[musings] I’d love to teach an adult beginner in piano..

some of my goals in life:
(1) go to graduate school
(2) visit all the Groms in NYC
(3) teach an adult beginner in piano

I have no idea why I just thought of it, but I imagine it would be fun. I have taught little kids before, so I have dealt with the one side of the spectrum. I am an adult advanced, so I have a little insight into the adult side of things. (Sort of. Sometimes I feel like I am torturing my professor because try as she might to be subtle, her signs of displeasure are incredibly obvious. Maybe I’m not the best adult student.)

I think part of the allure of teaching an adult beginner is that they ‘understand’ a whole lot more right off the bat and do not need the teacher to be particularly ‘fun.’ I do not need to be smiling and “good job!” all the time and give out stickers. Stickers are always nice, though.

What would I do in the first lesson? It would have to be rather long one, perhaps one to two hours. The rest of the lessons can be as short as the adult wants them, but the first lesson’s length must be longer than usual. I would start with a regular kid’s beginner book and read through it with them, getting the reading basics down– this is a note, this a staff, this is a time signature. Along the way, I would just teach them basic hand positions. Afterwards, I would assign them the entire book to practice (around 20 to 30 little songs) for the upcoming week. I would also assign scales– C and D major.

At the second lesson, I would ask if they had any problems or any questions, and would randomly ask them to play some songs from the book that I had assigned. We would go over the scales. If everything is satisfactory, based on their musical preferences, I would then start them on a ‘real’ piano piece but easy, probably something jazzy and contemporary, since there really is no end of them these days. I think as adults we already have a strong preconception of what we like, so it is better to play songs that we want to play. Playing pieces you like is a stronger motivator than a scary teacher.

After these first few lessons of settling in, I would boil down lessons into a formula. First, the student would play one or two scales, and a bit of finger exercises like the cute ones in A Dozen A Day. Afterwards, I would help them on the two or three pieces that they picked themselves to practice. At the end of the lesson, they would hand in some written music theory homework. I will not be demanding them to write counterpoint, but just some basic music theory that everyone should know once they have progressed to a certain level.

Of course, this is all very broad, because not all students are alike and may have difficulties in different areas and may be interested in different things (god forbid I get a student who likes playing arpeggios). The other reason about the vagueness is, well, I am not a professional piano teacher-person.

Have you ever taught anyone anything seriously? What did you think of the experience? Or if you have never taught anyone, what was it like being on the receiving end? Did your piano teacher scare the willies out of you, like mine?

About these ads

One thought on “[musings] I’d love to teach an adult beginner in piano..

  1. Hi! I stumbled upon your blog and thought I’d leave a comment..even though I’m a few months behind :) I’ve taught a number of adult beginners and, like you said, it’s definitely different than teaching school-aged children. They can intellectually understand more at a faster rate and have a longer attention span. I love your gusto of wanting to have a super long lesson at first and cover as much as possible, but remember that adult students can still get overwhelmed, too. And even though they can process more complex info, a concept you present to them might not click as easily or their fingers might not have the coordination down as quickly as one might think. There are some great beginner adult piano books available. My favorites are Alfred’s Adult Piano Course (regular or all-in-one book) and Faber’s Adult Piano Adventures (again, the regular or all-in-one book). These teach by a ‘chordal’ approach so they can learn chord progressions and learn simple folk songs or pop songs early on. Great for teaching note reading, as well as transposition and improvisation. If you’re familiar with the ‘landmark’ approach, then Keyboard Musician For the Adult Beginner by Frances Clark is great. It’s great for developing good finger dexterity and note reading because it doesn’t stick to a 5-finger method, but does require some extra preparation on the teacher’s part and full teacher-student collaboration (or else the student will be totally lost).

    I usually given 60 minute lessons once a week for my adult students. It’s great because I can change up the lesson to not only include theory and technique work at the piano, but incorporate some listening samples and music history discussion. Actually, your ‘classical music is stuffy?’ post has some great pieces that you could incorporate! I like to give background on why a piece was composed or what was going on at the time it was written….good stuff :) One thing I’ve learned, though, in my teaching adult students -> don’t think that they’ll be better practicers than your younger students :P My adults were either balancing family and jobs, or were retired, but still active in different activities. For either ‘camp’, their piano lessons were like their therapy session where they could unwind and have some ‘alone time’ to relax. But even if they had a rough week and didn’t practice much, the lessons were still great because we could still work on ironing out whatever they were having trouble with the prior week, then take a bit of a break by listening to an orchestral or piano piece (and talk about dynamics, instrumentation, style, cultural influences, etc.) or talk about a composer and learn a bit about them. The lesson flies by!

    Sorry for the lengthy post. As you can see, piano teaching (young students or old) is a passion of mine. I sadly don’t have adult students in my current studio (had to move away from my former studio of students and am currently transitioning with another move…hopefully the final for a while :-/), but once I settle again, would readily take them on. With my elementary, teenage, or adult students, I’ve never expected prodigies (though I’ve taught the gamut) but if I can at least instill a lifetime love of music, then my job is done. I’ll never forget when an adult student of mine said that they despised piano lessons as a kid and felt it was torture, yet this time around it’s been a completely different and much nicer experience…that’s music to my ears ;)

Share your thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s