Tag Archives: choosing a teacher

Why I Love Teaching Adults

Man singingI wrote a post a few weeks ago about why I like teaching kids, and there are a lot of reasons. Now, it’s time to tell you why I love teaching adults!

 

Adult voices are settled and ready for intensive training

Once you’re in your mid-twenties, your body has settled into it’s adult state. This means that adult voices are more stable, and can be trained more intensively. That voice is also the one that adults will have for the rest of their lives, so it’s much easier to work into developing that persons’ particular vocal range and colour to develop a repertoire that will last a lifetime. As a wise blogger recently said, a true soprano prodigy is about 24, not 12 – adult singers are in the best vocal form of their lives!

Adults are more regular practisers

Most adults don’t take up music because their mum or dad thought they would be good at it. They take it up because they chose to invest their own hard-earned cash in a new hobby. When you make the choice to spend your own money on something, your work ethic goes up massively. Even students who work in very demanding jobs seem to find far more time for practice than kids who finish school at half-past three and have only a few scraps of homework to do.

Adults ask great questions

I love the conversations I have with my adult students. We can start off on one topic and end up somewhere completely different. I rarely explain the science of harmonic sequences to kids, but adults love to know not only what is right, but why aspects of music theory work.

Adults constantly push themselves

Kids rarely have any idea of where they’re going with music, and although some get frustrated with their progress, most of them are happy to just enjoy the journey. Adults, however, tend to have goals in mind and are constantly measuring themselves against other people, and their own existing achievements. In music, this means the best adult students are always pushing themselves to do better. It’s actually really nice to sit down for a lesson with an adult student and find that they have made startling progress, or to be able to praise them for their hard work (rather than nag them because they’re not getting better!).

Adults are partners in their lessons

The adult students that really are a joy to teach are the ones I have who are partners in the lesson. They invest in their learning by coming up with ideas, asking questions and sharing their insights. Kids see their music teacher as an authority figure, and either obey or play up. Adults are much more likely to view their music teacher as a mentor, guiding them rather than leading them.

Adults are often more rewarding to teach than kids because of their higher personal investment levels, but I love teaching all my students, no matter what their age or stage.

Are you an adult thinking about taking up music? If you’re thinking about it, why not contact me to arrange a consultation lesson? It’s never too late to take up music!

Why I Love Teaching Kids

I love teaching, partly because each and every student is unique. You never know what you’re going to get. Both kids and adults come with their own special joys that make them very different to work with. This is what I love about teaching music to kids.

Kids are unpredictable

You can be fairly sure that most adult lessons will more or less be similar every week. The late ones will be late, the hardworking ones will have worked hard, and the forgetful ones will have forgotten something! Part of being an adult is learning and developing consistency of character and behaviour. Kids haven’t got there yet. Some days, they’re bouncing off the ceiling, others they’re tired and unmotivated. Even when they’re fairly average, you never know when they’re going to turn around and say something totally bizarre, or incredibly insightful. Lessons with kids are never the same twice!

Kids are ambitious and take challenge in their stride

Most kids don’t really have much experience of failure, and none of them have learned the life-lesson of adulthood that ambitions have to be tempered with realism. Kids want to be actors, pop stars, astronauts and superheroes – they have no idea about gas bills and council tax. This means kids tend to take all the challenges of music like taking exams in their stride. Everything in their life is about learning, so they just take learning music as normal. It’s delightful to see them go forward with a level of confidence adults rarely exhibit. Give kids a challenge and they’ll almost always rise to it.

Kids are endlessly inventive

Adult life tends to crush creativity. We’re so busy keeping afloat and doing what we have to, that creativity is often squeezed into small portions of time, or applied to very practical problems. Kids don’t have this issue – so they’re always coming up with new ideas and thoughts. I always find I learn new ways of looking at music from the kids I teach because they just think in a more creative way than I do.

Kids are full of potential

With adults, you usually know where their musical journey is headed. Sometimes, one will surprise you, but most of them enjoy music as a hobby, or are already working professionally (or have ambitions to). Kids aren’t even close to a career plan, so you never know where their musical journey could take them. Some will go on to study music at university or conservatoire, and others will take non-academic routes to a music career. Many will find a non-musical career, but hopefully, they’ll take both the primary and secondary skills learned from music lessons into those careers and succeed at them. The delightful thing is, when you start the journey of music lessons with kids, you have no idea where they’re going to end up in the end.

