Are you a new music teacher looking for some teaching tips?
Teaching music lessons is one of the most common ways that freelance musicians create income. The irony is that current college curriculum has a very meager amount of instrumental pedagogy, so many musicians are thrown into a profession that they have almost no experience in.
I know that when I first started teaching trumpet lessons that I had no clue what I was doing. Looking back on the first couple of years that I taught, I am a little embarrassed by the teaching that I did. However, you CAN learn to be a great teacher. Here are some teaching tips to help you with your private studio.
1. John Maxwell, one of the greatest leadership and success authors of all time, said, “All things being equal, people follow people that they like. All things not equal, they still will.” One of the top things that you can do as a teacher is to learn to connect with your students personally. If they like and trust you, they will work for you.
2. Many times, it is easy to find a thousand things that you can fix about your student’s playing. However, if you overload them with all of their playing problems, they may not return for another lesson (this is one of the teaching tips spoken from experience!). Find one, two, or three concepts to focus on at a time. Ask yourself, “What is the most important topic to cover right now?”
3. Even though all students are different from each other, have a predetermined curriculum that you take your students through. Know ahead of time the books that you will use, and have a “road map” to get your student to improve. Sometimes, you will need to deviate from your curriculum, and that is fine.
4. Continually focus on the basics. It is VERY easy to get distracted by all of the different auditions or contests in which a student may take part. Make sure that there is time in every lesson to focus on what is important.
5. For beginning woodwind and brass students, take more time than you think that you need to get their embouchure correct. Over time, any bad habits in this area will only get worse, and you can prevent this problem by getting the embouchure correct from the beginning.
6. Sometimes, it can be beneficial to use various tools to help with playing an instrument. Many teachers have their bag of toys, and many of them work really well to fix problems. Take this teaching tip to heart…do NOT overdo this. Students can get addicted to these tools, and the goal is to be able to play an instrument well without them.
7. Understand the calendar that the student lives by. Many band, orchestra, or choir programs have contests, auditions, and performances throughout the year. Embrace these different events, and be sure to help your student navigate through them effectively. Know what is coming up as far ahead of time as possible.
8. As students get older, their music will get progressively more challenging. Your job as a teacher is to help break these challenges into bite size pieces. By doing this, you can help minimize your students feeling of being overwhelmed.
9. Occasionally, play something to wow the student. This tip may sound like narcissism, but it can really help excite the student about taking lessons. Just make sure not to overdo this tip, and you will avoid looking arrogant.
10. If you have any questions about teaching, be humble enough to ask other teachers for advice. Whether it is from colleagues or internet forums, the answers are probably out there.
A couple of weeks ago, I posted a thread to a couple of brass forums to get a few teaching tips, and I received literally hundreds of ideas. I know that many of you have some great insights, so please comment below and share the wealth!
Question: What tips do you have for new teachers?