Blog 54: Top 10 WORST Tips For Working With a Pianist!

2/4 6/8 march counting music pianist working with a pianist Feb 14, 2022

Working with a pianist can be a real treat!

Unfortunately, it can also be frustrating at times, especially if you're uncertain how to do it well, so I've put together a tongue-in-cheek guide to ensure that your next opportunity is a delight to both you and your musician!  (I've been on the receiving end of ALL of these at some point in my 20+ year career! lol)

Enjoy! :D

Top 10 Worst Tips for Working with a Pianist

  1. First of all, do NOT talk with your pianist outside of the studio. Musicians love to be thought of as merely a human metronome; casual conversation outside the studio might create space for kindness and humanity and that does NOT resonate with musicians.  
  2. Above all, it is best when ballet teachers are extremely critical and hypersensitive tempo wise; by this I mean ensure you constantly question their tempos, snap throughout EVERY exercise and stop each exercise 6-8 counts in to restart it the 'right' tempo. Musicians are always happy to know when their tempos are off.
  3. Personal space is NOT a thing for introverted musicians, they LOVE it when ballet teachers get in their space, so, fight your social distancing tendencies and make sure to correct tempos by either snapping, OR even better, coming straight to the piano and smacking the lid at the tempo you want, while they're playing. Very effective.
  4. In the case of a new pianist, it's best to rapidly mark your exercises so that you can spend more of the class time correcting their totally incorrect and confused music choices.
  5. To keep your pianist on their toes, be sure to ask for a 2/4 and then count a1  a2  a3  a4, etc. This will confuse and delight them all at once since they'll be extremely uncertain whether you want a 2/4 or a 6/8, BUT, whichever they pick, they'll have played what you wanted!
  6. In the case of an actual in-studio piano, it's best to get it tuned at least once every 3-4 years or so. Spending hard earned studio money on tuning a piano is a waste and besides, your pianist should just be happy they're getting paid to play.
  7. When it comes to introducing a pianist to your dancers at the beginning of class, don't bother, getting class going is much more important!  And besides, who doesn't love a little "Thank you Ms. Le...." at the end of class as you watch your dancers squirm.
  8. Marking exercises can be a real benefit for your dancers, but your musician definitely doesn't need to see your legs or feet to get a sense of the accent you want so feel free to mark exercises right behind the piano.
  9. Something that is especially important to have if you're going to have a pianist in your studio is to provide some kind of piano; a small keyboard, 70 keys or less is probably adequate. A simple set up with no pedal, no music stand and a small built in speaker is easiest for you to set up. 
  10. Finally, after a brilliantly successful first class together, be sure to maximize your opportunity of working together by not stopping on time, your musician can only thank you for such an opportunity!

And that's it, a solid Top 10 worst tips for any ballet teacher who is uncertain about how to work with a pianist and just needs a little coaching about what NOT to do. lol

I hope you've found this list a HUGE help and I look forward to hearing from you about your experiences as you implement these pivotal practices!  ;) 

(And yes, I really have had all of those things happen to me at some point in my career, funny memories now. So many stories, so little time! I hope you had a great Love Day, a wonderful rest of your February and I look forward to coaching you inside of The Official Music Training Course for Ballet Teachers some point soon!! Registration will be closing at the end of February 2022)


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