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#2001713 - 12/19/12 01:24 PM Selecting a teacher
88slowpoke Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/17/12
Posts: 34
As a newcomer to the piano, I'm still debating whether to start taking lessons. (I do have some musical background, but no piano.) I am given pause in this by the wide range of teachers, their various qualifications, and more than a few negative stories from students regarding the "wrong" teacher. My musical interests are quite broad, non-classical (mostly) as well as classical.

I'm looking for personal feedback from forum members- How did you choose the "right" (for you) teacher? Was it your first teacher? How did you know when you had chosen the "wrong" teacher?

There is a boatload of info on this subject, with lists of questions to ask, qualifications and references to check, and the like, but I am asking for personal experiences with the actual teaching/learning process. Thanks in advance!

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#2001721 - 12/19/12 01:44 PM Re: Selecting a teacher [Re: 88slowpoke]
Brent H Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/06/11
Posts: 843
You might be able to eliminate a few teachers based on just a preliminary phone call or equivalent. If they specialize in children and aren't looking for adult, if they teach from a fixed classically-oriented curriculum or if they can't work with your particular scheduling requirements. For instance a few teachers in my area make it clear in their advertisements that they work with kids between 2pm and 6pm on a semester or yearly basis with the aim of producing classical piano performers.

But most teachers are not going to fall into that sort of specialist category. For anyone else I think an hour long introductory session is the only reasonable way to assess your compatibility. For me that seems to work out to roughly 20-25 minutes of discussion about my background and goals then the balance doing some initial work on a couple of pieces I bring that I'm currently learning.

My plan would be to fine two or three potential teachers and schedule an initial hour lesson with each. Let them know that you're meeting with at least one other teacher and will make your decision once you've done that. I'd try to do those fairly close together, ideally within a matter of a week or so.

That's how I've always found music teachers in general. I will say my piano teacher (who recently moved across the country leaving me teacher-less at the moment)was an exception. I had a strong idea she was going to work out perfectly so I did not schedule any others initially. After that first hour lesson I booked a month's worth of one-hour weekly sessions with the understanding that we would use that as a trial and at the end of the month discuss whether I would continue and whether it would be 60-minute or 30-minute sessions on an ongoing basis.

It turned out that 30 minutes was best so that what I stuck with. In the 60-minute lessons I tended to hit a wall, so to speak, after 45-50 minutes when I just could not concentrate or absorb any more on the spot. I think eventually, if she had not moved away, I would have returned to 60 minutes once my focus and ability to learn was more refined.

P.S. One luxury of the 60-minute lesson is that you can digress for five minutes here or there into some interesting topic that arises without feeling you're going to miss some crucial bit of the lesson material. And of course if your brain turns to mush after 50 minutes there's no law says you can't end the lesson a couple minutes early! In a 30-minute session you really want to maximize the material you can cover the in the allotted time.


Edited by Brent H (12/19/12 01:47 PM)
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#2001886 - 12/19/12 08:33 PM Re: Selecting a teacher [Re: 88slowpoke]
Bobpickle Offline

Gold Supporter until July 10  2014


Registered: 05/24/12
Posts: 1383
Loc: Cameron Park, California
http://pianoteachersfederation.org/Choosing_the_Right_Teacher

personal experiences is fairly irrelevant to you as everyone's situation is different. If you don't think a teacher will work out based on the first few interactions, your intuition is probably right whereas if you click with a teacher right away and they're qualifications are there, dive in!

edit: I'd definitely recommend to you a teacher (especially in the first few years) and further recommend looking for a flexible teacher with a strong background in improvisation and non-classical, but that also has a grounding in classical - the list of such teachers is small, but definitely worth seeking out.


Edited by Bobpickle (12/19/12 08:36 PM)

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#2001936 - 12/19/12 11:59 PM Re: Selecting a teacher [Re: Bobpickle]
adultpianist Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/01/12
Posts: 540
I am so glad this thread has been started, as I was going to start on myself. I have had the same teacher for 3 years. We get on fine and because I have had no other teacher, and did not know any other teachers, I had nothing to compare. I have began to wonder if my teacher's teaching methods are right for me. She lets me take exams which I take and pass. However, even though I pass, I feel that I am not fully up to the level of the exam pass. How do I know this? Because I should be able to play a bunch of pieces easily at that level. Very early on in my learning, I wanted to learn Jazz piano as I like jazz. I asked my teacher who cannot teach or play jazz if that was a good idea and she agreed. I made some enquiries at the school I go to, and unfortunately the Jazz teacher was full up. The other thing is that I would have to pay for jazz lessons and I could not afford to pay for classical piano and jazz. I since changed my mind because even if the teacher could take me and I could afford it, how on earth would I find time to practice both styles of playing? But my teacher was encouraging me to do it. She knows how to play and knows a lot of theory, enough to teach the subject but just because you know these things, doesn't make you a good teacher.


Edited by adultpianist (12/20/12 12:12 AM)

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#2001957 - 12/20/12 01:31 AM Re: Selecting a teacher [Re: adultpianist]
Chad F Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 11/25/12
Posts: 15
Loc: Vancouver, BC
I would recommend finding a jazz teacher that will be willing to squeeze in a lesson once a month or even once every two. If you find that you are getting more out of the jazz lessons, start to take more of those and less classical. If you are playing what you enjoy, you will always make much faster progress.
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#2002010 - 12/20/12 06:23 AM Re: Selecting a teacher [Re: 88slowpoke]
adultpianist Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/01/12
Posts: 540
I LOVE classical more than jazz. I do like jazz but would never give up playing classical, however hard.

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#2002047 - 12/20/12 08:18 AM Re: Selecting a teacher [Re: 88slowpoke]
88slowpoke Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/17/12
Posts: 34
Thanks all for the input. I'll be deciding after the holidays whether to start lessons. I have some inquiries out, but have not yet followed them up. In the meantime, I am doing some playing around on my own and trying to get as much piano-related background as I can. Anyone have any experience with the Taubman/Golandsky methodology? I have found that hand posture is crucial.

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#2002058 - 12/20/12 09:04 AM Re: Selecting a teacher [Re: adultpianist]
Andy Platt Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/28/10
Posts: 2375
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: adultpianist
However, even though I pass, I feel that I am not fully up to the level of the exam pass. How do I know this? Because I should be able to play a bunch of pieces easily at that level.


Define easily wink

One rule of thumb that's often stated is that your reading (first sight but I would include anything you haven't worked on) should be about two grades below your level. Based on that I'm grade 4 or so (I'm being a little harsh here, it depends on the speed of the piece as much as anything else). But I have clearly worked on pieces at a grade 7 level and managed to perform them to a reasonable standard.

The "easy" pieces I worked on - still for a couple of months - are around grade 5.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that we tend to be harder on ourselves in judging our "grade" than teachers are. Having said that, I agree that an ideal teaching plan (slower than probably most teachers and students would like) is to work on many (20?) pieces at a given level.
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