How To Choose A Piano Teacher

how to choose a piano teacherSo you’re ready to learn how to play the piano, but you’re not quite sure where to start. My suggestion is to definitely invest in a good teacher. Having a good teacher from the start of your journey will make things a lot easier.

Not only will you progress much quicker under a teacher, but you’ll have someone there who can guide you and answer all of your questions. You’ll probably have a couple of teachers over the years, so it’s important to know how to choose a teacher depending on what stage of piano playing you’re currently at.

Whether you’re a beginner or very advanced, the wealth of information a good teacher can provide to you is absolutely worth it. In this short guide, I’ll give you some actionable steps you can take to secure a good piano teacher so you can take your playing to the next level! Whether it’s for you or your child all of these suggestions can apply.

Know What You Want To Learn

A lot of pianists mess up at this step when choosing a piano teacher. You should have a good idea of the music you wish to learn before picking a teacher.

This isn’t just for the purposes of communicating this during your lessons, but also you need to know if your teacher can help you with that kind of music.

If you want to be an all-world jazz pianist that’s great, but a Classical piano teacher won’t be your best option. Perhaps you’ll have to go look around for teachers at different organizations and even ask local jazz musicians in the area if they teach piano.

To really develop your skills you should try getting a teacher who specializes in that area. This is not to say that Classical piano teachers can’t help guide you through other repertoire (even I do it), but if you can get someone who does it all the time you’ll get better results.

It might be a good idea to make a list of the certain pieces and genre’s you want to dive into before you make a decision.

Learning Style

We all have different attention spans, so you need a teacher that can cater to this. Perhaps you’re trying to find a piano teacher for your child that’s restless and can only handle short 20 minute lessons.

Maybe you have a super focused kid that wants a full 60 minutes worth of training. Whichever it is your piano teacher should be versatile not just on the timing of the lessons, but also the prices they charge.

Don’t hire a teacher who would charge you the same amount of money regardless of the lesson length.

Also, consider a teacher who’s versatile in their teaching style. Teachers should be open to incorporating games and fun activities to make the lessons engaging for kids. It’s not always about hitting knows as 90% of piano is mental anyway. Good teachers find creative ways to develop their students whether their a child or adult.

Know Your Teachers Strengths

Every piano teacher has a certain type of music that they teach well, and it’s important you know what their strengths are. Perhaps you have a Classical teacher you’re really excited about, but they don’t know anything about Haydn or Mozart repertoire. Maybe there’s a situation where you have a great Gospel piano teacher but they can’t read notation.

Even teachers who can work with you on ear training vs those who have no extensive theory background can be a factor. You should make a list of not just the repertoire, but also the complete music knowledge you want to learn from your teacher.

Present this to them during the hiring process and see where they meet your expectations and fail in other areas.

Just because a teacher might not be a music theory specialist doesn’t mean they can’t teach you the subject matter, but it’s something to take note of if that’s something you really desire.

Get Someone Else’s Opinion

It’s perfectly fine to ask for referrals from a prospective piano teacher before hiring them. A lot of the booking websites actually have verified customer reviews that you can read through, but sometimes that’s not enough. Try asking your neighbors, friends in the community and others for their honest opinion of the piano teacher. Be open about what playing level you’re at and what you’re trying to achieve. Some important things to know about your teacher are listed below:

  • Are they qualified
  • How is their attitude
  • What’s the lesson format like?

Take A Demo Piano Lesson

Did you know you can test drive most piano teachers? The first lesson is important for everyone because that’s when piano teachers want to make their best impression on the student. Come to the lesson with some specific goals in mind and see how things go.

I will say that it’s usually customary for the teacher to charge you for that first lesson though. You have to remember that you’re taking up their time, and time is money. Usually, there’s a refund policy built-in to these demo lessons though so make sure to look for that in the lesson policy.

If things go well and you loved the first lesson then gladly consider that lesson paid for and the relationship established. If things didn’t go so well and you plan to look around some more then you’ll get a refund. This works out best for both parties!

Interview Your Teacher

It’s totally normal to interview your prospective piano teacher before hiring them. I suggest doing this after the demo lesson since you’ve got a good feel for their teaching style at this point.

Also taking that demo lesson will probably open your mind up to additional questions you didn’t know you would have. It’s also totally fine for your child to ask questions too; after all, they’re the ones taking the lesson right?

  • Here’s a couple of good questions to get you started:
  • How does billing work?
  • Do you hold regular recitals?
  • What is your studio policy?
  • How often do you assign new music?
  • Do you teach music theory?
  • Where can you help my student the most?

Don’t Choose A Cheap Teacher

All teachers are not created equal as I’m sure you’ve gathered from this post and perhaps through experience. As a beginner piano player, you might be tempted to choose the cheapest teacher you can find on the market.

