My approach to teaching piano


I would like to shred some light on the methods I use with my piano students. I want to look at piano teaching in an innovative way where I approach my students the same way that a personal trainer would approach their clients. I want to develop personalised plans and programs for each student. I want to utilise both traditional and less common teaching methods.

The reason for this is the variarity of my students. Some of them want to do traditional jazz lessons. Others want to play hip-hop piano riffs. Other want to compose – from classical to neo-soul and dark-chill. I want to take all students that I personally click with no mater their ambitions, skill levels or/or goals. That is why my first contact lesson is free. I need to feel we agree with the student on the approach and style for both teaching and learning. I want to develop methods that can in the future be used alongside the contact lessons but at some point also independent of contact lessons.

I want to use the beneficial things I learned from my personal teachers and also add different things that I felt I did not receive during the time as a student. I will break down my approaches into the following categories: communication, resources, adaptability, “quality control” and personality.

Communication

This is something I felt was quite missing from the time when I was a student. I usually had something small I needed to ask my teacher but needed to wait all the way to the next lesson. Then I would use up valuable time for that trivial thing. I wanted to have a more natural student-teacher connection and contact. I want to be connected with each student and the whole student community as a whole on a more regular basis.

That is why I have a piano students’ WhatsApp group as well as their personal numbers and contact information. Students sometimes contact me between the lesson for tips or ideas on the lessons or the learning progress. The communication goes both ways as well. I am actively in touch with each student on a personal level and want them to get the best value out of me.

My Piano Students’ WhatsApp group

Resources

I want to build my teaching resources from the ground up together with the input from students. I gather what are the things they struggle with when they learn by themselves or online via videos etc. I plan on writing short lessons on the website/blog platform targeting both beginners and intermediate/jazz students. These resources will be used later for other students as well. Besides common material I also tailor-make a lot of material and worksheets specifically for each student according to their approach, skill level and goals.

In addition to the blog lessons I have a (password protected) student page within my website containing (password protected) student folders and other resources such as worksheets and MIDI software. Each folder contains materials from and for the lessons divided into sections.

Piano students log in page

An example of a students folder

Below are some examples of different types of materials:

Adaptability

Most students might not get the best out of traditional learning methods. People learn in different ways and also have different skill levels both for theory and technique. Some (actually most) have trouble reading notes while others prefer notation over other methods. It is thus important to be agile enough to be able to take all learning aspects into consideration when teaching.

One should have may different approaches to the identical concepts. I go through the different methods with each student. There are several options to choose from or a selection of some. Some of them include notation sheets, chord sheets, pictures, audio tracks, videos (screen recordings of MIDI software and live recordings), personalised worksheets and utilizing a MIDI reading software called MIDIculous.

For teaching people who don’t read notes I have made visual prints of parts of the keyboard (usually 1-3 octaves) where the black keys have been coloured white. The student then fills in the print according to the scales/chords/voicings in question.

I want to develop methods that can in the future be used alongside the contact lessons but at some point also independent of contact lessons.

Visual print of a keyboard over 2 octaves. This is used for chords and chord inversions. The students fill in or mark the notes in question and thus make a “visual imprint” of the subject.

I use the MIDI software MIDIculous for some of my lessons. My students have access to the software. This video is a tutorial of how the software is used within the lessons.

“Quality Control”

It is important that there is a certain amount or “quality control” for the lessons. I ask for suggestions and reviews all the time since I am trying things I have not tried before. It all comes down to trial and error in the end. I keep the good things, reduce the things not working so well.

I understood that it is important to have all the good feedback and reviews in written form as testimonials. Most of my students (clients) come from word-of-mouth “marketing” and with testimonials I get to reach a wider audience outside of my and my students’ connections.

I also implement the same thing with gigs and ask for some feedback from the gig organizer after most gigs. I then forward the feedback to the other band members and we try to improve for each gig.

Below is an example of a testimonial from one of my students:

I have absolutely loved every lesson I’ve had with Sibil. We do things a bit different than normal lessons and it’s so cool how he adapts to all the improv I ask him to do. Every lesson we take a familiar base song that I love and then improvise around it. It’s really inspiring to learn from him. Would recommend to anyone looking to push their piano skills further. 🙂

Chichi, piano student

Personality

I think the most important thing in life is to do what you love. I really like making music and teaching how to do the same. Music is very emotional and therapeutical and I like to instil that feeling and importance to my students as well. I want them to really explore what they want themselves and I see myself as more of a mentor or guideline on how they can achieve their goals, whatever they are.


If you are interested in these methods and want to know more feel free to contact me and ask.


(c) 2019 Sibil Yanev

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