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What makes a great piano teacher? Is it good enough to be just competent and capable of sharing his/her knowledge or there are other more subtle qualities? Is it also critical for a student to find the best possible teacher or "good enough" is good enough?

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Where is this question coming from?

If one is seeking to become a piano teacher, it is probably best to become the best teacher you can be, and not a "good enough" teacher.
If a student is seeking a teacher, of course the student will want the "best" teacher available.

What "best" means will vary across individuals, both teachers and students.


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Malkin is absolutely right. I will add one personal comment: I don’t have ‘good enough’ in my dictionary. Therefore, I would never have a teacher that is ‘good enough’.


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In my opinion a great teacher is the one who tries to expand your musical mind with every new piece you learn. It mostly concerns interpretation, expression and setting music in some context: historical, biographical, philosophical, religious, etc. Concerning the basic skills (technical, reading, ways of practicing) up to a certain high level it's honestly not a rocket science, every "good enough" teacher can teach it.

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Great teacher: one who eliminates the need for a teacher as early as possible.

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Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
Concerning the basic skills (technical, reading, ways of practicing) up to a certain high level it's honestly not a rocket science, every "good enough" teacher can teach it.
Here I totally disagree. It is the most important thing, creating the foundation for everything after. The problem is exactly the attitude that it is easy to teach and anyone calling themselves a teacher can do it. The danger is even greater for adults beginning an instrument late in life. I feel rather strongly about this because of what I've seen and experienced.

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For me, a great piano teacher doesn't know that they're great. They are constantly working on their piano and teaching skills through performance, writing, research and asking questions - in essence they acknowledge, through their actions, that they're forever learning alongside the student.

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Originally Posted by keystring
Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
Concerning the basic skills (technical, reading, ways of practicing) up to a certain high level it's honestly not a rocket science, every "good enough" teacher can teach it.
Here I totally disagree. It is the most important thing, creating the foundation for everything after. The problem is exactly the attitude that it is easy to teach and anyone calling themselves a teacher can do it. The danger is even greater for adults beginning an instrument late in life. I feel rather strongly about this because of what I've seen and experienced.


I strongly agree that ‘good enough ’ is not sufficient for a beginning student. This period is when strong technique is developed that is the foundation for everything else. Without that foundation, there are many years of floundering trying to regain missed skills.


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"I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho

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Just 'great' ? What about excellent, outstanding, perfect teacher? ha
I'd just add that a teacher may have many students, and I'd imagine it takes a significant emotional commitment to actually care about each student. Merely to care, i.e. have the student's best interest for them to make progress. I'm speaking from experience of having a teacher that didn't care much - and I understand because he had many students.

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As a classical pianist and teacher, I'd say that a great piano teacher needs to be an excellent pianist (at least teacher-diploma level, but not necessarily performance-diploma, certainly not virtuoso) with comprehensive technical skills and musicianship as well as theoretical knowledge and history of music and the styles of all great composers (not just those who composed piano music), and be able to impart her acumen and knowledge to her students in a manner that works for each individual student. For instance, she might have to rein in excessive enthusiasm for power and speed (regardless of accuracy) in one student, but encourage a timid student to push his boundaries in pace, tone and dynamics. And be aware that everyone's hands are different, and know when to leave things alone, and when to get the student to change, so that he develops the requisite technical skills in a way that suits his playing mechanism.

She knows that what works for one student may not work for another, and accordingly, may need to adapt her methods, therefore should not be hidebound by any so-called 'school' that she may have been brought up with - and most certainly, be very aware that she may have prejudices against one or other comprehensive learning system or music syllabus in national use, due simply to her own inadequacies and inability to use them properly (in which case the solution is to get really acquainted with them and understand how they can be used for her students' advantage, not dismiss them to the detriment of their future prospects in music - including going on to conservatories if they have the talent and inclination).

And she must also be aware that she is as much a music teacher as a piano teacher - most students will not go on to, nor want, a career in music (much less performing), but may continue with amateur music-making in other ways like singing in choirs, accompanying or directing them or conducting amateur orchestras, or organizing music festivals. Therefore, she must also teach the complete range of musicianship skills that will allow her students to pursue their own preferred course when they fly from her nest: her role is to eventually make herself dispensable because her students have been given all the skills with which to continue learning and progressing in their own way, possibly in other musical genres or music-related activities, or to branch out to use their piano skills or musical knowledge in other myriad ways. (Like my youngest sister, who gave up piano in her mid-teens but obtained a good job in music publishing on the strength of her musical knowledge and ability to sight-read complex music.)

