As a piano teacher, you’re an ambassador for the world of music.
When a new student walks in for her first lesson, it may be her very first time touching a piano. Whether your student is five or seventy-five, your goal should be to make her introduction to music as fun and educational as possible!
But that first beginner piano lesson isn’t just intimidating for the student. It can be stressful for the teacher, too!
How can you create a beginner piano lesson plan that your students will love? And how can you tailor it to your students’ individual ages and interests?
Read on for professional advice on how to plan a beginner piano lesson!
Who is your student?
First of all, who is your new student? Is she a self-conscious seven-year-old? An eager teenager who loves music? A retired professional starting a new hobby?
Each of these students is learning piano for different reasons. As a teacher, you need to understand what these reasons are and plan your lessons accordingly. You need to take the time to get to know the student. Especially at the start, speaking with parents can be a huge help.
Some teachers accept students as young as three, while others prefer for the child to be at least seven years old. Although there’s no “perfect age” to start learning piano, five is generally the age when formal training can begin.
Your youngest students (10 and under) will need warmups that promote correct hand positioning and muscle memory. If their hands are still small, they’ll likely need time to develop their finger strength and dexterity.
Pre-teen and teenage students may require a very different approach, especially if they have a musical background. These older kids might be more interested in learning to play modern songs than classical pieces.
Adult beginners might have a longer attention span than younger students, but their overall progress may be slower. Patience and reassurance are vital to ensure they avoid common beginner problems and don’t feel too frustrated.
Beginner piano lessons for young children
In your first lesson with a young beginner, you need to find out the following:
- How much control they have over individual fingers
- How well they identify patterns of keys on the keyboard
- If they have aural pitch awareness
- If they’re able to match when singing
- Whether they can keep a steady beat
Of course, with a very young child, you’re not going to grill her with a series of tests. You can easily identify all this information using a fun series of games!
An easy way to assess your student’s aural abilities is to make pairs of contrasting paddles (loud/soft, short/long, same/different, high/low). Some kids will struggle with these, while others will “get it” right away.
Start by getting your student to match your voice, not the piano. Two pitches are enough for a beginner, although you can add more if the child is a naturally good singer.
Some young ones may still hold a pencil in a fist instead of a pen grip. Help her improve her finger dexterity by having her tap individual fingers on a table top or closed piano lid.
This doesn’t have to be limited to clapping or tapping exercises. Get your student up and moving by having her march, stomp, or jump to a certain beat.
Learning the keyboard
An animal memory game is a terrific way to introduce notes to young students. You could use A=Ant, B=Bear, C=Cat, D=Dog, E=Elephant, F=Frog, and G=Giraffe. See if they can remember the animals from the beginning to the end of an octave. Then try mixing the notes or reciting them backward!
Some young students will love lots of games, while others may not. Be ready to tailor your lesson plan to your individual students’ personalities and learning styles.
Beginner piano lessons for older children
While a young child might be taking lessons because her parents want her to, an older child may have asked for lessons herself. With less parental influence and more personal interest, you have the chance to learn why she wants to learn piano.
If your preteen or teenage student has no prior musical training, there may be quite a few gaps to fill. True, you still need to assess her aural and pitch awareness and ability to keep a tempo. But kids this age tend to be very self-conscious, so be sure none of your activities will embarrass them!
To determine your students’ rhythmic abilities, try using a tambourine or hand drum. Or you could give specific instructions like, “Clap, lap, lap, clap.” While she’s having fun, she has no idea you’re actually assessing her sense of pulse.
Since memory and pattern recognition are more developed at this age, your older students will be capable of playing “cooler” songs. They should also possess the height and coordination needed to learn to pedal right away.
Beginner piano lessons for adults
While games and activities are ideal for young learners, adult students need a different approach.
Adults will generally have a style in mind when they’re seeking a piano teacher. Perhaps they want to learn jazz, blues, or modern pop pieces. Others may only want to learn enough to be able to improvise chords and play basic melodies.
Some adults may find it challenging to listen to you, the teacher, because it’s been so long since they were a student. Others may be very critical of themselves and become easily discouraged if their progress is slow.
To keep your adult students motivated, be sure to acknowledge their accomplishments – however small they might be. Encourage them to develop (and stick with!) a good practice routine.
At the same time, remember that they have busy lives to lead. Between work and family responsibilities, adult students may progress slower than younger learners.
Final thoughts on beginner piano lessons
Whether your students are young, old, or in-between, you can create a lesson plan that will inspire and motivate them.
Keep in mind that your goal as a teacher is not to rush or force your students to do anything. Rather, you should work to instill a love of music that will last a lifetime.