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#2251394 - 03/24/14 01:43 PM What should I look for in a piano teacher?
KBoogle Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 11/22/10
Posts: 12
So after some time now learning on my own from beginners books, I think I should look for a piano teacher.

But I am not sure what should I look for in one, and what should I expect lessons to be like?

And most important of all - can I somehow mess up my learning by taking lessons from a "bad" piano teacher, or should I just put my mind at ease about that?

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#2251449 - 03/24/14 03:35 PM Re: What should I look for in a piano teacher? [Re: KBoogle]
dmd Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/15/09
Posts: 1891
Loc: Pennsylvania
They come in all sizes, shapes, and colors. You just have to pick one and see how it goes. If you like what you "feel" after 3 or 4 lessons, then you may have found a keeper. If you are unsure, stay with it a while longer. Try not to change teachers too often. However, if you definitely are not happy with things then you have to find a different teacher. After going through 2 or 3 teachers you will begin to have a better idea of what qualities to look for in a teacher.

Good Luck
_________________________
Don

Current: ES7, Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 audio device, SennHeiser HD555 Phones, Focal CMS 40 Powered Monitors, Ravenscroft275, Ivory II American Concert D, Pianoteq 5

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#2251477 - 03/24/14 04:50 PM Re: What should I look for in a piano teacher? [Re: KBoogle]
wimpiano Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/16/13
Posts: 1387
Loc: The Netherlands
I agree, just pick one.
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Schimmel 116 S ..

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#2251489 - 03/24/14 04:59 PM Re: What should I look for in a piano teacher? [Re: KBoogle]
earlofmar Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/21/13
Posts: 1635
Loc: Australia
First thing is you got to like your teacher and can get along with each other. Second thing is don't even begin looking for a teacher without knowing what your musical goals and plans are, at least for the next couple of years. It's the first thing they will ask. Third thing is be mindful that once you have a teacher the benefits come only if you do the work.
_________________________
I thought I understood endurance sport; then I took up piano
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#2251501 - 03/24/14 05:17 PM Re: What should I look for in a piano teacher? [Re: KBoogle]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11724
Loc: Canada
I'm afraid that I don't completely agree with the first two responses. I do agree with earlofmar. (We cross posted - had to edit)

First have an idea of what the purpose of your taking lessons should be. I suggest that you'll want to get the skills of piano playing. It's good to actually define that, or listen for what a prospective teacher says their priorities are. If the person says that they will have you playing your favorite pieces in two months, or other unrealistic promises, that's a no go. And then feel your way in like dmd says - Are you being guided? Do you know what you need to do when you go home to practice? Things like that.


Edited by keystring (03/24/14 05:37 PM)

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#2251514 - 03/24/14 05:37 PM Re: What should I look for in a piano teacher? [Re: KBoogle]
gooddog Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/08/08
Posts: 4804
Loc: Seattle area, WA
I think one of the most important things to look for is a teacher who enjoys teaching adults. This means the teacher understands that adults have other major commitments. The teacher will talk to you like an adult and will adjust their expectations to take into account the adult learner.

Many, many teachers love teaching adults because they find we know how to work hard and are passionate about the music.

(I briefly had a teacher who just didn't understand adults. I really wasn't interested in participating in her "who can play the fastest trills?" contest but she insisted. She insisted I keep a practice diary, which I thought was ridiculous since I love to practice and do it as much as time allows. She would get very upset with me if I gently disagreed with her. I think she expected the complete devotion and compliance she might get from a child. She gave her young students first choice in choosing repertoire and was not eager to have me participate in the master classes that her young students were avidly recruited for. Her primary area of interest was in promoting her reputation by having "her kids" win contests. I was always an afterthought. You definitely want to avoid someone like her!)
_________________________
Best regards,

Deborah

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#2251524 - 03/24/14 05:56 PM Re: What should I look for in a piano teacher? [Re: KBoogle]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11724
Loc: Canada
Gooddog,if I had school aged children, I would not want that teacher for my children either. Those attitudes don't show a wish to develop students. Generally whatever is needed to develop adults is also needed for children, and the other way around. That said, there are also differences as you say.

