Our goal as piano teachers is to infuse enough skill and passion into our piano students that they will (hopefully) continue to play the piano throughout their life; finding pleasure, solace and… maybe even a little cash along the way. But are we as piano teachers actually preparing them for these end-goals?
It’s likely that 99% of your piano students will not continue on to make a full-fledged career out of performing. So how will all of these years they spent in piano lessons benefit them throughout their lives? They need real skills that enable them to use their piano playing abilities in the most applicable ways.
Enter the 3 skills you should be teaching…
Skill #1: Accompanying
How many of you teach your piano students to accompany? This is the most common piano-related job they will find out there in the “real world” and in reality, most piano students are not trained to accompany at all…ever! For those of you who are instrumentalists or vocalists as well, you know that a skilled accompanist is not simply someone who can play the piano well. Accompanying is truly a skill that needs to be taught and practiced… and it’s a real-world application of everything they’ve invested in during their years of piano lessons. Your studio recitals are the perfect place for your students to practice accompanying. Start with piano duets and branch out from there.
Skill #2: Improvisation
Do you cringe when someone at a party shouts out a request to you… “Hey! You play the piano! Lemme hear some Billy Joel!” How silly do we feel when we request sheet music or politely decline to say “Sorry…I don’t know that one.” Haven’t we been playing this instrument for decades? Teaching your piano students to improvise and to play by ear is a skill that will enhance their long-term enjoyment of the piano and will make them a truly versatile musician. What’s the point of learning to play if we can’t hop on up on that piano and play a version of Piano Man to liven up a party? Improvisation naturally leads to composing (another skill that can keep your piano students at the piano for years and years).
Skill #3: Teaching
We used our skills to teach… and so can many of our students! Why then do we not teach our piano students to teach? We all know that piano teaching is truly an art form. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the next generation of piano teachers were ones who had been taught how to correctly teach right from the beginning? Why leave them to graduate and then flounder their way through their first 3 years as a budding piano teacher? Begin with mentoring in your studio (find out more here).
The “Why” Behind Piano Lessons
I make a point of asking “why” questions regularly when looking at how I structure my piano program: Why is this particular student taking lessons? Why should this particular student continue to attend lessons? Why would this student ever touch the piano again after they leave high school? The answers to these questions are what direct my approach. Let these 3 skills direct some of your teaching this year and watch your students’ motivation soar!