Meri’s Musical Musings

It’s more than assigning pieces and checking them off…the things good private teachers do in music lessons

Posted on: May 15, 2013

On one of the music forums that I participate in, another teacher mentioned that one of her students parents thought that the teacher’s job was little more than assigning pieces and checking them off each week, playing the right notes at the right time, perhaps thinking that it is an easy job, and anyone should be able to do it. However, the quality private teachers do a lot more than that. Here are some of the jobs they do during student’s lessons.

Establishing proper playing technique. Playing a musical instrument involves several if not many muscles, especially in playing wind instruments. One has to be concerned about the posture of the back, the neck, location of the wrists relative to the instrument, the height of the elbows, the shoulders, how the fingers touch the keys relative to the instrument, the muscles around the face and the feet. Improper playing technique can and often does limit the potential level individual musicians achieve.

Establishing good music reading habits, using aids such as sight reading books, flash cards, and even computer programs to help students learn to read music quickly and fluently, by teaching them to recognize standard patterns in the music such as scales and chords they are learning.

Teaching appropriate articulations for each piece, and how to play them correctly. Some musical articulations such as the two-note slur, often are played incorrectly or with incorrect technique on the instrument the student is learning.

Teaching the correct way to play various ornaments in music, such as the trill, turn, and tremolo. In the first, many musicians begin the trill by starting it on the principal note, when the correct way is usually on the upper note that is the next note in the scale. A lot of students also do not use the special fingerings designed for notes that are trilled as well. Turns are often played incorrectly as well, and the correct way to play the turn, which there are at least 3, depends on the context of the notes. Tremolos, too, especially on string instruments, tend to be played with improper, inefficent playing technique.

Teaching students how to produce a good, even beautiful, tone on the instrument in all registers. While some students seem to know how to produce a good sound almost from the very first day they start learning, for others, it takes several months to a couple of years, which is a particular challenge on string instruments. This involves having proper muscle coordination used in playing each instrument.

Teaching students how to be rhythmically secure. For some this only takes a few weeks or months. Others it takes a few years. Good private teachers have a variety of aids to help students develop this rhythmic sense, from using body movement, percussion instruments, and even computer programs.

Teaching students to be good ensemble members, by playing with solid rhythmic skills.

Finally, teaching students how to perform successfully in solo and ensemble performances.


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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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