Advice to a young piano teacher: Your first piano lesson with an adult beginner

By lmt-editorMay 4, 2023
Est. Reading: 5 minutes

Here you are. Your first adult beginner piano student is due for his first lesson in a few days, and you're at a loss for where to begin. You have never met an adult who is brand new to playing the piano, and the pressure is on. So, what should I say? So, what should I do? Will he enjoy my lesson? What shall I first show him? 

I understand how intimidating it can be, so I am happy to share my experience. 

Over the years, I have met several adults who were brand new to piano playing, and I have refined my approach until I found a recipe that worked pretty well. 

Make your student feel comfortable

You may be nervous about meeting your new student, but believe me; he is even more so. He is scared to death! He has never touched a piano key in his life, and he feels worthless. He is worried about not being good enough, and he is probably doing some research before coming to see you so that he does not appear too stupid.' 

So don't be concerned. He is more embarrassed than you are! 

Your first task should be to put your new piano student at ease. Greet him with a friendly smile and enquire about his day. It will help to break the ice and make everyone feel more at ease. 

Initiate a conversation by asking questions

You should talk a little more and ask him a few questions once the pressure has gone down. I believe it is critical to discover who sits on the piano stool. In addition, instead of reciting a script, asking questions shows your student that you are interested in him and that you will adapt to his needs. 

I don't think you'd be pleased if a doctor gave you a prescription without asking you any questions, do you? 

It is critical to show interest in your new piano student. Ask your new piano student about their motivation for learning, preferred music styles, whether they have access to a piano at home, and if they have time to practice between lessons.

After this brief conversation, you should both be much more relaxed and ready to begin the piano lesson. 

Getting started 

I always take a few minutes to explain that the piano stool should be adequately adjusted before moving on to hand positions. It doesn't matter if your student doesn't know what a middle C is. I don't discuss the piano mechanism or the pedals.

Instead, I show him around the keyboard. Remember that if your student has never played the piano before, he may feel completely lost in front of these impressive 88 keys that all look the same. 

First, I concentrate on one octave, from middle C to high C, and teach him the names of the white notes. I explain briefly that the black keys are variations on these notes, but I don't spend much time on it.

I highlight the C and F, indicating that the C is on the left side of a group of two black keys and the F is on the left side of a group of three black keys. Most adults notice it right away, and it helps them get a better picture of the keyboard. 

Then I ask them to find all of the Cs and Fs on the keyboard.

At that point, your student should have a slight smile on his face because he is beginning to understand how everything will work. He now realises that the same keys repeat themselves and that it isn't so frightening after all. 

C – D – E – F – G and basic note values 

Following this initial discovery, I prefer to begin only with C – D – E – F – G.

At this point, I don't know if the student is a quick learner or not, so I think it's best not to take any chances. I once met a lady who could not remember these five notes.

I saw her twice, and even after two hours of lessons, she couldn't recognise them. It is an extreme case, but you should be prepared because you never know! 

If everything goes well and the student knows the name and key of these five notes, I show him where they are on the music staff. I ask him to take a few minutes to figure out where they are written and then ask him to read them on a music sheet. 

Learning to read music is critical and skipping this step is a big mistake that will quickly become a problem in your student's education. 

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The first line contains only Cs, Ds, and Es. The Fs are added in the second line, followed by the Gs in the third line. I go slowly and step by step. 

I pick up a piano book and ask the student to play his first piano piece once he recognizes these notes on the keyboard and the music sheet. I always choose 'Au Clair de la Lune,' a French children's rhyme with only Cs, Ds, and Es. 

I take advantage of this opportunity to explain the treble and bass clefs and ask the student to tell me the names of the notes he plays. Instead of memorizing, it is a wonderful exercise that forces beginners to memorise the names of the notes and associate a name with a key. 

When it appears to be simple, I move on to time signatures and note values. I keep it simple by only discussing semibreves, minims, and crotchets. This simple piece has no other rhythm in any case, so it is ideal! 

What I've learned so far should be sufficient for any average piano beginner. Some may require more time than others, so adjust accordingly. Do the same for the bass clef if he is a quick learner and can absorb more information. It all depends on how long this first lesson lasts! 

The lesson has come to an end 

I always encourage my students, no matter what they have accomplished. I think it's lovely to see adults learn to play the piano, and I can only applaud them for it. So many piano enthusiasts wish to begin but never do, so let us cheer on the daring! 

I also advise the student to practice as much as he can on a daily basis. I tell him exactly what to do and give him some pointers on improving his memorisation of the notes and determining whether he truly understands them. In addition, I recommend purchasing a notebook to be used for homework writing. 

As you can see, it is a very simple recipe that produces excellent results.

People are always happy when they leave their first piano lesson if this method is used, and they feel a sense of accomplishment. They discovered that reading music is not as complicated as they had previously thought, and they were able to play their first tune. 

What more can they ask for?  🙂

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