Why Class Piano Doesn’t Work

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Today we’re going to explore a potentially controversial subject which is the shortcomings of class piano. First, there is some value to class piano which should be acknowledged. It’s a way to get people acquainted with the piano which can motivate people to undertake more serious study.

What else is good about class piano?

You get camaraderie with other people which mitigates the isolation of piano studies. There is an aspect of enjoyment to a class setting. One excellent possibility for class piano involving intermediate or advanced students is exploring collaborative 4-hand and 2-piano music. There is also the potential of delving into improvisation becoming comfortable with a wide range of piano styles.

However, class piano provides a poor substitute for private instruction for formative study.

Here is what I discovered years ago when I was engaged to develop a class piano program for an arts school. While I would begin each class with subjects of relevancy for all students, it would devolve into giving a bunch of mini private lessons. You may wonder why this is the case. The reason is very simple.

Piano involves so many independent skills where everybody has unique strengths and weaknesses to such a drastic extent that individual attention is essential in piano studies.

Each piano lesson one to the next, is a completely different experience. Other fields of study can be taught successfully in a class setting. For example, a biology teacher can develop a lesson plan which is refined over the years. The subject can be taught essentially the same way to different classes year after year.

Learning the piano doesn’t work this way.

For example, there are some people who easily pick up note reading while others slave over trying to recognize notes for weeks or months in order to become fluent at note reading. Rhythm requires other skills that vary from student to student. I’ve seen people struggle with clapping even the simplest rhythms. There is also the coordination of the two hands. Combining the hands is one of the most difficult aspects of playing the piano which comes more naturally to some students than others.

Memorizing music is also as skill that varies tremendously from student to student. While everyone can learn to read music as long as it is taught in a systematic way, teaching in a class setting can reduce the progression of studies to the lowest common denominator avoiding leaving people behind yet impeding the progress of other students.

So it’s not that class piano can’t work at all, but it’s not an efficient way of learning the piano.

Class piano can be fun and can provide a way to get your feet wet with the piano, but ultimately having private instruction provides an invaluable resource in order to maximize the progress of your piano studies. Ideally, you have the combination of private instruction and master classes where the you get together with fellow students on a periodic basis playing for each other, discussing theory and analysis of your music, as well as possibly playing piano duets and improvising. Combining classes with private instruction offers the benefits of both. I would love to hear your comments and experiences. Thanks for joining me, Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com. Please feel free to contact us at info@LivingPianos.com 949-244-3729