Those are just a few of the reasons I love teaching kids!

If you have a child who is interested in singing lessons and you live in the Edinburgh area, why not arrange a trial lesson for them with me? I offer specialist tuition for primary aged children which develops all-round musicianship and develops vocal technique in a safe way for young voices. High school aged children are able to take formal singing lessons.

Five Reasons to Take Up Music

… And none of them are “It makes you smarter”!

1. Learning music is fun!

I never have so much fun in the week as during music lessons. Demonstrating techniques in singing often involves doing really silly things, and this means lots of laughter. Once you get going, you can also enjoy making experimental music, playing great games to learn music theory and even the very act of playing can be fun and joyful!

2. Learning music can be really satisfying

Especially as an adult, sometimes life can seem a bit flat. Music brings a gentle upwards trajectory of improvement that’s really satisfying once you’re away from school. For those still in education, it makes a really nice change from essay writing and maths, and doesn’t have the pressure of constant mandatory exams (although, exams are an option)

3. Music is a great stress reliever

Stressed out, but think yoga and meditation are for hippies? Learning a musical instrument can give you access to a space where you can let go of all your worries and focus on something else that’s calming. It’s quite similar to the effect of running (without the sweat, and the rain) or swimming (without the water and the chlorine), where your mind calms because you’re focussed. You don’t even have to have been playing more than a few weeks before this effect kicks in. Once you get better, playing your favourite angsty piece of music is also a great way to process painful feelings.

4. Music brings people together

Singers rehearsingThere’s nothing like music to build relationships. Whether it’s playing Christmas carols for your family over the Festive Season (and yes, that is looming large for us musicians already!), forming a band with your friends, or joining a choir/orchestra, music is something that bonds human beings into community. Music is an active demonstration of how we should live together, everyone taking different parts, but those parts make beautiful harmony together.

5. Music makes you happy

Music is fun, it brings people together, it’s satisfying and it relieves stress – of course, it makes us happier. There are numerous studies which link music to faster recovery times from physical illness [sources: LloydWiley-Blackwell], and improved mental health [sources: Parker-PopeBerger]. Anecdotal evidence from the many musicians I know corroborates this. I certainly find music makes me happier, and I always feel better for half an hour in my music studio playing the piano and/or singing.

And if this wasn’t enough, music does seem to correlate with better academic skills, and has side benefits such as developing creativity, concentration, focus, perseverance, non-verbal communication, problem solving, dedication and accountability.

If you want to discover how music can improve your life and are based in or near Edinburgh, why not book a trial singing lesson with me? 

The five most important questions to ask

singing-teacherWhen choosing a new teacher, we all ask lots of questions like “how much do you charge?” and “what hours do you teach?”, but there’s more to finding a good teacher than just cost and time. Here are five really important questions to ask a prospective teacher to help you find out not just if you can afford the lessons, but whether you’re getting good value for money.

1. What qualifications do you have?

Qualifications, as we all know, are not the be all and end all of ability. They are, however, an important baseline to help you weed out unsuitable teachers. I would recommend choosing a teacher who has at least grade 8 performance in the instrument you want to study. Ideally, you should look for someone who also has either a higher level of performing qualification and significant experience or a teaching qualification in the instrument you wish to study, or a closely related one (e.g. a viola teacher may have grade 8 viola and a teaching diploma for violin). By selecting a teacher who has qualifications, you are choosing someone who has been assessed independently for their ability to teach and has met a baseline standard. Teaching qualifications and music degrees also require a good knowledge of theory, which is important too.

If you don’t ask this question, you could end up with a teacher who has no idea what they are doing with the instrument. Not only will you probably be undermining quality teachers who probably charge more, but you will be putting yourself at serious risk of both a bad musical education and physical damage from bad technique.

2. What level/kind of experience do you have in teaching and performing?

What kind of experience level you would be happy with is a matter of personal taste, but I would recommend you find a teacher who has a good level of performing experience, and who continues to do some performing (even if not at a professional level). Teaching experience is also important. A music degree or performing qualification does not necessarily include any teaching skills, so ask about how long they’ve been teaching, and what kind of training they’ve had.

