The First Key: A Take-Off Guide for New Piano Teachers

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“Life is like a Piano, what you get out of it depends on how you play it”- Tom Lehrer. Starts are difficult and shaky. They bring with them uncertainties and doubts, as with all good things in life. But if we just keep playing all the keys right and hit all the right notes one after the other, we can make it work for us just the way we intend it to.

Life is a grand composition full of high and low notes, like keys on a piano, but it all has to start with the right first note. That first note is our topic for today. For all the novice piano teachers who are looking for a guide on from where to start, this is it. We will help you take your first few steps and hopefully, you will be able to pick your pace from there onwards. The purpose of this guide is to provide the readers/piano teachers with basic steps they need to cover before they are ready to professionally teach some pupils.

Step # 1:

Piano Studio

Decide on how you are going to teach and where are you going to teach. Because wherever you are, you will need to find students; they are everywhere, yes, it’s just a matter of how you find them. They can be just there in your neighbourhood or they could be living at some distance from you, this prompts the question of ‘how you are going to teach’. Ultimately, you will be the one to decide whether you are going to be a travelling teacher; going from one house to another or are you going to start a studio? If you have the luxury of having your own home/apartment or a studio, nothing can be more convenient.

Otherwise, travelling is good if there are plenty of students in your vicinity, even better if you can cover them all on foot, think of how this much travelling will contribute to your health. Not to mention going to your students means you get to charge them extra, this should be a good motivator for you. Charging extra for private lessons makes many come to the studio for the sake of saving some money, which is also beneficial for you as you can save up on time and travelling money (if you travel by car).

If you don’t have a place of your own, you can even rent a small studio or an apartment where you can hold private lessons for students. Make sure to decorate the place appropriately, avoid distractions, and see to it that there’s no noise pollution either. Give the place a professional makeover with a fast internet connection and a computer/laptop in case you need to search online or demonstrate something on a computer. And of course, you need a piano, but I think you already have that part covered. But if not, you can easily rent a piano and adjust the cost of the rent in the lessons.

Step # 2:

Business Ethics

You are new, but that doesn’t mean you are not a professional, so you must adopt the mentality and behave accordingly. Treat this as an actual business and not as a hobby. Here’s are a few useful tips:

  • Use enrollment forms for admission of new students/pupils.
  • Conduct interviews with students to determine either they are suitable candidates who have the curiosity and skill to learn or are just going to be a waste of your time. You can also determine whether they will be able to afford to pay your fee or not.
  • Develop and implement policies to keep a safe side for yourself in case thing don’t go accordingly. Such as fee policies, lessons cancellation policy, the total number of classes, no extra classes in case of absence of pupil, etc. keep in mind that you are a professional and not running a charity.
  • Set up a dress code and a fee structure. With a proper dress code, there comes a mental fortitude, follow it yourself and make your pupils follow it as well. Don’t be a softy, it’s a tough world out there and you need to earn to survive.
  • Set up lessons like beginners, intermediate, experts, etc. and charge accordingly.

This way, not only you portray a professional image but trick yourself in acting to fit the role.

Step # 3:

Read Books

Research. Before you start your teaching career, you need to conduct proper and thorough research. If you are relatively new, it may take some time for things to move in the high gear. Reading books is one good way to do it. We suggest you read the following:

  • A Piano Teacher's Legacy - Richard Chronister.
  • Practical Pedagogy - Martha Baker-Jordon
  • The Well-Tempered Keyboard Teacher - Marianne Uszler.
  • Questions & Answers - Frances Clark.
  • The Independent Piano Teacher’s Studio Handbook – Beth Gigante Klingenstein.

Don’t limit yourself to just these books, also conduct online research and follow on the latest trends as well. This way, it will be easier for you to stay in business.

Step # 4:

Marketing

Marketing. You aren’t going to find your first student just like that. Announce yourself to the world and make a statement. We understand that the market is already saturated and it is tough for a pianist to find business. Nonetheless, there are a lot of easy and affordable ways you can use to publicize your relatively new business.

  • Word of mouth via friends and family.
  • Social Media.
  • Free lessons and demos.
  • If possible, perform in small theatres, restaurants, and public places where you can show off your skill and attract some new pupils. Even if it means you have to do it for free for some time.
  • Set up a simple website with your contact info. Try WordPress for this purpose.
  • One very effective way you can showcase yourself as a piano teacher is by setting up an account on ‘The Best Piano Teacher’ website. It is the best and simplest way using which you can increase and improve your outreach to potential clients.

Don’t be dishearted if it takes a while for your business to take off. A lot of successful businesses and musicians had a slow and weak start, but persistence is the key, and you are an expert on hitting the right key at the right time, so keep at it.

Step # 5:

Keep Learning

Keep learning. The progress of educating yourself and learning must never come to a halt. The best teacher is the one who is a student at heart. All you have to invest are talent and time, but the trade-off is quite rewarding. Keep practising and reading, challenge yourself by setting up milestones. Be sure to highlight your achievements for the world to take notice of, you have to make the world acknowledge you with sheer hard work and efforts. This is about it, a very elementary guide on how to take your first few steps as a novice piano teacher. There is a lot more you can learn and a lot more that we can teach you, until next time.