How to choose an online piano teacher
How do you go about choosing an online piano teacher? I have listed here five fundamental questions every student should ask a prospective (online) piano teacher to assess whether they are right for them!
1. Why do you teach? What’s your philosophy?
A teacher should be able to tell you the reason why they became a teacher, as well as their teaching philosophy.
This last part is important. Different teachers may have different beliefs as to the importance of certain aspects of music.
For instance: a teacher might tell you they believe music is to be shared with others – so you can be sure that performance will be high on their list of priorities.
Another teacher will tell you they want to draw out a student’s creativity, which means that you can probably expect to play, improvise, arrange and compose.
You want to find a teacher who aligns with your own philosophy of music. If you believe concert virtuosity is the highest art form and you aspire to play like that, finding a classically trained, performance major might be a better option than a jazz teacher or a teacher who focuses on creativity and musicality.
2. What sort of teacher training have you undertaken?
A piano teacher needs to be able to play the piano, but most importantly, they need to be able to teach.
Teaching and performing are two completely unrelated skills. You can be a killer teacher and rubbish performer AND VICE VERSA.
While a university performance degree can, of course, be helpful to determine that someone can play advanced pieces, unless they took a pedagogy course (or andragogy if they’re teaching adults), their teaching won’t necessarily be more informed than someone who never earned a music degree.
So ask about a teacher’s teaching qualifications! Often a mentor/student relationship, teaching courses, professional development all ensure your teacher knows what they’re doing.
They should be telling you they attend conferences and professional webinars, and read the latest research and teaching books. You want to make sure your teacher goes above and beyond to ensure their teaching is relevant and in line with the latest educational standards.
3. Who do you teach?
Be mindful of the “Oh, I teach everyone” teacher with 2 years of experience. It takes a VERY different skill set to teach 4-year-olds versus teenagers versus seniors.
If the teacher has some teacher training, they will know that too. Which is why a standard answer like the above should trigger a red flag.
While a teacher with 20 years of experience has probably seen and taught it all, new teachers simply can’t have enough experience to have been teaching all age groups efficiently.
Having said that though, if the teacher is eager, has a proven track record of teacher training and sounds like a good match otherwise, it would be unfair to dismiss them solely based on their lack of experience in a particular age group. Always look at the whole picture before deciding which way to go.
4. What’s a typical lesson like?
This is an excellent question to check whether the teacher is true to his or her philosophy.
If a teacher tells you they believe in the importance of creativity, but proceed to talk about how they will show you correct technique and use the lesson to practice with you, with no mention of things such as chords/harmony, ear training, arranging or improvising, you might not learn much in the space of ‘creating’ music.
If that is something you wish to explore, your search for a teacher might not be at an end quite yet!
5. What software do you use and what’s your set up?
Online lessons have some unique benefits, and a smart online teacher knows how to play the medium to its strengths.
An excellent online teacher shouldn’t use an iPad or even a laptop on a chair next to them to teach. This works brilliantly for the student since they only need to watch the lesson, but the teacher needs something more professional!
The online teacher should have an expert set up with a large monitor, multiple camera angles, the ability to share screens and stream multiple cameras at the same time.
Oh, and for the record, Skype is not a great piece of software for online lessons. There are MUCH better alternatives!
Finally, see what the teacher asks about you. How do they interact? Are they formal or informal, and does that style suit you? What are their practice expectations and will you be able to meet them?
Often, the questions a prospective teacher asks of you can be quite revealing as to their own teaching philosophy.
If you’d like to enquire about online lessons, you can contact me here. I always start the process with a free, no-obligation online meet and greet.