Teach Principles First [Chat with Paul Harris Part 3]

Teach Principles First [Chat with Paul Harris Part 3]

teaching piano principles

Wrapping up our mini-chat series with Tim Topham and expert UK educationalist Paul Harris is today’s video all about teaching piano principles first. 

In the previous two videos, Tim and Paul have chatted about the best ways to motivate your students and how to keep your piano lessons relevant.

In case you missed them, click on the links below.

Motivate Your Piano Students [Part One]

Are You Keeping Lessons Relevant? [Part Two]

This video will help you simplify your teaching and give your students the ability to teach themselves.

It almost sounds impossible, but Paul Harris’ insights make it a reality.

Check it out here.

3 Take Aways

Here are three key points that you can take away from this video, and implement in your teaching:

  • Don’t bombard your students with content they need to memorise. They are less likely to remember the notes to six different scales as opposed to remembering the major scale structure which they can apply to all major keys. Think creatively about how you teach principles so your students stay interested in piano.
  • Look for similarities, not differences. Students are more likely to understand that the major structure of two major scales are the same, rather than grapple with why they are different.
  • You don’t have time to teach your students all the different scales in your piano lessons, and you don’t have time to listen to them all either. You will save time by teaching them the principles that they can then apply. Time is precious, don’t waste it!


Let Your Students Teach Themselves

“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”

I think this famous proverb really captures the essence of what Paul and Tim discussed. An interesting point was about giving your students the ability to teach themselves.

Independent learning is vital to the ongoing development of your piano students.

You physically cannot sit by their side every time they are practising the piano at home.

By teaching piano principles broadly, your student can adapt this in a practise setting. If they cannot remember learning an E-flat major scale in a lesson, they can use their knowledge of a major scale to figure out the notes and fingering.

This is not limited to just teaching scales, it can be used for a whole range of technical work and theoretical concepts.


How do you think you can adapt this to your teaching? What interesting ways do you use when teaching piano principles? Let me know in the comments!

Hopefully, this mini-series with Paul Harris and Tim Topham has been useful, insightful and helped your piano teaching.

More interviews with a range of expert educators and other resources are available in full to members of the Inner Circle.

Click here to see how you can sign up and join this creative community of piano teachers.


Sean Wales

Sean is one of Tim's former students and a University of Melbourne graduate. He studied a Bachelor of Arts, majoring Media and Communications and Italian, and is currently working as a journalist for the ABC in Horsham.

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