Forum Q&A's, Teaching Piano

Forum Q&A | Teaching Adults Versus Children/Teens

These week’s Forum Q&A was prompted by a comment by Kaylee on the facebook page.  Kaylee asked for advice about teaching an adult student who is older than she is.  If you have advice to offer, please visit the facebook page and leave a comment!

But for this Forum Q&A, we will focus on the general question about the differences between teaching adults versus children/teens:

What differences are there between teaching adult students and children/teens? What adjustments to your approach must be made when teaching adults?  What method books or repertoire do you like to use with adults students?

Contribute your thoughts in the comments below!

Photo Credit: klipsch_soundman | CC 2.0

4 thoughts on “Forum Q&A | Teaching Adults Versus Children/Teens”

  1. In my experience adults learn much faster.

    They are able to grasp concepts faster and generally have a higher level of finger coordination then children or teens, allowing them to play harder starting songs.

    It seems like the most important thing for adult students starting out is to work on songs they like, and to make sure they leave the lesson with a clear understanding of what to work on each week.

    Most adult students don’t have the time to practice half an hour a day, instead they tend to practice in spurts they can fit into their schedule. Usually though, these spurts might be fairly long, maybe having an hour or so available.

    I would suggest focusing on repetoire and not worrying too much about method books. Most adults can handle most beginning level songs after a few months of lessons, so I’d suggest letting them choose songs they like.

  2. I have found that adult students grasp theory concepts much more quickly than children. I generally use Keith Snell’s Fundamentals of Piano Theory with them. They like learning about chords and how progressions work, and it helps them alot with learning repertoire. In my experience, adult students LOVE learning about theory!

    I have found than children are more willing to try new things and aren’t afraid of making mistakes than adults are! For this reason, I try to give them pieces that are easily attainable, especially at first. I avoid throwing any surprises or large challenges at them.

    As far as books go, I haven’t really ever found an adult method series that I really like. I do like Wendy Stevens’ new book for adults, but it isn’t a solution for beginners. I agree with what Patrick said above too – to work on pieces that the student wants to learn.

  3. second the comment about chord progressions. It’s been my experience that most adults want to learn pop music, and obviously chord progressions are very important for learning that.

    I tend to like using the ‘simple fake books’ with them, which is a series of fake books written in the key of C with just the melody and chords. Although there are drawbacks to using such books (the main being that everything is treble cleff and so bass cleff reading generally suffers), I find that once a student is able to grasp a C chord, and F chord, a G chord, and an Am chord they really love these books because they can recycle the same chords into a new song, since all the songs are in the key of C. This makes it really easy to quickly learn new songs, after the first 2 or 3.

    The other thing i’ve found important for adult students is to talk about the practice environment. Some of my adult students seem to be under a constant pressure to perform as soon as they sit in front of the piano. Their kids will comment, their spouses will comment, and they will hear things that most kid students will never hear when they are practicing, I assume because people think ‘they’re adults, they can handle it.’

    I suggest most of my adult students practice on a keyboard with headphones if feasible, so they don’t have to face this social pressure.

  4. Can I start out by saying how excited I am that you are doing a forum on this topic. There are not too many resources and helps available out there for teaching adult students. I’ve looked! If you know of any, I’d love to know what they are.

    I totally agree that adults comprehend way faster than kids. I enjoy teaching each of my adult students…most older than I am! It has been a learning process. I use the Faber Accelerated method, and it has always seemed to work well. It moves each student forward at a comfortable pace.

    One thing to keep in mind with older students is that they want to see immediate results, and they want to be able to play NOW! A young child thinks, “I want to be able to play like that when I grow up.” An adult student doesn’t have the same goal…their “growing up” years are over! So I think its important to help them play music early in their lessons, to give them some instant gratification. After only a few lessons, my adult students can play simple melodies in the C position, and they often say something like, “I feel like I’m really playing music!”

    When I first began teaching adults, I found that I was conducting my lessons much like I would a child’s lesson. For instance, I would read the material out of their book to them, write their assignment for them, etc. Then I realized, they can read and write, why not let them do that? So now, I teach them each new concept, but let them read the material for themselves. I also let them write their own assignments…they are old enough to know what is important to remember.

    These are just a few of my thoughts and things I’ve learned along the way. I’m excited to read what others have to say!

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