Whether you’re a parent trying to find the best music school for your child, or an adult looking to find a great music teacher to learn basic music skills, finding the right teacher is very important.
While you might be excited to begin learning all about music, it can be overwhelming to sort through the array of institutions and teachers out there. Luckily, we’ve done our homework in order to help you narrow down the field of play.
With the help of this post, we’ll cover all you need to know: From how you should go about finding a music teacher or school, to all the details you need to verify before you settle. You’ll learn about:
The importance of a teacher’s background and their teaching abilities
What personal preferences you should consider
What to look for when observing a lesson
By the end, you will have the basic criteria you need to use in order to find the right teacher or school for you. Let’s get started!
The Importance of a Good Teacher
Ensuring that you have an experienced, knowledgeable teacher with skills that match their level of expertise and a personality that is compatible with yours might very well be the most critical aspects of a successful music learning experience. A music teacher’s skills, techniques, and passion for teaching all play a very important role in how well they can teach a student.
Whether you’re considering a private music tutor or looking to attend a music school, there are a few basic (non-negotiable) requirements that should serve as your standards in order to ensure a successful education. These requirements include a music teacher’s background, teaching abilities, and your personal preferences. Let’s explore them in detail…
A music teacher’s background includes his or her education in music, experience, and skill level.
While it’s always a good idea to look up a music teacher’s degree (to ensure they studied at a reputable university), don’t be alarmed if they don’t have one. You will likely find that many teachers that have a great understanding of music theory and technique, come from backgrounds that involve private studies. Nonetheless, ask about a potential teacher’s educational background in music in order to understand their level of formal training.
Equally as important as a teacher’s educational background is their experience. It is one thing to undergo an education and another to use that education in real world scenarios. A professional performance background ensures that the teacher has adequate experience to teach a student all the techniques, helping them master the art of music. This can include playing in a band, an orchestra, performing solo and similar types of exposure. It is also helpful if they have years of teaching under their belt, as this can deepen their ability to teach.
A good example would be to reference teachers one would find at The Music Factory, who have long-term professional backgrounds and have been in the music-teaching industry for at least a couple of years.
A teacher’s skill level is a key determining factor when it comes to a student achieving his or her goals. If you play the drums at an intermediate level, for example, and you hire a teacher who is not far ahead of you, you will shortly max out all that person can teach you. Instead, ensure that the teacher you have in mind has the skill level you wish to obtain. A lot of music students move from one teacher to another as they advance in their skill level, which is something you can minimize by finding a teacher to which you have a large deficit in skill level.
Good Reviews and Recommendations
Word-of-mouth might just be one of the soundest ways to ensure you’ll find a great music teacher. If you can’t find any verified references on a teacher’s history, it should be a cause for alarm. Social media, friends, family and professional institutions, are all tools you can use to your advantage to check out a teacher’s reviews and recommendations.
Now that you have the basics to check a music teacher’s background, we will move onto the next criteria: teaching abilities. Teaching is a skill all of its own and here are the components that will be important.
Lessons Based on a Good Curriculum
It’s important to keep in mind that music teachers are still individuals, and individuals do differ in personal preferences. With that being said, not all music teachers use the same curriculums, but what is critical is that they use a good curriculum. When used correctly, a well-structured curriculum will provide the foundational elements needed for a student to learn effectively and efficiently.
Good Learning Environment
Music class lessons should be given in a safe, clean and uncluttered learning environment which helps to promote student performance. Rules need to be in place to ensure that students know what they can expect from each and every lesson. Essentially a music teacher’s classroom should be conducive to learning and align with performance and behavioral expectations students need to meet.
Adaptable Teaching Strategies
A good music teacher should be able to tailor lesson plans in order to accommodate individual student needs while still covering the set standards of the curriculum. To do this properly, a teacher will use a variety of strategies (some of which might not be traditional) in order to ensure that students stay engaged and focused.
Your music teacher has to be a great communicator of knowledge, essentially having a clear target for their student in mind and an approach to get students to the goal via the most efficient manner. They also have to ensure the student is grasping what they are teaching and need to be able to adapt their communication to the needs of the student. It is easy to spout out knowledge, but to share it in a way that the receiver fully grasps and can apply it is the sign of a great communicator.
