1. What sort of lessons do you teach, group or 1-1?
The most common format is a 1-1 lesson. Some people only want to learn in this format, but for everyone else, some skills are best learnt in a group format, such as improvising, playing in time, accompanying singers. Many of the most important aspects of music can ONLY be learnt in a group! A teacher who only teaches 1-1 can’t really give a well-rounded, balance education to a student. I myself learnt far more in a Wednesday night group class I attended as a teenager than I did in any 1-1 lessons. Every Wednesday night I played with trumpet players, drummers, bass players, piano players, violin players, in a beginners jazz improvisation class, and it made a huge difference to my playing. Plus it was way more fun!
2. How many years have you been teaching and how many students have you taught during that time?
Teachers with more experience tend to be better. I know that I have improved enormously over the many years I’ve been teaching. At the beginning of my teaching career years ago, I had standard things which I tried to teach everybody – as if everyone was the same! This doesn’t work well at all, and lead to some very frustrated students! As I became a better teacher, I realised that each student has their own way of learning, and a good teacher tries to find out what the best way is for each individual student. If something is not working, I try another way. There are a huge amount of different ways to approach each skill you are learning; like there are many angles to see each problem. As I improved as a teacher, I developed more ways to explain things, and more ways to get students to succeed! With every student I teach, I learn a little bit more about how to teach. And I can see the students are progressing faster.
3. What is the cost of the lessons?
Music lessons, like many other things, come at very different prices. Teachers with a lot of experience and a proven track record will charge more than others. You should find out the cost, but don’t decide on price alone. Cheap lessons could even do long term damage, as you could be put off playing your instrument for years to come! If a school provides more value than other schools, it will be well worth the difference. You can also ask if you will learn:
– to read music
– to improvise
– to play in a group
– to create their own songs
– to work out songs by ear
One of the best ways to find out if a school is providing good value or not is to read testimonials or reviews from past students.
4. What extra benefits do you offer your students?
Lessons are an investment. Teachers who don’t really care about the long term progression of their students, are happy to get paid each week, and don’t do anything do extra to help them develop musical skills! Unfortunately there are lots of teachers like this. I know because I used to be one. At good music schools, students gain a lot from experiences such as workshops, jam sessions, recitals, and trips to gigs and concerts. If a teacher doesn’t offer any of these, you’ll be missing out on a big part of your musical education.
5. Do you teach all styles?
If a teacher answers yes to this, beware! A jack-of-all trades is not usually an expert in anything. If you really want to learn a particular style, then you should go to a teacher who teaches that style as a specialty. A teacher may certainly cover a few different styles well, but not ALL styles! I specialise in blues, jazz and folk, and teach pop, rock and indie to beginners. But if someone really wants to play metal at an intermediate or advanced level, I’ll recommend another teacher.