Posted Jun 13, 2016 by Brian Jenkins - No Comments

Learning Piano: How Often to Take Lessons?

Learning Piano: How Often to Take Lessons?

Let’s just get this out there right away. Normally students take piano lessons once a week. If that’s all you needed to know, then thanks for reading. But if you just give me a minute of your time, I’ll tell you why that’s often not the best way to go.

I personally believe the best way to answer this question is to look at the best of the best and see how often THEY took lessons.

Some of the best pianists in history likely had lessons on a daily basis. We will often find that major composers and pianists came from a musical background and their first teachers were often one of their parents. Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven just to name a few had parents who were musicians and likely gave them daily lessons.

Piano Practice is NOT Enough

This is how weekly piano lessons should work. The teacher listens to what the student practiced in the previous week. The teacher would then give suggestions on how to improve or teach new concepts to develop the young pianist both technically and musically. From there, they may add some practice tips and suggestions on what and how to practice in the following week. The student would then practice for a week according to the teachers suggestions and this would continue from week to week.

Unfortunately this is very rarely the way lessons happen. This all assumes one very important thing. That the student actually practiced. Unfortunately more often than not the teacher will come to a lesson only to find that the student did not practice. Oh no! What does the teacher do now? Practice with the student of course!

That’s what happens if the student just did not practice, but unfortunately even if the student DID practice this might still be the outcome. Why? Because practicing is hard.

Why Practicing is Hard

Let’s think about what we’re asking young children, perhaps as young as 5, to do. The best way to practice is to remove all distractions sit down at the piano and work on sections of music that the student cannot yet play. Playing from the beginning of a piece is more often than not an inefficient use of time. Playing a small section slowly and accurately is often a requirement of good practice. Then repeating it over and over and over. Then they would need to find another small section they are not comfortable with and do it again.

I’m over simplifying here, but the point is to help us understand how difficult that is. How long should practice be? I would be happy with 15 minutes from a young child and 30 minutes from an older child. How many 5 year olds do you know that could concentrate effectively for 15 minutes without getting distracted. Or even better, how many adults do you know that could do the same?

And yet teachers expect that kind of practice every week from their students. Realistically it is rarely if ever going to happen that way. But an interesting thing happens when the teacher is sitting there. You have the teacher leading the student telling them what they need to practice and how many times to repeat it. The teachers can correct bad habits and incorrect posture. These are things a young child, or even an adult would have a difficult time doing in a focused way.

How Often Should Lessons Be?

For maximum effectiveness lessons should be held as often as possible. Period. If a student can afford lessons everyday, they’ll progress many multiples faster than a student taking lessons once a week. It’s as simple as that. Most of the lessons will be the teacher just practicing with the student. But that practice is absolutely invaluable.

Realistically

No not many of us can afford to take a lesson every day with their teacher. Not only that, but not everyone needs to become the next Mozart. So deciding how often to take lessons really depends on your goals. Think about exactly what you’re looking for in lessons. Let’s define some common goals.

Goals for Piano Lessons

  • Play one particular piece
  • Play for my wedding
  • Be able to play as a hobby
  • Study serious as a lifelong pursuit
  • Make it a career

If your goal for piano lessons is just to play one piece, obviously lessons daily really aren’t needed. You may actually be able to even learn on your own! A piano teacher will always be helpful and make the music sound the best it can. If budget is an issue though, see if you can find a tutorial of the piece on YouTube. If you never want to learn anything else, then it matters a lot less whether you are playing absolutely correctly or not.

But this all changes if you want to, or you want your child to take this really seriously. It doesn’t happen often, but I have a few students that would take an hour lesson 3 days a week, and then another hour of music theory for a total of 4 hours a week of lessons. These students are always the best.

You get what you put in. If you don’t take lessons very seriously, you won’t get as much enjoyment out of lessons as if you put your whole heart into it. As a pianist I can tell you that the joy that comes from playing beautiful music is immeasurable. Don’t miss out!