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#2251545 - 03/24/14 06:45 PM Re: What should I look for in a piano teacher? [Re: KBoogle]
rnaple Offline

Silver Supporter until April 24 2014


Registered: 12/23/10
Posts: 2107
Loc: Rocky Mountains
Gotta be female....
Gotta be big and hairy...
Gotta speak like a wounded water buffalo in heat...
Gotta carry a big stick...
Know something about piano?
rotflmao!

Seriously...
Much of this is simply agreeing with others.
Someone who teaches adults.
What your goal is. That's so important. They will teach differently depending on your goal.
Don't depend on the teacher. You're learning. It ain't a paint by numbers game. It's a: I'll take the initiative to learn. The teacher is there to guide, give understanding, and show the right way to do things. Cuts your learning time tremendously.
_________________________
Ron
Your brain is a sponge. Keep it wet. Mary Gae George
The focus of your personal practice is discipline. Not numbers. Scott Sonnon

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#2251553 - 03/24/14 07:08 PM Re: What should I look for in a piano teacher? [Re: KBoogle]
Michael Martinez Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/22/12
Posts: 421
Loc: California
A good piano teacher will:


  • teach you to play by ear as well as to read music
  • teach you chords and theory of harmony
  • show you rhythm and techniques and exercises for improving rhythm
  • encourage you to improvise, provide you a proper foundation of tools to do this
_________________________
Music Educator, Computer Engineer, avid reader of literature, enjoyer of the outdoors
http://www.michael--martinez.com/music/

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#2251597 - 03/24/14 08:13 PM Re: What should I look for in a piano teacher? [Re: KBoogle]
4evrBeginR Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/27/09
Posts: 1607
Loc: California
Since you are your own teacher currently, and you don't really know how to play the piano like a pro, then by definition, you are a bad teacher, but the price can't be beat! There are certainly mediocre teachers around. You should look at the MTNA website or other similar organizations and find 5 to 6 teachers to call on or exchange email with. Interview the teachers the way you would hire someone but be super courteous. Ask about what they teach, their expectations, where and what they studied in school and what specific area of piano studies they focused on - performance, accompaniment, composition, musical therapy.... Maybe a teacher who focused on composition, a composer is exactly what you would like to have as a teacher because you ultimately want to create rather than play.

Knowing what you want out of lesson help steer you toward the right teacher. Know your own goals and know that good teachers want good students. You also have to do a bit of selling on your part and live up to your own commitments.

In the beginning, you should expect lessons to be a relationship building experience. You cannot get all your money's worth in a few lessons. The relationship must be built over years to establish where your teacher understands you and you trust your teacher. This takes time. If you learn only one thing from a lesson, it would be well worthwhile. Over time, this increases as you work together as a team. For the first 6 months, you need to constantly evaluation and consider if you're with the right teacher. Pull the plug early. it's just easier. Once you do build up a relationship and comfort level, you may become too reluctant to leave the wrong teacher (not necessarily bad teacher, just wrong for you).

I don't think adults can really be messed up by a bad teacher. That's generally more of an issue with children. Adults have sufficient life experience to not be affected.
_________________________
Art is never finished, only abandoned. - da Vinci

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#2251627 - 03/24/14 09:53 PM Re: What should I look for in a piano teacher? [Re: gooddog]
tickler Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/14/07
Posts: 376
Loc: Chicagoland
Originally Posted By: gooddog
I think one of the most important things to look for is a teacher who enjoys teaching adults. This means the teacher understands that adults have other major commitments. The teacher will talk to you like an adult and will adjust their expectations to take into account the adult learner.