There is nothing inherently bad about choosing a brand new teacher – after all, we have to start somewhere, but you should be sure that you are satisfied with the level of supervision and support a brand new teacher has (do they have a mentor or teacher themselves?), and you should definitely ask them question 4.

3. Are you a member of any unions or professional bodies?

While this is not essential, the advantage of choosing a teacher who is a member of a body such as the Musician’s Union, Instituted Society of Musicians or the European Piano Teachers Association is that you know your teacher has suitable public liability insurance and legal support. Some of them also provide assurance the teacher has been through a criminal record check. A teacher who is a member of a union or professional body will also have to uphold certain standards, and I think it shows a good attitude to be a member of a professional body. It’s a good idea to check out the organisation after you’ve asked too.

4. What do you do to improve your teaching skills?

This is known as “continuing professional development” and is vital for any teacher. If they don’t have a teaching qualification, do they plan to get one? Do they attend courses or conferences? Are they continuing to take lessons in their instruments themselves? A teacher who invests time in learning is going to be constantly getting better as a teacher. Plus, a good CPD programme means teachers will be keeping up to date with changes to exam systems and requirements and new pedagogical ideas. No matter how experienced a teacher is, if they’re still teaching in exactly the same way they did 20 years ago, you’re not going to get the best teaching out there.

5. Do you have a set of terms and conditions or a tuition agreement?

Contract

It is really important that everyone knows where they stand. A contract, set of terms and conditions or tuition agreement should set out how much you should pay and when, what happens about missed lessons and how to stop taking lessons. It might seem easy at the start to be informal, but if anything goes wrong it can get really messy. For example, your agreement should set out how much lessons cost so if your teacher bills you for more than you’re expecting, you have the agreement to prove that they’ve made a mistake. Make sure you look carefully through the document – the teacher should take you through it – and keep a copy in a safe place for when you need to stop taking lessons.

If you ask these five questions, you should be well on your way to finding a good quality music teacher.

Do you have any suggestions for other questions to ask?

Choosing an Instrument – A Practical Guide (Keyboard & Percussion Edition)

Perhaps singing isn’t for you? Or you feel your child is too young to start formal singing lessons? Maybe you just want to explore all your musical options? The first and most important reason for learning an instrument should be that you want to learn it, but even then, it’s good to think about practicalities too. Here’s some ups and downs of your keyboard and percussion instrument choices to help you out:

Piano handsKeyboards in general

+ Versatile skill with nearly all genres open to you
+ Teaches harmony and both bass and treble clef
– Not really a collaborative instrument, unless you want to accompany
– Mostly very expensive
– Rarely able to take and play your own instrument at any venue


PianoPiano – Really, it needs no introduction. The Pianoforte, child of the classical age, has become central to Western music.

+ Most versatile instrument around
+ Often need some piano skills for higher level musical study
+ Makes learning theory much easier as uses bass and treble clef and introduces harmony
o Digital pianos have the facility to plug in headphones
– Very slow to start with, taking a long time to get to Grade 1
– Complicated as requires multiple notes to be played together


OrganOrgan – Technically a woodwind instrument, the organ one of the older keyboard instruments usually found inhabiting churches and concert halls.

+ Amazing sounding instrument with fantastic repertoire
+ Great employment opportunities in churches as organists are thin on the ground
– Very difficult to get going as a beginner, some teachers will only take students with piano experience
– Usually have to practice in a church, as small home electronic organs are expensive


KeyboardKeyboard – The cool cousin of the piano, keyboards generally make use of a range of electronic synthesising functions as well as playing the keys.

+ Easier to play than the piano
+ Quicker to access popular repertoire
+ Cheaper than a piano to buy
– Doesn’t give the depth of skills that piano lessons will
– Limited range of styles


Percussion

 

Percussion in General

+ Great for anyone with anger or frustration problems
+ Some can be a really good workout
– Not cheap to buy
– Very noisy for the neighbours


Drum kitDrum Kit – The zenith of percussion’s evolution – a collection of things to hit that all make sounds that work together

