The Value and Importance of a Music Teacher
Many people are convinced that music is something you can or can’t ‘do’.
To be honest, nothing could be further from the truth. We wouldn’t expect someone to put on a pair of joggers and be able to run a marathon straight up or someone to pickup a paintbrush and produce the equivalent of the Mona Lisa with their first attempt. But for some reason we feel it will be different when it comes to playing an instrument or being able to sing (well).
If we were to ask any good or great musician about their journey with their chosen instrument, we will soon discover that they have put in a lot of time and effort to achieve the level of ability they currently enjoy. Even the legends, those who have changed the way an instrument has been played or music written, all have stories of long hours, weeks and years of dedication to learning and mastering the art. Charlie Parker and John Coltrane, arguably the two finest saxophone players to have lived, were both obsessive with their practice routines. Stories of the young Parker and Trane did not suggest that either would be afforded the legendary status now but richly deserve. And the same is true of the likes of Eric Clapton, The Beatles, Dave Grohl, Andy McKee and any other musician you wish to name.
So do we ‘need’ a teacher or does it just happen if you move your fingers enough on your instrument?
A teacher will add value to any efforts of the student. A teacher will identify, caution and correct bad habits. A teacher will show the student appropriate exercises and songs for their current level of ability, or perhaps just slightly above the current level to push the student to the next level. A teacher will show the student new genres and important artists; good listening habits and an open-mind are both important for musical growth.
A good teacher will also know that they need to help the student develop the practice of teaching themselves and being able to work through the challenges of their instrument on their own.
So how can you maximise your lesson time with a teacher?
Perhaps the most obvious thing is to practice consistently what the teacher has asked you to do. While we may assume that is a given, in my experience some students (and their parents) have felt that one lesson per week is enough and there is no real need to work on anything between lessons. Once someone is shown where to place their fingers they’ll be able to do it, right?
Part of the reason why we practice is to help develop the fine motor skills required to actually play the instrument. This takes time and at least some discipline with consistent practice. We’ll discuss how much you should practice later.
Effective practicing will also help you with memorising music and learning your instrument well.
I have always encouraged my students to keep a practice diary. They can write down questions, challenges and triumphs during they week as they come up, not try and remember days later when they see their teacher in the next lesson.
Be on time for your lesson. Show your teacher the respect they deserve. Bring everything the teacher expects of you. Make sure you have a playable instrument.
So how often should I practice?
There is no right or wrong answer to this question; it really depends on how good a player you wish to become. It is also good to be realistic with this. Often new students are full of excitement and declare they will practice an hour every day (or more). Now if they did this, it would be great and they would quickly advance. But this enthusiasm doesn’t always last that long.
A little bit of consistent practice (which will very with both the age and stage of a player) will see a player improve. Ten minutes a day is better than trying to save it all up for one day. Fifteen minutes a day will be even better than ten.
And like anything else, what you put into something is what you will get back from it and the more effective practice time you spend with your instrument the better you will be and the more you will enjoy it. And this will make you want to practice more!