Most teachers will offer a complimentary lesson to begin with. It’s a chance for student and teacher to see if they think they would work well together. No-one knows your child like you do and therefore you’re best placed, (well joint best – alongside your child), to make a call on a teachers suitability. As far as first lessons will allow in any case.
Look out for simple things. Does this teacher…
• Make eye contact with your child?
• Seem genuinely interested in what your child says?
• Take their time?
• Do they listen?
Yes, what are you hoping to accomplish with piano lessons? What is the driving force behind your wish for your child to have lessons? Perhaps you want them to learn a skill they can enthuse over and develop for life. Maybe it’s the social element of playing music with others, and the greater confidence it can undoubtedly bring. Do you see them as becoming technically skilled players, very good sight-readers? Have you spoken with your child about it?!
Below are examples of what a parent might hope music learning will do for their child, and the kind of teaching that would likely deliver for them.
I want my child in a warm, environment that fosters individuality, creativity and a love of music.
Then consider this…
• What tools/games/exercises will the teacher use to engage the child?
• Is the voice, body percussion or other instruments used to communicate musical ideas?
• Is there a ‘free play’/guided improvisation element included regularly in lessons?
• Are there opportunities to play music creatively with the teacher and/or with other students?
I would like my child to get a solid grounding on piano as a basis for further music and instrumental learning. I’d like them to sit exams and learn good piano technique.
• If your child is taking exams, is time given over to ALL elements of exam preparation in EVERY lesson – (i.e. sight-reading, rhythm & aural work should feature in addition to pieces and scales).
• Is musicality at the heart of the lesson and are different musical styles and expression discussed and explored?
• Does your child learn exercises for building strength and tone?
• Are there opportunities for improvisation where a student can take what they’ve learned and play freely with it?
I have a child with a learning difficulty and I want a teacher who can engage and encourage them.
Screening for skills required to teach children with special needs means looking for someone who loves the challenge of unlocking an unusual mind or body. Look for a teacher who is willing to try new techniques, materials and ideas…and is not phased when certain approaches don’t work.
Is location important to you? Do you want a teacher who comes to your house? Travelling teachers can be hard to find. Sometimes you can find a young, enthusiastic teacher who will come to you. Occasionally experienced teachers likes teaching in student’s homes, but they will charge a premium for this service.
Ask up front about a teacher’s work timetable. If your child could only attend a Saturday lesson and the teacher you’re considering doesn’t teach weekends at all, it’s better to end the conversation right there. There is sometimes a surprising, often mutual feeling of loss when you speak with a prospective new student, become enthused at the opportunity of working together only to find that dates and times don’t suit!
NOTE: The best lesson times will fill up first, so you may have to start with a less than ideal time and move into a better slot as the teacher’s schedule changes and your child has been there longer.
Most piano teachers didn’t choose the profession because they wanted to be business owners/thought they’d get rich! You want one with a clear payment policy detailing how much you’ll pay and when, where to get materials and the default/cancellation process. This doesn’t mean they won’t be flexible. It just means that they have considered the implications for you as a paying client, and themselves as a professional running a business, and have devised a fair policy on that basis.
Look for a teacher who varies their routine. Many teachers use the same books and music year after year. This can be beneficial; they’re good at teaching from them. But as their students develop and change, they should be challenged to think musically and even input into the direction/elements of the lesson. Does your child think they need more strengthening exercises to improve tone and accuracy? Is the teacher interested in creating mini-pieces with your child? Do they encourage the child to apply their accrued knowledge to improvise, and make music spontaneously?.
How to Find That Teacher?
Start by asking your circle of friends and acquaintances if any of them are particularly happy with their child’s teacher. Most of my students come through personal referrals. People who already like the way I teach seem to refer others who do likewise.
If you have any queries about the above, feel free to get in touch via the contact page.