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Piano lessons for a 6year old beginner: what to look for in a teacher?

(11 Posts)
jaycey43 Mon 23-Sep-13 20:23:45

Hi, apart from qualifications and skill, I would suggest that finding somebody who your child feels able to have fun with , and be inspired by , is a deal breaker. I was classically trained as a child with an excellent teacher, but I only really learned to love playing any instrument when I changed teacher at 8 and he could make me laugh! Yes, he had rules, he was a stickler for 'timing' and 'rhythm', he liked perfection and understanding of theory, but he understood that his relationship with me was different than that of the other teachers in my daily life at school, and that my relationship with music needed to be heartfelt, I looked forward to going to lessons so much that I went before school most days! I feel sad to see my friend's kids 'laboriously' practising scales and little tunes which they have no love for, only to beg to give up very soon, or to carry on reluctantly. I consider my daughter lucky that my DH teaches music - albeit it in a far from traditional method! As for recommends, try local music shops ? The music community often know (of) each other in many towns.

Good Luck smile

keepsmiling12345 Mon 09-Sep-13 21:14:40

Thanks dewe and cornflakegirl for your comments. I'd really like to go with a personal recommendation if at all possible but I haven't got one yet so all your comments are really helping me develop a list of questions and/or things to look for in a teacher.

cornflakegirl Mon 09-Sep-13 13:18:52

I would agree with DeWe about the importance of theory and of learning to read music from the start. My DH never really learned to read music (he can, but not fluently) and although he's a much better musician than me, it takes him much longer to learn a new piece.

Personally I wouldn't say that a teacher having grade 8 is a deal-breaker. My first piano teacher hadn't passed grade 8 when I started, but she was a good teacher and good with children. I moved to a more technically proficient teacher when I reached around grade 6.

DeWe Mon 09-Sep-13 12:22:50

My dd1 has played since she was 6yo, and dh is a very good player too.

What we looked for:
Personal recomendation-we got one from someone who was musical themselves, and had 2 children with them.
Someone who would do beginners up to grade 8: Dh's first teacher wouldn't do higher than grade 6 and he felt it would have been much better to stay with one (as well as less hassle)
Teaching theory along side practical-this means they have a good basis on their music. it may be slower at first, but it's (according to dh) good for their music and they don't have to suddenly stop and learn it to progress.
Personality: We looked for a lady as dd1 vastly worked better (at that point) for ladies. Plus someone who would be prepared to say if there was an issue rather than plodding on being "too nice". But the one we've got is nice too-but prepared to say if (eg) she thinks dd1 is not practicing enough.

Also something I found: Some teachers (particularly those who only do beginners) teach the children to play by showing them/listening, rather than to read the music. What we noticed was that those children initially (grade 1 and 2) seemed to rush ahead, but then they stuck, really stuck, and mostly gave up because to go back and then learn to read music was too hard now. The ones who did continue are now well behind where dd1 is currently.

keepsmiling12345 Mon 09-Sep-13 07:50:23

That sounds great. Thank you so much for your comments.

ShellingPeas Sun 08-Sep-13 21:35:30

Most of the teachers I know are happy to have an initial consultation and I don't think you'd look odd if you ask for it. And yes, you'd pay usual rate and should get the chance to talk and observe the teacher with your DD.

I always offer consultations as it gives me an opportunity to get to know the child, find out musical background, expectations etc, and whether I think I can work with the parent and the child. In the case of youngsters under 7 it also gives me the chance to assess concentration and general interest. I might do a few simple tests such as clapping rhythms or testing pitch, then have some fun doing some improvising and making up a musical story - if the child is genuinely interested and can concentrate for 20 minutes or so, then I would then discuss the business side of the relationship such as terms and conditions, cost of lessons and practise expectations. I don't expect people to sign up on the spot, but give them a day or two to think about it.

keepsmiling12345 Sun 08-Sep-13 20:43:22

Many thanks shellingpeas for your opinion. All very helpful. May I just check my understanding of the consultation lesson? It is a lesson which I pay usual rate for (and I'd be happy to pay) and use the opportunity to discuss with teacher their teaching methods etc as well as observing how I see them interacting with my DD? It seems a very good idea but will most piano teachers expect this or will I look odd asking for this?

