Since I teach music lessons myself, this is a topic that is close to my heart. Finding a music teacher can be tough, regardless if you are looking for yourself or for your child. Here are some things to think about:

Determine your goals. A teacher is only effective if they know what you want to work on, and the type of music teacher you look for depends on what goals you have. If you want to become a concert pianist, you probably shouldn’t ask your church pianist to help you. However, if you simply want to play for your own enjoyment, that church pianist will likely be perfect.

If you’re familiar with your instrument, pick your genre. Many instruments have several strengths to their credit, and the one you want to pursue will also influence teacher choice. For example, learning violin typically means classical music. Learning fiddle means traditional and folk. Techniques for each genre are different, and require a different skill set (reading music notation versus playing by ear). Beware! One may not necessarily help you with the other…

Pick a teacher with experience. It may not always be possible, especially in small and rural areas, but if you can, select a teacher with experience. Music is a cumulative art; the more years a player plays, the more knowledge and tips they can pass onto you, ultimately making your learning experience easier.

Try to find someone you get along with. You’re going to be spending a lot of time and energy with your music teacher; try to pick someone you can get along well with. Don’t make yourself miserable by learning from a cranky, scathing, or belligerent teacher! If you find yourself in this situation, look for another teacher.

Parents: don’t force your children into music. Please. This is a big one with me. All too often parents strong-arm their children into music because “I took music when I was your age.” I’m sorry, but this is a bad reason! It often turns children completely off music for the rest of their lives. (It did to you, didn’t it? I bet that instrument your parents forced you to learn still makes you cringe to this day.) I know you want your child to have every opportunity, but a child who doesn’t want to be playing and who resents their parent forcing them into lessons is a nightmare for a teacher and often does not retain an ounce of information from the lessons. Conversely, a child who wants to take music retains nearly everything they’re taught and often continues to play through out adulthood. So, please. let your kids make the decisions on this one. And if they must learn music, at least let them pick which instrument they want to play.

Locate local music teachers via local music shops and the live music network. Music stores love to help new players, and often have a listing of local teachers — at the very least, they have names to pass on. Same thing with local musicians. If they don’t teach, they likely know someone who does. Don’t be afraid to ask. 🙂

Deciding to take music lessons can be a daunting task, but there are resources out there to help you. If you aren’t sure about what you want to pursue, pick brains of music professionals and store clerks. They’ll be more than happy to answer questions to help you narrow things down. Likewise, seek out a variety of live music — besides helping you decide what type of music you want to play, most performers would be happy to field a few questions after the show from a budding music enthusiast.

Happy musicianing. 🙂

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7 thoughts on “Finding a Music Teacher

  1. Great advice, and all very true. Particularly that bit about parents and their children. I was looking for someone to help me with my guitar skills, as I am very rusty, but after a sequence of meaningful events, fate has ruled that I am to do this on my own, and just learn to play a few songs “I” like, which is how I learnt to play in the first place but for some, a teacher is most important, especially if you’re a total newbie, and have never ever played an instrument.

    1. Yes indeed! Thankfully I haven’t had any really BAD students (and we all have our days!), but I’ve seen it happen enough times to other people that it makes me cringe. Music *should* be enjoyable, NOT a chore. The most heartbreaking example was a guy I went to school with… He played the. Most. AMAZING jazz trumpet I’ve ever heard. That guy had *so much* talent. I mean, people tell me I’m talented but I had *nothing* on this guy…

      At the end of his senior year he quit. He’d never wanted to play the trumpet in the first place, had just done it because he was a good guy and his parents wanted him to. He didn’t really care about music, and so he quit.

      And to think! He could have been one of the stars at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival! He could have had his pick of jazz bands, had his pick of chair positions! But because he was made to play….

      I was lucky. When I expressed a desire for music, my Grandmother taught me a bit on the piano, and then let me pick how often I wanted to play. She made it clear that if I wanted to learn she’d be more than ready and willing to help, but I didn’t *have* to. As a result, I was over at her house plunking out melodies and songs about as often as I could manage it, and my enjoyment has transferred into all the other musical journeys I’ve taken.

      I can say with all honesty that if I had been forced into playing, I would have HATED it, and probably wouldn’t be a musician today.

      1. Yes, it’s sad when one is forced, for it takes away any enjoyment from it. Nobody noticed I wanted to learn guitar, so when I was 14, I joined the guitar class in High School, and that is how I learnt, by playing Beatle songs, then I taught myself how to play bass 🙂

  2. As for music teachers, I agree, Alannah. They’re good to have and can help a lot, but not strictly necessary, especially if you have some previous music experience and have no trouble being a self starter. There are sooo many good books on music and instrument learning today!

    There’s nothing wrong with learning an instrument yourself — Hell, most of the instruments I play I’m self-taught on. Now, I did have a classical music background what with piano and band, which helped, but for the rest of it, I read, lol a lot, actually — and I play with others who are better than me and I pick their brains…

    Everyone has their own path to follow, and just because some choose to have a teacher with them every step of the way or they choose to do it all themselves… there’s nothing wrong with it. 🙂

  3. nobody should force you to do anything – music or religion or sports. There comes time when you feel a pull towards something and that is when you should make an effort to follow your heart. How many kids are messed up because their parents had a dream? Notices, I am not saying – kid had a dream, I am saying – parents had a dream…

    1. I would hazard a guess and say quite a few people are messed up from shit like that.

      Once in a looooong while I’ll see a kid pushed into music, and they don’t like it for a while, and then something clicks and they REALLY go for it… but it’s so so SO rare… Far more often they hate it and quit, or worse, keep up with it just to please their parents and end up making themselves miserable. 😦 It really is quite sad. 😦

      I most definitely agree that nobody should force you to do anything. Everyone should have the freedom to make up their own mind about such things.

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