+ Great for getting rid of frustration
+ Really good workout
+ Widely used in popular music
o Moderately expensive at £280 upwards
– Where notation is used, it’s usually kit notation, rather than standard staff notation
– Very noisy, even with pads, and electric kits are a poor substitute for regular practice with a full acoustic kid
– Not remotely melodic, so can be dull to practice
– Not very portable, so often have to use what’s at the venue


TimpaniTimpani & Orchestral Percussion – A bit of a hotch-potch category, as orchestral percussionists usually have to be able to play everything from the timpani to the triangle, sleighbells to cannons (in the 1812 Overture, anyway…)

+ unusual instrument, so in demand for group music
+ great for anyone who wants variety
o although individual items may be cheap, it’s not cheap to build up a collection
– often very dull in orchestral music
– limited solo repertoire
– sometimes uses unconventional notation
– timpani are difficult to have and store at home
– can be hard to find a teacher


GlockenspielTuned Percussion – think glockenspiel, xylophone and the like.

+ hardly anyone plays
+ more interesting than most other kinds of percussion
+ reasonably good number of solo parts and pieces
o each one is not too expensive, but buying several can add up
– can be hard to find a teacher


 

So there you have it, a quick run down of the main members of the keyboard and percussion family. There are, of course, many other keyboards such as the harpsichord, clavichord and more, but most people who move into early keyboard instruments start out on the piano. Percussion is almost unlimited, but most people train in either kit or orchestral.

Still confused? Click some of the links below for more options, or have a look at this handy flowchart from Sinfini Music.

[Woodwind] ♦ [Strings] ♦ [Brass] ♦ [Why take singing lessons?]

Choosing an Instrument – A Practical Guide (Brass Edition)

Perhaps singing isn’t for you? Or you feel your child is too young to start formal singing lessons? Maybe you just want to explore all your musical options? The first and most important reason for learning an instrument should be that you want to learn it, but even then, it’s good to think about practicalities too. Here’s some ups and downs of your brass instrument choices to help you out:

Brass-instrumentsBrass in general

+ Wide range of styles
+ Less popular than other woodwind, and so more opportunities for collaboration
+ Less ‘mechanical’ than other woodwind as they’re essentially just a tube
– Difficult to get to the stage of really playing melodies
– Fingering on all instruments is difficult
– Can be quite grim due to all the spit
– All are very expensive


TrumpetTrumpet – The highest pitched brass instrument, the trumpet can be heard everywhere from the Messiah to sounding the Last Post

+ Regularly gets to play the tune so a great selection of music
+ At the cheaper end of brass instruments at around £200-300
+ Can be used with a mute for practicing so less awful for the neighbours
– Very difficult to get going as a beginner
– Loudest instrument in the orchestra requiring accuracy and control
– Transposing instrument


Trombone – For the more adventurous, the trombone uses a slider to change pitch.

+ It slides in a way the vast majority of instruments just can’t.
+ Not a transposing instrument
+ cheaper than other brass instruments at £200-£300
o Uses bass clef
– Much larger than some other brass instruments, awkward to carry, and gets in the way of the music/other instruments/everything when playing
– Not a very interesting role in orchestras – lots of 80 bars rest…


French HornFrench Horn – Works in a similar fashion to the trumpet, but not as high in pitch. Usually provides orchestral harmony.

+ unusual instrument, so in demand for group music
+ also offers a wide range of styles, though limited solo music
– often very dull in orchestral music
– limited solo repertoire
– transposing instrument
– not cheap at all, cost is easily £500 upwards


Tuba

Tuba – the big Daddy of the brass instruments, with a sound that could probably cause a mild earthquake

+ hardly anyone plays
+ not a transposing instrument
o uses bass clef
– very expensive, costing around £1000 plus
– very little solo music, and usually very dull bass parts or long rest periods


 

So there you have it, a quick run down of the main members of the brass family. There are, of course, many other options which include the didgeridoo, and the cornet, but most other brass instruments are very similar to one or more of the above.

Still confused? Click some of the links below for more options, or have a look at this handy flowchart from Sinfini Music.

[Woodwind] ♦ [Strings] ♦ [Other] ♦ [Why take singing lessons?]

