I consider myself a life-long music student. I continue to take classes online and have taken many in-person classes throughout my life. I’ve written about some of the horrible teachers I’ve had (you can read about those here), but today I’d like to shine a light on the incredible music teachers who have helped shape me into who I am today.
Music Teacher Appreciation
Teachers don’t get enough praise already, but if I had to be in a classroom with poorly tuned, off-tempo instruments all day I’d probably bash my own skull in. The amount of patience these music teachers have is incredible.
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Whether you’re a music teacher yourself, or you need a teacher but can’t afford one, I’d like to share some of the best tips my favorite music teachers taught me over the years.
1). It’s Okay to Suck…at First
It’s very easy to get frustrated when you’re starting on a new instrument or learning to sing. You only see the artists once they’ve accomplished great musical feats. You don’t see the struggles and the challenges they’ve faced. A good music teacher will not only forgive your mistakes, but will also encourage them. Mistakes help you learn better for next time, and they build your resilience in case you screw up on stage. Most good music teachers will either laugh about it with you or simply shrug off any mistakes.
That being said, there is a threshold for how long you should suck at something. If you’re not making noticeable improvements over time, your teacher will likely address it with you to find the problem. Maybe it’s not the right instrument for you, or maybe there’s another technique you can try. A good music teacher will know how to measure your progress and steer you in the right direction.
2). A Bad Day vs Bad Technique
Maybe you’re exhausted from a long night, and that’s why your voice is ragged. Or, maybe you’re not breathing correctly. The two are very different and will require different methods to correct. If they aren’t sure, they’ll ask you. They won’t assume you’re just tired. They also won’t look down on you and assume your technique is bad. They’ll just ask!
3). Individualized Methods
A good teacher doesn’t teach every student the exact same way, because we’re people and we all learn differently. A teacher who cares will go the extra mile to figure out how you learn best and apply that to your lessons.
If you feel that your current teacher isn’t teaching the way you want to learn, ask if they can work with you to meet your needs. It’s possible that they can change up their methods but they aren’t sure if you want that. Or, there may be a reason for that specific method.
4). How Hard to Push
Your teacher may not always be your friend; that’s not their job. Their job is to push you toward greatness. However, there is a limit to how hard to push, and it varies daily. I had a teacher once who pushed me way past my breaking point in each lesson. I begged her to stop, but I left every time completely hoarse. This meant that not only was she pushing me way too hard, she was also not paying attention to my technique or comfort level. A good teacher will always push you as hard as you can go, but never hard enough to cause injury or make you hate lessons.
So, now we’ve covered what a good music teacher DOES, but I want to mention a few things they DON’T (or shouldn’t) do.
Your Music Teacher is Not a Doctor
While my amazing vocal coach was able to tell when I was singing incorrectly, she would never attempt to diagnose me with anything, nor would I expect her to. If you feel you need medical help, see a doctor and let your coach know! Likewise, your teacher will appreciate it if you don’t show up sick for lessons. They would much prefer you heal completely (and don’t expose them to germs)!
Your Music Teacher is Not a Therapist
If you have performance anxiety or stage fright, your coach can give you tips to overcome it. However, if you have a phobia or major issue with lessons, it’s better to see a therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist for those issues. I saw a hypnotherapist for my stage fright issues and highly recommend it!
I’d like to thank every music teacher who tries so hard to improve the lives of their students. Teaching music is such a vital job and we’re so lucky to have you! Thank you from all of us.
Do you have a great music teacher you’d like to recommend? Give them some love in the comments!