Meri’s Musical Musings

10 Additional Rules for Music Students

Posted on: January 11, 2016

Some years ago I wrote my own version of Schumann’s rules for music students. In the past year, I have discovered 10 new ones for students and parents of students:

  1. Get a GOOD teacher for the instruments you are studying. This will not necessarily be a nice teacher, but a teacher who has high standards and will push you to play like the pros would do it, even in elementary level pieces. There are many charlatans out there, especially for piano, guitar, and violin, but increasingly are found on most common instruments in towns and cities, and they do not necessarily lack a degree; some teachers who have advanced degrees are poor teachers, and there are rare teachers lacking degrees who produce outstanding students.
  2. Don’t pick a teacher based on low price or convenience of location.
  3. Assuming you have a good teacher, listen to their ideas, try them out for at least a month. Sometimes the first week or two of a new way of playing that makes you sound a lot better is the hardest, and you may feel like quitting, but don’t. You will get over it and the new approach will take your playing to the next level or two. Especially if it’s alternate ways of playing certain notes for various types of passages (eg: the chromatic scale), a different way of positioning your hands, or a new way of blowing the instrument.
  4. Try out the teacher’s idea on equipment changes that will likely improve your playing, even if it’s hard at first. For example, many middle school and high school clarinet players come to me playing reeds that are too soft, a mouthpiece that doesn’t produce a good sound, or a ligature that restricts the sound. Sometimes this may even mean a whole new instrument altogether, especially if the instrument was not purchased at a music store or not one of the common quality brands for different instruments.
  5. Be open to an entirely new way of being taught if you have additional teachers after your first one. If your first teacher mostly worked from school method books during the entire year, hardly fixed your technique, didn’t correct wrong rhythms, let you get away with incorrect articulations, didn’t believe in exams, and praised you constantly, and your next teacher uses solo repertoire, chamber music, methods designed for private study, etudes for your instrument not in band and orchestra methods, makes corrections to your rhythm or technique, it may be hard to believe that this is good for you and you may feel discouraged and want to quit your lessons. But, give your teacher at least 3-6 months of this, and you will likely find yourself a far better player than you started out, sometimes even within a month you’ll find huge improvements to your playing and others will too.
  6. Practice, and then ask questions.
  7. Good teachers are not necessarily nice, and nice teachers are often not good. One could say praise from a good teacher is valuable, because it’s usually earned after hard work, since it’s like a prized commodity; while praise from a poor teacher becomes worthless after a while. Call the nearest conservatory music program (not the community music school that happens to use that term in its name), the symphony, or a university’s music department for recommended teachers. If they don’t teach beginners or are full, they can give you some recommendations. If you live where there is an examining board, also call the college of examiners and ask for the names of teachers who are a reasonable distance that produce quality results in exams on the instrument you are looking for a teacher.
  8. Generally, avoid high school students for teachers and in many cases (though not all) college students as well. Most of them have very low expectations for students, and often have serious playing faults that can be passed down to students easily.
  9. Be open to playing in teacher’s student recitals, exams, and auditioning for ensembles outside of school.
  10. Be prepared to pay what may seem like a lot of money and travel long distances for a teacher, especially if it’s an instrument there are very few teachers, or training for a student past the early advanced stages on almost every instrument. The very best teachers sometimes have students who travel from several towns away travelling an hour or more one way, so if you think that really good teacher is too far, they probably have or have had students who think it’s more than worth the travel time! Advanced level teachers may also teach a limited number of students due to performance jobs, and so place a high priority on students willing to pay good money to learn the tricks of the trade and wouldn’t want to give them at a price that is a bargain to the clients.

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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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