David Hicken ~ Pianist & Composer

Advice For Pianists

Teaching yourself to play the piano just doesn't work.  All of the books, DVDs and online videos that suggest that this is possible, not only do not work, but are written by people who have not had experience in formal music training.  (If they had, they never would have published a course that goes against what they know to be true, unless it was purely for profit.)

Sure, you might be able to play "Mary had a little lamb", or bang out the tune of a Beatle's song using these methods, but is this really learning to play the piano? For some, this might be all they want, but for others it isn't enough, and can actually be detrimental to their progress.

No book or online video can ever correct your posture or hand position.  No video course can remind you to curve your fingers, and help you to understand why the fingering that you are using for a certain passage is not the best choice.  None of these methods can explain the meaning of a double sharp in the context of a piece you are playing.

Not only do you need a teacher, but you also need someone to act as a coach and a mentor.  You need someone who will encourage you, but will also let you know when you are slacking.  You need a person who will motivate you as well as hold you to high standards.  You need a teacher to whom you can ask questions, and have discussions about music.  You need a human being - not a video.

Most important of all is that when you know your weekly lesson is approaching, you are more likely to have worked at your assignments than if you were doing it on your own.

So where to begin?  There are unfortunately many more bad piano teachers out there than there are good ones.  Just about anyone can open up shop, claiming to be a piano teacher, but just because someone can play the piano, it doesn't mean that they can teach it.

Piano teachers get better at teaching the more they do it.  I suggest that you find someone who has been doing it for a long time.  There is nothing like experience.   Generally, they will have seen most of the common issues that students have, and they will know what to do with you.

In my opinion, you should ignore their qualifications, because the degrees they have, as well as the schools they attended, have absolutely no bearing on the quality of their teaching.

In my book "Secrets To Better Piano Playing", I outline some of the most important questions that you should ask a potential teacher. The best question is this: "can you please tell me what a typical lesson consists of?"  If the word "scales" does not come out of their mouth, you should immediately dismiss them, and find someone who stresses the importance of them.

You want a teacher who is busy, so dismiss the ones who are giving "special offers".  Ignore teachers who have you sign a contract, or pay for many lessons in advance.  Busy and successful teachers don't need to do this.  Ignore their "affiliations" because the "clubs" that they belong to means nothing.

Generally, you'll be in good hands with a teacher who puts their students in for examinations such as ABRSM, Trinity Guildhall,  London College, Canadian Conservatory, Australian Conservatory etc.

I am not a fan of the American organization which shall remain nameless, due to the lack of a solid structure for their exams, as well as their insistence that some pieces be memorized.  A great teacher will not care too much about memorization.

Don't just choose the closest and most convenient teacher, but find the best coach that you can.  You owe it to yourself.

Playing the piano is a vast art that takes years and years to develop well.  It can never be summed up in a bunch of videos or books, unless there were many thousands of them.

"If a job is worth doing, it is worth doing well"

Happy hunting!!

David Hicken

All of the concepts that I write about here are detailed in my eBook "Secrets To Better Piano Playing" .  Click the image below to find out more.