Teaching Beginner Piano Lessons
Tips and Techniques

Teaching beginner piano lessons can be really fun and if you're planning of teaching piano, you'll likely end up teaching more beginners than anyone else. 

Quite a few students begin but not all of them will continue on to really learn advanced piano pieces. 

Here I will give some ideas of resources, activities, studio management and important things you need to address with beginners based on my experiences in teaching piano.

Teaching Beginner Piano Lessons

How Long Does the Beginner Stage Last?

The beginner stage of learning piano is different for every student.

It depends on a few things: 

1. Age: adults and teens will get through the beginner stages of learning piano much faster than kids. Younger children (say age 5) may take up to 4 years in the beginner stage. 

2. How often they practice! Kids (and adults too) who practice will move much more quickly through their beginner piano books than those who don't practice much. The difference can really be measured in years. 

In general, I'd say the beginner stage for most student's is about three years.

It's good to have this in mind when starting out teaching beginners. You'll know how much you want to invest in materials and which resources you want to have one hand. 

Setting Up "Practice"

Beginners start piano lessons with a lot of enthusiasm. It’s important to build on that. Do this by going slow enough that the student feels like they can do it but fast enough that they feel they are progressing well.

Now, a lot of this will depend on the student practicing. Whether they practice or not, try to get the basics down. 

Speaking of practicing ...

For kids, practicing can often be the most challenging part because it's hard. They can even get through the first few weeks of lessons without actually practicing all that much. 

It is important to communicate with parents and adult students right away how much your beginner should be practicing

I usually say they need to practice a song a minimum of 5 times per week for kids who struggle to practice. This is only for the beginners at the very beginning stages who are struggling.

Really, starting off it'd be great for students to practice 15 minutes per day while songs are really short. Later on, we want to aim for 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week. 

Start Off With Good Habits (Be Picky)

It’s really important that students start playing piano with the proper techniques. By this I mean help them avoid bad habits! 

A few of the bad habits that I really tend to focus on are:

  • sitting up straight at the piano (no slouching)
  • no leaning wrists on the edge of the piano while playing
  • keeping those fingers curled
  • keeping thumbs on the keyboard when using other fingers

I will gently correct students them until it’s no longer an issue. Most pick up on it and fix it up. I also try not to nag as we want lessons to be enjoyable. 

These beginning stages will impact the way they play the piano forever! Well, it’s not that serious but try to encourage good habits in teaching beginner piano lessons.

How to Make Lessons Fun

Usually beginners are children. Kids aren’t always good at sitting for half an hour straight.

One thing you can do is teach both on the piano and off.

Make learning notes into games. Moving around and not having kids sit in the same spot for the whole lesson can be really helpful. I talk about this in more detail on my how to give piano lessons page.

It can be the variety of what you do in a lesson that makes things fun and helps them go quickly for the student.

Activities & Materials for Teaching Beginner Piano Lessons

There are a few resources that are really helpful for when teaching piano lessons. 

These are my go-to activities for beginner piano lessons. 

Learning Rhythm with Rhythm Sticks

Every time I teach a new note, we practice it with rhythm sticks. I write out a rhythm on a whiteboard for the student to play. 

Rhythms get more complicated as students learn more notes. 

What I really try to teach to begin with is to count in saying "one-two-ready-go" at the same speed the student will play. 

These are the type of rhythm sticks I use (on Amazon).

Whiteboard Activities

The whiteboard is my most essential resource for piano lessons. There is so much you can do. 

Some of the whiteboard activities I do for beginners are:

  • writing out rhythms with counts
  • drawing notes, rests, clefs, dynamic signs
  • creating rhythms based in a new time signature
  • labeling the keys of the piano 
  • naming and drawing notes on the staff

It's great to have a whiteboard that has magnets like this one on Amazon.

Coloured whiteboard markers are always popular and I'd recommend them. 

Whiteboard and markers

Magnetic Grand Staff

You can get a magnetic grand staff and this also provides you with a lot of activities to do. Some of these come as a whiteboard with the grand staff drawn on and have little magnets for notes.

Activities using a magnetic grand staff:

  • note naming (ex. placing magnets on notes you call out)
  • creating scales (including sharps or flats)
  • creating chords
  • sight reading

Learning notes is the main use for this one. 

I really like having a variety of resources available to me to teach different things. 

Here's a good example of what I use - a magnetic grand staff - on Amazon. (Actually, this one's better than mine since you can draw on it!)

The Floor Staff

One of my favourite ways to learn piano off the keyboard is with a a large floor staff.

To make this: you get a fleece or micro fibre blanket (so it'll stick to the floor). Then use electrical tape to make a giant staff with the bass and treble clefs. Space your lines apart enough so that little feet or hands can fit between them. 

Way to use the Floor Staff

  • stand or hop of notes called out
  • make it like Twister and kids have to touch four different lines or spaces at once
  • through a ball or disc (like a mini frisbee) on it and name the notes

There’s lot’s of things you can do with this one and kids love it. 

