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I am a piano adult learner and has been learning piano for five years. I have attained only grade 3 of practical piano and just completed my exams for Grade 5 theory today.

I used to enjoy practicing sight reading for piano and when in doubt I will ask question. The problem now is that my teacher will sometimes show her impatience when I ask her some relevant question on playing a short piece. This has really affected my interest on continuing practicing sight reading. She is still a good teacher compared to the previous teachers who just touch on the topic without going in depth. I will try to explain to her my concerns and if worst come to the worst, I am thinking of finding a better teacher before I end my lessons with her

Should I do this?

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    The customer is always right. You are probably paying a good bit of money for piano lessons - at least they are not cheap in my area. For that much, you should be very satisfied with what you're getting. I say move on, unless there are really very few teachers in your area at all. Instead, you could politely raise your concerns with your teacher and see if you can adjust the relationship to make it more mutually beneficial. – Todd Wilcox Apr 2 '16 at 15:31
  • A teacher who is impatient is not a good teacher in my eyes. – Neil Meyer Apr 2 '16 at 20:07
  • "Should you do this" is really a matter of opinion, and can't really be answered here. Maybe change it to "What should I consider or try before changing teachers," which is what the best answers here reflect anyway? – Karen Apr 7 '16 at 11:43
  • You have your own objectives, and it's your own money you are spending, but I can understand that a teacher might feel a bit frustrated that you apparently "want to sight-read" but your playing actual technique is progressing rather slowly (3 grades in 5 years, not about 3 years). Maybe you should think about whether your enjoyment of sight-reading would be greater if you improved your technical skills first. But in the end it's your decision, not mine. – user19146 May 12 '16 at 3:05
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I believe that is a decision you will have to make yourself after taking everything into consideration. It is impossible for anyone on this site to really gain a complete understanding of the whole situation in its entirety given the limitations of the site. What I mean is there are so many factors to consider that it would be cumbersome for a site like this to provide a format wherein all the relevant information could be properly ascertained.

Having said that - I will note that a good match between teacher and student is vitally important and can make a difference in the velocity of your progress. I have known many piano students and guitar students who grew disenchanted with their original teacher and switched to a different teacher with a different teaching style and reported that the new teacher was a much better fit for them.

Factors that may matter include teaching style and methods as well as personality. Are you comfortable with your teacher's approach to teaching? Are you comfortable with the pace (how fast you are expected to advance)? Does your teacher challenge you to make progress at a level that you are comfortable with? Do you feel that your teacher is not challenging you enough?

Some of the factors that may influence your satisfaction may be a matter of negotiation. In other words - talk to your teacher (as you suggest you will) and let her know what your goals are and how well you feel those goals are being addressed in the lessons. Let her know how you feel about her attitude and how you feel her impatience and how it affects your attitude about your lessons.

It appears from your question that you have changed piano teachers at least once already and seem to find your current teacher superior in at least some ways to others. That does not mean she is the best teacher for you going forward. But on the other hand, you have seen that there are certainly teachers out there who are worse (for you).

There is no guarantee that switching will result in a better experience for you. But then on the other hand it could. I would start with communicating your needs to your current teacher and see if she responds favorably. If you continue to feel frustrated to the point that you no longer enjoy your lessons or worse, you start dreading your lessons, it might be time to start looking for a new teacher.

You want a teacher who will help you continually improve, is able to prescribe a learning program that works for you (based on your learning style), is willing to understand your personal goals and tailor the lesson plan and frequency accordingly, and whose personality and level of patience contributes to a comfortable and enjoyable experience for you.

Good luck and mostly have fun as you improve your skills. Music is supposed to be fun!

  • Hi Rockin Cowboy, thank you very much for your advice. After reading your comment, it is a really simple decision to make ! – Derrick Apr 4 '16 at 14:57
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It seems that your teacher may be getting as frustrated at your (rather slow) progress as you are with her. Sure, try a different teacher. Just tell her you're going to, in a straightforward manner. No need to make a speech about why.

  • As a teacher, I value knowing reasons why a student ceases to have lessons with me. It gives me better ideas as to how I could accommodate pupils better. – Tim Apr 2 '16 at 15:09
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    Sure, tell her why. Clearly and briefly. But no need for the sort of strategy we sometimes see discussed, which usually boil down to telling a pack of lies! – Laurence Payne Apr 2 '16 at 15:14
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There's something about 'better the devil you know'. We don't know if you've been with her for most of that 5 yrs, but an average rate of exam taking is around one grade per year. It seems you are mostly concerned with her approach to you sight-reading. The very best way to go forward with sight-reading is to do it in the presence of a teacher, who should help you through the tough bits and be capable of steering your reading in the right direction - something that's almost impossible by yourself. On your own, how do you know if you've sight-read a piece accurately?

In fairness to both of you, there needs to be a heart-to-heart conversation. You probably give her money in exchange for lessons. A fair deal is only reached when both parties are happy with their end of the deal. It could even be that she's not happy with you as a pupil, and has her way of showing this. With all the cards on the table, honesty will shine through, and you'll both know where you stand. Things could change in that she understands that you haven't grasped something, and will try harder to teach more effectively, and/or you might try harder to be a better pupil. Speak!

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You have had this teacher for five years, without issue? Perhaps you have hit an obstacle you are having trouble communicating to your teacher. It is not a sin for a teacher to become frustrated, however you are paying for a service. Perhaps you could arrange a meeting with your teacher to discuss the issue away from the instrument.

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Is there any consistent aspect to the questions she is impatient about that might help you to diagnose what is going on?

The existing answers have some great advice and here are some other explanations:

  1. Perhaps you are asking about areas that your teacher herself feels less equipped to answer;
  2. Perhaps she feels that your questioning is getting in the way of your playing - sometimes we can play something long before we understand how.

In either case (or the explanations in the other answers) this is not necessarily the end of the line. You say "this has really affected my interest on continuing practicing sight reading" which is definitely a problem, but it may be a problem that you can change without changing your teacher 'just' by changing your attitude. There is a time for asking questions and a time for playing, perhaps your intellectual desire to understand is overwhelming the more child-like have-a-go side of your learning?

Ideally you'd be able to chat this through with your teacher but even if you cannot, and her attitude saps your interest in sight reading, her other strengths may still outweigh those problems. Only you can know that.

I once attended a klezmer workshop in Cambridge (ye olde, not MA). The tutor rudely refused to answer any questions and got visibly irritated if anyone asked one. At first this really annoyed me - how mad is it to run a workshop in a small city famed for its 800 year old university and not expect question-loving-intellectuals to attend? But then I thought that I'd just get on with it and forgive her, and thereafter I got much more out of the workshop which focussed on playing by ear (not something I'd learnt before).

  • Good answer, +1. Your point 1 - she should do more homework herself. I had to!! Point 2 - some folks need to understand, others definitely don't. Want to or need to! – Tim Apr 6 '16 at 11:39
  • Thanks. I guess I feel that if you think you are, like me, a person who needs to understand then try this experiment: learn something without understanding it. You may find that as a result you grow as a musician. This isn't a general rule, just something to play with. – dumbledad Apr 6 '16 at 11:48
  • I did that as a kid for years, and generally played like a parrot because of it. Only when I understand can I build on what I know. – Tim Apr 6 '16 at 12:00

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