Dear piano teachers

Have you ever wondered how to build a happy, growing and thriving piano studio?

After developing a successful studio, here are my top 10 tips for teaching beginners. Most of these tips circle around the idea of keeping a positive environment.

  1. First impressions are always key for a great start. Keep your words and actions loving and warm. Be professional and tell the students and their parents your expectations from the beginning.
  2. Take advantage of their initial motivation and get them through their primer book as fast as possible. Beginners are the most motivated when they start because they are excited to experience something new. I’ve seen multiple students go through the Piano Adventures Primer book in 11 weeks when they practiced 10 minutes a day. That is about a chapter per week! When they see they have completed a book so fast, students are more likely to practice on their own as they go into their Level 1 book (which, in my opinion, is the more “fun” book).
  3. Make sure to dress professionally. Parents will respect that you take your job seriously. There are so many times I’ve seen private teachers wear athletic shorts to teach and I have cringed every time.
  4. Always look for ways to encourage the kids. Pointing out their good technique such as a curved hand shape reinforces them to keep their hand curved. Say things like, “the melody was beautiful!” or “great job making that softer,” “WOW, amazing! I can tell you practiced a lot!”
  5. Look for physical ways to teach new concepts. For example, guide a child’s hand and show them how to play a technical passage. This way the child has the correct physical response and can play it correctly the first time. Or if a child has a hard time making a song softer throughout, I tell them to “put Ms. Jessica to sleep.” If they keep the whole song soft throughout, I pretend I fell asleep at the end. If they have a note louder, all of a sudden I “wake up” and say “ah!”
  6. Incorporate highlighters into your lessons to teach notation. Go to town with them! I have multiple colors and they do not bleed through the paper. The more notations the kids learn, the more the notations start disappearing into the background. At times, I’ve asked kids to find and highlight all of their dynamics. They spend a few minutes looking for them as if they were looking for Waldo! Highlighting symbols and notations on the paper makes them pop out more so children have a higher chance playing them.
  7. Have KEY WORDS. For children, change the lingo so they understand music in a simpler way. Cheat sheet: QUARTER REST- “shh”; STACCATO- “bounce”; ACCENT- “push!”; SLUR- “smooooooth”; or SLUR to STACCATO- “Drop- Lift”; QUARTER NOTE- “TA”; EIGHTH NOTE- “TI”; PIANO (p)- whisper “soft”; FORTE (f)- shout “loud”.
  8. Make sure to make your student’s assignments stand out. Find out what works best for each kid: assignment sheets, keeping a journal, email, bookmarks, etc. I’ve noticed my students became more progressive when I put a fluorescent yellow square at the top of their homework page. If the assignment was for homework, the box would be empty; if it was completed, the box would be filled with a sticker. I also use large paperclips as bookmarks.
  9. If students get wild during the lesson, always keep your cool! Some students have a lot of energy and are not used to sitting and concentrating. I try not to yell – that just diminishes your power over time. Try to avoid words like “stop,” or “no,” and instead use words like, “Please come back to the piano,” “No thank you,” or “Look at me.” If they are not respecting you as the teacher, you will have to talk to their parents. I’ve seen the wildest students calm down when I ask their parents to sit in the room with them. The parents do the disciplining and I do my job as the teacher.
  10. Have your students establish INDEPENDENCE. For example, encourage them find their hand position on their own instead of telling them. I know you don’t want to waste precious lesson time, so you are tempted to move their hands where they’re supposed to go, or say “c position.” However, when you let them take their time and remember that RH 1 goes on middle C, and LH 5 goes on Bass C, they will strengthen their note reading skills and quicken their pace of finding their own hand position. Also, write YOYO on some of their new assignments. YOYO stands for You’re On Your Own. Tell them if they figure out how to play it on their own correctly, they will receive 2 stickers for that song!

These are but a few tips I learned and have established teaching beginners.

Versland Studios
5.0
Based on 18 reviews
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Connie Mandrozos
Connie Mandrozos
03:43 27 Oct 19
My son has been taking piano lessons with Jessica for quite some time now. Jessica is always easy-going and kind and... encourages him to feel confident. She has a great sense of his learning style and always keeps things at his level, yet challenges him. I would highly recommend Jessica as an instructor, she is truly gifted and her passion for her job and students in evident. My son’s progress and love for the piano started with her.read more
Kari-Elise Codispoti
Kari-Elise Codispoti
21:32 22 Oct 19
Ms. Jessica is a wonderful teacher for our young (6 &8 years) children. They love going to lessons and have learned so... much in such a short time. I am really impressed with her ability to introduce musical concepts to them. We look forward to seeing how they grow as they progress in their lessons.read more
MB Twohig
MB Twohig
20:00 23 Sep 19
Me. Jessica is very supportive and encouraging during classes. She’s very good at adapting to my learning needs and... letting me learn at my own pace! I have no past experience and she has been great!read more
ashley born
ashley born
14:48 19 Sep 19
Excellent and caring teacher! Ms. Jessica works great with my 9 year old son and even engages with my 2 year old... daughter regularly. Highly recommend! Jessica also donated her time and talent playing the piano for the 2019 United Way Red, White & Chocolate fundraising event. It was so appreciated!read more
Sydney Bigelow
Sydney Bigelow
22:37 10 Sep 19
I love Miss Jessica! I am a ninth grade student and this is my third year, and she does a great job working and... adapting to different skill levels. She makes sure that each lesson is entertaining and helping the student to grow. Definitely would recommend!read more
Naj Nakad
Naj Nakad
18:16 04 Sep 19
Jessica is a very kind, patient and encouraging piano teacher. My girls have learned so much in only a year and... performed so confidently and beautifully at their first piano recital. Jessica praises and rewards her students and every lesson is always fun and a positive experience!!!read more
Clifford Rios
Clifford Rios
20:02 07 Aug 19
Very effective teacher for our 6 yr old daughter. Teaches at an age-appropriate level and I was very impressed to see... all the beginner children okay so well at recital after just a year of lessons. Highly recommend for anyone looking to have child try piano.read more
Mahesh VP
Mahesh VP
23:33 15 Jul 19
Jessica Versland was recommended to us by one of our friends who has been sending her daughter to Versland Studios for... piano sessions. Our son has been taking piano lessons from Jessica since January 2019 and we are super impressed with her teaching skills. Jessica is very organized, and always focuses on building the foundation right for her students. She makes her session very interactive and enjoyable for the students so that they truly build the passion for playing piano. Jessica sets manageable daily practice goals for her students so that her students take full advantage of the program. Within a span of 5 months, our son was ready to perform at a recital program. Jessica is an excellent piano teacher and I will strongly recommend Jessica to anyone looking for piano lessons.read more
Parri Hockenberry
Parri Hockenberry
14:14 05 Jul 19
We’ve had a wonderful experience with Jessica over the past year. Our girls are thriving during their time with... Jessica and are learning how to read music, play scales, and even performed their favorite song at the end of the year recital. We look forward to continuing their music education into the future.read more
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