This article details the considerations and steps to take in starting piano lessons. This how-to guide is for newcomers to the realm of music lessons who may not be sure how the process works or what to expect.
For music lessons, the piano has always been a popular instrument, and it is quite common to have had lessons at some point in your life, or to introduce lessons to your children. However, not everyone has had the experience of taking lessons, and though there may be an interest in the instrument, the thought of getting the process started may feel daunting. Expectations, materials needed, picking the right teacher – all of these factors may feel foreign, or not be completely realized in beginning the process, but with a little guidance, getting started can be a completely easy process that yields great rewards!
How Do Lessons Usually Work?
Of course, there is room for exception to the general way that most lessons go, but some factors that are pretty consistent are the frequency and length of lessons. Most music lessons are conducted once a week for any time range between 30 to 60 minutes. Usually, the shorter sessions of 30 minutes are open for very young beginners (ages 4 though 6) and longer sessions are for students ages 8 and up, but it really depends on preference. During the lesson time, the teacher generally works through assignments, does targeted practice with the student, covers new subjects, and creates assignments for the following lesson. Once lessons are started, it becomes a cycle in all situations of working through progressively more difficult material and always having ‘something’ (a piece, exercise, etc.) to work on.
Do I Need a Piano?
You definitely don’t need a piano to do research and start looking for a teacher, but be aware that you definitely do need a piano or keyboard for lessons. If you are certain that you would like piano lessons to be a serious undertaking and there is no doubt that you would like to pursue this interest, purchasing or acquiring a piano will never be a bad thing. Go ahead and start working on getting a piano!
However, if you are on the fence about starting lessons and don’t want to sacrifice household space or make the investment, try starting with a digital piano that is fully weighted, 88 keys, and velocity sensitive. It mimics the feel of an acoustic piano and is very affordable. Plus, there are very few teachers who will outright refuse to work with a student on a digital piano for at least a year, unless they are the type of teacher who takes only very serious students, which would not be the category an “on-the-fence” beginner would be in anyways. Worst-case scenario: if you don’t enjoy lessons and want to ditch the instrument completely, you can resell a keyboard easily online.
If you have questions about getting an instrument – whether a piano or keyboard – I encourage you to ask teachers, schools / organizations that provide piano lessons, or friends and family that also play piano or have some experience with piano lessons.
How Do I Find the “Right” Teacher?
With modern search technology, I’m sure you know that you can find a piano teacher in your area within a few minutes, but finding the “right” teacher for you is probably a greater concern. So, I think a good starting point is looking at the unique factors you want from a teacher and finding the best option that fits. Try asking yourself some of the following questions:
Is budget a concern?
Do you want group or private lessons?
Do you mind traveling to a school or studio to take lessons?
Would you like a teacher who travels to you?
Do you want a teacher who is strict with practice?
Do you want a teacher who is not strict with practice?
What is the goal of the student?
There are many other questions you can ask yourself, but in shaping your expectations, you can see which factors are sticking points for you, and which factors don’t matter as much. For example, I know several families that are very impartial to traveling to a teacher or having them come to their home, but the personality match is the most important aspect in selecting the instructor, and they could go either way.
The next step is to simply start asking around and calling potential teachers. You can find very reputable teachers on Music Teachers National Association websites in your area (called MTNA), and schools and organizations can also provide great referrals. If you just cold-call a teacher through a search result online, don’t hesitate to ask about their experience, education, teaching philosophy, and billing policies. You can still find a great teacher who wasn’t necessarily recommended to you, but you should definitely ask questions to make sure they feel like a good teacher match. Sometimes, you can be the one recommending the teacher to your friends if you find a great, random match – you never know!
How Do I Start Piano Lessons?
In conclusion, getting started with piano lessons is pretty easy. If you are unfamiliar with the process, it may seem a bit intimidating, but what it comes down to is the following: you need an instrument, you can expect to have a lesson every week at the same day and time, and if you set your goals and ask questions, you can find the best teacher match for the individual taking lessons. Piano lessons are a fun and enriching educational experience, and the process shouldn’t be hard in getting started. I don’t know of a single teacher who would scoff at explaining how lessons work either, so feel free to reach out and begin your piano lessons!