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Are music teachers taught how to teach?

(49 Posts)
richmal Thu 27-Mar-14 07:54:37

Is it the case that any good musician can set up as a music teacher or are there courses they can do to teach them about how to teach.

It seems that dd has some really excellent musicians teach her, but it is hit and miss whether she makes good progress. In one of her instruments most of her techniques have come from watching youtube videos I've found. Another is extremely exact on teaching her very precisely what she needs to do. With the latter she is making good progress.

So, before I swap teachers yet again, I was wondering if there is any teaching qualification they may have in music, as I have found that being a good musician does not necessarily make them a good teacher.

JulieMichelleRobinson Thu 27-Mar-14 09:15:15

There is no requirement for music tutors to have formal teaching qualifications and many really good teachers don't. However, you could look for:

a) a PGCE - this won't necessarily tell you that they have trained to teach the instrument, but will show awareness of "how to teach". Some music tutors have PGCEs specifically in peripatetic or instrumental teaching but you probably have to ask.
b) a teaching qualification specifically from one of the conservatoires, which would specialise in their own instrument, or a teaching diploma from ABRSM (or equivalent, e.g. Rockschool) which means they have demonstrated understanding of pedagogical techniques. However, you need to be teaching for a good number of years before you can take any of the teaching diplomas.
c) Professional membership, e.g. European String Teacher's Association, European Piano Teacher's Association or similar, which at least demonstrates an interest in a collegial sharing of pedagogical techniques.

Cyclebump Thu 27-Mar-14 09:19:46

I teach musicianship at a Saturday music school and have done a couple of courses in the Kodaly technique. I also learned 'on the job' with a qualified primary school music teacher.

Most of the teachers at the school are not qualified teachers but we have some amazing people. I have also known of music college students who have attempted teaching but not done terribly well.

Perhaps ask if a teacher has studied any particular learning techniques, such as colour strings.

schilke Thu 27-Mar-14 09:59:17

Dh has a music degree, post grad in performance and teaching diploma from ABRSM. He now has 20 years reading experience. He is a very good teacher. He had inherited some very badly taught pupils, so there are some shocking teachers out there!

Just because someone is a fantastic musician it doesn't make them a fantastic teacher!

schilke Thu 27-Mar-14 10:00:18

That should say teaching experience!

richmal Thu 27-Mar-14 14:24:12

Thank you all for your replies.

I agree that there are some excellent teachers without a teaching qualifications. I am, however, lost as to how to find a good teacher as I have no knowledge of music myself. I'm now in the situation of having a previously badly taught daughter. For instance; playing nearer the bridge on louder notes, how to hold the bow, vibrato is not just a case of pivoting the whole hand about the finger tip, all these I have discovered through youtube.

Had she not had such a good teacher on another instrument, I would have simply put it down to her not being musical. I am now thinking of going back to just doing what I can with the lessons on youtube.

At least now I know what qualifications to ask about if I do get another teacher.

schilke, would your dh say give it up if she has been badly taught, or can it be corrected? I have been told dd will never have the ability to reach the higher grades. However dd insists this is the instrument she wants to play. Are some pupils simply impossible to teach? Should I try to get another teacher, press on with youtube or gently persuade her to pack it in?

schilke Thu 27-Mar-14 15:01:57

Richmal I will ask him later, but I don't think he would ever say give up. If the pupil is keen to learn then that is the main thing. It can feel like a step backwards as they need to relearn the basics. He would give them a high turnover of easier pieces to change the technique. Some parents don't like this as they see easier pieces as a bad thing, but much better than struggling on with the grades whilst trying to change habits!

He has inherited a few pupils who have passed G5, but they have just been taught to pass the exam and have a shocking technique. One pupil he inherited had the names of the notes written above the music - she had G5 Trinity! As you can imagine sightreading was a disaster.

treaclesoda Thu 27-Mar-14 15:09:14

I am one of those pupils who was taught by shockingly bad teacher up until about grade 5, simply because neither my parents nor I knew any better, and I was passing exams so all seemed ok. When that teacher retired and I went to a 'proper' teacher, the difference was incredible. He was horrified at my lack of skill but could see the potential, and took me from being a fairly mediocre pianist to being an excellent one. So don't be disheartened, it can be overcome but it takes a lot of work. If I had had that quality of teaching from the very start I would probably have followed a career in music teaching myself, but the early experiences damaged my confidence terribly and has left me with a fear of doing the same to pupils myself.

richmal Thu 27-Mar-14 22:26:56

schilke, thanks for your advice. I think I shall teach her from youtube and take her through an online Suzuki course to build up her skills alongside having only an half hour lesson once a fortnight for her grades. I think if I don't let her go on to some work for her next grade she will see it as me agreeing with her teachers that she is not any good. If things go well with the teacher I can then always increase the time and frequency. I know this is probably not what your dh say to do, but I have no confidence in picking a teacher as good as he obviously is.

treaclesoda I too think I have been one of those parents who did not know better. Thankfully there is now the internet. I'll let dd know it is worth persevering, so thank you.

schilke Thu 27-Mar-14 22:40:28

Richmal - dh says motivation is all important. If she wants to carry on and is determined, then there is no reason, with a good teacher, that she can't reach the higher grades, BUT you might have to take several steps backwards in order to lay more solid foundations.

If you want to pm me your area and if by some chance we're in the same area, dh can try to recommend a teacher - it's a long shot, but you never know!

JulieMichelleRobinson Thu 27-Mar-14 23:29:57


All I can say is that if you're talking strings, you need to find your child a good teacher. Not necessarily someone who is an amazing performer, or someone who has formal qualifications, but someone who will teach her at least to play in a relaxed manner without developing any bad habits. There is definitely not one correct way to play, but there are ways that are definitely wrong. And those wrong ways, especially for string players, can cause physical problems and pain if left alone for long enough. I speak from experience and it's one reason why I am so fussy with my students.