+1

Easier said than done, but a teacher that loves teaching adults makes a HUGE difference!
_________________________
Music should strike fire from the heart of man, and bring tears from the eyes of woman. -- Beethoven
1911 Steinway A-II (2007 Rebuild)

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#2251653 - 03/24/14 10:34 PM Re: What should I look for in a piano teacher? [Re: 4evrBeginR]
gooddog Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/08/08
Posts: 4804
Loc: Seattle area, WA
Originally Posted By: tickler
Originally Posted By: gooddog
I think one of the most important things to look for is a teacher who enjoys teaching adults. This means the teacher understands that adults have other major commitments. The teacher will talk to you like an adult and will adjust their expectations to take into account the adult learner.


+1

Easier said than done, but a teacher that loves teaching adults makes a HUGE difference!

My teacher says he especially loves teaching adults because we are highly motivated. Adults choose to learn piano out of love for the music and instrument. Adults also have patience and well established learning skills.

Originally Posted By: 4evrBeginR
You should look at the MTNA website or other similar organizations and find 5 to 6 teachers to call on or exchange email with.

Unfortunately, the teacher I mentioned above was an MTNA member, a very active one too. I guess anyone can join.

Quote:
I don't think adults can really be messed up by a bad teacher. That's generally more of an issue with children. Adults have sufficient life experience to not be affected.
Well, that bad teacher did affect me in a negative way but I suppose it was my own fault. I kept thinking that I should look for the positive in what she had to offer. I really tried hard to like her too. After 10 months of misery, I realized I was not enjoying the piano for the first time in my life. It was a tremendous relief to leave her! Too bad I waited 10 months...and then I found the most marvelous, stupendous, inspiring, sensational, gifted, kind, generous, musical teacher, so my story ended happily. (And yes, he is taking new students.)
_________________________
Best regards,

Deborah

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#2251678 - 03/24/14 11:43 PM Re: What should I look for in a piano teacher? [Re: KBoogle]
Dave B Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/01/11
Posts: 1973
Loc: Philadelphia area
"When the student is ready, the teacher will appear."

Is there any truth to this statement?

Just playing is most important, with or without a teacher?

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#2251680 - 03/24/14 11:52 PM Re: What should I look for in a piano teacher? [Re: Dave B]
Whizbang Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/27/12
Posts: 788
Originally Posted By: Dave B
"When the student is ready, the teacher will appear."

Is there any truth to this statement?


Possibly, but, if so, it took me 30 years to become ready. I couldn't be happier with my teacher.

Originally Posted By: Dave B
Just playing is most important, with or without a teacher?


Just playing did me few favors over 20 or so years, but I guess it was better than not playing.
_________________________
Whizbang
amateur ragtime pianist

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#2251758 - 03/25/14 04:25 AM Re: What should I look for in a piano teacher? [Re: earlofmar]
Marco M Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/28/12
Posts: 453
Loc: Europe
Originally Posted By: earlofmar
First thing is you got to like your teacher and can get along with each other. Second thing is don't even begin looking for a teacher without knowing what your musical goals and plans are, at least for the next couple of years. It's the first thing they will ask. Third thing is be mindful that once you have a teacher the benefits come only if you do the work.
Almost everything said here. Just want to point out some more details concerning the first thing mentioned by EARLOFMAR:

Choosing your teacher means choosing somebody whom you accept to critizise you, and furthermore, whom you frequently invite to critizise you! So, check if your teacher´s personality fits the one of a reasonably pushing, fair expressing, honest authority.

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#2251783 - 03/25/14 07:43 AM Re: What should I look for in a piano teacher? [Re: Dave B]
Rerun Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/28/07
Posts: 611
Loc: Louisiana
Originally Posted By: Dave B
"When the student is ready, the teacher will appear."

Is there any truth to this statement?

Just playing is most important, with or without a teacher?



