finding your piano teaching niche

Learning how to figure out your piano teaching niche is one of the best things you can do for both your business and your self-confidence as a teacher. If you’re just getting started with teaching maybe you haven’t even considered this question. But even if you have it can be a struggle to clearly define your niche piano teaching style.

Here are some simple ideas to get you started.

following the well trodden path won't help you figure out your piano teaching niche
Following the well-trodden path won’t help you figure out your piano teaching niche.

Because every teacher has different qualities and strengths, they each have their own way of communicating with students, and their own thing that makes them unique – their niche piano teaching style. Students who value that style, flock to them for this very thing. 

I definitely didn’t understand this when I started teaching. I just followed straight on teaching the way I was taught.

Avoid The Comparison Trap

Have you ever fallen into the comparison trap? Maybe you’ve looked at your own teachers or other teachers you know and feel like you could never be good enough. They seem so confident, so wise and all-knowing. Maybe you’ve thought no one is ever going to trust me as a teacher because I don’t have the skills or knowledge of these other teachers. 

As the daughter of a piano teacher, my mum’s unique piano teaching style has always been the gold standard for me, and for years I kept comparing myself to her. But I never felt like I was good enough, or that I could even get close to her level.

I felt like I was NEVER EVER going to catch up. 

We often overlook the obvious fact that these other teachers have had years or decades of experience behind them. They’ve had plenty of time to experiment, to practice, to self assess, and to learn what works for them.

It’s taken me a while to realise that actually I don’t need to catch up at all. I just need to work out what my best qualities are and what sets me apart from other piano teachers. Which, as it turns out, is completely different from my mum.

So how do we know what we do best?

Your Piano Teaching Niche Checklist

Narrowing down your niche piano teaching style doesn’t have to be complicated. I recommend taking some time to sit down with a pen and paper (analogue or digital) and just brainstorm. Don’t overthink it, just write what comes to mind. You can refine it later. Here are some steps you can follow to help organise your thoughts.

#1. List all the things you LOVE about music, playing, creating or teaching.

This can be as general or specific as you like. Think of music or repertoire you love to listen to, play or teach. List all the skills or activities you really enjoy teaching. Can you point to something specific that inspires you or drives you to dig deeper?

Think about the last time you finished a lesson feeling invigorated or “hyper”. This generally indicates an innate enthusiasm. 

Enthusiasm is what creates genuine feelings of happiness. So look for it.

#2. Now think about WHY you love these things.

Can you make a connection to an event in your past that made you feel happy, excited, motivated or purposeful? If you can, make a note of these experiences.

Think of your underlying goals or dreams. Can you recall why you got into music to begin with, or why you kept going with it over the years? What are your core motivations?

Having a clear idea of WHY you love the things you love in music, validates your reasons for pursuing the path that feels right for you. It gives you purpose and clarity. Which so vital for niching down.

#3. List all the things you DON’T LOVE about music, playing, creating or teaching.

I’m talking about music, or repertoire you just don’t enjoy and skills or activities you dislike teaching for whatever reason. Think about the last time you finished a lesson feeling bored, tired, frustrated or overwhelmed.

#4. Now think about WHY you don’t love these things. 

Is there a connection to a fear of something, or a limiting belief? Is it due to a lack of experience or confidence? Does it leave you feeling negative emotions, anxiety, shame, embarrassment? If so, can you pinpoint why it makes you feel this way?

Getting to the bottom of WHY you don’t love something gives you two things. One, information about areas in your life that you could pay more attention to improving. And two, an opportunity to clearly define the boundaries of what’s right for you and what isn’t.

#5. Think about your Ideal Student Avatar and describe them in detail. 

What’s an Ideal Student Avatar? The term is borrowed from one commonly used in business marketing, the Ideal Customer Avatar.  The Ideal Customer (or student) Avatar describes ONE single customer (or student) that you can serve the best and who you most want to work with.

Think of any students you’ve loved to teach and have had the most success with. Think about the qualities they had which made them enjoyable to teach. What is their age, gender, level, abilities, goals, interests, family life, financial situation, education? 

If you can’t think of any, then imagine what you want your students to have learnt from you. What are the most important takeaways you want them to have when they finish lessons with you? Is it, being able to play for pleasure, have great piano technique, be an all-round musician, have achieved success in exams? 

#6. List all the practicalities.

Now you just need to define the more practical ideas that help to define your niche teaching style.

  • What location do you want to teach? At a studio, at your home, at a school, do you want to be a travelling teacher? 
  • What format do you want to teach? One on one lessons, group lessons, online lessons? 
  • What curriculum do you want to teach? From a method book series or similarly pre-crafted curriculum or your own personally created curriculum? 
  • What rate do you want to charge? A premium rate for more select clientele or a cheaper rate for a broader reach?

Really thinking about these ideas will provide a lot of insight into your underlying desires, needs and wants. This is where you want to get to.

From this list, you’ll be able to start clearly defining what kind of teacher you want to be.

But remember.

These ideas will change over time and with more experience. It’s important not to get bogged down by thinking this is the style that will define me forever.

NO, this is just where you are RIGHT NOW. 

In fact, come back to these steps every now and then and see what changes over time.

Next steps

Once you have a clearer picture of your piano teaching niche, try seeking out ideas to further cement your vision for your teaching. Facebook groups or online communities, and blogs are great places to learn, share ideas and build confidence with people who may have a similar vision to you.

Business Tip!

Keep hold of all of your notes. These can provide you with ideas for your marketing and will help you to craft your personal piano teaching brand.

Have you figured out your piano teaching niche? Let me know in the comments.

About the Author

A multi-passionate music professional, Geri has many strings to her bow. She’s taught piano, theory and composition for almost 20 years and is an experienced composer and orchestrator in the Australian Film and TV industry. When she’s not hanging out with her 3 kids and her musician partner she’s usually found collapsed on the couch watching some sort of epic SciFi/Fantasy show with her cat Saffy on her lap.

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