Before I start sharing my piano teaching ideas with you, I’d like to explain a little about my approach to teaching. My students’ age spans from 5 to 60+. Of all age groups, I find 5 – 9 the most challenging. Not only because they are brutally honest; telling you so if they don’t like something, but also their attention span is quite short, so you have to move one subject to another before they loose focus without confusing them, which usually generates more homework on my part. Naturally I do lots of game-style drills. They think they’re playing games but in an actual fact, they’re being trained to gain certain skills by doing it. The best trick to play on young learners, in my opinion!

But with adults they’re usually very focused on what they want out of lessons and also they have more general knowledge about many things, so I can take it from different angles to teach the same things as I do with children.

I love every aspect of ‘teaching’ (well I’d rather like to use the work ‘helping’) my students to experience what it’s all about to make music through piano.

The first lesson with my new beginner students always start with actual ‘playing’ and ‘listening’, not showing how to read music. So, I don’t used so-called piano tutor books. It’s like learning how to read a book: you never started learning how to read until you could speak the language first and write a few words at least. While focusing on practical skills of music making, I gradually introduce exercises to develop various coordination skills, which are vital to be able to decode notations as ‘music’ not as a mass of ‘individual dots’.

The timing that I finally assign a book of piano music to my beginner students is when I see them finally link some playing skill with decoding skill together. It happens when I have them try to play something using a standard piano score as a test and they discover themselves that they can actually read music! By ‘read music’, I mean ‘read and play (hear) at the same time’, not just ‘identity’ the name of notes.

From that moment on, the world of piano playing starts to open up. With children, it’s best if that moment happens before the music they want to play becomes more difficult than they can play by ear. On the other hand, some adults stay on learning by ear/ by rote for a bit longer, depending on their needs. With piano music it’s so often true that you have more options in what you can do if you can read music. But it’s also important that you won’t end up being a prisoner of notations, either! I know how that feels… Maintaining the balance is the key, I think. That’s my finding after spending some years of searching for a way to be a better musician. And I’m still learning. I hope to be able to continue my journey with my students. They are my constant inspiration to try for better and being creative!

In my future teaching-related blog posts, I’d like to share some of my teaching ideas but not necessarily in any particular order. Because it all depends on what learners needs at the time and I often find myself mixing and changing the order of how I introduce particular topics.

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