Choosing an Instrument – A Practical Guide (Strings edition)

Perhaps singing isn’t for you? Or you feel your child is too young to start formal singing lessons? Maybe you just want to explore all your musical options? The first and most important reason for learning an instrument should be that you want to learn it, but even then, it’s good to think about practicalities too. Here’s some ups and downs of your string instrument choices to help you out:

Strings in general

Strings+ loads of opportunities for group music especially in orchestras
+ widest range genres other than for piano
+ no spit involved
o some don’t use conventional notation, but TAB or chords instead
– not the cheapest of instruments, and replacement strings etc can make it even pricier
– can be heavy to carry around


UkeleleUkulele – The latest fashion in classroom instruments, the ukulele has quite a following for something that is essentially a very tiny guitar

+ cheap for a string instrument at under £30 for a starter instrument
+ very easy to get going with simple chords
– not likely to encourage learning of notation
– usually only taught in large group lessons
– limited options for progressing past beginner level (exams are only offered by Victoria College)


ViolinViolin – The classicly popular cut-gut strung instrument. Sounds rather like you’re strangling said cat for a while in the beginning, but gets beautiful.

+ plenty of opportunities to play with others – orchestras need lots of them
+ wide range of styles from renaissance to modern as well as folk music for “fiddle” styles
+ great opportunities for young players through Suzuki method etc
+ uses conventional notation
o starter violins are reasonable to buy (around £100-150), but they quickly become pricey
– harder to get a good sound out of than woodwind and can be unpleasant to listen to
– needs a good ear, or training, to really be pitch accurate



Viola
– the butt of many a musical joke, the viola is an essential instrument in orchestras and string quartets.

Viola01

+ unusual instrument, so in demand for group music
+ also offers a wide range of styles, though limited solo music
+ uses conventional notation
– more expensive than the violin with entry level instruments around £50-£75 more
– challenging to start with, and needs a good ear for accuracy
– uses the alto clef which may be confusing to begin with
– teachers may be violinists doubling up


Cello – bigger, floor-resting stringed instrument with much lower, richer tone.

Cello+ often considered to have the most pleasant sound of all strings as similar in range to the human voice
+ good for group music, though less in demand than violins
+ has a good range of styles including plenty of solo music
+ uses conventional notation
– very expensive with outfits starting around £400-£500
– similar need to have good accuracy in pitch to other strings
– uses not only the bass clef, but switches to the tenor clef at times too


DoubleBass

Double Bass – the grandaddy of all strings, and a stalwart fixture in all kinds of music

+ an in demand instrument as not many people play
+ essential in a wide range of styles of group music
+ uses conventional notation, albeit bass clef
– very large and a pain to carry around
– expensive with outfits starting around £750+

– not terribly exciting roles in group music, and limited solo music
– teachers may be cellists doubling up


ClassicalGuitar

Classical guitar – not to be confused with acoustic guitar, classical guitar is the acoustics slightly geeky cousin. Uses plastic strings and is primarily plucked.

+ more interesting than the chord strumming of the acoustic guitar
+ reasonable in cost to buy starting at under £100
+ uses conventional notation
– not terribly cool
– primarily a solo instrument
– not a popular choice, so teachers may be harder to come by


AcousticGuitarAcoustic guitar – the hip relative of the classical guitar, the acoustic uses metal rather than plastic strings and is generally strummed as well as plucked

+ the height of cool in instrument terms
+ reasonable starting cost of £100 upwards
– doesn’t teach conventional notation as primarily uses leadsheets, TAB or aural learning
– limited range of genres


Electric GuitarElectric guitar – the out-there rock and roll dude of the string family. Uses the plucking techniques of the classical guitar combined with modern amplification to produce face-melting solos

+ coolest of them all
+ use of an amp means it can be practiced with headphones
– more expensive than most guitars, and an amp is required as well so you’re looking at £200+
– doesn’t teach conventional notation
– limited range of genres of music
– not very useful as a solo instrument – much better in a band


BassGuitarBass guitar – if the classical is the geeky cousin, the acoustic the hippy and the electric the wild child, the bass guitar is the slightly dim but solid one

+ simple to play most things (though I am assured being a really good bassist is hard!)
+ use of an amp means it can be practiced with headphones
– more expensive than most guitars, and an amp is required as well so you’re looking at £200+
– doesn’t teach conventional notation
– limited range of genres of music
– can be very dull to play as not really a solo instrument


So there you have it, a quick run down of the main members of the string family. There are, of course, many other options which include the harp, and the viol, but they are substantially more unusual.

