Is your piano teacher mean or just strict?

As you are taking lessons with your piano teacher, there may be times when your teacher says mean things that hurt your feelings. Knowing the reason for this can help you make a decision on what to do with the teacher.

The reasons piano teachers are mean could be because it’s their natural personality, or they’re projecting their own failures as pianists on the students, or they are inexperienced and haven’t learned what correct words to use to criticize the student’s playing without sounding mean.

In this article, I’ll go through a couple of ways your teacher can be mean to you, why are they mean to you, determine if your teacher is mean or just strict, make sure that this isn’t a big misunderstanding and that your teacher isn’t actually mean, and what to do if your teacher really is mean to you.

How are piano teachers mean

There are many ways a teacher can appear or sound mean to his/her students. They may raise their voice and yell at the student, or make comments like “Why aren’t you getting this” or “this is not difficult”. Some old-school teachers may even use rulers to correct the student when they make a mistake, although this is less common now.

Why are piano teachers mean?

There are a few reasons why a piano teacher is mean:

Personal failure as a pianist

In some cases, some piano teachers became teachers in the first place not because they love teaching, but because they failed to find success in their respective field – the world of music.

These teachers often had high ambitions when they were younger and so when they start teaching and see young and talented students, it reminds them of the past and so they project their own image onto the students.

And so they transfer their ambitions into their teachings, can’t stand students that can’t do everything they possibly can and subsequently become mean to the student and to themselves since the student is the reflection of them. By creating successful students, they themselves find success.

This type of thing happens with parenting too. In Asian culture, I’ve seen parents that have failed dreams or didn’t turn out to be who they want to be, so they put all of their hopes and dreams into their kids, pushing them to be the best since if their kids succeed, they succeed. And this can have a stressful impact on the kids themselves.

The same thing can be said for the students under this type of teacher. The students will either buckle under the stress and leave the teacher, or they’ll endure and thrive since the bar of excellence is set so high.


Another reason why a piano teacher is mean could be because it’s their natural personality. It’s who they are as a person and there’s nothing that can change it.

It could also be just a personality, a persona that the teacher adopts only when teaching piano since it’s their belief that being mean will push the students to be the best they can be, creating a sense of perseverance in the students. Outside of work, they’ll most likely be a different person, they could actually be very nice for example.

Lack of experience

It could also be because of a lack of teaching experience that the teacher appears to mean to the student. To be able to teach someone effectively, a person needs a lot of practice and experience. It could be that the teacher doesn’t know what words to use to give feedback to the students, and it ends up sounding mean-spirited and discouraging to the student.

Is your teacher just really strict?

Pianists are very disciplined people, and often practice under strict regiments that require them to follow instructions to the tee. This is to make sure that they can improve at playing piano at an optimum rate since the intensity will make you grow and progress as a pianist.

As such, many piano teachers that went through this path decided to apply this strict principle into their teaching to make their students learn and memorize by heart the proper forms and techniques, making sure that they grow into splendid pianists.

So how do you know if your teacher is mean to you or just a strict teacher? Think of what they say to you, if what they say seems personal, things like “you will never be good”, or “you’re stupid”, then they are mean just for the sake of being mean to you.

Instead of critiquing your playing of the piano, they went and criticize you personally. Even teachers with strict methods, in the end, want to see you succeed as a pianist and will remain professional, only giving critique and feedback on your piano playing only.

For mean teachers like that, consider switching to a different one since it’ll be hard to improve in a toxic environment where you are constantly being put down.

Your teacher being mean could be a misunderstanding

Teachers are humans like you and me. We all have good and bad days and sometimes the teacher can accidentally snap and be mean to you when you don’t understand something.

But keep in mind that although they may sound grumpy and frustrated at you, in truth, they’re actually grumpy and frustrated at themselves for not being able to teach or explain the concepts better for you to understand.

It could also be that you are nervous or that you aren’t used to hearing criticisms, so you exaggerate the critique and feedback your teacher gives out of proportion.

Remember that your teacher is there to help you and genuinely wants you to be a better pianist so don’t take their feedback too personally.

What to do when your teacher is mean to you?

When your teacher says something mean to you, ask them to make sure that this is just a misunderstanding and the teacher didn’t mean what he say. You may be surprised that the teacher may reflect and regret what he said after class is over. By doing this, you’ll clear the air between the two of you and make sure the lesson continues flowing smoothly.

However, if you find that the mean-spirited nature or the tone of your teacher is not suited for you, and want to play in a more laid-back environment, consider finding another teacher instead.

Final thoughts

There are a couple of reasons that explain why a piano teacher is mean, their personal experience with the piano, their personality or a lack of teaching experience.

Maybe your teacher is just strict and actually not mean. As long as their comments are professional and aren’t targeted at you personally, keep learning with that teacher can be beneficial since it’ll be like trial by fire where you will come out to be the best pianist you can be, provided you can keep up with the pressure.

However, it could be that your teacher being mean could be a misunderstanding. Maybe they just have a bad day and accidentally snap at you, or maybe you just aren’t used to hearing criticism so you accidentally exaggerate it.

If you determine that your teacher is mean and you don’t like it, consider switching to another teacher that’s more suitable for you.


I've been learning piano for the past 4 years, tried both online and in-person lessons. I'm very excited to share my experiences along with what I've picked up over the years in this blog!

Recent Posts