You can’t become a piano teacher overnight. Turning the piano into a career itself is a process that requires years of practice, if not decades.
History books talk about numerous piano virtuosos, like Bach, Beethoven, or Chopin, legends in the world of music.
Frédéric Chopin, for example, was enrolled in piano lessons at the age of six by his mother, who was herself a pianist, and who’d noticed a particular if not precocious talent for the instrument.
To become a pianist, virtuoso, or piano teacher, it’s better to have learned music at a very young age.
You’re just beginning to learn how to play the piano, have acquired some skills, and already you’re envisioning teaching others what you know? You want to be a piano teacher?
It’s possible, and we’ll look at what level it’s possible to start out as a piano teacher.
What is the skill level you need to reach in order to teach this noble instrument?
Do you need any kind of degree to give piano lessons?
What type of training and how many years of practice are needed to get to a high enough level to be able to teach and give piano lessons?
Superprof suggests some training to follow in order to reach that level, to become a proper piano teacher.
Why do you want to become a piano teacher? The answer to this question might seem obvious: I want to become a piano teacher because I love this instrument.
Yes, but more than that. You must also know how to adapt to the levels of your students.
To be a good piano teacher, you need to know how to put yourself at your students’ level.
When you’ve been playing an instrument for several years, the primary goal driving you to teach might be a strong fondness for passing along your knowledge.
Teaching someone to play the piano, for beginners or even for other musicians coming to the piano, is a gratifying activity.
It challenges the educational skills of the teacher, which are put to the test: you’ll often need to simplify a song to be able to explain it in a way that doesn’t discourage the student.
This form of simplification can prove effective for a student wanting to learn the piano quickly and benefit from a proven method.
Just as with lessons in a language, the guitar, the drums, or the trumpet, the teacher’s skill level needs to be high enough to be able to simplify the language.
With difficult songs, the instructor needs to be able to introduce simple arrangements to a beginner student.
The skill level needed to become a piano teacher is something that’s set in stone, especially since there are no regulations governing the practice.
A teacher does, however, need to be able to establish a simple and accessible piano learning method for their students.
A good teacher is someone who’s mastered theory, the scales, rhythm, the chords, playing with both hands at the same time, and all of the various nuances of interpreting music.
But we aren’t going to lie: someone who’s able to play in a fluid manner, who can read music like one reads a book, and who can play sequences of chords without slip ups, is a pianist who’s had several years of practice, perhaps ten or fifteen years.
Other good virtues to learn as you reach a level to become a teacher: patience and listening.
A piano teacher needs to be patience because the lines of sheet music that students play over and over will appear simple, repetitive, burdensome, almost intolerable over time.
To be able to listen to others and develop the patience necessary to teach, you need to play the piano for many years: because a pianist who learns how to overcome his own challenges will understand those of others.
This is all well and good, but how can you reach the level you need to be at to be a piano teacher?
There’s a certain logic here, because music instruction is on the decline in both private and public schools.
For advanced pianists, this opens the door to a harmonious and creative professional life.
Being a piano teacher at a cultural institution: an open door to vast number of classes!
Faced with fewer options to learn piano within school walls, students wanting to learn how to play the piano, either for professional reasons (if they want a career in music production, for example, or a teacher) or pleasure, are increasingly turning to cultural institutions that offer an array of educational opportunities, including music, and especially the piano. They usually have flexible schedules, and can be adapted to any level of commitment and time available. And because they’re non-profit organizations that are funded by grants and donations, the costs are not as high as elsewhere.
There are also, of course, similar establishments in almost every decent sized city: music schools. They too offer courses that fit any schedule, any level, and can be done in your home. They also, generally, teach in more styles than just classical. These private lessons are, of course, more expensive, as these are businesses and not cultural institutions. They are trying to make money. Often times, however, they share teachers with the cultural institutions.
The most esteemed way to become a piano virtuoso and teacher is through a conservatory of national renown.
A musical degree from a conservatory: the highest level so you can be a teacher and play in an classical orchestra or jazz ensemble.
These conservatories are difficult to get into (Julliard, for example, accepts only around 8% of musician applicants), and are generally for students coming out of high school, but if you’re talented, and audition well, you will not automatically be turned away if you’re older. Some of the best conservatories are the Julliard School in New York, the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, the Berklee College of Music in Boston, the Cleveland Institute of Music in Cleveland, and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in San Francisco. There are many more, in fact, usually at least one in every major city, often multiple. Like normal universities, they offer bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees.
Many large (and small) universities, both public and private, also have very well regarded and respected music programs offering the same degrees. Some of the best are at the University of California Los Angeles, Yale University, New York University, the University of North Texas, and Middle Tennessee State University, among many others.
The costs of these programs will vary wildly, but they aren’t generally cheap, and will also require a full-time, four-year (at minimum) commitment to earn your degree. They also tend to be more focused on classical music, but you can always find teachers who focus on jazz and other styles.
Private piano lessons are completely unregulated in the United States. So anyone and everyone can call themselves a private teacher.
There’s nothing better than private piano lessons in your home to train you to become a piano teacher.
But be careful, you need to be an old hand at the piano so you aren’t weaker than your students!
Private piano lessons in your home are also a very effective way to learn and a very attractive option as jobs for ex teachers. The price, of course, will depend on the teacher giving the lessons.
And it will be entirely your responsibility to commit to a great deal of practice, which can be difficult with other responsibilities.
Generally, piano teachers have at least three years more experience than their students. This might seem low. Some first-year pianists are better than those who’ve been playing for three years, however.
The number of years is ultimately less important than the attitude the teacher takes with the piano.
We believe that it takes at least five or six years of playing the piano before you’ll be able to begin teaching beginners.
The higher the level of instruction is, the higher the skill level the teacher will need to have.
So a student who already knows her way around the keyboard will need a more experienced teacher.
Someone with a degree in music, from a university or conservatory, will be, for them, a better bet.
To begin with, this is because they’ve been playing for more than a decade. Secondly, this is because they’ve received intensive training on the piano over the course of this decade.
But platforms like Superprof, which help you find private courses, can help level the playing field: we’ll help you find the great piano lessons that you need.
And if you’re already a piano instructor, create yourself a teacher’s profile and start signing up you first students of the school year!