Everyone's experience of learning a musical instrument is different, so no teacher can suit everybody. The right music teacher for each individual will depend upon many factors, and several of the most common points to bear in mind when looking for a music teacher are outlined below.
Very different skills are required for teaching young children, teenagers and adults. Some teachers enjoy adapting to students of all ages, other specialise in particular age groups.
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Many private music teachers follow the dates of school terms and do not teach during the holidays. This suits students who also like to have a break, but there can be loss of progress without regular lessons. Some teachers do continue lessons during the school holidays, so seek them out if this is important to you!
A question often asked by students is how they can gauge a music teacher's expertise, both at teaching and on their instrument. Performance qualifications such as a Diploma will point to musical excellence, but a less qualified teacher may be more experienced or more adept at teaching beginner students. A University or Conservatoire music student may not have the qualifications yet, but may be able to relate better to the problems experienced by young beginners.
Most music teachers give lessons either from their home or a studio. Some may be prepared to travel to a student's home, but would usually charge more than the normal rate in order to cover travelling expenses and time.
If you want to learn to play the piano, some teachers may expect you to have an acoustic piano to practise on, whilst others will be happy for you to practise on a digital piano. Many piano teachers do not favour practising on an electronic keyboard. Most teachers will offer advice on buying a suitable instrument within your budget.
Most teachers offer their students the opportunity to take music exams and may use any of the main examination boards such as the ABRSM, Trinity College London or London College of Music - see Music Exams for more information. Some teachers of orchestral instruments undertake the piano accompaniment for their students.
After the first contact by telephone or email, teachers will usually invite you for an initial session.
Some teachers will view this as a lesson, and charge the normal rate, whilst others offer a free introductory meeting.
Further advice on finding a music teacher can be sought from teachers, students and parents on the ABRSM forum - see the Music Forums page for more information.
Some students may only want a teacher for a few months, others will see the learning process as a lifetime's journey - but however long you have a music teacher for, it pays to find the right teacher at the start, preferably one who will inspire you to enjoy the learning process as well as teaching you the correct techniques on your instrument.
A teacher who readily volunteers information about their qualifications, experience, students' achievements etc - particularly if it is publicly visible on their web site - may give more confidence than one who waits for you to ask questions or seems reluctant to answer.
Not all teachers give tuition in aural skills and the theory of music which are also tested in exams, in which case their students may need additional coaching from a second teacher. Links to some online aural trainers for developing aural skills can be found in the Music Resources section.
with finding the right music teacher for you, and enjoy your musical adventures!
6 key factors
If you are enquiring about lessons for a child, there are some additional factors which you might like to check with a prospective teacher.
For example, what is the teacher's policy on a parent
sitting in on the lesson? Some teachers may find it helpful,
because the parent can ensure that their child knows what to practise
in-between lessons and can supervise the practice effectively. Other teachers prefer the parent not to sit in on the lesson as their experience is that the child can find it distracting or unsettling for their inevitable mistakes to be overhead by their parent.
Another question to ask might be about waiting facilities if you are taking your child to the lesson. Many teachers give lessons in their own home so do not have "waiting room" facilities, and may not be able to offer another room in which to wait, perhaps for insurance reasons or because other family members need to use the other rooms.
Some useful insights into children's music lessons are given by experienced teacher Elissa Milne in her blogs entitled Parents who sit in on piano lessons and 10 Things you should do before your child starts piano lessons. Although written by a piano teacher, the articles cover such matters as effective practising and how to best support a child who is learning an instrument, and they are therefore useful regardless of the instrument being learnt.