9 Tips for Teaching Teenage Beginning Piano Students

I started learning the piano at age 12. Which is kind of late musically speaking. The fact is the earlier in life you start piano lessons the better. But not everyone has the opportunity to begin lessons as a preschooler. There is a lot written about adult beginners, but what about teens? These students are in the middle, not young children and not adults.Teenage beginning piano students come with their own unique set of challenges and strengths. Here are some tips on teaching beginning teenage piano students.

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Some Basic Tips

  1. Help teens set goals, Most teens are anxious to learn to play as quickly as possible. At the very first lesson we talk about goals. What type of music they want to learn and how much time they have to spend practicing. Playing the piano is a big undertaking I let them know this from the beginning.
  2. Once I find out what it is teens want to learn I  put them on the Fast Track. Ultimately I want my teenaged beginning piano students to learn to read music, read a lead sheet and play by ear. Then end game is to have teenaged beginning students gain facility at the piano as quickly as possible so that they can enjoy playing and learn music independently.

What is the Fast Track?

    1. Music Reading                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Of course I use Paloma Piano’s Method books. Teenage beginning piano students who practice will be able to get through Books 1a through 4b within 1 to 2 years. After that they should be proficient enough music readers to jump into intermediate classical music. I put my students into a book called “Music by the Masters”. This collection has a lot of great classical pieces from which to choose.
    2. Technique                                                                                                                                                                                                                         With younger students I wait awhile to teach scales and arpeggios. However I start right away with teenaged beginning piano students. They learn two octaves hands together (see the post Learning Scales and Arpeggios the Easy Way). It’s also important to focus on relaxation of the hand and proper posture. With some students I use a few of the first Hannon exercises.
    3. Music Theory                                                                                                                                                                                                                           I streamline it. All of the basic stuff (notes, rhythms, musical terms etc.) are covered in the method books. Other than that, I teach whole steps and half steps, major and minor key signatures, scale degrees, and how to form chords.
    4. Improvisation                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I have students make up music, play on the black keys, use the pedal and experiment with sounds. I feel that this helps them to get comfortable with the instrument. I am not a jazz teacher but I will teach my students a few Blues scales and left hand patterns so that they can have some fun. Sometimes I’ll make up a bass line and let them play over it.
    5. Playing by Ear                                                                                                                                                                                                                      This is and easy one just think of a song you know and plunk it out. After that add I, IV, V chords and go from there.
    6. Piano Covers                                                                                                                                                                                                                           A Piano Cover is popular song played on the piano by someone other than the original artist who recorded it. Youtube is full of these. It is also full of Piano Tutorials and teens love them. I have my students show me what they are trying to learn from Youtube and I help them. I have mixed feelings about Youtube tutorials but I know that my teenaged beginning piano students are probably trying them. If they are getting their other work done and the tutorial looks like something they can accomplish I help them break it down and learn it.
    7. Chords and Lead Sheets                                                                                                                                                                                                  Once my teenage beginning students can read music fairly well I teach them how to form chords and play from a lead sheet. This, along with playing by helps them to learn some of the popular music they enjoy playing. If a students enjoys singing, all the better! Playing chords and singing is easy to learn and will really help them enjoy the piano.

In Conclusion

I really love working with teenage beginning piano students. They are so much fun and they learn very fast. Even though these students are very busy most of them are so excited to learn to play the piano that they will work very hard. I know how they feel I love he piano too! And I will do anything to help them attain their dream of playing the piano.

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