With all the software and method books that are available now and with more that are surely on the way, one could ask the question ‘Why have a piano teacher?’ Of course, anyone can understand that a private teacher can give a more personal and personable approach to learning the piano, but the reasons for having a private teacher, even if you use software or a good method book, go deeper than that.

As a student, you can benefit greatly from the total awareness on the teacher’s part of the student’s personality. A teacher can assign repertoire and/or approach technique in a way that fits best not only your physical but emotional needs. This is something that computer piano/theory software cannot do. For developing technique, software is almost always inadequate. Although many software programs cover basic issues such as holding the hand in a rounded form when approaching the piano, how to sit correctly at the piano, and even more technical matters like how to move about a scale or arpeggio figure in a piece of repertoire, they cannot take into account each student’s different physiology. It takes the careful eye and ear of a good teacher to make sure that distracting and physically dangerous tension does not develop when trying to deal with a scale or arpeggio configuration.

Experience is a hard thing to place a numerical or monetary value upon, but most of us recognize that experience is irreplaceable in any field. You can benefit from the experience of a teacher in many ways. One of the hardest things for students to recognize is that there are often many ways to accomplish a difficult passage in a piece of music. Students rarely have the knowledge or experience to choose the best fingerings for themselves. Even a well-edited score may give fingerings which simply will not work for you. Similarly, a teacher can help you identify repertoire and challenge you to improve your abilities by choosing just the right piece for your interest and level of ability. It is also difficult to continually motivate yourself to practice when you reach challenges that seem beyond your capabilities. Here again, a teacher has faced these issues themselves many times and can help you work through the problems in a sound and safe fashion.

Music is not merely the playing of notes on the page, but the ability to understand and interpret those notes in an emotionally meaningful fashion. If you have ever heard a player with competent technique, but no real understanding of MUSIC, you know what we mean when we say music is more, much more, than the notes on the page. A good private teacher can help you not only learn to correctly play the notes, but understand the emotional language of the piece in a way that will make your playing more enjoyable to do and more compelling to hear. This is one of the reasons that many professional pianists take lessons themselves occasionally and one of the best reasons to take lessons even after you have learned to play proficiently.

We all need someone to share and help us refine our musical ideas; the private teacher may be the best person to do that with, because they know you and your musical abilities better than anyone. In the end, the most important thing a teacher can give is an awareness of and a joy in music. You may be able to accomplish that yourself, but you'll find the teacher's experience, empathy, and knowledge will get you there faster and more enjoyably. Software and books are very valuable, but I think you will find they are no replacement for a dedicated teacher.