In finding the best piano teacher, there are many ingredients that must be right. Sometimes the best piano teacher for one person could be inappropriate for another. Therefore, when choosing the right teacher for yourself, child or even for someone else, it is important to use certain criteria which work over and above professional qualifications and/or a friendly personality.
Below is a simple “TO DO” list I recommend anyone to go through when looking for the piano teacher:
2) Years of teaching experience
3) Main area of expertise
4) Level of Professionalism
5) Personal Compatibility
6) The extent of piano teaching
8) Online Piano Tuition
Here is a little more information about each of those points:
It is good to have the teacher who studied at one of the major Music Schools and Colleges. If you live in London (UK), it could be The Royal Academy of Music, Royal College of Music, Guildhall School of Music and Drama or Trinity College of Music to name just a few. Why? Because this will guarantee that the teachers who studied at these establishments have been taught well and therefore will teach to high professional standard and will be unlikely to pass on any wrong or ‘unhealthy’ methods to their students. You can indentify which institution someone has graduated from by simply looking at the letters following their name, and later, checking them online. Also, if you can access the teacher’s biography, their degrees and diplomas may be explained further.
Amongst the most established UK qualifications, here are a few examples of Music Degrees:
BMus, MMus, MPerf, MComp, MA, MPhil, PhD, MMP, DMus and Diplomas LRAM, PGDip, AdvDip, ARCM, DipRCM, ADCM , Artist Diploma, , LGSM, AGSM, PGDip, Dip GSM., ATCL, LTCL, FTCL, PGA, PGD . I have used the examples from the main educational bodies – Royal Academy of Music (www.ram.ac.uk). Royal College of Music (www.rcm.ac.uk), Guildhall School of Music and Drama ( www.gsmd.ac.uk) and Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance ( www.trinitylaban.ac.uk)
Years of teaching experience
This can also be quite beneficial. Although there are a lot of young teachers who can be very good and effective, the benefit of working with a more experienced teacher is that, once a student starts facing difficulties (and believe me, this moment always occurs at some stage along the tuition process), the experienced teacher would be likely to guide a pupil through these difficulties more quickly, whereas the younger teacher may not be able to help so immediately, or at all, whilst stumbling through the blocks. It is also good to get any feedback from past and current students of the teacher in question and, if possible, find out about the teacher’s achievement list (for example how many students won competitions, got high grades, participated in all sorts of public performance, etc.).
Main area of expertise
Some teachers are strictly classical, some do mainly jazz, some do a few instruments. The last group would be the ones I would approach with caution, to make sure that their level of expertise is high enough to teach each instrument. It is also quite good to see if the teacher can play a little bit for you, as then you may know straight away if you would like to learn from this person.
Level of Professionalism
This is a quality that I personally value very much in any area of expertise – it is important that a teacher starts and finishes the lesson on time, clearly explains the fee structure and terms & conditions of the lesson. It is important that a teacher informs a student what needs to be brought to the lesson and what role they expect the parents to play in the students’ education.
This is a very important quality for a teacher to have. It goes beyond just being friendly. The energy and the overall approach of the teacher should match the energy of each student. For example, if the student is in a receptive mode, then the teacher should provide a lot of knowledge, so to be in a ‘giving mode’, but if the student is in a creative and active mood, then the teacher should provide this knowledge through inspiration, by encouraging the student to find an answer for themselves. Experienced teachers should be able to match the energy and state of a student’s mind on each separate occasion. It is very important that both a teacher and a student have a harmonious and balanced energy exchange during the lesson.
The extent of piano teaching
This area often gets overlooked, as all we want at the beginning is piano lessons. However, with the passage of time, some students want more then just an hour of piano lessons per week. They would like to know about performance opportunities, the best competitions, thorough help in choosing piano repertoire, information on the best performers, concerts, etc. If you know in advance that you might require some of the above information, it would be a good idea to ask the teacher if they would be prepared to give it to you. Some of them would be happy, whilst some would not, sometimes purely because of the lack of time and/ or knowledge.
Of course, if you want to learn to play piano, you should try to find the teacher who best fits all the points outlined above, and the best might not be in the area close to you. However, it is important to consider the location as, particularly, if you live in a big city where travelling takes an hour or more each way, taking your child after school on a weekly basis may tire them out, and therefore this is important to consider. In general, from my personal experience, students tend to have more regular lessons with teachers who are close to them as compared to less regular, often prolonged classes with the teachers who live far away. For more advanced, adult players this may not be a big problem, but if you are a beginner, you may want to have more regular lessons on a weekly basis (and this is what I would recommend).
Online Piano Tuition
During the last 5 years, the number of students I teach via Skype has grown. With faster and better internet connection, this method has became possible. I find the benefits of teaching via Skype (apart from obviously the lack of travel) include the fact that lessons become more precise and concentrated, where the camera lets you direct its focus to a specific angle of the hand and/or finger. The drawback is the quality of sound which, of course, will never be as good as the live sound; however it is still pretty decent. For those of my students who live far away from London, Skype piano lessons provide a great solution which should not be overlooked when choosing the best method of studying to fit in with your lifestyle.
To help you further I devised a simple questioner which I give out in my GéNIA MUSIC School and Piano-Yoga® School, to students who enquire about lessons. This helps them and us to choose them the best teacher and the best approach to the piano tuition:
1) List Your Name
2) List Your Age
3) Describe your current piano playing level
4) What is your piano aspiration (perform in public, do grades, learn to memorise, etc)
5) How much time do you have to practice (realistically)
6) How often can you come to your piano lessons (one a week, twice a week, once at fortnight, come when I want to) or would you prefer to do a lessons via Skype? Or would you prefer to do both?
7) What pieces are you playing at the moment?
8) What pieces you would like to play?
9) What pieces you listen to?
10) What type of memory do you have (photographic, symbolic, literary, aural)?
11) How do you learn best (aurally, motorically (by repeating after teacher) visually, etc)?
When you start looking for your teacher, it would be a good idea to finalise for yourself what you are looking for, as this would help you to focus on finding the best piano teacher!
Good luck with your search!
For more information on how to improve your piano playing visit our Piano-Yoga® workshop with GéNIA at Schott Music, 48 Great Marlborough Street, London W1F 7BB, on Thursday, 6th November at 7:00-10:00 pm in London. View the webpage of the programme here.
Russian Virtuoso Pianist GéNIA is a founder of Piano-Yoga® Method and is the director of GéNIA MUSIC School and Piano-Yoga® School, both located in Central London: www.piano-yoga.com and www.genia-music.com