In my experience, that’s just not a good idea because it’s here that you’ll see some severe limitations.

Those teachers typically have lower prices for a reason. You really do get what you pay for in that sense. A teacher that charges $20 is probably not likely to give you much and to have some severe teaching woes that a new pianist shouldn’t be exposed to.

On the other hand, a teacher demanding $60 per hour probably has a Masters degree in music and extensive musical knowledge to help elevate your playing. Here’s how much a quality piano lesson costs.

As a general rule, I suggest paying no less than $40 for good quality piano lessons. This price doesn’t mean you’ll get an all-world teacher, but you’ll certainly get someone who’s very helpful and can properly guide you.

Avoid The Music Store Teachers

Growing up I took lessons in an old ladies house, and then moved on to a music store. I would be lying if I didn’t say the lessons I took in the private residence wasn’t more effective.

You would think that a piano store would attract the highest quality teachers; and many times they do. The thing to remember though is that music stores have one real goal in mind; to sell you an expensive piano.

Luckily my piano store teacher recognized that I needed the best I could get. She would take in out to the showroom floor of the store so I could play the big grand pianos instead of the old uprights in the back rooms.

She also made sure that I had extra long lessons without charging me extra because she recognized my talents. Although she couldn’t teach me everything, she made the most of her abilities!

With that said, every piano teacher isn’t going to be like that lady. I was very fortunate in that situation. It’s my sincere advice that you go with a private teacher and stay away from the music stores altogether. I know the cheap lessons are going to be attractive to you, but as I said before you get what you pay for.

What About Travel?

Since I’m suggesting you get a private teacher then you have to figure the travel arrangements out. Will you be traveling to the teachers home or will they travel to you? Do they teach in an open space like a church or performing arts hall?

These are all important questions you should ask because where you go you need to be comfortable with the drive and location.

I think as a beginner pianist it’s probably a good idea to travel first. A good teacher will already have a high quality for you to take your lessons on. Sometimes that’s an upright piano and other times a grand.

Having a high-quality instrument to work on will do wonders for your development; even during a 45-minute lesson.

Community Involvement

If you’re more advanced then you should consider a teacher that’s involved in the community. This will help you network a little bit with other musicians and also get you some exposure.

Teachers who are well connected in the community are usually apart of various music organizations, teacher boards like MTNA, and heavily involved in the competitive circuit.

I’m not saying you should hop into a piano competition, but having those resources available to you is great. You want a teacher who will encourage you to check out the local music scene; suggesting recitals, forums, and brainstorming ways to get you involved.

Try Group Lessons

I didn’t have group lessons growing up, but once I got to college I started to teach my own private students there. We had an organization called the Community Music School.

Basically, we offered group lessons as a supplement to the private lessons. It was cool for our students because they got to work with us individually and then also join us and other teachers.

For students, that’s a really awesome experience because you get to work with other students, but also have your teacher there guiding you along the way. This also gives you a chance to work with other teachers in the community too and work on some ensemble playing.

This is why I stress the importance of community involvement because most standard piano teachers don’t engage with others for fear of losing their students to their competition.

Choose A Teacher With A Studio Policy

For me, it’s always important to choose a teacher who operates really professionally. Teachers should have a strict studio policy so that things move swiftly and effectively. Lessons should always start and end on time.

There should also be clauses built-in to address makeup lessons, vacation days, progress reports and much more.

Policies also contain important details about payments and how they should work. The last thing you want is to have issues paying for your child’s lessons and mixing up dates and stuff.

How To Locate A Teacher Right Now

Locating a piano teacher might seem hard, but it really isn’t if you have a couple of resources on hand. Of course, my first recommendation would be to book a lesson with me.

I teach virtual lessons through Skype, so even if you don’t live in Naples, FL you could still book a lesson with me! You’re also more than welcome to sign up for personal lesson videos from me where I guide you through pieces, make detailed suggestions, and break down the piece to you.

If you want someone in your local area though there’s a ton of resources you can get your hands on right now. The following are a list of organization websites that have a roster of fantastic teachers who are certified to teach at a high level, already vetted and priced fairly:

MTNA 

MTDirectory

Alternatively, if you want some other resources then do a simple Google search for piano teachers in your area and you’re bound to find a list of private teachers right away. Remember to stick away from the advertisements by music stores though because the quality generally won’t be the same.

Joshua Ross

Hello & thanks for stopping by! I'm a professional concert pianist and piano instructor. In the United States, I've given successful performances in several places including New York, Florida, Connecticut, & New Jersey, I have also performed internationally in Italy and made my Carnegie Hall debut in 2014. I enjoy blogging about the piano, the art of performance, general music, current events and the latest in music production.

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