I would say not only playing tunes but listening closely to what you are playing are most important. Listening closely to what others are playing is important too imo ... knowing what someone's RH and LH are doing with respect to rhythm, harmony and melody just by listening can't hurt your understanding of music.
_________________________
Rerun

"Seat of the pants piano player" DMD







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#2251795 - 03/25/14 08:19 AM Re: What should I look for in a piano teacher? [Re: Marco M]
malkin Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/18/09
Posts: 2610
Loc: *sigh* Salt Lake City
Originally Posted By: Marco M

Choosing your teacher means choosing somebody whom you accept to critizise you, and furthermore, whom you frequently invite to critizise you! So, check if your teacher´s personality fits the one of a reasonably pushing, fair expressing, honest authority.


A teacher provides feedback about the student's playing. He or she should not criticize the student. If as a student you feel that the teacher is criticizing you, then there may be a problem with the teacher or with you or both.
_________________________
A good student is one who makes the teacher feel like a good teacher.

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#2251807 - 03/25/14 08:43 AM Re: What should I look for in a piano teacher? [Re: KBoogle]
Marco M Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/28/12
Posts: 453
Loc: Europe
Of course.
To critice someone does not mean to bash someone. A teacher should by defenition have pedagogic qualities, and criticism then automatically means constructive criticism, a guide to improvement.

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#2251842 - 03/25/14 10:49 AM Re: What should I look for in a piano teacher? [Re: KBoogle]
Peter K. Mose Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/06/12
Posts: 1365
Loc: Toronto, Ontario
As someone on the other side - a piano teacher who specializes in the adult learner - I love all these comments, and can't offer wisdom I haven't read already above. It *is* a relationship you seek, and it takes a few months to settle into a comfort zone and a rhythm of education. But yes, you can get stuck in loyalty to a mediocre or even destructive teacher, and you might be missing out on other viewpoints, or simply better teaching.

My advice is to take a one-off paid lesson with three or four teachers, preferably teachers who tell you upfront in a phone interview about their experiences teaching adult learners. If they have no such experience, that doesn't make them bad. But if they express one inch of regret you didn't start this as a child, look elsewhere. If they brag about their triumphs with exam and competition results among their students, look elsewhere. If they have no sense of humor, or sound like your grade 4 Sunday School teacher, look elsewhere.

After a promising phone interview and one lesson, you'll have some feel for a teacher. Give the best person a try for 6-12 months. You'll have a blast, and it will change your life. If it proves not a great fit, move on - you will still have grown at the piano.

You might also consider attending an adult piano retreat sometime for a week, whether you have found a primary teacher or not. They have been discussed often on this board, including the one I lead in New England.

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#2251848 - 03/25/14 11:10 AM Re: What should I look for in a piano teacher? [Re: 4evrBeginR]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11724
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: 4evrBeginR

I don't think adults can really be messed up by a bad teacher. That's generally more of an issue with children. Adults have sufficient life experience to not be affected.

Not so at all. Ok, experience first of all: it would have to be experience in having music lessons.

An adult taking lessons is doing so because it matters to him. That is a particular vulnerability. If he is told to do something he'll take it dead serious. Supposing for example you get the "hold a ball" and "fingers like little hammers" kind of teacher. The physical harm will probably be greater than for a child because the the adult is likely to work harder at doing the taught wrong thing, and because children are more flexible.

I've been told to watch old pianists like Rubinstein, because if a musician is still playing when he is old, then he has effective technique under the surface. A young player can move badly and get away with it. So if an adult student starts at 60 or 70 he is in greater need for good technique, and he will be more harmed by bad teaching than a young student.

If music was a lifelong dream, and if that student is struggling because of poor teaching, it can be heart breaking, and if he has no prior experience in lessons he is more likely to think that there is something wrong with him that will always make him fail. If the child is being forced to take lessons, that kind of investment isn't there.

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#2251850 - 03/25/14 11:18 AM Re: What should I look for in a piano teacher? [Re: KBoogle]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11724
Loc: Canada
One practical thought about lessons, assuming you've managed to land a good teacher:

Pay attention to the thing that the teacher seems to stress in a lesson, and work at that thing in particular when you practise at home. This is not as obvious as it sounds, so some examples.

