What makes a great piano teacher?

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Postby 68-1103128679 » Wed Dec 15, 2004 11:00 am

"Would anyone else care to tell about great teachers they've had?"

There are many good teachers who have a lot to offer. However, now and then you find that "once in a lifetime" teacher where the pieces just fit together. I was blessed with such a teacher in college. From day one, we connected. My playing improved dramatically under her guidance, and I enjoyed our time together SO much. I absolutely couldn't wait for my weekly lessons. It was one of the most memorable times in my life.

She was like a 2nd mom to me. She taught me not only about music, but about life. People like her are so rare. I still miss her so much, and its been 5 years since I had lessons with her. I still could break down and cry even thinking about now. Music is a powerful thing, and I'd have to say that piano lessons "opened me up" in a way that nothing else ever has. I felt more emotions than I've ever felt in my life during those lessons. :(

Dawn in Ohio
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Postby 75-1095335090 » Wed Dec 15, 2004 1:27 pm

I've been blessed to have had many great music teachers in my life.

In middle school my music teacher was very encouraging. She was enthusiastic when I approached her about learning other instruments (I was on trumpet in her class). She helped me with recorder, and tried to help me with drums (I was horribly shy, though, and just wouldn't hit them hard enough. lol). When I couldn't play high enough to be on the 1st trumpet part, she made me feel better about it. (She said something along the lines of: a good band has strong players on each part. We *need* a strong player on second, and I think you're that player. I was on cloud nine!)

In high school I had two awesome teachers. They were both enthusiastic and arranged for so many opportunities for the music students. Because I was in the music program, I got to go to Japan, California, New Orleans, Florida, the Bahamas, and Ohio (I live in Ontario, Canada). We had a band party every year at the head of the music department's house. It was always right after we played a concert at the mall.

They were excellent teachers even without the extras, though. They knew when to push and when to ease off. They had lots of ways of explaining concepts, which I think is essential to being a good teacher.

My private piano teacher was amazing too. She taught me from when I was 11 to around age 17 or so. She helped me to develop my ear training and taught me all sorts of neat things to do to my music (arranging ideas). We did some improvising and composing too, which was lots of fun.

My current piano teacher is great too. I haven't played a lot of classical music on the piano before, but really wanted to learn. She has only ever played classical music, so she seemed a good fit. (By classical I mean Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and 20th Century eras). She's been working me really hard, and I've been learning a LOT. At my last lesson she said something that made me feel really good, especially in light of the fact that I haven't played this style of music much before and wasn't sure exactly how I was doing... she said that she likes my lessons because she gets to listen to me play some great music.

So, to sum it up.... I think a great piano teacher knows his stuff. He is enthusiastic about music, and passes that enthusiasm on to his students. He has many different ways of explaining each concept so that all students have a chance of understanding it. He speaks clearly and communicates well. He helps the student to play well and inserts the right amount of positive and uplifting comments to keep the student going (but not so many that it seems insincere or becomes ho-hum).
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Postby 83-1102043603 » Wed Jan 05, 2005 7:19 pm

I'm sorry I can't add anything useful to the conversation but reading through this thread I've got a good grasp of what to look for in a piano teacher in the future.

Thanks guys!!
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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Thu Jan 06, 2005 8:58 am

Squiffy wrote:I'm sorry I can't add anything useful to the conversation but reading through this thread I've got a good grasp of what to look for in a piano teacher in the future.

Great, Squiffy! That's exactly what this thread was designed to do! :)

Welcome to the Board.
All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man's life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom. - Albert Einstein
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Postby Lovem » Tue May 17, 2005 4:55 pm

What do you do with your students on your first piano lessons and how do you get children of 7-9 y.o more interested and less distracted on music lessons?
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Postby Stretto » Wed May 18, 2005 3:25 pm

One of the primary ways I measure success as a teacher is if I can keep my students actively involved and interested in the lesson. If my students get distracted, lose interest, or get control over the lesson, then it is an indicator that I'm not doing my job of being a good teacher.

A good teacher should always have back up plans to keep the students involved. Keep them constantly "doing". One way I keep my students involved is instead of me writing in all the markings in their music, I have them write in note names, finger #r's, dynamics, and tips I have for playing. Some of my students who are learning to write at school love writing out their own assignments as well (only allow if time permits). I also have them use a drum stick to tap out the beat while I play their piece.

