Does your child have time for piano lessons?

Before starting piano lessons, it is important to ask if the student has mental space for piano lessons. While I, a piano teacher, can accept that most of my students will not choose to dedicate themselves to becoming a concert pianist, it is important for me to know that there is space in their lives for music lessons.

Time of Lesson

Of course, the most basic time required is the time of the lesson. A piano lesson is traditionally 30 minutes, 45 minutes, or 60 minutes once a week. To ensure productivity, parents will want to select a slot that can be consistent, and with the student’s energy level in mind. Since music lessons are only once a week, it is very important for that time to be as productive as possible.

Time to Practice

Research shows that students who practice about 140 minutes a week (roughly 20 minutes a day) are much less likely to drop out of piano lessons in three years.  While serious students will want to practice more, this recommended time allows the student to form a relationship with the piano. With every practice, their fingers get more used to location and weight of the keys. Many students struggle with this habit, and their progress continues at a slower pace.

Time to Enjoy

Lastly, there needs to be time to enjoy piano. A student should have space in their life to create their own music, and to free play on the piano. Without this essential (fun) part of music, lessons can seem dry and irrelevant. While they may progress through the curriculum, their interest can quickly wane without an outlet to be creative.

If the student’s schedule is filled to the brim with other activities already, a tough choice has to made. While I agree that music education is good for brain and personal development, the advantages can not be felt if the student does not have space in their life.

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Same Mistakes

A frustrating part of teaching piano lessons, is watching students make the same mistakes over and over again. This is caused by two things: a misunderstood concept, and unhealthy practice habits.

Misunderstood Concept

A mistake because of a misunderstood concept is completely acceptable. As long as the musical concept is not clear, students will likely continue to make the same type of error.  Until the student and the teacher gets to the root of the problem, any progress is muscle memory. Unfortunately, muscle memory may fail the student as time passes, or when stress is induced.

Unhealthy Practice Habits

A more dangerous mistake, is based on unhealthy practice habits. Students can fall into a cycle of attempting to play something over and over again, until they see the teacher’s approval. The issue with this, is that there is very little thought put into why the teacher would approve the new version. To me, this shows a lack of independence in their musicality. While it is the teacher’s role to guide the student, the student must take ownership of where their strengths and weaknesses. Of course, this is easier said than done with young children! However, that is one of the advantages of piano lessons; having a child learn to continually strive for progress with their unique projects.

When a student practices something by playing from beginning to end, they are using the ineffective block practicing.  Not only is this a poor use of time, it builds muscle memory to those mistakes. That’s why students make the same mistakes over and over again!


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Quitting Piano Lessons

As a piano teacher, I often wonder why piano students quit.  Of course, most will stop taking lessons eventually in their life, so this blog will focus on students who quit after 3 years or less. While every situation is unique, there are some patterns  on why students stop playing piano.  In a podcast, Andrea from Teach Piano Today discusses with Karen King about King’s research in why piano students quit.

 The Findings:

Karen King shares some staggering statistics from her research in this podcast episode. Most shocking to me, was that about 80% of piano students quit after 3 years.  A surprising finding was that parents who have music training that are heavily involved in practice sessions have a negative effect on the students’ motivation.  A not so surprising finding, is that long-term students generally practiced more (about 2.5 hours a week), and have moved past the initial beginner stages.


King suggests that motivation for piano lesson thrives under three conditions: competency, autonomy, and relatedness. Competency refers to the student’s feelings about their own playing; if they feel that the piano is something that they are good at, they are more likely to be motivated to continue. Autonomy refers to the student’s feelings about the creative control they have over the music they play. If they feel that they have more control over their piano projects, then they are more likely to continue being interested in the piano. Relatedness refers to the student’s feelings about how the piano relates to other parts of their life. Since piano lessons can sometimes be a lonely endeavor, it is important for piano students to feel that the music they are learning is not confined to just the lessons. A suggestion from King, is to have parents play recordings of a similar genre to what the student is learning.

These findings are invaluable to all piano teachers, piano students, and piano parents. Together, with research, we can continue passing on the art of music education.

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