Meri’s Musical Musings

Reasons to learn to play a musical instrument with a teacher

Posted on: March 18, 2009

When I was a teenager and young adult, I was a self-taught pianist and clarinetist, I had no choice but to go this route (due to limited financial means and lack of support from family). However, I do not advocate the self-study for most people, especially beginners in their first two to three years of study of an instrument. While it is true that it’s possible to learn to play well with lessons on audio or video, I learned while taking lessons with a teacher for several years as well as teaching students myself, and the experiences of other musicians who have gone both the teacher and self study-route, lessons with a good teacher not only provide motivation and lead to much better progress than with self-study, provide support, feedback, mentorship, social experiences, and coaching, in short, the chance to interact with someone and ask questions, something you cannot get from audio or video lessons.

Lessons with a good music teacher provide support. Not just support in the sense of telling students when they are doing well with improving their playing skills, but often emotional support as well. Sometimes students will share their opinions with their teacher that they would not share with their family or friends.

Lessons with a good music teacher provide feedback. A good teacher can tell if you are on the right track in learning a technique or a piece of music. A teacher can pinpoint problems in your technique or practice methods, which can be replaced with a more efficient one. This is especially important for beginner students, who often try to play an instrument in an inefficient manner. One can also ask questions to a teacher, something you cannot do with audio or video lessons; this was something I particularly liked about some of my teachers, and I have some students who regularly ask great questions about playing or even music in general.

Lessons with a good music teacher provide mentorship. I cannot recall the number of times I have asked my teachers for help with a particular musical challenge that I, or one of my students, was having. Not only that, but students who stick with a teacher for several years sometimes form deep relationships with the teacher, to the point where the teacher not only helps them with musical issues, but personal ones as well.

Lessons with a good music teacher provide social experiences. Besides the one-on-one interaction in music lessons, some teachers also provide extras such as group lessons, student concerts, and master classes. Such experiences can provide inspiration for beginner students to one day play the repertoire of the intermediate and advanced students, and for the intermediate and advanced students to reflect on the days when they were beginners, by recalling some of the pieces they learned as beginners. Such experiences can also show that students are progressing, especially if the teacher has a relatively wide range of students at various levels; students might even be able to hear the pieces they were playing in the beginning of their studies to the present, which helps them understand how far they have progressed.

Finally, lessons with a good music teacher provide coaching. An audio or video lesson cannot tell you if your playing technique is inefficient, whether you are playing a rhythm correctly or incorrectly, or whether you are using the best possible fingering for a given note. These are things a good music teacher can do for you; they can correct problems before they become ingrained and harder to solve. A good music teacher can also fill in gaps in understanding the language of music (ie: music theory), something that is rarely provided in audio or video lessons.

There are limited uses for audio and video lessons, and one of these is to provide reinforcement of the concepts learned in lessons with a teacher, such as assembly of the instrument, blowing, or bowing technique. However, when students study a musical instrument with a good teacher, progress is accelerated and the student is more likely to enjoy playing and learning the instrument while at the same time reducing the number and type of potential problems that students who go the self-study route often develop.


This article may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, in any way, shape, or form without permission from the author and agreed-upon amount of payment for its use.


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  • None
  • V V: Wish I had read this before I fell for their scheme ! Oh well - have posted my experience on Yelp and N49 and hoping others can avoid the pain of fal
  • clariniano: Thanks for the additional information. It was actually Yelp that deleted my reviews, because of so-called bias. I too have seen the horrible technique
  • No Thanks: Former Teacher at the Ontario Conservatory of Music I took lessons at the Ontario Conservatory and when I left for private lessons from another tea
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