I use the first 10 minutes of the lesson to work on whatever is most important. If they are doing fine with the regular lesson material, I continue. Otherwise, I switch to something lighter such as a music related game. I've had some restless 7 year olds who enjoyed dancing in rhythm to their assigned pieces while I played them. If they come to their lesson already worn out from the day, we listen to music and talk about the composers and/or aspects of the piece (usually in the last half of the lesson). Coming up with ideas such as these to keep students involved is an important part of being a good teacher.

In reference to the first lesson, a good teacher also finds out from the beginning what the student wants to gain from taking lessons and some things about their personality so they can tailor the lesson to the individual. I give each student a personal profile sheet to take home and fill out with a lot of fun questions about themselves including the kind of music they like, what styles of music and specific pieces they would like to learn, and what they want to gain (be able to perform, play for themselves, etc.)

Although I haven't arrived by any means at keeping students interest up, this is one thing I am constantly striving to improve on which in turn keeps me headed in the direction of becoming a better piano teacher.

:;):
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Postby Lovem » Fri May 20, 2005 9:34 am

Thank you for your reply. That was my first lesson in England and I got all upset. I had a break from teaching for 2 years, I taught before for 6 years in the different country, so it is a little hard to start now. And… my native language is not English, which gives me more pressure. But now I realize that it takes time, in the end of the day, they did everything I asked, and they didn’t cry. :D
I thought a lot about what I need to improve, so I will take your advice about involving the children in everything you do, make them think that they discover things themselves. I have a lot of time ahead to improve.
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Postby Dr. Bill Leland » Wed May 25, 2005 1:13 pm

Dear Love:

One of the things I had to work hard to overcome was the desire to try and tell the new student everything I know in one lesson; it's easy to do if you get enthusiastic, and the student gets overwhelmed.

A big part of this is to take time to figure out what the student needs FIRST, and concentrate on that. A lot of teaching failures occur--with neither party understanding why--simply because the various phases of instruction were given in the wrong order. That's one of the big reasons why teaching one-on-one is such a challenging responsibility.

Dr. Bill Leland.
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Postby Lovem » Thu May 26, 2005 4:45 am

Dr. Bill Leland wrote:A big part of this is to take time to figure out what the student needs FIRST, and concentrate on that. Dr. Bill Leland.

Dear Bill, you guessed right, I have this problem. I tend to go into details while preparing for the lesson, so at the lesson I never have time to go into these explanations, time flies so quickly!!!! But the other day I had the lessons with those students again. And it’s amazing!!! They’d changed their attitude and I felt more relaxed. They weren’t scared of surroundings anymore and they already knew what’s going on. They showed interest in what I ask them to do and did it willingly and in my turn I showed my interest in what they want to do: play some easy tunes by ear. I keep discovering how to keep them interested at the lessons.
About order, I came to this myself. I think about this order practically everyday. I have a lot of ideas about it, and always put my thoughts down on the paper and then transfer them on my computer. I need to make reasonable chains, one thing should follow the other. And thanks for good idea about concentrating on one thing and then go to another taking time.
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Postby Dr. Bill Leland » Thu May 26, 2005 1:10 pm

Great!! Sounds like you have some super ideas--stay with us!!

B.L.
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Postby Tranquillo » Sun Sep 16, 2007 10:29 pm

I think a great piano teacher would have personaility. In the past I felt like I have been taught by a robot rather than a person! No smiles, praises, jokes, no emotion.

Anyways besides that I am a strong believer of students being an reflection of their teachers. If a teacher shows enthusiasm and love for the piano and music the student would be very much influenced by the teacher.

Other than that I believe that involvement is very inportant certain teachers do all of the talking leaving students to od and agree perhaps not even paying attention. By having students answer questions and respond this keeps them involved in the lesson and allows them to soak up the information.

I also think that a great teacher understands different learning styles and approaches therefore being flexible to adjust or change his/her style/method of teaching rather than keeping strictly to a certain method.

But to me most importantly a good teacher really is passionate about piano and teaching, sharing this skill with others. A great teachers is dedecated to his/her work and enjoys his/her work. Because of this a great teacher would encourage his/her students and give out sensible advice as a person that cares.

WOW ,... I've just descibed my piano teacher!
:)
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