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How To Choose A Piano Teacher – Part 2: The Studio

Choose the right piano teacher by looking at these simple features at their studio

 

How to Choose a Music School for your child

 

Are you considering enrolling your child (or yourself) in piano lessons? Then this is the blog series for you.

In this two-part series, we’re discussing how to choose a piano teacher, with a focus on what to look for, what you can compromise on (if absolutely necessary), and what’s non-negotiable.

Last week, we discussed what to look for in the teacher themselves. If you haven’t read that post yet, you can find it here. As a refresher, when you choose a piano teacher, you should look for the following things:

  • University qualifications (preferably B.Mus. majoring in performance)
  • AMEB qualifications (A.Mus. or L.Mus – non-negotiable)
  • Experience (someone who’s taught for 5+ years)
  • Personality (someone you “click” with)

Today, let’s look at what you should look for in the teacher’s piano studio

Cost

Generally speaking, a piano teacher’s qualifications and experience determines how much they charge for lessons. Prices range from $40 to $150 an hour; $80 an hour is the average.

Piano lessons are a big investment for any family. So it’s important to ensure you get what you pay for. $80 an hour should get you a fully-qualified teacher with a B.Mus. (majoring in performance), an A.Mus. or L.Mus. from a music examination board, and at least 10 years’ teaching experience.

Some music schools charge $80 per hour, but their teachers are not fully-qualified. The extra money goes to the school, not the teacher. As I said, if you’re going to pay that sort of money, you want to get your money’s worth. (If you do choose to go with a less-qualified teacher due to financial pressures, be sure you’re paying a less-qualified wage.)

So how do you make sure you’re getting what you pay for with a fully-qualified teacher? As I said in my last post, don’t be afraid to ask about a teacher’s experience and qualifications. You’re paying for their services, so you deserve to know.

[Tweet “Some music schools charge $80 per hour, but their teachers are not fully-qualified #piano”]

 

Location

A common-sense consideration, but an important one: try to find a local teacher located no more than 20 to 30 minutes away. While you and your child may initially be enthusiastic about lessons at the end of an hour’s drive, this enthusiasm probably won’t last.

But be sure you do travel to the teacher. While some teachers will come to you, your child (or you) will be disadvantaged by learning to play only on the piano in your home. This is especially true when it comes to recitals or exams, as a student who has only ever played on one instrument will struggle to adapt to a foreign instrument, especially under pressure.

[Tweet “A student who has only ever played on one #piano will struggle to adapt to a foreign instrument”]

Which leads us onto our next point…

Instrument

Always choose a teacher who teaches their students on a quality acoustic piano. This is non-negotiable. Your child (or you) cannot learn to play the piano properly on an electronic keyboard. While a keyboard is an acceptable instrument for beginners practicing at home, you should always learn on an acoustic piano.

(To learn more about acoustic pianos vs. electronic keyboards, check out this post.)

Studio Policy

It might seem a funny thing to look for, but it’s important to choose a piano teacher with a thorough studio policy.

A studio policy indicates that a teacher is experienced and successful, and runs their studio professionally. The policy will protect them, but it will also protect you as a client.

Look for elements in their policy that discuss:

  • Trial lessons (you don’t want to be locked into a term of lessons without having a trial first)
  • How lessons are charged (e.g. weekly, monthly, per term, or annually) and whether late fees apply
  • Policies for make-up lessons and cancellations
  • Provision of sheet music (photocopying sheet music is illegal)

This will give you a good idea of the piano teacher’s level of professionalism, experience, and ethics.

Exams

While some music schools have their own exam system, any qualifications your child (or you) obtain will not be recognised elsewhere. If piano exams are important to you, then be sure to choose a teacher who prepares students for music board exams with either AMEB, ABRSM, or Trinity.

Your teacher should also have a transcript of their students’ past exam results. Feel free to ask them to show this to you.

[Tweet “Some schools have their own exams, any qualifications obtain will not be recognised elsewhere”]

 

Performance Opportunities

I’m a big believer in providing students with performance opportunities. Performing helps your playing and confidence blossom. Ask if your piano teacher holds recitals for students, or provides them with other opportunities to perform. You can also check to see if there are photos or – better yet – videos of their students performing on their website or YouTube/Vimeo channel.

Making The Choice

Do you feel prepared to make the right choice when it comes to choosing a piano teacher and piano studio for your child (or you)?

