Five Music Students You'll Encounter As A Private Teacher

Five Music Students You'll Encounter As A Private Teacher


It's been a good while since I've taught a music student. The days of coaching novices on the finer points of musical technique just don't interest me any longer. Be that as it may, though, I still get plenty of questions from current and prospective music instructors about how they can better connect with their students. Teachers far and wide know that an unmotivated student is unlikely to be receptive to whatever information they're trying to convey, so getting on the same 'wavelength' as your pupil is paramount to success. 


At first, the answer seems simple: make the lessons fun. In practice, though, it's not as straightforward as it would appear. Each student is an individual, and techniques that energize one student could cause dismay for another. From my own experiences, I've noticed that there are some general categories many students fall into and some approaches that, more often than not, are effective when dealing with these broad classifications. 


The Kid


Your run-of-the-mill raw recruit. This student is young and knows absolutely nothing about music. Their feelings are fragile, and they don't catch on to new concepts quickly. This is my personal worst nightmare. Pushing too hard will cause this kind of student to break down into tears, but not pushing at all will result in zero progress on account of their lack of initiative. 


Your first instinct may be to turn up the heat and let them sink or swim, but, to engage this student properly, you'll need to work in small steps. Cover at most two to three concepts at a time. Be patient, and give them time to build up their grasp of the basics. 


Once you've built the foundation, slowly introduce more advanced concepts. Remember that providing constructive criticism on how they can improve is essential, but being overly critical may cause the student to lose any potential passion they had. 


The Eager Novice


This student also knows next to nothing, but what they lack in experience, they make up for with ambition. The Eager Novice is already excited to be learning something new, so your goal is to find a hook to keep this student's enthusiasm high and keep them coming back for more. 


Continue to impress this student with morsels of knowledge, and show them that they too can achieve a high level of proficiency with practice and determination. Introduce them to new styles of music. Regale them with tales of performances. Encourage them to be creative. By keeping the energy up during lessons, they will most likely stay loyal and inspired for years to come. 


The Uncertain


This student has the potential to be good but is hindered either by a lack of confidence in their abilities, or a lack of confidence in you. In the case of the former, you'll need to build this student up by showing them that they are capable of handling the material. Don't move ahead too quickly, and take extra time to break things down to their simplest form. 


Reassure them that it's natural to make mistakes and that you'll continue to work on concepts until you can fix the holes in their game. In the cases when the student is unsure of you, you must get them feeling comfortable with you as an instructor and as a person. Display confidence in your knowledge as a teacher. Stay on top of your game and provide clear, concise answers to whatever questions they may have. Lighten the mood with a joke and a smile. 


Once you dissolve these barriers lessons will go more smoothly, and you'll find them progressing even faster than you thought possible. 


The Wayward


This student has been away from the craft for awhile but still remembers some of the rudiments. As a result, teaching this student may be a bit easier than teaching one with no experience at all. Unfortunately, this student is prone to not showing up, not practicing, and giving up if they feel overwhelmed. 


You'll have to keep them from becoming bored and set clear goals so that they feel they are progressing. This student will often be married to a particular genre of music to the exclusion of others. Try introducing them to new artists and styles, but don't be pushy about it. The Wayward could become a star pupil with guidance and diligence. 


The Ace


A dream come true, the Ace has the skills and drive to master whatever you throw at them. The struggle here is to keep challenging them with new material. Know that this student is quick to catch on, so have a wealth of topics that you are ready to dive into at all times. 


Be extra thorough when running drills, songs, or exercises. Switch up between different kinds of music, and if you feel that they are ready, encourage them to write some of their own material to go over in lessons. The Ace will continue to impress you and force you to grow as well if you're dedicated and on the ball. 


Final Thoughts


No matter what student type you're dealing with, remember that patience and clear communication will be the keys to developing a good rapport. Make the material fun, make your knowledge, accessible, then watch as your students come back for more. 

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