Last but not least, a great teacher is able to inspire her students, to love classical music and love playing it, to keep on bettering themselves and wanting to keep exploring the wonderful world of classical music, not just by playing but also as listener (again, not just piano music, but also orchestral, operatic, vocal, chamber......).


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Originally Posted by Beamer63
Is it good enough to be just competent and capable of sharing his/her knowledge

For most people who want to learn to play the piano, this would be just fine.

Originally Posted by Beamer63
Is it also critical for a student to find the best possible teacher

For us members of Piano World who are rather obsessed about playing the piano, only the best possible teacher is good enough.


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As to the question of whether you truly need a great teacher, I would say that it really depends on your goals. A teacher who aims for perfection is essential if you want to reach a concert standard of playing. However, this results in the student spending a lot more time on technique and so on, which can be demotivating in the short term but rewarding in the long run.

What I've noticed in teachers I would consider great would be very keen observation skills. There is almost a sense of authority about them, they know what they are doing and they know they know. That is, they know that their ideas, when executed correctly, do work, and they can observe very precisely whether those ideas are actually being implemented by students or not. I have heard of many stories of professors completely reinventing their students' technique at conservatory, and the reaction on the part of the student is discovering something that feels very intuitive once you know it, but is often counterintuitive or unorthodox. Some of those teachers have their bag of ideas, of which some they have learned directly from pedagogues such as e.g. Nadia Boulanger. I know such teachers exist because I have some friends who have had them; however, I haven't encountered anyone at that level yet, and I would be really excited at the opportunity.

To add to that, though, it really requires a great student to be able to truly learn from a great teacher. And it isn't the teacher's limitation imo, certain things just are hard and can only be understood by students at a certain level, or maybe even certain kinds of innate talent in some cases.

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Originally Posted by dogperson
Originally Posted by keystring
Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
Concerning the basic skills (technical, reading, ways of practicing) up to a certain high level it's honestly not a rocket science, every "good enough" teacher can teach it.
Here I totally disagree. It is the most important thing, creating the foundation for everything after. The problem is exactly the attitude that it is easy to teach and anyone calling themselves a teacher can do it. The danger is even greater for adults beginning an instrument late in life. I feel rather strongly about this because of what I've seen and experienced.


I strongly agree that ‘good enough ’ is not sufficient for a beginning student. This period is when strong technique is developed that is the foundation for everything else. Without that foundation, there are many years of floundering trying to regain missed skills.

Thank you, dogperson. On your last point I'd say it's worse that that. Not only will the student try to gain missed skills, but the student will also be trying to undo what was learned wrong and is now engrained. That is difficult and frustrating. Some of us have gone through it or are going through it. Some of the teachers here have had to do the difficult task of trying to undo the damage.

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Originally Posted by keystring
Originally Posted by dogperson
Originally Posted by keystring
Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
Concerning the basic skills (technical, reading, ways of practicing) up to a certain high level it's honestly not a rocket science, every "good enough" teacher can teach it.
Here I totally disagree. It is the most important thing, creating the foundation for everything after. The problem is exactly the attitude that it is easy to teach and anyone calling themselves a teacher can do it. The danger is even greater for adults beginning an instrument late in life. I feel rather strongly about this because of what I've seen and experienced.


I strongly agree that ‘good enough ’ is not sufficient for a beginning student. This period is when strong technique is developed that is the foundation for everything else. Without that foundation, there are many years of floundering trying to regain missed skills.

Thank you, dogperson. On your last point I'd say it's worse that that. Not only will the student try to gain missed skills, but the student will also be trying to undo what was learned wrong and is now engrained. That is difficult and frustrating. Some of us have gone through it or are going through it. Some of the teachers here have had to do the difficult task of trying to undo the damage.


I should add that being a great teacher does not require a ‘big name’ that only teaches very elite, advanced students. A great teacher can be the unknown local teacher who provides a strong foundation to his/her students, snd adapts that training plan to an individual student’s skills and needs. The unsung heroes. I’ve thought about my childhood teacher a lot recently, and am very sad she is not around so that I can thank her. I hope she knows how great she was.


