Things Mean Piano Teachers do Just to Be Mean 11

Mean piano teacherWhy am I such a mean teacher?

One of my favorite things to do is have my students transpose small pieces and exercises into different keys. This is usually met with a fair amount of resistance. But, I insist, it is one of the BEST ways of really understanding the keyboard. I always say: you want to be able to play in more than one key don’t you?

In fact, all my children learn their 5 finger positions ASAP so they can move a simple piece to every major and minor hand position on the keyboard.

Quick break.

I finally made it back to the gym today. I could have done a bunch of isolation exercises on my legs. (These are exercises that work very specific muscles.) Instead of did a few sets of squats. For those of you who don’t go to the gym: squats suck. They work about every muscle in your body at the same time. Afterwards you feel like you want to die. BUT they’re awesome. You work everything and you get HUGE. (No, I am not a big muscle man.)

Back to piano.

Here’s why I brought up squatting. Transposing is like the squat of the piano. (Or maybe the deadlift.) If you select a couple measures with some smarts, you can work your technique, your ear, your understanding of theory, and your musicality. All at the same time.

As they say at the gym: crush it.

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11 thoughts on “Things Mean Piano Teachers do Just to Be Mean

  • Jill

    Hi, I know 6 piano teachers and they don’t seem to have a vision that extends more than 2 feet from the end of their noses. They lack empathy and their ears seem selective to things only to do with piano. For example, when I was pregnant and had a baby while my son was having lessons, not once did the teacher acknowledged that I was pregnant or had a baby. When I or my son tried to have general conversation with any of them, they’d cut us off but would talk about themselves or the piano constantly. When I had an operation because I had cancer (I’m all well btw), teacher didn’t bat an eyelid. Only wanted to know if we could make the next lesson. I don’t understand this lack of human interaction from them. They’re like emotionless robots and just refuse to talk about anything apart from pianos!!!

  • Justin

    That’s true that piano teachers are mean. I just finished 1 of my piano lessons and the teacher looked angry and I kinda felt sad that I just had tears in my eyes. I’m just 9 years old and just yelling at a kid. If they were little and they were treated like that how would they feel? Had tears in my eyes just like mine? I just want to quit piano lessons. Also, I have swimming lessons and the teacher yells at me also. If I had the right to call them a jerk, I will. All they do is to just teach us how to be mean when we grow up.

  • Bart Spruit

    Thanks for the laugh while reading your post. What about letting a student playing a piece backwards for proper fingering.



    • Matt Post author

      Hey Bart – Thanks for your comment! I’m not sure I would particularly advise that since a lot of fingering is simply about getting one from where one is to where one wants to go. Playing backwards would be unnecessarily tedious I think.


  • Carlinton

    Great Post! I like it.
    I totally agree with you. Transposing is one way to find out if your piano students are understanding the concepts taught and how they can apply them to other areas of the keyboard.

  • RockStarzUSA

    Its a great technique to teach students work with all fingers at one time. As this will help in increasing skills of the students. This thing really appreciate by me but one suggestion, don’t be so hard.
    Rockstarzusa Music Studio

  • TKuntz

    I’ve been playing piano for almost 9 years now and there was nothing that I hated more in my beginning years than transposing pieces. Like you, my teacher made me transpose at least one full piece a month and I always dreaded it. But when I stopped taking piano lessons (after 8 years) I got into a band and let me tell you, those hours of transposing really pay off in a band setting! Push your students through complaining and someday they will thank you for it!

  • free piano lessons

    Thank you for sharing this “mean” lesson plan – I almost laughed when I read the title.
    Transposing and modulation are important skills to be taught in private and pass on to each piano student. I think we are doing our students a dis-favor by not teaching them this technique.
    Yes, they will hate it at first thought – but will soon learn the importance of it.

  • Matt

    Hi Declan — Thanks for your comment. I agree it’s important for students to play something they enjoy. I always find in my teaching that past the very first lessons, students enjoy moving their pieces around the keyboard quite a bit. Hope you enjoy the blog!

  • Declan

    I think it is great to teach students how to understand the relationships between the different keys, so they fully understand the keyboard rather than repeat a pattern without having the comfort of feeling that they understand WHY the pattern is what it is and the musical landscape that lies outside the pattern. Of course, this should be done once the student has already reached the most important stage – ie playing something that gives them enjoyment. Teaching transposition before the student has mastered a piece of music that makes them proud and fuels their desire to learn more, might risk dampening their overall enjoyment of piano – but teaching it after they have reached this stage can be a great fun challenge and a great skill to learn.

  • Dorrie

    Hi there,
    I’m new to blogging, so new to reading your blog… but this made me laugh – how “mean” of you. It’s great to hear other teachers teaching these concepts, and truly preparing students to learn and explore the piano – not just repeat or memorize patterns. I’ve found many students who actually enjoy the challenge once you present it to them!