Piano Lessons: More than a commodity

While the vast majority of my students (and their parents) over the last quarter century have been appreciative and respectful, as well as being generous toward other students in my practice, there’s been a very small minority who seemed to have different priorities.

In this article I will examine what happens when a student or parent treats piano lessons purely as a commodity. I hope that teachers will come away feeling more able to spot the signs, and better empowered to develop a piano teaching practice that works well for the benefit of all.

For the purposes of this article I will call these parents and students ‘super-consumers’. If my portrayal is somewhat a caricature, it is for the purpose of emphasis, so that you can spot the problem signs more quickly and easily.

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Online Piano Teacher Training with the RCM

Guest post by Garreth Brooke

“Like many other piano teachers I have studied music but not pedagogy…

When I first began teaching after finishing my music degree this did not seem such a problem, and certainly it did not stop me from finding work or  my students from telling me that I’m a good teacher. Increasingly, however, I’ve realised that if I want to be a great piano teacher I need to be trained both as a pianist and as a teacher. It doesn’t matter how much we know about music or how well we can play, we have to also understand how to communicate that knowledge effectively to our students.

A 2014 survey on the UK-based Cross-Eyed Pianist blog of private piano teachers revealed that less than half of the respondents had teaching diplomas, and only 30% had training in music pedagogy. This is understandable. Piano teaching often comes as a result of a passion for playing the piano, not because we have always wanted to be a teacher. I’m certainly true in that regard, and indeed actively avoided teaching until forced to by circumstance, when I realised to my surprise that I thoroughly enjoyed it.

In an ideal world, once we realise we want to be a piano teacher, we’d all be able to afford to take 3 years off and get a degree in music pedagogy but unfortunately that’s rarely – if ever –  realistic. Luckily there are several options for part time study for teachers who are based in the UK or who use the UK examination boards, including studying for a diploma with an exam board like ABRSM or Trinity, getting a qualification from a pedagogical group like Suzuki or Kodaly, attending the EPTA’s Practical Piano Teaching course, or signing up for the Curious Piano Teachers.

None of these, however, allow you to get a qualification from a recognised examination board from the comfort of your own home and I was therefore excited to learn about the RCM’s Online Piano Teacher Specialist Course. (NB for Brits – this is the Canadian Royal Conservatory of Music, not the Royal College of Music).

I eagerly signed up and I am just beginning week 3 of a 10 week course, and I’m thrilled to have been invited to share my first impressions with you on Pianodao.

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Using Rounds in Piano Teaching

Guest post by Karen Marshall

I was first introduced to singing rounds as a very young child at Primary school…

It was much later in life that I realised their potential for instrumental use. I can remember being quite miffed that – even though I learnt three instruments – I’d not played one round during any of my instrumental lessons.

I try to incorporate rounds into my piano teaching along with using them constantly in my choir and whole school singing assemblies (I work as a music specialist in a Primary School along side piano teaching).

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Piano Lessons: Dealing with Anxiety

I am sure that most piano teachers will be alert to the fact that some pupils coming to lessons are anxious. This post will look at some reasons for that, and offer some suggestions that might help normalise lessons.

The article is written for any player who has ever said – and any teacher who has ever heard – the words:

“It was perfect when I practised it at home this morning…”

Clearly, in order for student and teacher to make the most of any piano lesson we all want to move beyond this point!

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Piano Junior – the Big Review

Sheet Music Review

The current decade is proving to be a significant one for beginner tutor books, with new publications appearing thick and fast. In many cases these are a breath of fresh air following on from several years in which ageing “favourites” have maintained market dominance.

Latest arrival, Piano Junior from Schott Music, is one of the most ambitious yet. The series progresses through four levels, with four books at each, totalling a projected 16 books. The series is written by the well-known German composer and author Hans-Günter Heumann, with support and advice from experts Carolyn True, Melanie Spanswick and Sally Cathcart.

The first two levels are now available. Levels 3 and 4 will follow later, and I look forward to reviewing them in due course.

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A Voyage of Discovery

Guest Author  Paul Harris  explores how lessons might best unfold.

A lesson is a journey.

A lesson is a journey. But a rather special kind of journey: more a voyage of discovery. And we, as teachers, are both pilot and guide, working alongside our pupils, sometimes planning the route together, with the ultimate intention of teaching them to guide themselves. And what makes each journey – each lesson – so exciting, is that we don’t necessarily know either the route or exactly where we are heading … until we get there! But, crucially, we need to ensure that the journey is both enjoyable and productive.

As a wise man once said – you may be able to predict the teaching, but you can never predict the learning; so, even though you might have some idea of where you want to go, the lesson may wish to go somewhere else!

We do of course have a certain amount of control over a pupil’s progress through a lesson. So let’s have a look at how learning really should work.

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