10 Biggest Mistakes Made When Choosing a Piano Teacher

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10. Failing to consider the full time commitment

Learning to play a musical instrument doesn’t merely take up the half-hour length of the lesson. There’s obviously practice time involved, as well. In addition, perhaps less obviously, there’s the time preparing for lessons, traveling to and from the lessons, preparing for recitals, and perhaps preparing for competitions or tests.

Does that mean that learning an instrument is extremely time intensive and you shouldn’t follow your dreams of being able to express yourself beautifully through music? Of course not! Music is for everyone, and should be able to be enjoyed by everyone. When choosing a music teacher, it’s very important to take into consideration the different time commitments that different instructors will require. Some things that can help to reduce overall time cost are: in-home lessons; shorter lessons; an understanding with the teacher as to how much time you have available for practicing during the week; an understanding about how important recitals, competitions and testing are to you; a teacher who comes to each lesson properly prepared and with a realistic lesson plan.

9. Failing to consider the full cost

Most teachers advertise a tuition price: either per lesson or per month of lessons. What you should realize is that the full cost of learning the instrument is not generally fully expressed in the tuition price alone. Most teachers charge a registration fee, and many charge for books and materials as additional expenses. On top of that, common fees include: recital fees, testing fees, travel fees for in-home lessons, lost materials fees, fees for missed lessons, fees if you stop taking lessons.

Don’t despair though! There are many teachers out there who have simple tuition rates and roll all the other possible expenses into a lower, annual fee. The main point is to take the time to ask about what various expenses you may face throughout the year, so you know what you are getting yourself into before you sign up.

8. Not enough careful evaluation of the student/teacher match

To often, parents sign there child up with the first teacher they find, before they even meet the teacher. Reputable instructors will always offer a trial lesson or interview with the student before requiring them to make any commitment. Many teachers will even offer a FREE trial lesson– you just have to look around. Make sure you take the time to make sure you (and your child, if applicable) really get along with the teacher. Just because the teacher is a professional doesn’t necessarily mean they are the best match.

7. Only looking at credentials

Just because a teacher graduated from a prestigious university, or has a master’s in elementary music education doesn’t guarantee that they are good at what they do, or, as above, they are a good match for every student. There’s a lot more to a teacher than where they when to school. You should also consider how there current students enjoy them (check out their ratings online), what their past students have achieved (ask for references from past students), their teaching philosophy, organization, curriculum, passion for teaching, and passion for music.

6. Choosing a teacher with different goals

Different goals from yours, that is. If your goals are to learn how to play along with the church choir, you don’t want a teacher who is trying to turn you into a classical solo performer. One of the most common disconnects happens when selecting a piano teacher for your child. Maybe your child loves music and wants to learn how to play some of his favorite tunes– don’t pick a teacher focused on intensive music theory exams; or, the other way around: maybe your child is a dedicated student who wants to develop excellent skill and become a solo performer– don’t pick a teacher who doesn’t expect her students to consistently practice and excel.

5. Choosing a teacher who only teaches to one learning style

When you are evaluating whether or not a teacher is a good fit, consider the learning style they teach to (visual, auditory, kinesthetic), and the learning style of your child. If your child is visual, they’ll do best with an approach that starts out of the book, with written instructions, diagrams, and a focus on reading music right away. On the other hand, auditory learners generally do better starting out with “repeat after me” on the piano (learning by rote) and more verbal explanation. Kinesthetic (hands-on) learners will need to be shown and given a chance to then try out the concepts as they are presented.

4. Choosing a teacher who only teaches their favorite style of music

Passion is great– but make sure it aligns with your own. Some teachers are very focused on just one style (such as classical, blues, children’s music, or contemporary). If their preference is the same as yours that may be fine (although some rounding would be beneficial), but if it differs, you may not get as much out of lessons as you could otherwise.

3. Choosing a teacher with too many students

It can be tempting to choose the most popular teacher on the block– after all, they must be doing it right if they are so liked! Choosing a teacher with high-demand is actually a good strategy (recommendations or reviews are generally the best way to find a good teacher, after all). However, you don’t want to choose a teacher who’s taking on more students then they can comfortably handle. Teachers with too many students can’t devote the full attention that each student deserves, don’t have time for responsible amounts of lesson planning during the week, and can be stressed out or short tempered. Look for a teacher who has a thriving studio but knows where to set personal boundaries on her time.

2. Choosing a teacher who doesn’t make their students their priority

What are the teacher’s passions and priorities? When you are interviewing potential piano teachers, two of the most important qualities you can asses are the teacher’s level of passion for the music and their level of commitment to their students. Students (even you!) are very impressionable, and enthusiasm is contagious. If your teacher loves music, considers practicing a priority, and expects her students to succeed, then– they will!

1. Choosing a teacher you (or your child) doesn’t like!

Music should be enjoyable! Piano lessons should be too. Too many adults tell stories of nightmare piano teachers who took all the joy out of learning. Expecting students to take their practicing seriously and complete their weekly assignments is one thing– being mean, sour, or boring is quite another! A piano teacher is an example to each of her students. If the student likes the teacher as a person, then they will follow the teacher’s example. If you choose a teacher who is likable (nice!) and is a passionate and skilled musician, you really can’t go wrong!

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