6 Things You Absolutely Must Have to Become a Piano Teacher (And One That Can Help)
If you play piano well and you’ve got some extra time on your hands, you have the option of becoming a Piano Teacher. It’s something you may want to consider if you’re looking to earn some extra cash, and this idea is certainly something that has crossed the minds of many who are looking to make a career out of playing their instrument of choice. While I won’t say it’s easy work, and getting started can absolutely be tough, it’s not impossible, and it can be fun and rewarding in a number of ways. So, what does one actually need to become a Piano Teacher? There are plenty of misconceptions floating around out there, so let me clear things up by talking about what is required, what is helpful, and what you may have heard you need…but which you don’t actually.
Here’s what we’ll cover in our discussion of what you need to be a really great Piano Teacher:
- Solid talent
- Relevant experience
- Access to instruments
- Space to practice
- A semi-flexible schedule
- A degree or certificate
1. Solid Talent
Some people who want to be Piano Teachers believe the only skill required is the ability to play some tunes. Technically, this is true, and as long as you know how to perform a selection of pieces and you understand the language of music, the terminology, and the most basic of the basics, you’ll be able to help someone get started on their journey to becoming a musician…but do you really want to be nothing but a beginner’s instructor? If you rely on only a few simple songs you know, your student will quickly outgrow you, and you’ll be stuck looking for someone else to help supplement your income in short order.
If you want to be a truly great Piano Teacher, you need to have some actual talent when it comes to playing the instrument you’re supposed to be helping others learn. You might have acquired this skill when you were younger, or it may be something you’ll need to hone as an adult who wants to be a Piano Teacher. If at any point you feel like you’re rusty or you’re not far enough ahead of your pupil, you need to find the time to learn and improve your fingering. If you are already a great performer, you should still practice from time to time, to cement your talent.
People learn at different speeds and in different ways, and this phenomenon is not limited to the music world. A great Piano Teacher recognizes this and is willing to do what it takes to make sure their students succeed.
Experience playing the piano can come from almost anywhere, and depending on what kind of job you’re looking for as a Piano Teacher, it’s all in how you sell it. Perhaps you’ve been playing since you were very young, and you have a true, deep love for the music. If that’s the case, don’t make something up — just be honest about how much you continue to play these days, how many years you’ve been tickling the ivory, and how much you know. For many parents simply looking to get their children into a beginner’s class, that will be enough!
If you’re applying to actual jobs as a Music Teacher at schools or institutions, it might be a bit trickier, and you may need a different kind of experience. Were you ever in a band? Did you record your own music at any point? Have you ever performed in front of others? Or, if you’re one of the lucky few, it’s possible that you even played professionally in some capacity for some length of time. Many highly-rated Piano Teachers either were performers, or they still are, and they are looking to make more money on the side by helping others get a feel for the instrument.
Whatever form it may take, you need experience to be a good Piano Teacher, and it may be required to even be considered for some gigs or students.
3. Access To Instruments
Some people out there may read this header and think, “Hey, that’s not necessarily true,” but hear me out. As a Piano Teacher, you absolutely need access to the instrument you’re going to be tutoring somebody in for at least one important reason, if not two.
If your student is someone just getting into playing, chances are they might not have their own piano, or perhaps even a keyboard. Such instruments can be big investments, and many people may choose to hold off on spending the money until they know the piano will be used quite a bit. If you want to teach a variety of different kinds of students — children, young people who may have some experience, and even adults — it’s helpful if you either have a piano or if you have access to one somewhere. It’s not required, but you will find you may have to turn down offer after offer if you can’t supply the actual instrument itself.
Let’s say you don’t need to provide those paying for your time with a piano — does that mean you don’t need access to one? No, I don’t believe so! You still want to be able to practice when not with your students, so you can always be improving right alongside them. This will keep your mind fresh and your fingers nimble, and it will make you a truly great Piano Teacher.
Maybe it took you a long time to get the hang of playing the piano, maybe it didn’t. It doesn’t really matter either way, as when you’re a Piano Teacher, it’s not about you and your experience, but your students and how they learn. As you add more and more clients to your roster, you’ll find that some of them pick up songs, techniques, and the language of the instrument very quickly, while others need more time. Some may require you to explore other ways of teaching, while some may be able to simply sit down and play. People learn at different speeds and in different ways, and this phenomenon is not limited to the music world.
A great Piano Teacher recognizes this and is willing to do what it takes to make sure their students succeed. Patience is an absolute must when doing so, and you’ll find you need to call upon it many times and for many different reasons. Some students may simply be slower to acquire the talent, while others may frustrate you by clearly not practicing as much as they should, which can, at times, feel like a waste of your time.
It’s hard to summon sometimes, but patience is key.
5. Practice Space
Like access to a piano, which I mentioned above, practice space is also something that you should have access to in order to be a great Piano Teacher (whether your students require it or not). If they do, it’s necessary to have a place large enough to fit two people and a piano comfortably. Many Piano Teachers simply visit students in their homes, either bringing a keyboard with them or using the one those learning already have. If you are traveling to them, make sure everybody involved (which may include parents) understands that a quiet space with enough room to fit comfortably is needed.
If the student can’t host you at their home for lessons, you’ll need to get creative. Maybe you have room at your apartment or home, which is also great. If not, there are other options. You may be able to partner with a school of some kind, or perhaps there’s a rehearsal space nearby that you can rent when you need. This may cost you money, but that can typically be passed on to the student…though if you have to up your prices because of this, you may end up losing some clients if the entire endeavor becomes too expensive.
Even if you set a weekly time with a student, it’s highly likely that things will be rescheduled many times, and unless you want to cut someone loose who you’ve been tutoring, you’ll need to roll with the punches.
As a Piano Teacher, you’ll need time when learning to be patient with those learning to play (which I detailed above), but when I say “time” here, I mean more than that. You’ll want to do your best to be accommodating in terms of scheduling, and while that may sound obvious and fairly easy, it can quickly become difficult for some. Many looking to take lessons will want to do so likely when you’re free as well: nights and weekends, so as a Piano Teacher, you often need to be willing to give those up to some degree. There are very few students who will be playing for many hours during the middle of the day (and they are likely in school for that purpose), so if you want to pursue this career path, think about not only how many hours you’re willing to devote, but how flexible you’re willing to be.
Even if you set a weekly time with a student, it’s highly likely that things will be rescheduled many times, and unless you want to cut someone loose who you’ve been tutoring, you’ll need to roll with the punches. It will be tough to find other times that work, especially if you have other commitments or possibly even several students at once, but this is the life of a Piano Teacher.
7. A Degree Or A Certificate
Despite what you may think or hear, there isn’t necessarily a proper degree or certificate required if you want to become a Piano Teacher — at least not if you just want to teach friends and family. You can tell your friends and begin advertising your services online without any piece of paper stating how good you are. This is great news for Piano Teachers just getting started but it’s hard for parents and potential students, as it can be difficult to be sure paying for the lessons is worthwhile.
If you do have a teaching degree or certificate, or perhaps one in piano, that’s wonderful! Go out of your way to make that known to prospective clients, as it will help you stand out from others and it may win you some business. If you’re applying to jobs at schools and the like, you probably will need one of these, but otherwise, you’re fine to simply begin helping others learn how to play piano.
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