Still confused? Click some of the links below for more options, or have a look at this handy flowchart from Sinfini Music.

[Woodwind] ♦ [Brass] ♦ [Other] ♦ [Why take singing lessons?]

Choosing an Instrument – A Practical Guide (Woodwind edition)

Perhaps singing isn’t for you? Or you feel your child is too young to start formal singing lessons? Maybe you just want to explore all your musical options? The first and most important reason for learning an instrument should be that you want to learn it, but even then, it’s good to think about practicalities too. Here’s some ups and downs of your woodwind choices to help you out:

Woodwind Instrument PileWoodwind in general:

+ many among the cheaper instruments
+ easy to learn to play
+ smaller to carry around
– lots of spit involved – though not as much as brass
– not many of each one in orchestras (one flute, thirty violins…)


RecorderRecorder – simple wooden or plastic wind instrument with a range of about two octaves. Popular during the Renaissance period, but has since dwindled in popularity as an orchestral instrument. Comes in four sizes, but most start with the descant.

+ cheap to buy – a starter recorder will cost under a tenner (though nice wooden ones cost a lot more)
+ very easy to get sound out of and start playing melodies
+ helps with learning to read notation
– sounds an octave above the notated pitch so can be, uh, piercing
– limited options for progressing past beginner level as not many teachers specialise in recorder


elkhart-100fl-fluteFlute – metal instrument played in the same fashion as a milk bottle (broadly speaking!). Popular orchestral instrument throughout history, and considered a good instrument for young musicians to learn. Has smaller and larger versions for the adventurous.

+ light and easy to carry
+ quick to get playing real melodies
+ teaches notation
+ opportunities for collaborative playing
o moderately expensive at around £150
– doesn’t teach multiple clefs or harmony
– very popular, but not many needed in orchestras


ClarinetClarinet – originally wooden, but now plastic single reed instrument (reed vibrates against the body of the instrument rather than another reed). Used in orchestras since Mozart.

+ light and easy to carry
+ quick to get playing real melodies
+ teaches notation
+ opportunities for collaborative playing, including more styles than the flute
o moderately expensive at around £150
– transposing instrument, so it sounds differently to the notes on the stave – can result in some tricky keys for group playing
– doesn’t teach multiple clefs or harmony
– very popular, but not many needed in orchestras or bands
– noisier than a flute and prone to random squawks


SaxophoneSaxophone – newer metal instrument, appears in the later romantic period, and not used in most orchestral music. Comes in a range of sizes – most start with the alto sax

+ quick to get playing real melodies
+ teaches notation
+ opportunities for collaborative playing
+ transferable skills to/from the clarinet
o limited styles of music
– quite expensive at £280 upwards
– very popular, but not many needed in orchestras or bands
– on the nosier side


Oboe – the first of the double reed instruments (two reeds vibrating against each other). Popular in orchestras throughout history. Has older siblings in the form of the Cor Anglais and Bassoon.

+ unusual choice, so lots of options for collaborative playing
+ wide range of styles and genres of music
+ teaches notation
+ opportunities for collaborative playing
– difficult to play as double reeds are hard to get sound from and require strong lungs
– reeds break easily and aren’t terribly cheap
– very expensive at £700+
– very loud as it has no ability to be muted for practice


BassoonBassoon – also a double reed instrument, the bigger brother of the oboe. Popular in orchestras throughout history.

+ very unusual choice, so lots of options for collaborative playing
+ wide range of styles and genres of music
+ teaches notation, including bass clef
+ opportunities for collaborative playing
o young children may need to start on a mini bassoon
– difficult to play as double reeds are hard to get sound from and require strong lungs
– harder to find teachers for
– reeds break easily and aren’t terribly cheap
– very expensive at £1000+
– not a very wide range of solo music
– very loud as it has no ability to be muted for practice


Bagpipes – ancient traditional instrument popular in celtic countries. Not generally used in orchestral music.