Supposing you are working on piece X, and your teacher talks about even notes or feathering with your wrist. You work on the piece at home; you find ways to make it expressive; you discover some cool thing about the harmonies ---- but at no time did you work specifically on the even notes, or feathering with the wrist. You will be preventing your teacher from building your abilities. Yet this is so easy to fall into!

Some years ago I had a study buddy with whom I exchanged e-mails. At one point it dawned on one of us that the teacher wants to see the simple thing that she stressed. The reaction was "Is that all? Goodness, I can do that!" You may be intent on producing musical beautiful playing, agonize over what comes out in the lesson - yet the teacher wants above all to see signs that you worked on that simple basic thing she stressed in the lesson.

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#2251872 - 03/25/14 12:49 PM Re: What should I look for in a piano teacher? [Re: keystring]
EM Deeka Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/08/13
Posts: 152
Quote:
My advice is to take a one-off paid lesson with three or four teachers, preferably teachers who tell you upfront in a phone interview about their experiences teaching adult learners. If they have no such experience, that doesn't make them bad. But if they express one inch of regret you didn't start this as a child, look elsewhere. If they brag about their triumphs with exam and competition results among their students, look elsewhere. If they have no sense of humor, or sound like your grade 4 Sunday School teacher, look elsewhere.


Thanks for this excellent advice. As an adult beginner what I have realized is that you do not know the right questions to ask at the very beginning of your piano journey. So gathering as much knowledge about methods, styles etc. own your own and even noodling/self-teaching provides the opportunity to self-evaluate the requirements one might have in a teacher.

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#2251881 - 03/25/14 01:05 PM Re: What should I look for in a piano teacher? [Re: KBoogle]
ShannonG Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/05/14
Posts: 135
Loc: Canada
I don't have a teacher ( my daughter's teacher will take me in Sept) but from observing him with four kids in succession of varying ages I would say a great teacher is intuitive and spontaneous. They are not teaching the same lesson to every student. Our teacher is a classically trained musical prodigy with double degrees in music and education, but he understands that 99.9% of his students won't be great musicians and are in lessons for some enrichment and skill building. He lets them choose their music and doesn't have them endlessly drilling. I think he could flip the switch and go fully technical if that's what the student was looking for.
In short, if you enjoy conversation with a prospective teacher, they might be a good fit. It's important you feel like you're being heard.
_________________________
How did I end up with 3 pianos? Starting to think I may need a 12 step program...

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#2251946 - 03/25/14 03:27 PM Re: What should I look for in a piano teacher? [Re: keystring]
4evrBeginR Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/27/09
Posts: 1607
Loc: California
Originally Posted By: keystring
An adult taking lessons is doing so because it matters to him. That is a particular vulnerability. If he is told to do something he'll take it dead serious. Supposing for example you get the "hold a ball" and "fingers like little hammers" kind of teacher. The physical harm will probably be greater than for a child because the the adult is likely to work harder at doing the taught wrong thing, and because children are more flexible.

If music was a lifelong dream, and if that student is struggling because of poor teaching, it can be heart breaking....


I forgot about technique was thinking interpretation, so great points. smile
_________________________
Art is never finished, only abandoned. - da Vinci

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#2251954 - 03/25/14 03:38 PM Re: What should I look for in a piano teacher? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
4evrBeginR Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/27/09
Posts: 1607
Loc: California
Originally Posted By: Peter K. Mose
My advice is to take a one-off paid lesson with three or four teachers, preferably teachers who tell you upfront in a phone interview about their experiences teaching adult learners. If they have no such experience, that doesn't make them bad. But if they express one inch of regret you didn't start this as a child, look elsewhere. If they brag about their triumphs with exam and competition results among their students, look elsewhere. If they have no sense of humor, or sound like your grade 4 Sunday School teacher, look elsewhere.


