There is more to giving piano lessons than teaching a student how to play the piano. More often than not, the piano student will be learning to read music at the same time he/she is learning where those printed notes are on the piano keyboard. If the student does not already know how to read music, much of the first few weeks of lessons will include instruction on the names of printed notes and where those notes are located on the piano keyboard.
Many professional pianists start piano lessons at the age of four or five years old and continue through high school and college. The level of difficulty increases based on the student's proficiency and knowledge so that by the time the student has reached college level, he/she is playing music that is very difficult. There are no age limits as to when someone can start piano lessons. The decision is up to the individual.
There are certain basic guidelines for giving piano lessons regardless of the age of the student:
- A piano teacher must be able to read music.
- A piano teacher should have a lot of patience. It's one thing to learn how to read music and find the equivalent notes on the keyboard, it is quite another thing to expect a student to be able to instantly play the written notes at the correct speed and rhythm. This takes hours of practice and includes fingering patterns to use for easier access from one note to another.
- For beginners, spend the first part of each lesson going over names and types of notes, key signatures, time signatures, rests, etc. Once students have mastered this, they will be able to look at a piece of music and immediately know this information.
- Gradually introduce Italian words that are used to indicate speed and dynamics. Note-much of the music written for beginners uses English words such as slow, fast, etc., but Italian words have been used for centuries and are common in printed music; for example: Adagio-slow, Allegro-fast, etc.
- Encourage students to memorize piano solos. Not only will memorization mean that they are no longer dependent on the printed music, but will give the student a sense of confidence when performing in recitals, music festivals, competitions, or just for fun.
As a piano teacher, it is important to be supportive and encouraging. Some pieces of music are more difficult than others. What is easy for one student could be difficult for others. Don't expect a student to like every piece of music. Most importantly, don't make students feel badly if they don't understand something or just can't get it.