When evaluating a piano studio, remember:

  • Make sure you get what you pay for in terms of teacher experience
  • Find a teacher near you
  • Always choose a teacher who teaches on an acoustic piano
  • Make sure there’s a studio policy to protect them and you
  • Look for a teacher who teaches AMEB, ABRSM, or Trinity
  • Make sure the studio offers performance opportunities to their students

If you have any questions or comments about this post, then please share them in the comments below. And if you enjoyed this article, don’t forget to share it on Facebook so your friends can learn how to choose a piano teacher, too!

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Looking For A Piano Teacher?

I know a good one 😉 Read more about learning the piano with Le Piano Academy here.

 

 

Huy’s Piano Hacks: 5 Top Tips For A Great Video Portfolio

 

Tips For A Great Video Portfolio

 

Since my last post I’ve received a lot of interest about my student showcase video portfolio, “Piano Fingers”.

Among other things, I’ve been asked about how to ensure your video portfolio is professional and effective. So here are my Top 5 Tips for ensuring you have a great video portfolio for your piano studio.

#1: ALWAYS Film Live Performances

There are several problems with studio recordings, and several benefits to filming live performances.

On a studio recording, the audience has no idea how many times it took you to get that particular shot. With a live recording, you’ll show them exactly what the pianist achieved first time, because with live performances, there are no second chances.

Atmosphere is another big differentiator. Nothing matches the atmosphere of a live performance. It doesn’t matter whether you’re recording a piano student or a famous band – the live atmosphere can’t be recreated in a studio. So give your viewers the real atmospheric experience by filming your video portfolio live.

Live performances are also more real. Have you ever seen a band performing in concert, and been disappointed by the quality of their playing compared to their studio albums? A musician’s performance skills are most evident when they perform live. Show your prospective students exactly what they can expect with a live video portfolio.

#2: DON’T Film The Piano Teacher Playing

Now there is one exception to this rule: if, as a piano teacher, you also hire out for performances, then by all means include videos of yourself playing in your portfolio.

However, if you’re like me, and your number one job is as a piano teacher, then your performance skills aren’t really relevant. Instead, your students’ performance skills are what matter. That’s what’s relevant to your future students.

To draw a parallel – if you were looking for a maths tutor for your son or daughter, the teacher’s qualifications and experience may be important, but what you would really want to know is what sort of results their students achieve. In the same way, people need to see your students playing – let their fingers do the talking.

#3: ALWAYS Respect Privacy

Admittedly, this is a common sense and courteous step to take, but it still bears mentioning. It’s good ethical practice – and probably a legal requirement – to always ask permission of students (and their parents, for under 18s) before you upload videos of them playing.

In my experience, about three quarters of my students and their parents are completely happy for me to share videos of them online. They enjoy being able to show friends and family in other cities and states, and even overseas.

For those who don’t want to be online, I don’t upload their videos.

#4: Use Vimeo

There’s much that can be said about Vimeo vs YouTube, but ultimately, it comes down to what you’re trying to achieve.

After thinking long and hard about the decision, I chose to put my video portfolio on Vimeo. YouTube may have more viewers, but I wanted better quality videos, and that meant Vimeo. Because most people view the videos via my website, Vimeo’s smaller audience numbers are irrelevant. And there are no ads, so that’s a bonus for viewers.

Other benefits of Vimeo include:

  • 3 types of account (one free, two paid)
  • faster upload time (if you’re on a paid account)
  • better looking video player

If that weren’t reason enough, it’s also important to note that all the professional videographers and filmmakers are on Vimeo – so what does that tell you?

#5: ALWAYS Use a Professional Videographer (If You Can)

Presentation is everything. There’s nothing worse than a music video with poor visuals and poor sound. By using a professional videographer for your video portfolio, you will get professional looking videos with great lighting and sound, and multiple camera angles.

In addition to the importance of presentation, using a professional videographer to produce your video portfolio will also show your clients that you’re professional, and you’re not willing to cut corners. If you don’t cut corners on video, then you probably don’t cut corners at your piano studio either. And that’s incredibly reassuring for prospective students and their parents.

All videos you see on our website are courtesy of our good friends at Imaginarium Productions.

 

 

An Example

Would you like to see an example of a professionally-filmed video from my video portfolio? Watch the highlights video from the 2014 Le Piano Academy recital below.

 

 

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9 Reasons Music Teachers in the “Internet Age” MUST Have a Video Portfolio

Talking the talk isn’t enough – you need to walk the walk.

 

Video Portfolios are a Must Have for Music Teachers

 

YouTube has been with us for nearly 10 years. It’s easy and free to use, and has led to the democratisation of video content in the online world.

Yet most music teachers don’t have a video portfolio with recordings of their students performing.

My question is: “why not?”

