Parent tip: How do I know if I have a good music instructor/teacher?

Author: Magdiel Zuniga

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For those who haven't been musically trained for years and never participated in orchestra or band growing up, it's often a challenge and necessary curiosity to wonder whether your choice for a music instructor is a good fit for you and is properly catering to your growth in your newfound musical journey. ESPECIALLY for parents, it's important to know whether your child is learning from a serious professional and not some amateur looking to get some extra cash from a side job of teaching your or your child how to play an instrument. 

Red Flag #1: The music instructor your are considering to take lessons with has never taken lessons before him or herself from a professional and is primarily self-taught.

Alert alert! The fact that your music instructor your are considering to take lessons with has never studied under someone is a sure sign that they have are not properly qualified to teach you or your child. Imagine trying to learn how to speak a foreign language from someone who has never studied it formally and isn't form the country that the language originates from? How would you know and be sure that this person even knows how to really speak this language fluently? Music is in a sense a language of its own and requires lots of study from many different mentors to get a fundamental grasp about technique, proper practicing methods, and pedagogical approaches. MAKE SURE TO ASK IF THIS TEACHER HAS STUDIED UNDER A PROFESSIONAL OR HAS GRADUATED FROM AN ACCREDITED MUSICAL INSTITUTION. 

Red Flag #2: You don't see your music teacher leaving much "home practice", or "take-home exercises." The lessons you're receiving feel disorganized and unclear in their goals. 

Feeling like you're not getting enough material to work on until your next lesson is a sure sign that your teacher is "stalling" or "stretching" the little material he or she has to offer you. A great teacher is always goal-oriented and path-driven. Every week, the student and teacher should have agreed upon goals to pursue. There should be clear semester-long goals too! This is very important for as a clearly drawn curriculum gives the parent or new student a way to assess their progress. You're able to track the new skills learned on an instrument and see your level as a musician gradually rise with your dedicated practice. When you're shopping for a music teacher, make sure to ask if that music or guitar teacher has a curriculum that they follow. 

Red Flag #3: None of the music you or your child is studying seems relatable.

Being able to practice music that you recognize and connect with is absolutely fundamental to developing your skills as a musician and student. It's very common for the music community to feel "divided" between serious classical musicians and popular musicians. Some people are picky and want to stick to their intellectually challenging classical repertoire. Some people don't bother to pick up anything classical because of "how boring it is" and stick to playing popular tunes that are heard in radio and popular culture. I think this divide is really unnecessary and a good teacher should provide you with a well-rounded approach that explores classical and modern music. Let's be honest, we don't just listen to Mozart or Beethoven all day. I'm a classical music fanatic-I don't listen to it all the time. I like my popular music and so do you, why limit your musical learning to just one genre of music? A good musician can play anything from serious repertoire to popular music without skipping a beat. Make sure your music teacher has this well-rounded approach and is willing to explore new musical interests. 

Magdiel Zuniga