ShellingPeas Sun 08-Sep-13 16:30:59

In my opinion (I am a piano teacher) the best thing you can do if looking for teacher for a young child is find one through personal recommendation so asking parents at the school is a good way to go. Whatever method you choose to find your teacher ask for a consultation lesson (but expect to pay for it) so you can discuss what their teaching methods are, what tutor books they use, how they interact with your DD, whether you get a good feeling from them. At this stage I'd look at finding someone who is flexible regarding exams as it can be a relentless grind if you have a teacher who is so exam focussed they use the exam syllabus as a curriculum rather than as an assessment. Nothing more likely to put off a child for life than just learning 3 pieces a year and nothing else!

The European Piano Teachers Association is a good place to start if you're going to enquire without a recommendation. All the teachers on their list have grade 8 plus a teaching qualification as a minimum.

As far as qualifications go, as well as performance qualifications (say grade 8 as a minimum) ask if they have any teaching qualifications such as a dip ABRSM or ATCL teaching diploma, CTABRSM or EPTA PTC.

As boogiewoogie says the ABRSM forum can be useful - do a general search and it should show up old threads about chosing a teacher.

keepsmiling12345 Sun 08-Sep-13 12:02:37

Thanks so much boogiewoogie, that's exactly the sort of insight I was hoping to get. I will ask a few parents at school drop off whether they know any teachers. I agree with you that experience and how they relate to children feels more important at this stage than qualifications although I take your point about grade 8 standard as a minimum. I now feel I can approach tutors with a better sense of what to look for. I'll also check out the ABSRM forum.
If anyone has any other thoughts, I'd be grateful

boogiewoogie Sat 07-Sep-13 22:37:22

Piano tutoring is not something that is regulated by Ofsted or professional bodies so you may find that he/she may not have CRB checks if he/she is a private tutor.

If you just want your child to learn as a hobby to begin with rather than training her for music college then where the tutor went and what degree they have does not matter at this stage. You may wish to consider the following:

Is the tutor friendly and professional?

What background do they have? Experience is more important than qualifications in my opinion. That said, do they have grade 8 at a minimum? I personally would hesitate to accept someone who wasn't grade 8 standard or equivalent. If you want to find out what the acronyms mean wrt music qualifications then the following forum might be useful.


Do they relate well with children? Some piano teachers in my experience are reluctant to take on children under the age of 7 but others may be willing and if she practises regularly and manages to concentrate during the lesson then she will make a good pupil.

What are their exam results like? 6 is a bit young to already think about exams and there is no rush to do them, the tutor will know when she's ready.

Have you tried asking anyone from school whose child is learning the piano?

You can try posting on the ABRSM under the parents or even the teachers section. I think that section is busier so you'll get a quicker response from there.

Hope this helps. Good luck with finding a tutor.

keepsmiling12345 Sat 07-Sep-13 20:13:28

I'd be very grateful for some advice from parents or piano teachers. My DD (6yrs) is really keen to start piano lessons but I am totally unmusical myself so am feeling out of my depth somewhat in what to look for in a teacher. She's had a term of percussion lessons at school through the schools music trust and has loved them and her teacher has said she's made good progress. So I think the interest in music is there and she loves playing around on friends' pianos so it feels like an interest to be encouraged. So I've started googling piano teachers in our area (SW London) and realised I have no idea what to look for. I assume there are some basic requirements such as CRB checks but what are the other criteria for choosing? I have no idea whether my DD will want to play purely for pleasure or do exams, are some teachers better suited to one or the other? What do the most typical qualifications and acronyms mean? Do I need A piano teacher who went to GUildhall school of music to teach a 6year old? Lessons seem to be 30mins or an hour; would I be right that 30mins is enough for a 6year old? Grateful for any advice. Many thanks in advance.

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