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
"I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho

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Originally Posted by dogperson
I should add that being a great teacher does not require a ‘big name’ that only teaches very elite, advanced students. A great teacher can be the unknown local teacher who provides a strong foundation to his/her students, snd adapts that training plan to an individual student’s skills and needs. The unsung heroes. I’ve thought about my childhood teacher a lot recently, and am very sad she is not around so that I can thank her. I hope she knows how great she was.
I agree totally.
In fact, the "big name" and "elite" teacher would be teaching those students who have gotten those foundations (and giving those foundations is a unique and separate task, a specialization) - and if you cherry pick those who play well, do we know that you can train regular students for what they need? It is fantastic that you had this teacher.

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Originally Posted by malkin
Where is this question coming from?

If one is seeking to become a piano teacher, it is probably best to become the best teacher you can be, and not a "good enough" teacher.
If a student is seeking a teacher, of course the student will want the "best" teacher available.

What "best" means will vary across individuals, both teachers and students.
strongly agree
Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
In my opinion a great teacher is the one who tries to expand your musical mind with every new piece you learn. It mostly concerns interpretation, expression and setting music in some context: historical, biographical, philosophical, religious, etc. Concerning the basic skills (technical, reading, ways of practicing) up to a certain high level it's honestly not a rocket science, every "good enough" teacher can teach it.
strongly agree

For me a great piano teacher should be a very tough teacher, in the same time he should keep his students' passion for the music.
He should be great pianist and he should inspire his student with event driven. As an artist, he should have very sensible intuition and he should have very strong communication skills. he should let his students to be themself and help them to discover their own music without impose his own. He shouldn't act as the bottleneck of his students.

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Originally Posted by bennevis
As a classical pianist and teacher, I'd say that a great piano teacher needs to be an excellent pianist (at least teacher-diploma level, but not necessarily performance-diploma, certainly not virtuoso) with comprehensive technical skills and musicianship as well as theoretical knowledge and history of music and the styles of all great composers (not just those who composed piano music), and be able to impart her acumen and knowledge to her students in a manner that works for each individual student.

I think that's it in a nutshell but the bolded part is what was most important to me when I was looking for a teacher for my kids. Of course they have to be a good communicator and be able to translate concepts into small easy chunks especially for younger children but if they aren't able to play at the highest levels themselves then how can they understand what their students need to reach the highest levels??

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Originally Posted by Aritempor
Originally Posted by bennevis
As a classical pianist and teacher, I'd say that a great piano teacher needs to be an excellent pianist (at least teacher-diploma level, but not necessarily performance-diploma, certainly not virtuoso) with comprehensive technical skills and musicianship as well as theoretical knowledge and history of music and the styles of all great composers (not just those who composed piano music), and be able to impart her acumen and knowledge to her students in a manner that works for each individual student.

I think that's it in a nutshell but the bolded part is what was most important to me when I was looking for a teacher for my kids. Of course they have to be a good communicator and be able to translate concepts into small easy chunks especially for younger children but if they aren't able to play at the highest levels themselves then how can they understand what their students need to reach the highest levels??

With that sort of thinking world class football (soccer) players like Pele, Maradona, Gazza, Ruud Guilit would make great football managers - thing is, they didn't. It's much more important to be a good communicator and understand a student's learning process than be able to play at an 'excellent' level.

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Originally Posted by Beamer63
What makes a great piano teacher? Is it good enough to be just competent and capable of sharing his/her knowledge or there are other more subtle qualities? Is it also critical for a student to find the best possible teacher or "good enough" is good enough?
I think the second and third questions are not logically phrased. How can "great" possibly be "just competent" or "good enough"? Those mean completely different things. Finding the "best" teacher is usually impossible unless one lives in a place with only a few piano teachers and one can interview/take a sample lesson from each. But there's a lot probably a lot of choices between "best" and "good enough". IOW the choice offered in the third sentence is a false choice.

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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
....I think the second and third questions are not logically phrased. How can "great" possibly be "just competent" or "good enough"? Those mean completely different things. Finding the "best" teacher is usually impossible unless one lives in a place with only a few piano teachers and one can interview/take a sample lesson from each. But there's a lot probably a lot of choices between "best" and "good enough". IOW the choice offered in the third sentence is a false choice.
YES. This is the reason that every piano teacher, every pianist and every artist should do their best at anytime. There is no place for "good enough" or just competent...


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