Are You a Good Music Teacher, or a Great Music Teacher?

As a music teacher, you’ve got big shoes to fill, whether your student wants to someday play at Carnegie Hall or headline a music festival like Bonnaroo.

We’ve discussed the integral characteristics of successful musicians, but to be learning how to be a great music teacher is taking it a step further.  It’s your job to inspire, motivate and perhaps provide a little tough love every now and then.  You know the power and benefits of playing music – but how can you translate that in order to keep your busy adult student motivated, or to keep your fidgety 5-year-old student focused?  It takes a special kind of person, and several specific personality traits.  So what makes a great music teacher? Here are 5 qualities that will help you learn how to be a great music teacher, as originally published on

1. Approachable.  A happy person who demonstrates a sense of humor along with an empathetic sense of humanity is capable of putting people at ease, and, in return, can create an atmosphere where mutual communication can flow.
2. Organized.  This projects a sense of professionalism and helps create confidence in your service. Your answering machine message should also reflect a person ‘in control’ of their business.  Remember to include the name of your studio on your message, even if you use the same line for personal calls. Keep your teaching tools in the same place all the time, so you know where they are.  Work closely with a calendar so you can plan events in a calm manner.
3. Motivating.  Psychology is useful in any profession when dealing so directly with people.  Understanding the different ways people learn, reason and communicate is vital when helping them reach their fullest potential. Positive reinforcement is a much stronger motivator than negative condemnation. A diligent teacher will have an array of strategies for motivating their students to practice, listen, express and create.
4. Inventive.  Games, illustrations, analogies, exercises and demonstrations all need some consideration for individual students. An active mind not only learns better, but information is stored in the brain systematically, which makes retrieval easier!  Emotion impacts much more strongly than cold facts.  An inventive teacher is able to evoke an emotional response from a cold fact, which will then impact greatly on the student and can add to their growing knowledge.
5. Knowledgeable.  It is unreasonable to expect any human being to know everything about a subject – even if they make a living out of it.  However, a great teacher will know how to access and find information, as well as communicate it.

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Photo by Allio.

2 replies
  1. Joel Pierson
    Joel Pierson says:

    Approachable. I had to laugh at this one. Two teachers ago, during my lesson, a customer walked in to the studio lobby which was also where this teacher was conducting his business, and ask a question. The teacher answered the fellow and when he closed the door the teacher went into a tirade about the nerve of this guy interrupting the lesson. I’m thinking, why wouldn’t he walk in and ask a question? The sign on the door said OPEN……the door was unlocked and this all happened within published business hours! The next lesson, the teacher didn’t show up and that was the end of that teacher. University trained musician as he proudly claimed to be but, lacking in some other areas. I was upset with myself for not telling him how unreasonable he was after the first incident and walking out right then. I tend to think things through to much!
    My current teacher (only two lessons) is disorganized, does not return email or phone calls, has yet to do whet he said he was going to do but, other than that, is a great teacher!!!! NOT. I’ll just stick to teaching myself from books and play-a-longs.

    • Suzy S., TakeLessons Blog Manager
      Suzy S., TakeLessons Blog Manager says:

      Hey Joel,
      Yikes, that’s no good! Working with a teacher who is reliable and approachable is definitely a big factor for successful music lessons. Are you a student with us? If so, please send us an email and let us know more about the situation – and remember, you’re always welcome to switch teachers to find a better match!


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