I also got to diploma standard and then had to go back to "This is how you hold the violin" but thankfully now I'm not usually in pain when I play!

schilke Fri 28-Mar-14 07:35:49

I lied. Dh does not have a teaching diploma from the ABRSM, it is from the RSM. He said that it's nowhere near as good as the ABESM one. The thing is though, you could have a classroom teacher with a PGCE, who is a terrible teacher. There is so much more to teaching than a qualification.

1805 Fri 28-Mar-14 21:32:58

- waves to Schilke -

OP - I think you need to ask around what people think, and ask the teacher where they studied. That should tell you a bit about their background, and what professional playing experience they have. At least if they have played pro, they will be able to demonstrate a good technique at the very least. tbh, the music college teaching qual I did was fairly brief, and I gained most of my teaching experience from thinking about what my learning experiences were like, and by caring about how my pupils progressed.

With regard to changing techniques, it can be disheartening, but if the pupil is keen and diligent, then it can reap huge rewards. I don't know too much about specific string techniques, but don't see any reason why dd shouldn't progress.

Please don't be put off by a bad experience though.
I'm not too sure about relying on the internet though……

Good luck, and happy music making!

1805 Fri 28-Mar-14 21:35:30

I also have inherited some shockingly poorly taught pupils!!!!
More than once I have thought to myself "wow, where do I start??" shock sad angry

claraschu Fri 28-Mar-14 21:43:31

My husband and I are both classical musicians and teachers. Our three children all play and have had several teachers each. Most of our friends are performers and teachers.

Most of the good and great teachers I know don't have formal teaching qualifications. I think the only way to find a good teacher is through word of mouth, and then through having a lesson with the teacher.

Most good teachers will have quite a bit of experience teaching, but not all experienced teachers are good, by any means. What area do you live in, and what instrument is your child studying?

You really can't learn to play a string instrument just from Youtube.

schilke Sat 29-Mar-14 00:39:05

Hello 1805. Still got my letters wrong...RCM not RSM!

richmal Sun 30-Mar-14 08:32:43

claraschu, I do realise that youtube alone would be a bad idea, but as someone who knows nothing about music it does give an idea of what should be being taught. Just to give an example, I started with bow hold; how to place it in a child's hand so the grip is right can be found on youtube, as can the correct way to position and hold the instrument. What skills are being built as the child goes through the simpler to more difficult pieces are also explained.

I do agree that a teacher is needed as well, but it has now given me an idea of what to look for as I do now get an indication of what teaching should involve. I would suggest that with not all, but with teachers who know their pupils are making poor progress, I may do no harm for them to glance at it too.

This is not a put down of all teachers, as I have found an excellent one for dd's other instrument and if anything it has given me an appreciation of how valuable good music teaching is.

richmal Sun 30-Mar-14 09:29:17

Sorry, should read:... it may do no harm...

JaneinReading Sun 30-Mar-14 10:21:39

Some do. There are music teaching diplomas and plenty of good music teachers have a degree in music, PGCE, teach in a school plus have pupils out of school.

However I agree that you don't need teaching qualifications to be good at teaching. I am pretty good and never had any such qualifications. I just seem since I was a child to have been good at showing others how to do things - something innate.

1805 Sun 30-Mar-14 17:48:13

But how do you know the teachers on you tube are showing you correctly?

treaclesoda Sun 30-Mar-14 18:08:01

1805 I know what you mean. My elderly dad was telling me he had watched a video on YouTube of someone showing how to hold a violin bow and my nine year old niece was arguing with him that the video was wrong. He was laughing about her being so headstrong and sure she was right, when clearly she was wrong (he doesn't play). When he told me what was on the video I agreed with my niece, not the video, as it certainly bore no resemblance to anything I was ever taught, and I had a couple of really good teachers, (and admittiedly a couple of poor ones.) He is naive, I suppose, in that he assumed that if someone was broadcasting a 'lesson' they must be an expert.

duchesse Sun 30-Mar-14 18:25:33

DH just remarked that the leader of our local children's orchestra has quite possibly the worst technique he has ever seen. He spotted another kid a few years (a music scholar at his school) also with a dreadful playing technique.

DH grew up up a string-playing family and was taught "correctly" from the beginning. The only grade exams he ever took were 5 (he needed to for O level) and 8 (to put on his CV). He now plays way beyond grade 8 level thanks largely to a lifetime since age 17 of playing in very good amateur orchestras. He is mesmerised by these appalling techniques and reckons the students in question are storing up both brick walls in terms of progress and serious RSI injuries should they continue to play.

DMIL is currently coaching an 11 yo cellist who also has appalling technique and is rejecting all attempts to right them and is convinced MIL is dotty (MIL was taught by the teacher who taught Jacqueline Du Pré btw). MIL says she will be glad to see the back of him when he goes to secondary and gets a teacher at school. It's too late to correct things like in an 11 yo unless they are very motivated to improve.

I guess the strange techniques work for a while and some teachers see no reason to alter them as they don't want to lose the student should the lessons become a battle ground.

1805 Sun 30-Mar-14 18:26:48

I rest my case that if a teacher has played pro, then there's a fairly good chance they'll know about good techniques.

morethanpotatoprints Sun 30-Mar-14 18:32:36

I would say it was a pretty poor musician let alone teacher who hadn't got your childs technique in order.

morethanpotatoprints Sun 30-Mar-14 18:34:04

Sorry, must add that being pro just means you were paid.
Its whose doing the paying, how much and where are the important factors when deciding somebodies professional status.

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