How can I be a better music teacher?
Teaching music can be rigorous. From the feeling of having to be “on” during the entire lesson or class time, to the administrative side that includes emails, phone calls, scheduling, rescheduling, billing, and planning, time is precious and we use best practices to help achieve our goals more efficiently and with better results.
Tips to improve teaching methods…
Teaching music privately in-person, in the classroom, and online virtually all require very different skills, different approaches, different preparation. Here are 10 tips for teaching both in-home and online music lessons that every teacher should employ to create an effective and productive learning environment.
Preparation For Your Music Lessons
For in-home lessons, being prepared not only helps you, but your students as well. When you’re prepared and ready to go it helps to avoid unnecessary downtime, shows that you’re respectful of the time your student is taking to attend the lesson and allows you both to maximize your time together. Having the requested music already notated and ready to begin working on, will avoid unnecessary time writing things out during the lesson.
Teaching lessons virtually can present new challenges and takes planning and preparation. For some students remote learning could be more difficult, and because the down time feels different, it’s important to consider how to use the lesson time wisely. Similarly with in-home lessons, making sure any music is already notated and ready to display on screen will be very helpful in avoiding awkward silence or unnecessary waiting.
In both instances, having a planned flow to the lessons, including old material to review and new material to learn, will improve the efficacy and productivity.
Invest in Gear For Teaching Music
For in-home lessons, it’s important for teachers to have any requisite equipment like tuners and metronomes. Depending on the instrument being taught, teachers may need anything from guitar picks to brass and woodwind cleaning accessories, reeds, drums sticks, etc. Having these things at your fingertips will indeed help the lesson flow naturally without unnecessary delay.
An online experience has the potential to run into issues with latency, poor connection, and audio or visual distortion. Creating an experience for the student that gets as close to an in-person experience as possible is important and will go a long way to help provide that environment that makes learning easy.
Having instruments ready and accessible will avoid awkward downtime. Using an audio interface to optimize the audio signals and prevent vocal and instrument sounds from competing with each other and cutting out will significantly improve the experience. Using an ethernet cable to hardwire the computer will prevent serious latency and avoid serious video delay.
Have a Toolbox of Tricks to Keep Students Engaged
Having creative activities and exercises at your fingertips to avoid downtime or disengagement is a great way to keep the motivation high and lesson time flowing naturally. Whether adults or children, students will struggle with concepts and the physical demands of an instrument. To overcome those struggles, just like in person, students need encouragement, rewards, and repetition to improve and stay motivated. Creating unique rewards, activities, and/or exercises to hone skills and get the repetition needed without becoming monotonous is incredibly important in maintaining motivation.
Consider having a go-to set of learning apps, music theory apps, simple notation software, recording software apps, etc. for students to tap into that make the learning experience more fun and less monotonous.
Use Resources to Enhance Your Music Lessons
There are countless resources available to teachers that help build teaching skills and provide learning materials for lessons. Having access to catalogs of sheet music, method books and teacher guides, as well as writing materials will make the lessons more interesting and give teachers greater latitude to cover concepts and music more tailored to the students’ tastes and preferences.
Forbes Music provides teachers with proprietary resources and content access, along with recommendations for quality resources outside the organization that can help teachers grow their business and keep students engaged. From published sheet music, song arrangements and public domain songs, to technology supplements and creative apps, it’s a great way to stay on the cutting edge.
Keep Flexible Expectations for Your Students
All students are different. Be flexible with any expectations in teaching. Students have different skills. Different learning styles. Different aptitudes. Different stylistic preferences. It’s important to remember that even students who may enjoy the same music or have similar goals may have different motivations for learning music, and different lifestyles that may affect how much time they can invest in learning. While some students may pick up material quickly, it may take more time for others.
Provide Structure in Your Music Lessons
This element is important regardless of where the venue where the lessons take place. Much like the lesson planning, having a well developed system and structure to the lessons will give students the reassurance that they are on a clear and thoughtful path to achieve their goals. Lessons and assignments should reinforce each other and continue to build successively. After each lesson, students should have items to work on between lessons that will carry them on to the next concept.
Be Positive, Encouraging and Smile
Positive energy is contagious. Students are inspired to learn when their teachers are inspiring. Students are motivated to learn when their teachers are motivating. Small victories can help students feel the power to overcome any challenging obstacles. Continually encouraging students and regarding all the victories and successes will help them get the satisfaction they need to keep pushing forward.
Listen and Ask Questions of Your Students
The best teachers are often the best listeners. Listen to how your student communicates. Listen to what they struggle with. Listen to what inspires them. Being able to connect on a personal level will engender trust and accountability. Allowing students to express their interests and talk about what they love, what frustrates them, and how they wish to improve can help teachers create lesson plans that give students the best chance of success. Listening to your students and understanding their struggles will inform next steps in helping them overcome any difficult pieces being worked on.
Have Patience With Your Students
Teaching is not easy. Learning music is not always easy either. Every teacher and every student has strengths and weaknesses. Each student will require a slightly different type of instruction, and it’s impossible to know ahead of time. Be patient and stay focused on creating positive experiences for the students, listening to their concerns and working to understand how to best serve their needs and reach their goals. Over time, tailoring lesson plans and finding creative solutions to challenges will become easier.
Try New Things With Your Music Lessons
It’s really important to always stay current, both in methodological practice and also with the curriculum and material used in lessons. Keeping students motivated is the name of the game, and while tried and true methods will undoubtedly help foster consistency in your teaching, trying new things will help better optimize and improve weak spots. Since we know everyone learns differently, continually trying new concepts, new teaching methods, and novel tricks may spark interest in the students, or uncover new ways to communicate difficult concepts in a fresh, simplified, and exciting way.
Focus on the learning experience
When teaching music, every student is a different project, complete with different initial skills, different tastes and preferences, different learning styles, and different goals. It’s rare that any two lessons will ever be alike. And despite those lessons where you may cover the same material with different students, each will need the material taught in a unique way that speaks to their personal learning styles and aptitude.
As a teacher, it’s important to manage expectations, stay patient, listen intently and with purpose, and work to create an open learning environment that reinforces strengths and improves weaknesses in a creative and supportive manner. At Forbes Music, we make sure music teachers have the resources they need and a support system to create the best learning experiences for their students that foster growth and creativity!