5 Questions to Ask a New Piano Teacher Before You Hire Them

By: Sara Chatalbash

Owner | Teacher

Have you ever sat through a class and left learning nothing? I have, and there’s nothing more frustrating than having your time wasted.

Many piano teachers will go over what you already practiced, or review material from last week, and before you know it, your piano lesson is over. So that leaves no time to actually progress. Piano lessons should be fun and enjoyable! Your teacher shouldn’t be a drill sergeant, nor a dictator. They should take into account your goals and interests. Everyone has different goals and learns differently so piano lessons shouldn’t follow a strict regiment to be applied to all.

Q. Do You Have a Degree in Music?

Now a music degree doesn’t automatically ensure that your teacher will be excellent, but it does significantly increase the odds that they have studied how to teach and have formal training in the instrument they’re teaching. Teaching music is like learning music: The best way to learn how to do it well is to learn to do it under the supervision of a great teacher. Having formal training and a degree means that you have been taught from soup to nuts and have missed nothing in between, unlike most self-taught players.

It also means that they have had experience auditioning for music schools and were good enough to be accepted. It’s always good to have a teacher who has a ton of playing experience and has been through every step you’re taking. I know I wouldn’t want somebody prepping me for college auditions if they’ve never done it themselves, would you?

Q. Are You Able to Teach from Beginner to Advanced?

If you’re a beginner, you don’t want to have to find a new teacher once you become an intermediate player or if you’re an intermediate player becoming advanced. You will eventually surpass your teacher in skill level and nobody wants to take piano lessons from ​​someone who they can play better than. The goal is to learn, right?

Teachers who only teach advanced players often can’t explain difficult concepts in a way that can be easily understood because they’ve never had to explain anything in layman’s terms. Just because you can play well, doesn’t mean you can teach well.

Q. Can You Teach Multiple Genres?

Having a teacher that teaches an eclectic range of genres is good because it offers you options. Maybe you love classical music, but also want to play songs on the radio or Christmas tunes for your family.​

It’s nice to have a teacher who can teach it all so you don’t have to try to teach yourself or find someone else. Sometimes we change our mind once we start lessons and realize a certain genre just isn’t doing it for us anymore.

Teachers who teach numerous genres will be able to cater your piano lessons to your specific tastes and needs. It also means that your teacher is a well rounded musician!

Q. Can You Able to Prepare Students for College Auditions or NYSSMA?

You may only want to play piano for pleasure, but if you’d like to play in festivals like NYSSMA to challenge yourself or you’re thinking about making music your career, it’s important to have a teacher that has been through these processes and can prepare you effectively.

Teachers who do not offer these services will not be able to fine tune your skills or prepare you fully for the requirements that need to be met for these events. NYSSMA is a completely different beast than just learning to play songs for fun. You need to know scales backward and forwards, have great sight-reading skills, and play a piece at a high level.

Q. Do You Teach Music Theory

Whether you’re playing for fun or not, music theory is an essential element of learning piano. Music theory is the understanding of written music, and it provides a language for composers and musicians to communicate with each other.

When you understand music theory, you can read a page written by a composer hundreds of years ago and understand what that composer wanted them to play, and how. How amazing is that?

Bonus: Are They Personable?

Who wants some stuffy, serious teacher who never smiles? Nobody. Music is supposed to be fun and enjoyable. Learning how to read and play music is tough and it becomes stressful when your teacher acts like a dictator and is always telling you what’s wrong, never what you’ve accomplished. All of my piano teachers were funny, patient, down-to-earth, and always kept my wants in mind. You want someone you can click with and have a conversation with. Piano lessons will be that much more fun with someone you feel you can trust and who recognizes your achievements and the work you’ve put in.

Here is a quick recap of the questions you should ask your potential piano teacher.

Do You Have a Degree in Music?

Are You Able to Teach from Beginner to Advanced?

Can You Teach Multiple Genres?

Can You Able to Prepare Students for College Auditions or NYSSMA?

Do You Teach Music Theory

Bonus: Are They Personable?

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