+1 thumb
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Art is never finished, only abandoned. - da Vinci

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#2251956 - 03/25/14 03:46 PM Re: What should I look for in a piano teacher? [Re: 4evrBeginR]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11724
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: 4evrBeginR
I forgot about technique was thinking interpretation, so great points. smile

For interpretation you are probably right. smile I had lessons as an adult on an instrument that was heavy on technique and a pile of not-so-good things came together. I'm now relearning starting with the most basic things after dropping it for several years. That's why this is the first thing that springs to mind.

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#2252163 - 03/26/14 12:28 AM Re: What should I look for in a piano teacher? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
Peter K. Mose Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/06/12
Posts: 1365
Loc: Toronto, Ontario
[quote=Peter K. Mose]If they have no sense of humor, or sound like your grade 4 Sunday School teacher, look elsewhere.
quote]

I'd like to amend or even withdraw this assertion, because it's just reflecting my bias. Someone could be a fine piano teacher without humor.

They don't have to become your buddy, either.

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#2252175 - 03/26/14 01:09 AM Re: What should I look for in a piano teacher? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
Whizbang Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/27/12
Posts: 788
Originally Posted By: Peter K. Mose
I'd like to amend or even withdraw this assertion, because it's just reflecting my bias. Someone could be a fine piano teacher without humor.

They don't have to become your buddy, either.


While I think you phrased it wrong, I think you might take back your take back.

It's a style point.

There's constructive criticism, criticism, and destructive criticism. It takes a long time to tell the difference. Part of telling the difference is developing a thick skin. As Joyce diDonato says, paraphrased, "Criticism is -CONSTANT-. It's part of being a musician."

You guys who watched the Joplin recital saw my teach play. What you haven't seen is my 2 1/2 years with him. He has let me get away with zilch. (Ok, correction. I'm sure he's let me get away with lots, but he lets me get away with the stuff that's out of reach and doesn't let me get away with the stuff that's in reach.)

If you're with a teacher who is telling you that you are a bad pianist, that you're doing something -wrong-, that's a bad dynamic. While it's par for the course to feel that you're being asked to do something difficult, there's an ineffable line there where the criticism is about 'what you're doing' and instead becomes about 'who you are'.

If you find yourself in a teaching relationship where it's about the latter and not the former, then you are in the wrong place. The trick there is that 'what you're doing' can be entwined with 'who you are' on the student side, so you need to be very, very careful not to confuse the two!

I -just- had a lesson with my teach on a new piece where 1) he did give me significant constructive criticism (musicality and fingering) but 2) I got through the piece and, for the most part, he said that he didn't have much commentary.

IMO, from a teacher, you're looking for productive honesty and good guidance. As a student, you MUST listen, as much as it can hurt. You don't have to become a buddy with your teacher, but it's a bonus.

The 'schoolmarm' trope is accurate. You want a teacher who inspires you to reach achievable standards, not a teacher that has inflexible, prescriptive standards that don't take into account that learning is a process that's fast for the gifted and more measured for the majority of us.
_________________________
Whizbang
amateur ragtime pianist

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#2252272 - 03/26/14 08:50 AM Re: What should I look for in a piano teacher? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
malkin Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/18/09
Posts: 2610
Loc: *sigh* Salt Lake City
Originally Posted By: Peter K. Mose
...Someone could be a fine piano teacher without humor.


This is surely possible, but I can't imagine that such a teacher would be remotely appropriate for me.
_________________________
A good student is one who makes the teacher feel like a good teacher.

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#2252345 - 03/26/14 11:23 AM Re: What should I look for in a piano teacher? [Re: KBoogle]
samasap Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/10/10
Posts: 607
Loc: UK
You need to look for a teacher who is very patient and willing to help you learn the songs you most want to learn but also put in good training exercises such as scales and finger exercises.

You will know if you have the right teacher for you from your very first lesson and whether you have a musical connection or now.
Have fun!

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10/21/14 11:51 PM
DGX-650 TOPIC
by Jtreimer
10/21/14 11:24 PM
Janko keyboard video
by Michael Sayers
10/21/14 08:28 PM
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