When it comes time to start taking piano lessons – whether you are the one doing the learning or you are setting the lessons up for your child – there are a number of different types of teachers and teaching methods to choose from. Depending on your location, the equipment you have at home, your preferred learning method, and even your finances, you can choose anything from in-home private Suzuki lessons to on-site group teaching. Learn what your options are and how to find which one is best for you.
Types of Piano Lessons
Most people who take piano lessons do so through private instruction. Private instructors generally operate as independent contractors who either come to your home or have a room in their own home where the lessons occur. The kind of one-on-one interaction that comes from private instruction is ideal for those who learn best with focused attention. Most lessons last anywhere from half an hour to an hour (generally once or twice a week), wherein the private instructor teaches skills, offers advice, and gives the student “homework” in the form of practice to take place at home during the rest of the week.
Private instruction might also be available through a school or coalition of music instructors. These music schools typically have a staff of instructors on board; when you contact them for lessons, they pair you with the best (or most available) candidate for your goals, and you either go to the school for your lesson or invite the instructor to your own home.
Both of these options tend to rest on the more expensive side of the scale. Because the piano instruction is typically done one-on-one and often involves travel to your home, the costs are higher overall.
Piano instruction in the form of larger classes is also available in some areas. These are offered almost exclusively through music schools and are typically meant for beginners or very young students. They focus more on music appreciation and learning the fundamentals than the actual development of personal piano skills.
Types of Piano Instruction
Although there are literally hundreds of different ways to learn the piano, there are two primary schools of instruction: the Suzuki method and the traditional method. Most other versions are based on either of these, with different variations based on the instructor’s background and particular field of interest.
The Suzuki method is favored for very young children. It works in much the same way that language acquisition works, by immersing the child in the sounds of the piano. Children hear songs repeatedly until they become patterned in their minds. They then learn the keys to play the song using the correct fingering, memorizing the pattern of the notes rather than reading the music. The focus is almost entirely on hearing and repetition.
In traditional piano lessons, students learn the correlation between the notes on a sheet of music and the notes on the keyboard. They learn the differences between the music played by the right hand and the left hand as well as how to use time signature to keep beats. In short, it teaches music rather than just piano. It also builds the foundation for self-instruction in piano and the transfer of skills to other musical instruments.
Of course, no type of lesson or instruction is of any value without a good relationship between the piano teacher and the student. If you (or your child) isn’t happy with the teacher’s method, approach to homework, types of encouragement, or even personality, it is not worth pushing the lessons. Above all else, the most important thing is to enjoy the lessons and appreciate music. You want a piano teacher who is compatible with the way you learn and your goals for the future.