My piano teacher mostly teaches me pieces in the genre of classical/children e.g. the last piece she taught me was Entrance of the Gladiators. I'm getting bored of these songs and I want to request songs I listen to on youtube like richard marx Right Here Waiting. Is this appropriate to make this request to learn my choice of song?

Note my teacher has at least 10 students and those near/at my skill level all have the same books and learn the same pieces.

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    Absolutely it is appropriate. If your teacher says yes, you'll get more out of your lessons; if your teacher says no, it is also appropriate to find a new teacher.
    – Aaron
    Commented Aug 24, 2020 at 5:23
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    I've kind of only had one one-on-one teacher—well two, my guitar teacher and his wife on piano and voice—at lest before college and not counting one-off masterclass type situations. And the best thing was that not only did he have a personalized plan for what to teach and when, but he would drop that immediately if I brought music in to learn. It is so important to learn the things that you love. Either find a teacher that embraces that or do the extra part on your own because it's an important part of finding your voice as a musician.
    – user66401
    Commented Aug 24, 2020 at 6:19
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    To follow up on Aaron's comment: the answer to almost any question that begins "Can I request?" is yes :) Commented Aug 24, 2020 at 12:42
  • This reminds me of when I had my piano/keyboard teacher asking me if I wanted to focus on classical or modern songs at the first meeting. Perhaps you can open a conversation similar to this with your teacher to let them know what you're really interested in.
    – Andrew T.
    Commented Aug 24, 2020 at 19:56
  • choose Zez Confrey's "Dizzy Fingers"
    – Jason S
    Commented Aug 24, 2020 at 22:14

4 Answers 4


Edit - Now this is the top answer, I'll quickly answer the question, which is yes, you certainly can! But please read on...

I'd like to put forward a caveat - even if your teacher is willing, this may not be your only concern. It sounds like you might be interested in learning a very different skill. Let me explain through a quick personal interlude.

I was roughly classical grade 7-8 playing standard, and I asked my teacher if we could move towards jazz and 'modern' music, and he happily obliged. It turned out he was very talented at playing 'by ear', and so he basically taught me that skill from scratch. My finger dexterity was useful, but everything else I had to relearn, and this included not being dependent on sheet music at all. There are many new skills involved with this including knowing more scales, understanding chord theory, 'hearing' chord progressions, etc... and of course a lot of practice!

I was lucky that my teacher could teach these skills. If he hadn't, he probably would have tried to get me to find sheet music of the songs and teach me in the same way that most teachers are used to teaching. This may be what you're after, in which case no problem. If you want to embrace a very different form of piano, however, it may be possible that you will need a different teacher regardless of willingness since even some excellent sheet music teachers may not have the skills to teach this very different skill.

After 20 years I have now re-embraced classical (you can't beat playing a bit of Beethoven...) but I continue to write my own 'modern' pieces, improvise, and play along to songs I like as well. Additionally I can sit down at the piano and jam in any key with other musicians, or get someone to sing a song and play along with them after just a few run throughs to 'get' the chords on which I can then play the tune or improvise a backing. This more spontaneous, social aspect of music has bought me an enormous amount of enjoyment.

To be honest, I don't even think I'm that good! I don't practice nearly enough, and am ill-disciplined with my practice (maybe I should get a teacher again!) However my experience is that it's a much less common skill than being able to read music. However it is not an easy transition; beyond the obvious interface between hands and keyboard, I find the two to be almost completely different skills.


I hope you have a good enough relationship with your piano teacher that you don't have to be frightened of making such a request.

But why ask? You want to play this piece, get hold of the music and just do it. No permission required! Here's one source. It isn't expensive.

Maybe in the lesson you can say 'May I play you something I've done by myself?' Perhaps also 'Can you help me on bar xx' I'm finding that bit hard?'


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    Even better, if the OP can just pick up sheet music for a song in unfamiliar genre and play it right away, they probably don't need the teacher at all.
    – ojs
    Commented Aug 25, 2020 at 7:13

Yes, of course you can ask. But there may well be caveats.The sheet music may not be available at an appropriate level for your playing. I guess these days, it can be bought in any key - which is something your teacher will be considering with any piece you learn.

It will also be important for the teacher regarding the style of the piece. But by and large, if teacher agrees to half of your suggestions, it's good. And she should give reasons for accepting and rejecting. It would be unresonable to expect her to transcribe music for you, although that's exactly what I did in a lot of my lessons - students brought along a recording, and it got transcribed there and then - usually. In some form that was useful for each student. (More frequently on guitar or bass, although it did happen on piano, too).

Bear in mind that some teachers have their own curriculum which excludes this sort of approach - for better or worse - so it's your choice if the idea is refused whether you ccontinue with her, or search for another.


Sure, your teacher should be able to find something within any song to further your skills. However, that particular style of music may not be something your teacher is comfortable with but that shouldn't make a difference. I had a classically handicapped organ teacher who was always asking what I was working on behind his back and would proffer advice despite jazz not being his forte. A deviated twist of the wrist is a twist of the wrist regardless of style.

Something else to keep in mind, your teacher may have a plan for you. They may be exposing you to varied technical factors found in the music they are prescribing in order to cumulatively build upon your technique or reading skills.

It can't hurt to ask and discern if your teacher is reticent because they have a plan or because they are insecure in the new music.

Your teacher should be able to find technique adjustments to make in every two to eight bars of music even in popular music. Actually, especially in popular vocal scores since those are not often very pianistic.

Even if the style is not in your teachers wheelhouse they should be able to suggest how to "tell a story." Playing is not merely getting from the first to last bar regardless of technical proficiency. There is much going on in-between such as phrasing, breathing, bringing out a line, dynamics, climax, entasis . . . . Ask your teacher to play the piece. The very thing you may learn is what not to do.

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