Recommended Beginner Piano Books

There are some good books that I would recommend in teaching beginner piano lessons.

My number one pick right now is the Piano Adventure Series. The pieces are interesting and everything is laid out well.

My second pick is the Alfred Series. My piano teacher used the Alfred books and so I did. They are good and they have a good theory book with them.

I always recommend using a lesson book and a theory book

The book you get will depend on the age of the student you're teaching. The Alfred books for example, have a book for 4 year olds, 5-7 year olds, older kids, pre-teens / teens and adults. Teens can do the adult book. 

I'd recommend going to a local music store (if you have one) to see what they carry and you can always tell them the age of your student, they'll know what books are popular and common in your area. 

How to Accept Online Payments & Keep Lessons Organized

When you start to get a few students - like 5 or more I'd say, organization of lesson times, who's payed what, who needs a make up lesson starts and more starts to be an issue. 

Music Teachers Helper is a great resource for piano teachers (and other music teachers as well).

What is does is:

  • keeps your lesson times straight
  • gives you a website for marketing
  • accepts online and credit card payments
  • keeps track of students details (like emails, parents names, etc)
  • keeps track of who would need a make up lesson
  • and more

It's a great resource that I've recommended for years and many piano teachers have found it an absolute life saver (especially as life can be busy)!

Check out Music Teachers Helper here

What Age Should Students Start Piano

I used to take any any student who was willing but I learned the hard way not to do this. Unless a child is a bit on the prodigy side (haven't had any of these) I teach kids ages 6 or over.

There are a few reasons for this:

  • They need to know the alphabet - at least the first 7 letters anyway.
  • They need to be able to count.
  • They need to be able to keep their right hand and left hands straight.
  • Attention spans are just about long enough at age 6

Can You Teach Piano Without A Degree?

Diploma and graduation hat

Short answer - yes. Especially if you're teaching beginner piano lessons.

In most countries when you learn classical piano, there is a piano grade that people consider the grade you can start teaching. If you've reached that, you're totally fine to start teaching. 

If you haven't reached that point of learning, it'll be up to you to determine whether or not you think you can teach students well. Many parents aren't too picky (or understand) about the teachers level but you may want to be upfront regarding your own ability.

What Do Piano Lessons Cost?

How you charge for a piano lesson will depend on a few things, your area (including country and currency), your ability and your experience. 

As you teach more and build a reputation for yourself, you'll be able to charge more. 

But what do you charge to start off with? I'd suggest about 1.5 times the minimum wage per half hour lesson. This may be too much in some areas while just right in others. 

You can always take a look online at what other teachers in your area are charging as well as stop in at your local music store and ask them. They'll have a good idea of the going rates. 

How To Prepare For Piano Lessons

This is one of the best things about teaching piano. Once you have your resources on hand, there's really not much prep work to be done. 

You also don't know ahead of time what your student has practiced and how much and if they'll need to move on to new songs or not. 

For me, the lesson itself is mostly "teach it as it comes up".

It is important to have your home tidy, piano ready, piano light on, and things like that. That is about the extent of my prep work unless I know a student will be learning a certain topic soon and I want to have an "off-piano" activity or resource available. 

If you'd like to see the general flow of how my lessons are laid out, visit the how to give piano lessons piano page

Teaching Piano At Home

If you are planning on teaching piano at home, you'll do as most piano teachers do. Here are a few tips on this.

Have a dedicated space where you will always teach and have your resources stored. This will minimize the time spent setting up for a piano lesson. If will also give you flexibility during the lesson to pull a resource out that's needed.

Remove distractions from your teaching area. This can include noisy kids (of yours), sounds like TV going, cooking during lessons and things of that nature. You do want it to be pretty quiet. You may also want to remove anything that a child would look at and want to start investigating. This might include toys, sparkly objects or anything remotely interesting. 

It's also good to have a spot for parents to sit and wait if that's what they'd like to do. 

The Main Way To Teach Piano Successfully

If you want to be good at what your do and be great at teaching beginner piano lessons, all you need to do is start. Then keep trying to improve as a teacher. 

It's the same as learning piano, it takes practice. The more you teach, the better you'll teach.

Now, Go Out and Get Some Students!

These are my basics for teaching beginner piano lessons. I really hope some of these tips will help you to be a great piano teacher and that your lessons will go well. 

For more, you can see an outline of what my typical piano lesson looks like at how to give piano lessons. 

You can also read more about teaching kids at teaching children piano. 

If you want to think about teaching group lessons, visit my teaching group piano lessons page here

Happy teaching!

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Top Teacher's Resource:

A really popular resource for piano teachers is this online studio organization tool for:

  • keeping track of students 
  • organizing lesson times
  • track missed lessons
  • take payments online
  • take credit card payments 

To check this out, visit Music Teacher's Helper here.