16 Qualities of a Good Piano Teacher part 1

16 Qualities of a Good Piano Teacher

“Where love is deep, much can be accomplished.”  Shinichi Suzuki

I saw a post on Facebook today where a colleague was asking what makes someone a good piano teacher. This is a really, really good question so, I thought I’d spend a little time musing about the matter. I am a piano teacher, I’ve studied with lots of (about 10) piano teachers, I know lots of piano teachers, and I raised 5 boys, four of whom became accomplished musicians, I guess you could say I have seen the issue from many sides.

Before I begin I must admit that there are few items on the list that I could stand to improve and I’ve been teaching since 1984! So if you feel like you fall short in some areas. Join the club! None of us are perfect. After all, you have to leave some room for improvement..right? lol.

This list is the ideal. Something to think about and work toward. You are taking the time to read this post. Which means you care. In my book that makes you a good teacher already!

Here are some traits I think make for a good piano teacher:

  1.  Strong musical skills. I want a teacher that knows how to play. This is a little tough to unpack because not every good teacher is a great concert artist, and not every great concert artist can teach but I believe that a solid knowledge of musicianship, technique, theory, and repertoire is essential.
  2.  Some performance experience. This may be a bit controversial but the fact is that music is a shared art. Sharing music means playing it for other people. Being able to get up in front of an audience of any size not only takes courage but it involves careful preparation and a level of focus that must be developed and taught. I believe a good teacher is able to play for others and can teach students how to perform.
  3.  Dedication to continual personal advancement in both music and pedagogical skills. A good teacher is a lifelong learner. Someone who seeks to maintain and build upon the skills that they have and add new skills related to music, piano playing, and teaching.
  4.  A love of music. Learning to play a musical instrument is not the easiest thing in the world. Music, (unless you are a Rockstar) is usually not the most lucrative career either. We begin our training as children and must continue to practice daily throughout our lives. Therefore, I think it’s important that we love what we are doing.
  5.  An understanding of how people learn. No two students learn the same way. This makes teaching both interesting and challenging. A good teacher can connect with each student in order to help each one the grasp concepts necessary to achieve success.
  6.  Presents information and skills in a logical and beneficial sequence. Learning to become an accomplished pianist takes years. A good teacher knows what to teach and when to teach it. This is especially important once a student is beyond the method books. To be able to select material that will help a student advance while building a firm musical foundation requires a comprehensive knowledge of the repertoire and piano pedagogical materials.
  7. Can motivate students to learn, practice, and play correctly. Day in and day out, year after year. A good teacher can keep students going even when they really want to quit. A good teacher knows how to inspire students to pursue excellence even though excellence is hard work.
  8. Sets clear attainable goals. Both short-term weekly goals and longer-term goals. This means providing specific practice instructions weekly. Longer-term goals could include recital, exam, competition preparation, or a list of music to be learned and other skills to be completed within a determined period of time.

Well there you have it, 8 qualities of a good piano teacher.

Wait a minute!

Didn’t I say there were 16 qualities?

Yes, but I’ll post the rest next week so stay tuned

If you like this post, consider reading the book “The Happiest Piano Teacher in Town, Empowering Teachers to Inspire Students”

Starting a Home Piano Studio

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Many people aspire to have a home business, After all, what’s not to like? No overhead, no commute, no boss. I have taught piano lessons at music stores, in public school, at my home, and I have traveled to students homes. I really like teaching piano lessons in my home. Starting a home piano studio is not without its challenges but I believe the pros outweigh the cons.

Qualifications

First and foremost, if you are considering starting a home piano studio you need to be able to play the instrument yourself. Decent playing skills and a good knowledge of piano technique, music theory etc, are a must if you want to have a successful home piano studio. I firmly believe that as teachers we should always be learning and growing both as pianists and teachers.
After determining that you wish to teach piano lessons it is important to be sure you are permitted to teach lessons in your home. Where I currently live in South Florida, many homes are in neighborhoods where businesses are not permitted to operate. Be sure to check with your town’s governing board before you get started setting up your home piano studio. You would hate to have 30 or 40 students and then be told that you have to move them to another location.

Location

The next thing to consider is space. Where will the lessons be taking place within your home? To conduct effective lessons you will need a space that is virtually free from noise and distractions. If you live with other people choose a room away from household activity. A spare bedroom, garage room or finished basement are all good choices. A living room can be a good choice as long as it is relatively free from interruptions. You need to have a place for parents and incoming students to sit and wait. (I have personally never had a waiting room and this has always worked out fine). Your home piano studio should be a professional looking space that is inviting and decorated to reflect your life and your personality. Be sure to have places for your student’s parents to park and be sure studio parking does not infringe upon your neighbors.

A Word About Neighbors

Even if you have permission from your community to teach at home, you must have the support of your neighbors. Be friendly and explain what you are doing, Assure them that if there are any problems you will solve them immediately. Invite them to your recitals, remember them at holiday time. Remind your piano families to always be considerate of your neighbors. Disgruntled neighbors can cause big problems for your home piano studio so be proactive, talk to your neighbors, and get off to a great start.

Equipment

Once you have your teaching space you will need a piano. I like for my students to learn on an acoustic piano whenever possible. Having a good instrument in your studio lends credibility to your business, Do not skimp in this area! get the best piano you can afford. Be sure your piano is tuned and keys and pedals are working properly. Have proper benches, use foot benches for very small children.

Piano Method

Now that you have your place squared away you will need to choose a piano method with which to work. A set of books that you can use to teach people the skills and knowledge necessary to become pianists. There are many fine methods out there but as you are on the Paloma Piano LLC website might I recommend the Paloma Piano Method. This method is skill based and comprehensive, and it’s the only method that allows you as a teacher to become a member and then print the materials your students.

Studio Policies and Other Considerations

When starting a home piano studio. You will also need a Studio Policy that can be signed by both yourself and your student’s parents or whoever is responsible for the lesson attendance and payment (We have some examples here in the Parent Information Book). I always make sure my homeowner’s insurance is up to date and includes “Home Office Exposure”. There are also some tax issues that come with running your own business so check with an accountant for information.
So now all you need are the students. But that’s indeed is another entire blog post. Don’t worry though you are more than halfway there. To quote the movie Field of Dreams “Build It And They Will Come”. Take special care in starting a home piano studio and before you know it the students will be coming in droves.

I hope one day to have a large studio with beautiful studio rooms, and a big room with a grand piano in which to conduct recitals and workshops. But I’m not there yet. I know that some of you are, I would love to hear about all of your teaching situations. Please leave a comment below or better yet send a pic of your studio home or otherwise.

If you are interested in starting your own piano studio check out the resources at palomapiano.com

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