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.