What would you rather do?
- Attend your Karate lessons at the local dojo where you will jump, scream, punch and kick butt!
- Play footy or soccer on the weekends as part of a team, running, scoring goals, and hearing cheers from the crowd!
- Dance as part of a performance group with lights, loud music and motivating physical exercise!
- Sit in a chair for 30 minutes listening to your music teacher telling you what to do. Attempt to learn scales and random songs you may not like, then be told you need to go home and practice this or else you won’t get to do the FUN stuff!
Do you see the context? Do you feel what the student feels? Can you empathize with a parent who also sits in on your lesson and observes the above?
Now let’s get some credit musicians. We are not child ENTERTAINERS, we are not CLOWNS, we are not DAY CARE CENTRES, we don’t work for PLAY SCHOOL, and we are certainly not APPRECIATED enough for imparting the wisdom we have acquired through relentless decades of practice. We are however expected to make music enjoyable, even if our personal background or musical upbringing was not so stimulating. Students today are different to when we were children, they are far more active, far more restless, and need far more to keep them fully engaged. This is when quality teachers rise above from the rest. Quality 21st century teachers understand this and thus make an effort to engage each and every one of their students on a personal and musical level. It is their job to impart wisdom and skills to their pupils, but they must do it in an engaging way for it to have any success.
So here are 7 ways for any music teacher to make their lessons more enjoyable. Feel free to adapt them and make them your own in your next lesson:
1. Say G’DAY!
Greet each student and parent as they walk in by their name. Remember that these are not just walking cash flow tickets or client numbers, they are people just like us. So ask the student about their day, or about something interesting they did during the past week. Keep the topic on non-music related subjects and be sure to listen to what they have to say. Perhaps you can share something interesting you did as well so that the student sees the other side of their music teacher.
2. SMILE & BE HAPPY
Remember that your personality can be just as important as your performance skills when dealing with students and parents. To illustrate, would you rather pay money for your child to learn to cook from a happy, smiling, caring Jaimie Oliver who will nurture and support your little one, or would you prefer a grumpy and arrogant Gordon Ramsay yells abuse you every time a mistake is made? Teachers, put on your fun teacher hat and enjoy the lesson with your student. You are helping a person to develop, grow and achieve milestones in their lives. If you can’t enjoy the lesson, how can you possibly expect them to enjoy it and return?
Seriously teachers….chill. Music may be your life, but at the start it will only be a fun hobby for students and parents. They have not spent the many years you have studying, practicing and developing a passion for it. So don’t be too strict or disappointed if they don’t take it all too seriously at first. Relax, be friendly, be positive, and eventually they will come around. You would not want to have scared off a potentially great musician because your lessons were too strict at the onset, thus putting them off music altogether.
4. EASY DOES IT
At the very basic level, start with a healthy ratio of more songs than scales. Even though they do need scales and technical exercises to develop their technique, the best way of motivating a student to practice is by getting them to learn songs and enjoy their music. When they see that they need to get better in order to learn that new song, you can stress the importance of more scales and technical work. My personal favorite is to make the scales themselves a song. I simply play some accompanying chords (usually 1, 6, 4, and 5) then ask the student to join me with the matching major scale. Not only do I get a great cycle of fifths transposition work out, but I also engage my student in actual music making. This is an important role in the development of great musicians, especially at the early beginner’s level.
5. LURE THEM IN WITH FAMOUS RIFFS
Picture a student walking in for their first music lesson. They sit down and their teacher says “Right, you need to start by developing fundamental techniques which will strengthen your physical dexterity and fine motor skills, thereby allowing you to attempt harder and more challenging aspects of the instrument which eventually will lead you to performing difficult and challenging repertoire. Let’s start with scales”. How motivated would you be?
But what if that same student walked in to their very first music lesson and their teacher said “You are about to learn the most awesome instrument in the world! I’ve been playing it for the past 20 years of my life and I never get bored of it. Want to see why?” INSERT AMAZING BRAIN MELTING GUITAR RIFFS AND SOLO HERE!!! Which of the two will inspire, engage and excite? The point is simple, start with the easy but Fun basics and ensure that the student is engaged with the material. How about teaching them a few riffs from ACDC, Star Wars, Jaws, Another one bites the dust, James Bond Theme, or Seven Nation Army? Why not some easy jazz licks or a walking bass line? How about the melody from Beethoven’s Ode to Joy or 5th Symphony?
Whatever your instrument or teaching style, you can be the best teacher for your students. To do so, ensure that you say hi, smile, relax, be positive and outgoing, and keep it simple at the start. Your students will admire you for it, and then parents will recommend you to others for being the amazing teacher that you are. So teachers, don’t see your next lesson as another day at work, instead see it as an opportunity to engage and shape the next Miles Davis for tomorrows music industry.
These are just some of the techniques our professional teachers utilise to engage our students here at Contreras Music. We believe that finding a teacher with the right balance of experience, knowledge and skills is the key to a quality music education. This is why we are proud of our teachers and our pedagogy. Why not come in and experience our difference for yourself? Book in a Free trial lesson now and start your musical journey!
© 2016 Cristian Contreras.
Please share with anyone who loves good music!