I believe that having a video portfolio is a must for any music teacher in the internet age. Below are 9 reasons every music teacher should have a video portfolio, including responses to common objections I sometimes hear.

(Want to see the Le Piano Academy video portfolio? You’ll find it here.)

#1: Testimonials Can Be Faked

“But I have testimonials on my website” is a common objection to investing in a video portfolio.

Sadly, however, the reality is that testimonials can be faked. As such, any sensible prospective students would naturally prefer more proof. But they can’t always get it.

Unlike testimonials, student performances cannot be faked. When you record one of your students playing the piano (or whatever instrument you teach), that’s real and powerful. As such, a video portfolio provides indisputable proof of your abilities as a music teacher.

[Tweet “Video portfolio provides indisputable proof of your abilities as a Music Teacher #piano #pianist”]

 

#2: Portfolios Give Prospective Students a Taste of What They Will Learn

Videos of your students performing can also provide prospective students with an idea of what they can expect from enrolling in your music academy. Your videos will give them a taste of the repertoire they will learn, and the standards they can expect to reach. It also demonstrates how professional you are as a teacher.

Watching the videos in your portfolio is basically a try-before-you-buy experience for prospective students. And if what they’re “trying” is quality, they’ll be interested in “buying”.

#3: They Make a Great Take-Home Gift for Parents and Students

I record all my students’ performances at our studio’s annual recital. Afterwards, I give my students copies of their performance. They can also purchase a Blu-ray disc of the entire concert.

Because I have my video work done professionally, all my students and their parents love receiving copies of their performances. This means that as a music teacher, having a video portfolio plays a dual role, as it’s also a great “extra” to offer your clients.

#4: “Everyone Else” is Doing It

Members of other industries often have portfolios on their website, demonstrating their expertise in their area. For instance, builders have photos and/or videos of the homes they have built, while graphic designers have galleries filled with the logos they’ve designed. So why don’t music teachers have portfolios too?

#5: Cost Isn’t an Issue

“But video is expensive!” is another common objection to having a video portfolio.

Once upon a time, this was true. But nowadays, even if you can’t afford a professional videographer, there’s really no excuse. Smartphones even film in HD! (Just be sure to hold them horizontally – vertical videos are bad.)

Furthermore, taking a step up from a smart phone isn’t prohibitive like it once was, either. DSLR cameras can cost less than $500, and if you want to invest in sound as well as picture (which is a good idea), Zoom microphones can also be bought for less than $500. That means you can start filming quality videos of your students’ performances for less than $1000. It’s an investment, to be sure. But not an outrageous one.

#6: The Proof of the Pudding…

Let your students’ fingers do the talking in your marketing.

Video portfolios clearly demonstrate a music teacher’s expertise. You’ve heard the adage “the proof of the pudding is in the eating”? Well the proof of a teacher’s skills is in their students’ playing.

Even one of my 8 year old students has her own YouTube channel!

 

Eleena Li Piano Channel

 

#7 – Video is a Social Media WIN

In the world of social media, visual posts generate more “likes”, comments, clicks, and “engagement”.

According to a 2014 study by Quintly, videos on Facebook Pages garner more interactions and engagement than images, statuses, links, and cover photos. Despite making up an average of 3% of all posts, videos receive a disproportionate share of attention on social media.

As such, having a video portfolio with videos you can share on your different social media platforms can help your pages to stand out and get attention. And of course, YouTube itself is a social media platform through which people can discover you – after all, it’s the world’s second most popular search engine after Google.

#8: Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Have you ever visited the website of a famous singer, musician, or band where they simply told you how good they were? Of course not. Instead, they show you with videos. And if others in the music industry have videos demonstrating their expertise, why shouldn’t music teachers do the same?

#9: It Sets You Apart

To my knowledge, there’s one other piano teacher in Hurstville, Sydney with a video portfolio: Jackie Sharp. (You can see her YouTube channel here.) She’s also the author of Purrfect Practice.

By having video portfolios, Jackie and I have set ourselves apart from other music teachers. It’s a point of difference. And it’s a point of difference my clients love. I know, because they tell me about it.

 

Purrfect Practice

 

Over to You

If you’re a music teacher, do you have a video portfolio? If not, why not?

As a student or parent, do you appreciate being able to watch student performances?

Piano Fingers – Video Portfolio Showcase

Would you like to see the Le Piano Academy video portfolio? You’ll find it on our showcase page, entitled “Piano Fingers”. Piano Fingers includes video recordings of my students’ live performances at our studio’s annual piano recital. These students range in age from young children, to adults. Some are beginners, others intermediates, and others have been studying piano with me for years. So go have a look, and let me know what you think!

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