Piano Teaching Philosophy: What is Your Teaching Philosophy?

Throughout my career as a teacher, I have learned one important fact: it is crucial to define your lesson objectives and the methods to achieve them. However, in terms of defining a music teaching philosophy, it is even better to reflect on the rationale for choosing particular teaching methods as this will help you realize your intended lesson outcomes more effectively. More than anything, you should strive to make the piano an enjoyable and thought-provoking instrument for your students.

Getting Started - Piano Teaching Philosophy:

As part of your piano teaching philosophy, you should find out what the student wants to learn. Do they wish to study grades and build up a repertoire to become an all-round proficient player, would they rather concentrate on competitive performance, or do they want to practice piano as a hobby? This then leads to the following questions: "As a piano teacher, how does the content of my lesson relate to what I want to achieve for my student. How does it factor into my piano teaching philosophy in terms of what the student will leave with after studying with me?”

A useful way to compartmentalize this is to envisage what your student will accomplish according to the four major categories of piano playing, namely performance, creative composition, sight reading, and aural skills. For example, if you have a beginner student it’s a good idea to introduce them to the basics of the keys, sharps and flats, some music theory, and beneficial practice habits as these elements will form the foundation upon which they can progress. You will also want to teach them how to read music and show them elementary pieces in which they can become proficient and which bring together previous lesson content. 

Similarly, if you have an intermediate student or perhaps someone who is interested in studying for a diploma you should ask them what their goals are and gauge their strengths and weaknesses before adapting your piano teaching philosophy to suit their needs. Depending on your student’s preferences, you should provide opportunities for them to play in front of people, from informal student classes to recitals and festivals.  One of the most rewarding aspects of defining your music teaching philosophy is that you can pass on elements of your approach, style, and understanding of musical pieces to your students. There are often several ways of interpreting a piece in terms of dynamics, phrasing, and so on and you can impart your experiential knowledge of this whilst encouraging your students to develop their own styles.

Although every educator’s piano teaching philosophy will vary according to student interests, drawing upon aspects from different schools of piano playing can be advantageous. For example, if your student aspires to become a classical pianist you can concentrate on grades, diplomas, and recitals which entail the intensive practice of scales, chromatic runs, arpeggios, sight reading, performance, and interpretation. However, will your student build up a repertoire beyond the pieces prescribed by academe? Will they be comfortable with experimentation and improvisation? In other words, will they be an adaptable musician who can utilize elements outside of their focus to enhance their abilities as classical musicians? And vice versa, if they want to focus on improvisation, composition, and playing in an ensemble, perhaps introducing them to the discipline of classical music, will push them to become better players in these areas.

Understand Your Student

Your students will express interests in certain aspects of piano and you should consider how to help them achieve their goals. For example, if your student wants to learn how to pick up a tune by listening and playing along to it then you will want to focus on listening and playing in a group. If they want to become adept at the classical performance you will need to devote your time to teaching them classical pieces, theory, dynamics, and melody along with other areas. If they want to create music and improvise you need to provide a framework for this, teaching them how notes and chords relate to each other and showing them pieces which bring this knowledge together while setting composition tasks.

As part of your music teaching philosophy, you should interrogate the rationale behind every aspect of your lesson. Why have you chosen this piece or decided to focus on a particular area of piano practice? What are the strengths and weaknesses of your students and how can you address them? What pieces do your students excel at and which ones will you pick to mold them into better players? Moreover, as a piano player where do your strengths lie and what kind of education can you provide?

An intrinsic aspect of any teacher’s music teaching philosophy is that they impart a love of music to their students.  How can you realize that? While teaching pieces that interest your student will encourage engagement, you can draw upon your knowledge to teach them works that will challenge them and introduce them to new forms of music that they will hopefully enjoy and continue to explore.

Wrap It Up

In conclusion, as a teacher you should ask yourself; “what is my music teaching philosophy”? “Do my current methods align with my existing piano teaching philosophy or do they conflict with them in some areas”? By contemplating these questions, not only will you become a more effective teacher; you will also cultivate a lifelong passion for music in your students.

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