4 Types of Teen Piano Students

Teen piano students come with their own challenges and benefits for piano teachers. They can be up and down emotionally, yes; but they can also be very motivated and tonnes of fun to teach.

⬆️ Listen to the podcast above or keep on reading, whichever fits your style. ↙️

I’ve come up with 4 different kinds of teen piano students so that we can better understand how to help each pupil who walks through our door.

People don’t break down neatly into categories. I know that. But I hope these “types” will help you see where your student is coming from and not lump all teens into the same bucket.

Teen Piano Student Type 1: Yearning Beginner

I’ll be honest, these are probably my favourite type of teen piano students to teach. I really enjoy teaching every one of my students…but I’ve had some especially wonderful long-term students who fit this category. 

The “yearning beginner” is that teenager who has been asking their parents for piano lessons for a while. They may even have first brought it up when they were 7 years old and it’s only now, at age 13, that their parents have enough time or money to make it happen.

These students tend to be highly motivated to learn. You may find that they practise a great deal and maybe even catch up with students who started years earlier!

Teen Piano Student Type 2: Ambivalent Beginner

The ambivalent teen either isn’t fussed about learning piano or just wants to appear nonchalant in a too-cool-for-school kind of way.

I’m not talking about those students who actively don’t want to be there. I’ve had a few of those right at the beginning of my teaching, but I won’t take them now. No teenager has ever learned to love playing the piano because their parent said they had to. 😒

But you will get those teens who are just not quite sure about piano, or not quite sure about YOU. And you’ll have to work hard at the beginning to show them you’re on their side!

Teen Piano Student Type 3: YouTube Transfer

This is the one most piano teachers dread. But I honestly don’t. 

These young people have taken it upon themselves to learn some music. And they’ve used the resource that we all use to learn pretty much everything else from “what camera shutter speed is” to “how to fix a broken printer”.

If you look at it from their perspective, it’s pretty understandable that they went to YouTube when they wanted to learn piano. 

Yes, they often have some technique issues and usually can’t read music yet. All the more opportunity for us to have a gratifying teaching experience, in my opinion. 

These students already have the drive to learn – they’ve shown that. Now you have a chance to guide them so they can become well-rounded musicians.

Teen Piano Student Type 4: Traditional Transfer

I’m sure this student is familiar to all of us. They had another teacher before us and they’ve had to switch to our studio. Maybe they’ve just moved house, maybe their old teacher fired them (it happens!) or maybe they decided to leave.

The circumstances of the change don’t really matter. The result is that you have a new student and you have no idea what they have and haven’t been taught and in what way. 

That can be challenging. But it can also be a great opportunity for puzzle solving. These teens can be wonderful students if you look at the sunny side.

This handy cheatsheet is a great resource for helping you work through the challenges of that first lesson with a new transfer student. Just enter your info below, and we’ll send it your way for free!

Already a member of Vibrant Music Teaching? You can grab your copy right now from the VMT Library; no need to wait for an email. Not a member yet? Wow, you have no idea what you’re missing out on!

Tips for All Types of Teen Piano Students

No matter what type of teenager has landed in your studio, there are two general principles that apply to all of them. 

Let Them Know You’re Listening

Right from the start, you need this new teenager to know that you’re on their wavelength. You don’t need to use their slang or understand all of their references, but you need to show them you value their opinions.

Start by asking them why they’re taking piano lessons. Make sure you don’t correct their answer if it’s less than ideal. 

Ask them about their lives, too. Even if you just get tiny tidbits of information (teens are not always the most talkative!), follow up on those details next week.

Create Common Goals

Make sure you find out what your student’s goals are. You wouldn’t tell an adult who came to you wanting to learn Queen that they must learn Bach instead. And teens are hardwired to strive for independence and practise making choices. 

So let them.

You can guide and help break down their goals into smaller ones. But ultimately, their musical path should be the one they want to take.

You can learn a lot more about teaching teens and other older students on our hub page devoted to Planning Lessons.

Have you seen these types of teenage piano students?

I’d love to hear your experience on this in the comments below. 🙂

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