6 reasons why selecting a good piano teacher is vital

The piano is a complex instrument to learn because there are so many aspects to think about from the beginning. A good teacher will make or break your experience but unfortunately prospective students don’t often take the time to select a suitable tutor; many seem to sign up for lessons with the first one they stumble upon. This doesn’t bode well for successful study.

So why is it crucial to select a teacher who is well qualified and experienced? There are many who believe these facets to be totally unnecessary when teaching a musical instrument; there are also those who think music qualifications are worthless (I’ve heard this comment many times incidentally!). So here are a few reasons why it’s crucial to find someone who knows what they are doing:

1.   Basic technical aspects of piano playing are set in stone from the first few lessons; these include posture at the piano, hand and finger positions, and general movement around the keyboard. If these facets are not addressed from the outset then piano playing will eventually become uncomfortable and difficult.

2. Note reading needs to be guided correctly from the beginning, too, especially with regard to the left hand. Many students aren’t taught to read the Bass and Treble Clefs (right and left hand lines of music) concurrently. If both lines of music are not learnt together and one subsequently gets left behind, then this becomes a problem later on and many never learn to read the bass clef correctly as a result.

3. Basic rhythmic grasp has to be understood from the outset. The rhythmic pulse can be a taxing element for some students to comprehend. Whether a student is guided to count whilst learning to keep time or use a metronome (or both!), this is fundamental when encouraging good playing and is much easier when coached and encouraged correctly from the first few lessons.

4. The quicker a pupil learns how to play both hands at the same time the better, and a good teacher will have many different methods or ways of encouraging students to grasp this multitasking and often quite demanding element in piano playing. It needs to be done carefully and slowly from the beginning.

5. Tension can be a real problem when learning to play the piano and the higher the grade or level a student achieves, the more likely they are to have some tension problems. The wrong kind of tension kills piano playing completely making it impossible to play fast or with a proper sound, so a good teacher will address these issues early on. Hopefully they will encourage excellent hand movements and proper use of the arm to enable excellent tone production and finger movement. If this element isn’t addressed then the pupil could potentially experience pain or repetitive strain injury too.

6. Most importantly, a good teacher will not only spark a real interest and love of music, but they will also be able to incite interpretative qualities, too. Interpretation, or the manner in which a work is played, is a vital aspect of piano playing and pupils need to master how to play expressively.

Here are a few fundamental reasons why you do need a good piano teacher. Patience and kindness are not enough (although they are important as well). Your teacher needs to really know the best ways to get you or your child to make good progress. Take time and select a well qualified, experienced tutor. If you don’t know what to look out for, I have dedicated two chapters to this topic in my book So You Want To Play The Piano? which has been revised and republished in a second edition by Alfred Music.


Melanie Spanswick has written and published a wide range of courses, anthologies, examination syllabuses, and text books, including Play it again: PIANO (published by Schott Music). This best-selling graded, progressive piano course contains a large selection of repertoire featuring a huge array of styles and genres, with copious practice tips and suggestions for every piece.

For more information, please visit the publications page, here.

12 Comments Add yours

  1. Dear Mel,

    You have raised some great points and beyond the basic technical guidance and instructions, I think point 6 is really important to develop a lasting appreciation for music. Roger Kamien’s book has been revised so many times and I just bought the latest ever since I was introduced to the first edition by my Australian teacher in the early 80s. To this day, I am grateful to him for encouraging such an interesting and conducive learning environment. It is a beautiful book because it draws parallels between music and art across the different periods, discusses different genre of music, instruments, composers and the role and influence of the orchestra.

  2. Hi, Thank you so much for your kind comments. I haven’t heard of Roger Kamien’s book but will make a point of looking out for it now.

  3. Hi Mel

    Great tips and fully agree with them all. Don’t know if you have come across the ‘Dogs and Birds’ method for children between ages of 3-7 which addresses all the points you make (together with an emphasis on developing the inner ear through singing and pitch recognition). I write about this on my blog and also include a link to the Dogs and Birds web-site which is an excellent resource. Thanks for the post!

  4. Eliza says:

    I sometimes have parents so thrilled that their child can make a joyful noise on the piano. The think their child’s doing great, when it’s not true.
    I encourage parents to sit-in on piano class, when they can, so they can listen and learn how to evaluate their child’s progress and also, my progress as a teacher. It helps a lot. You’ve put across so well what i try to teach them.

    1. Thank you Eliza. Really glad you liked my post. It does help for parents to sit in on lessons. This can’t be underestimated, as you say.

  5. Jade Brunet says:

    Thank you for this information about why selecting a good piano teacher is vital. It is good to know that note reading needs to be guided correctly from the beginning. A good teacher could provide this assistance. Something else to consider would be to find someone local to make trips to and from lessons more convenient.

  6. Alex says:

    Thank you for the awesome information. May I add that a good teacher has to be passionate and enthusiastic about teaching. It’s contagious and passes on to the students.

    1. Thank you, Alex! You make a good point – passion and enthusiasm are also crucial…

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