What Goes On In A Piano Lesson?

In my piano lessons, one objective is to develop students to become independent musicians able to:

  • play the piano well
  • understand music and make musical choices
  • enjoy music and learning

When well-taught, students start having creative musical ideas and making good musical choices at a young age.

Learning Music

Music is music only if the sound produced is pleasing to the ear.  This is why the ear is very important to musicians.  

When reading a music score, I always imagine what kind of sound the composer intended, whether sweet, dramatic, sad or playful. Then I would play the piano to bring out that character in the music.  

It is very interesting as so many things are involved - thinking about the music, playing it, feeling it, listening to it and evaluating to see if you actually like it! 

That's right - the mental, physical, aural and emotional part - all that is part of music!

Click here to read about lessons for different levels and how you can improve your learning.

Individual Piano Lessons

Individual piano lessons usually last between 30 minutes and 1 hour.  My lessons start with 45 minutes for beginners.  There are many components to music lessons.  Some of the key ones are:

  1. Technique
  2. Repertoire
  3. Sight Reading
  4. Aural
  5. Theory

1. Piano Technique

Piano technique refers to body position and how basic physical movements are made at the piano.  It's fun to work on technique as you'll be able to do things you were not able to do before!  Like athletes, pianists train their physical movements in technical exercises or pieces; they also learn how these relate to sounds produced. 

2. Repertoire

A good portion of time is spent in this part of the lesson playing favourite tunes and pieces.  This is where technique learnt would contribute to a piece sounding beautiful and communicative.  How does Mozart sound like Mozart and Chopin like Chopin?  Many students input ideas on what they think makes the music beautiful and authentic. 

3. Sight Reading

This is the ability to play music that has not been seen before.  I love sight reading and it's fun to teach it!  Sight reading is done when learning a new piece but separate exercises may be specially practised.  With good sight reading, you will learn music quickly.  When combined with the ability to listen to music internally, critical listening and composition skills can be further developed.

4. Aural

Aural skills are listening skills.  This is one of the most important skills a musician can have - to listen and know if what you hear (the rhythm, the tone, the phrasing) is what you want to hear.  Equally important is developing a good inner ear (hearing music in your head).  Both are essential to being good musicians. 

I often teach aural awareness simultaneously with piano playing.  It encourages a healthy musical imagination which makes music making fun and interesting. 

5. Theory

Music theory should ideally be learnt together with the music being played.  It starts very simply with note reading and note values and in advanced theory goes on to composition and analysis.  Understanding the basics of written music and relating them to performance and listening is very rewarding.

In my lessons, music theory taught as part of the individual piano lesson from grades 1 to 5 and in a separate class from grades 6 to 8.

› In a piano lesson