+ engages with traditional culture
+ variety of sources of income, such as playing for weddings etc
+ practice chanter means it’s actually pretty neighbour-friendly to practice
o finding a teacher may be difficult depending on location
– expensive with a good set costing around £400 (and the costume to go with can cost much the same if not more!)
– double reed instrument in the UK, so has the associated challenges including the need for strong lungs
– limited range of musical genres (you’re scuppered if you like Mozart…)
not tuned to equal temperament so can sound jarring to modern ears


So there you have it, a quick run down of the main members of the woodwind family. There are, of course, many other options which include many traditional instruments like the ocarina and the tin whistle. However, there aren’t many teachers for the ocarina. Victorian College do offer exams in the subject though!

Still confused? Click some of the links below for more options, or have a look at this handy flowchart from Sinfini Music.

[Strings] ♦ [Brass] ♦ [Other] ♦ [Why take singing lessons?]

Why Choose a Qualified Music Teacher?

ABRSM Exam Certificates

I often come across students who ask the question “Can I start teaching once I’ve got my grade 8?”. It’s a perfectly legitimate question, to which the legal answer is “yes”. In the UK, we do not have a licensing system for private music teachers. There are no official qualifications, or routes into the profession. There is no single professional body one has to join. Legally speaking, anyone (literally anyone) can teach any instrument they fancy to anyone willing to let them.

Of course, that doesn’t tell the whole story, and that’s why I’ve titled the post the way I have. If you’re a student wanting to teach, this post should give you some idea of the benefits to you and your students to getting a qualification. For those of you looking to find a music teacher, this is why you shouldn’t just ask about performance qualifications, even degrees.

Qualified music teachers are qualified as teachers not just performers

Graded exams don’t have any requirements which test teaching – they’re designed to test learning, and these are different skills. A candidate with a distinction at Grade 8 might be a wonderful performer, but they might also find it hard to explain to a student how and why they do what they do to achieve that performance. There are some wonderful performers who may be so comfortable with their abilities that they find teaching a beginner frustrating! Music degrees, whether from universities or conservatories, also don’t generally include any training on how to teach music to others. If your prospective music teacher has only taken performance qualifications, how did they learn to teach?

Qualified teachers have invested in their own development

It’s not cheap to sit a teaching qualification. For qualifications in private music teaching, a candidate will be required to spend upwards of £200 (rising to £600-£1000 for top level qualifications) just to sit the exam, never mind the hours of reading, study and preparation that have gone into the qualification. Anyone who is committed enough to put that kind of investment in is going to be someone who is invested in teaching for the long term, and is far more likely to be taking an interest in Continuing Professional Development. If your teacher isn’t a qualified teacher, are they taking steps to improve their teaching through books, courses and networking?

Qualified teachers know they way they learned isn’t the best way for everyone

Of course, this can be true of non-qualified teachers too, but part of getting teaching qualifications involves reading about pedagogy, and developing new ways to teach old skills. At higher levels, many exams require understanding of child development, psychology, sociology and even anatomy. I would never have learned so much about the physical nature of the voice if I had not studied for a teaching qualification, for example. By taking the time to study teaching as a skill in itself, qualified teachers are more likely to have a wide vocabulary of activities to teach each skill covered.

Qualified teachers have respect for their profession

Again, I realise many non-qualified teachers do have respect for the profession as a whole, but I feel that taking a qualification in teaching has two key benefits with regard to the whole profession. Taking a qualification, as has already been said, is an investment and one which directly reflects a commitment to teaching. Teachers who invest in training are likely to be teachers for the long haul – they’re not going to disappear once their music degree ends, never to be seen again! The other benefit of qualifications is that many of them help teachers develop a network of other teachers for support, help and ideas. Is your teacher undercutting their colleagues? Or do they have respect for their fellow teachers?

 

Yes, there are many good and experienced teachers who are not yet qualified. If you are one of them, I would urge you to invest the time and money in getting your skills and talents attested to by an independent body. To you I say, help us raise the bar with teaching and make it the norm for music teachers to be qualified as teachers not just performers.

Perhaps you are someone who wants to be a teacher? Please take the time to study teaching, to learn about how to help others learn, and get rewarded for that effort. It marks you out as someone worth learning with.

To prospective pupils, a qualified music teacher may charge you more, but they will be worth it in the long term. They are far more likely to be a teacher you can stick with right the way up the grades and on to greatness. Qualified teachers are a good investment.

If you’re looking for singing lessons in Edinburgh, click here to contact me – I am, after all, a qualified teacher.