7 Tips for getting the BEST out of your piano teacher
Nowadays, with the prevalence of online courses and mobile apps, people learn how to do everything themselves. But learning to play the piano is different. The piano is one of those instruments that take a lot of time and attention to master. It’s not something you can really learn by yourself very well – despite what those ads might tell you.
So, if you want to learn how to play the piano well, you need a good music teacher.
A piano teacher can be an invaluable asset to your musical journey. While it can be intimidating to ask for help, great teachers are worth their weight in gold. Whether you’re a total beginner or an experienced musician, the right teacher can improve your game and accelerate your learning.
But sometimes students unwittingly make their lessons less than productive, and they end up disappointed because they’re not seeing the results they were hoping for.
That’s why I’ve compiled this list of my best tips for getting the most out of your piano teacher.
#1 – Make sure you communicate your goals to your teacher.
Before you begin taking music lessons, it is vital that you communicate your musical goals to your teacher. What are you trying to achieve on the piano?
Communicating your goals will help your teacher determine the best way to approach your lessons and tailor their teaching methods to better suit your needs.
Some things you may want to communicate to your teacher include what style of music you want to learn, what your dream pieces are, and how much practice you are willing and able to put in.
Remember, it’s perfectly ok to switch goals too! Just let the teacher know that your priorities have changed so they can adapt their lesson plans.
#2 – Be prepared for each lesson.
Be prepared for your lesson by having all your materials ready to go. This includes your instrument, any music you need, a notebook, and a pencil. For your online lesson, make sure your device is fully charged!
And why not take a few moments to prepare mentally and physically for your lesson?
Clear your mind of any other thoughts or worries so that you can focus entirely on the task at hand. Taking a few deep breaths can help to achieve this.
Additionally, it is important to make sure that you are physically comfortable to play your instrument or sing without any distractions. Wearing loose, comfortable clothing and make sure you have everything you need within easy reach.
#3 – Be respectful of your teacher’s time and space – in AND outside of lessons.
There’s nothing that can ruin your relationship with your teacher faster than being disrespectful of their time and effort.
Your piano teacher’s time (like your own!) is valuable, so be considerate of it. This means showing up on time for your lessons, being prepared to work hard, and listening carefully to your teacher’s instructions. If you need to cancel a lesson, make sure to communicate it as soon as possible. Remember that teaching studios may have very different policies when it comes to cancelling lessons, so make sure you know what you can and can’t do.
Don’t ask your teacher to work outside your designated lesson time. Remember that you are paying your teacher for an hour each week – they are not at your beck and call 24/7. Please don’t take advantage of their kindness. If you need help with anything, ask during class – that’s what that time is for! Don’t start asking questions when your time is up. Your teacher probably has other students to attend to or perhaps, you’re intruding on the only bathroom break they get for the afternoon.
Finally, if you take lessons in a studio, it’s also important to respect your teacher’s personal space and belongings. Respectfully wait in the designated waiting area and, for the love of common decency, ASK before entering any area that is not the studio. Don’t go roaming in someone’s home without permission!
#4 – Practice between lessons. The more you practice, the better you will get.
The only way to improve your skills on the piano is to practice regularly between lessons.
Practising regularly will help you develop muscle memory so that you can play your music without having to think about each individual note.
Make sure to set aside time every day to play, even if it’s just for a few minutes. This could be before breakfast, during your lunch hour or after work. Making this commitment to practice will ensure that you keep advancing and become the best pianist that you can be.
Remember that practice can take several forms! Sight-reading sheet music, improvising your own music, or playing an accompaniment for a song on your MP3 player or iPad are perfectly valid ways to engage with your instrument!
If you need tips on how to make practice work in your busy life, check out my blog post here.
#5 – Have realistic expectations
It’s important to have realistic expectations when learning something new from a teacher.
Remember that your teacher is there to help you progress, not perform miracles! They can provide guidance and support, but ultimately, it’s up to you to put in the hard work to improve. Be patient, stay positive, and don’t get discouraged if you don’t see immediate results. With time and effort, you’ll be able to reach your piano goals.
P.S. Many of our students get overwhelmed at times and think they’ll never be able to become a pianist. It’s ok to have high expectations, but it’s also essential to keep things in perspective and be patient. Those amazing pianists you see on the stage have decades of experience and thousands of hours of practice. You can get there, but only by doing the work! Stop worrying when after 2 or 3 years of lessons you don’t sound professional yet. If it was that easy, there would be pianists on every corner.
#6 – Be open-minded in your learning journey.
If you want to grow and learn new things, you need to remain open-minded. That means being willing to try new things, even if they are outside of your comfort zone. It can be a scary thing to do, but it’s often when we stretch ourselves that we end up growing the most.
Take for example improvisation or composition. It’s an art that often mystifies students, and many beginners feel very put on the spot when asked to do either activity. But really, it’s just another way to experience music-making.
Remember that we’re not born with the perfect ability to improvise or compose, but that doesn’t mean we can’t develop those skills. It’s simply a question of practice and exposure. Your teacher will be there to guide you and offer many different avenues to explore these skills.
Next time you’re presented with something new, try to give it a chance instead of saying no right away. Who knows, it might just end up being something you love!
#7 – Listen carefully and TAKE NOTES!
When you take piano lessons, you do so because you need expert help to improve. So, during class, when your teacher provides you with information, advice, and feedback – listen carefully and write things down!
A piano lesson may have different focus points, but theory concepts, exercises, practice tips, and feedback are all part and parcel of most lessons. If you want to retain any knowledge, active listening and taking notes are the best way to ensure you have things to review in the coming week.
Please don’t rely on your teacher to send you detailed practice instructions after each lesson. They just spend an hour with you telling you what to do! It’s your job to take notes as appropriate. This was true in school and university, and it’s true in piano lessons too.
And if you do tend to forget to write things down, perhaps request a 5-minute recap before the end of the lesson so you can take appropriate notes.
To sum things up, the advice is simple: if you want to get the most out of your teacher, be a motivated and respectful student! Teachers are more likely to be enthusiastic and enjoy working with these students.
If you follow my simple tips, you’ll find lessons become not only more productive but more fun. You’ll be able to establish great rapport with your teacher, you’ll both be glad to see each other every week, and your lessons will effectively guide you closer to your piano dreams.