Probably one of the most important questions a prospective music student needs to ask is, What kind of music teacher do I want?
Every music teacher has his or her own style of teaching. Some like to teach only classical. Some love improvisation. Some love to perform. Some like to teach only younger students. Some specialize in teaching adult beginners. Some love to teach advanced music students. Some love teaching students with special needs. Some use a lot of technology to enhance the lesson. Some rely on visual aids, games, and other tools to communicate better. And so on…
As a prospective music student there are a few key questions you can ask yourself to determine the teacher that will best fit your needs.
1. What do you want to learn?
Piano, Voice, Guitar, Violin… what is the instrument that captivates you? Once you determine the instrument you want to learn, determine what you want to accomplish with that instrument. Is your goal is to get Grade 8 piano by the time you finish High School? Then you need a teacher with a fairly high qualification (more than Grade 8 themselves). If your goal is to learn to play by ear, then you need to find a teacher that is comfortable with that. Have a clear objective in mind when you go to interview a teacher, so that you can determine if that teacher will be “the one.”
2. Think about your over-all music education
Once we have made our initial goal, it’s easy just to stop there and find a teacher who will meet that requirement. However, a good teacher will not only help you realize your goal, but they will take you even beyond that! Ask your prospective music teacher what they teach in a lesson. You want to be sure that you are getting the value you pay for. Do they incorporate theory? Will you learn to read music, or will you just learn to play the same three riffs over and over on your guitar? Do they stress rhythm? Do they allow you to compose? Will you learn different styles or only one style? It’s important to find a teacher who is experienced in many areas of music (reading, improvising, composition, theory, ear training, technique, etc.), so that you can get the most out of your lessons as possible.
3. Qualification is important.
How many times have I gone on kijiji and seen an ad that reads something like this: Guitar Lessons CHEAP! Don’t read music, but been playing for 13 years in a band. My house or yours. $10 an hr. Let me sound a LOUD warning here! STAY AWAY! You may be tempted by the low price, but believe me, you will get what you pay for, which is not much. Always be sure to ask what qualifications your prospective teacher has. Have they done exams? Do they have experience teaching a variety of ages and styles? At J. Brooks Academy of Music, all our teachers have a minimum of a Grade 8 Royal Conservatory of Music Certificate or the equivalent in post-secondary education and/or experience. In other words, we only hire teachers that are qualified :). And, another word of caution… no music teacher will every know everything. There will be times in your lesson when your teacher doesn’t have the answer for a specific problem you are having with the music. A good music teacher will admit when they don’t know an answer to a student’s question, but a good music teacher will also know who to ask to find the answer to the question.
4. Personality is often the clincher
Qualifications are necessary, but a piece of paper doesn’t make someone a good teacher. That mostly has to do with personality. Look for a music teacher you can connect with. Look for someone who takes time to hear your concerns, and who will direct you in a way that helps you advance. Often, it takes a few months of lessons to determine whether or not your personality will click with your new teacher, but if you get a bad vibe in the first interview, you can be pretty sure the lessons are not going to be too much fun! This is another advantage of taking lessons somewhere like the Academy. We have multiple teachers for piano and voice, so if you find things just are not working out the way you would have liked, you can always try another teacher.
Who ever you end up choosing as your new music teacher, I hope that these few tips will help you make a rewarding choice.