When I was a kid, I took about eight years of music lessons from several different instructors. The final count: Three drum teachers, five guitar teachers, a bass teacher and a vocal instructor. Though I did not know it at the time, this variety of teaching styles gave me a great background to develop my own teaching abilities. Every student is unique, and I can draw on a range of methods to suit the lessons for each individual student.
Practice, Practice, Practice
The most important factor for success with music lessons is the student’s commitment to practicing, and the “old school” method of negative reinforcement (in other words, yelling at students if they don’t practice) is not very effective. Positive reinforcement and confidence building lead to greater success. After many years of teaching, I came to the realization that the best way to motivate a student to practice is to make sure they not only learn the fundamentals of their instrument, but that they also have assignments that interest them. Learning scales, rudiments, and music theory should be a part of any quality music education, but you also need to play the music you want to play! I try to get my students to play along with music recordings as soon as possible. Whether it’s a song by The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, Green Day, James Brown, Hank Williams, Bob Marley, or simply a basic blues jam, I want my students to feel like they can play along with their favorite artists.
Broad Music Education
As a music teacher, I try to give some of my more advanced students an occasional music history lesson. For example, I might assign a song from a band they’ve never heard of, and give them a little background on the artist and their contributions to music culture. I have had a lot of positive feedback from students who appreciated being exposed to new music. One of my students, many years after taking lessons with me, told me how much he enjoyed learning about “cool bands he didn’t know existed!”
Overall, I hope to give students a greater appreciation of music as well as the increased self-confidence that comes with the achievement of any goal. Ultimately, music lessons are not simply about learning an instrument. At the risk of sounding a bit “over the top,” I would say that music lessons are one of the best ways we can enrich our lives and become better people.