- How much do you charge for lessons and how does your billing process work?
- How long is each lesson, and when and where will they be held?
- How many students do you currently teach?
- Will lessons always be one-on-one, or do you offer group lessons? (If you’re interested in group lessons)
- What do you expect of parents?
- What are your terms and conditions?
And don’t be shy to ask for a list of references!
5. Don’t be afraid to keep looking
If you don’t find the right piano teacher immediately, continue your search. Or, if you start lessons and they don’t seem to be going well, switch teachers. A professional instructor will understand and respect your decision to do what’s best for your or your child’s music education.
The very beginning lessons are the foundation on which you or your child’s entire music education experience will rest. Set up an initial meeting for your child and his or her new teacher, and be sure to listen to your youngster’s opinion. You could choose the most qualified, highly regarded, professional teacher on the list, but if your child is not receptive to the instructor, it’s game over.
Also, be watchful of your child’s practice time and, if you yourself are a musician, pay attention to any form or technical bad habits displayed during home practice time. It’s important that an instructor address these problems quickly, and if they don’t seem to be addressed it might be time to find another instructor.
The right teacher will foster a love of music, aid in continued, measurable progress, and motivate their students to want to become the best musicians they can be.
Takelessons.com : Use TakeLessons to browse local teachers and find detailed information about each candidate.
MTNA.org : The Music Teachers National Association website has a Parent and Student Resource center with tips on choosing an instrument, finding piano technicians, how to overcome injury and more. You can also search all MTNA-certified instructors.
Practice Smarter, Perform Better : How to maximize your at-home music practice time.
5 Tips for Establishing Great Practice Habits : Make practice time rewarding and fun, especially for younger students.
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Do you have additional tips for how to choose a piano teacher? Are you an educator with expert insight into what you look for in a music student? Join the conversation in the comments section below!