Patience is a vital skill that all music teachers should have; always keeping in mind that the foundational steps of learning to play an instrument are key to developing the skills of playing. The best teachers know that musical proficiency requires a lot of time and a lot of repetition. They understand that each student learns at a different pace, which is why they’ll give you an adequate time frame to master a new skill, essentially ensuring that students fully comprehend each and every lesson.
When it comes to aspects like class schedules, you’re going to want to ensure that the music teacher is professional and consistent. They should not be canceling lessons, not showing up, or running late. In order to learn effectively and get real value for their money, students need reliability from a music teacher.
Tip: If you want to ensure a teacher is reliable, observe how quickly they respond to your communication. Are they delivering on what they agreed to when you contacted them? How long did you wait for feedback from the teacher? You might also want to verify reliability with some of the teacher’s old students and see what they have to say.
The Ability to Critique
While most students want to be cheered all the way, that’s not a teacher’s job. A great music teacher is there to correct you on your missteps, but they know how to do it patiently and without malice. Critique is a vital part of successful music lessons (it’s a vital part of learning anything new really). Cheers and praise have their place in the learning cycle, but that only comes once a student genuinely achieves a remarkable milestone.
A Focus on Foundational Teaching
In order for a student to thrive, a music teacher needs to know that the foundational elements of music are the most important aspects of teaching. A teacher’s focus should fall on tone production, technique, repertoire, rudiments and demonstrations in the first couple of lessons, showing the student the most basic elements on which to build on.
After looking at the background and teaching abilities of potential teachers, comes the consideration of your personal preferences. When choosing a teacher or school, you also want to find one that is a good fit for you. Here’s what to consider:
A Compatible Personality
A music teacher’s personality plays a vital role in the success of music classes, and even if the teacher “ticks all the boxes” that make up a brilliant tutor, if he or she isn’t compatible with the student, the results won’t be nearly as good as expected. In life, we get some people that just aren’t our cup of tea, and that’s okay, but it’s really important to find a music teacher who does resonate with you if you’re determined to get the most out of the classes.
Essentially, a music teacher and the student both have to be on the same page when it comes to the long-term goal. You wouldn’t attend a cooking class on cupcakes if you really want to learn to make cheesecakes, would you? The same goes for music genres. Don’t sign up for classes from an acoustic guitarist who loves country music if you’re aiming to master the electric guitar and enter the rock genre.
An Inspirational Influence
A music teacher should be a student’s inspiration, someone they admire and would strive to be like someday. The teacher should also be someone that makes the student feel comfortable, someone that resonates with them, someone with a compatible personality, and someone that has a passion for what they’re teaching. Look for an inspirational influence with skills you want to acquire.
A Fair Price
While numerous aspects contribute to the rates music teachers charge, you always get what you pay for. Go the super-cheap route and you’re left with questionable ethics and half qualifications. Super-expensive rates aren’t always the best either since you’ll end up paying more for the brand than the actual value you get. Make sure you do your homework and consider the whole package to find the right balance.
Observe a Lesson
Once you’ve got a few teachers in mind, we recommend you sit in on a lesson with one or two of them. The “trial” lesson should give you a pretty clear idea of whether or not the particular teacher and his or her lessons are suitable for you.
During the trial lesson, make sure you take note of the following aspects:
Does the teacher offer fun and informative classes?
Does the teacher base lesson plans on a variety of appropriate activities?
Does the teacher have the ability to critique constructively?
Does the teacher use different teaching styles for individual learning styles of students?
Is the classroom conducive to learning?
Is proper emphasis placed on the fundamentals?
Is the teacher patient?
Do you like the teacher?
Does the teacher instruct students on proper breathing, intonation, and tuning for instruments other than the piano?
Does the teacher resonate with his or her students and can you sense a clear passion for teaching?
Does the teacher have a degree in music?
Does the teacher have diagnostic skills?
While music is an eccentric and fun endeavor, if you don’t set the same expectations for a music teacher that you would for an academic teacher, you’ll risk wasting your time and money. A music teacher shouldn’t be just that “cool” guy that shows you (or your kids) some “tricks” he learned over the years. Just as one would expect an academic teacher to teach with rigor, the same should apply for music teachers.
Now you know what to look for in a great music teacher or school. A teacher’s background and their teaching abilities are determining factors, but so are personal preference and observation. You can take these criteria and apply them to your search in order to find the right music teacher or school for your personal needs.