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. 🙂