16 Qualities of a Good Piano Teacher?

“Where love is deep, much can be accomplished.”  Shinichi Suzuki


I saw a post on Facebook today where someone was asking what makes someone a good piano teacher. This is a really, really good question so, I thought I’d spend a little time musing about the matter. I am a piano teacher, I’ve studied with lots of (about 10) piano teachers, I know lots of piano teachers, and I raised 5 boys, four of whom became accomplished musicians, I guess you could say I have seen the issue from many sides.

Here are some traits I think make for a good piano teacher:

  1. Strong musical skills. I want a teacher that knows how to play. This is a little tough to unpack because not every good teacher is a great concert artist, and not every great concert artist can teach but I believe that a solid knowledge of musicianship, technique, theory, and repertoire is essential. You have to be able to do something before you can teach someone else to do it.  You have to be able to do something WELL in order to teach someone else to do it WELL. (I guess I am a little emphatic about this.)


  1. Performance experience. This may be a bit controversial but the fact is that music is a shared art. Sharing music means playing it for other people. Being able to get up in front of an audience of any size not only takes courage but it involves careful preparation and a level of focus that must be developed and taught. I believe a good teacher is able to play for others and can teach students how to perform.


  1. Is dedicated to continual personal advancement in both music and pedagogical skills. A good teacher is a lifelong learner. Someone who seeks to maintain and build upon the skills that they have and add new skills related to music, piano playing, and teaching.


  1. Has a love of music. Learning to play a musical instrument is not the easiest thing in the world. Music, (unless you are a Rockstar) is usually not the most lucrative career either. We begin our training as children and must continue to practice daily throughout our lives. Therefore, I think it’s important that we love what we are doing.


  1. Understands how people learn. No two students learn the same way. This makes teaching both interesting and challenging. A good teacher can connect with each student in order to help each one the grasp concepts necessary to achieve success.


  1. Presents information and skills in a logical and beneficial sequence. Learning to become an accomplished pianist takes years. A good teacher knows what to teach and when to teach it. This is especially important once a student is beyond the method books. To be able to select material that will help a student advance while building a firm musical foundation requires a comprehensive knowledge of the repertoire and piano pedagogical materials.


  1. Can motivate students to learn, practice, and play correctly. Day in and day out, year after year. A good teacher can keep students going even when they really want to quit. A good teacher knows how to inspire students to pursue excellence even though excellence is hard work.


  1. Sets clear attainable goals. Both short-term weekly goals and longer-term goals. This means providing specific practice instructions weekly. Longer-term goals could include recital, exam, competition preparation, or a list of music to be learned and other skills to be completed within a determined period of time.


  1. Keeps the student’s goals in mind. A good teacher knows what must be taught to be able to play well however, I think it is also important to take into account what students and parents want to get out of taking piano lessons.


  1. Is able to come up with creative solutions to problems. Good teachers are able to think outside of the box in order to come up with innovative ways to help students understand concepts and tackle challenges.


  1. Communicates clearly with both students and parents. A good teacher is able to communicate with students in age-appropriate ways that help each one to understand what is being taught, and what is expected. A good teacher also keeps parents in the loop so that they know what is happening and how they can help and encourage their children.


  1. Knows when it is time to pass the student to someone else. It’s not a sign of failure to send a student to someone new. A teacher may have more skill in a particular area or maybe a better personality fit for a student.


  1. Is both encouraging and firm. It’s easy in today’s culture to be encouraging, to smile, and to make everyone feel great all of the time. What’s not so comfortable is to hold students to a high standard. However, I believe I do my students a disservice if I do not teach them to play correctly. This means musically, accurately, with good technique.


  1. Listens carefully. Listening is an important part of being a teacher. When we listen and really take the time to consider what our students are telling us we have the opportunity to solve problems and help students reach their goals.


  1. Is patient. Patience is a must for every teacher. A teacher must present the concepts same over and over again in as many ways as necessary until the student achieves success.


  1. Has a desire to pass the gift of music along to others. It’s one thing to enjoy playing or composing music. Teaching music is entirely different, it requires a different set of skills. In addition, teaching can be very challenging work. It is something that has the potential to enhance lives and bring joy to others.


Love, I believe that having love as the underpinning of a teaching career is the key to the kingdom. The love of music, and the love of sharing something so wonderful with people.


Thanks for reading.

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