When I was a kid, I took about eight years of music lessons from many different instructors. The final count: Three drum teachers, five guitar teachers, a bass teacher and a vocal instructor. Though I did not know it at the time, this variety of teaching styles gave me a great background to develop my own teaching method.
You Won’t Learn If It’s Not Fun!
The most important factor for success with music lessons is the student’s commitment to practicing, and the “old school” method of negative reinforcement (in other words, yelling at students if they don’t practice) is not very effective. Positive reinforcement and confidence building lead to greater success. After many years of teaching, I came to the realization that the best way to motivate a student to practice is to make sure they not only learn the fundamentals of their instrument, but that they also have assignments that interest them.
Learning scales, rudiments, and music theory should be a part of any quality music education, but you also need to play the music you want to play! I try to get my students to play along with music recordings as soon as possible. Whether it’s a song by The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, Green Day, James Brown, Hank Williams, Bob Marley, or simply a generic blues jam, I want my students to feel like they can play along with their favorite artists.
1/2 Hour a Week
I also feel strongly that, for almost all students, a half hour lesson each week is better than an hour lesson per week. If you take lessons from a well-prepared instructor, you should expect about five to eight hours of practice for every hour of instruction you get. Since most students find it difficult to practice more than two or three hours a week, I find that anything more than a half hour a week with me is a waste of time and money. Unless you are very dedicated and practice at least five hours per week, you will have plenty of material to work on with my standard, weekly half hour lessons.
More Than Just Learning An Instrument
As a music teacher, I try to give some of my more advanced students an occasional music history lesson. For example, I might assign a song from a band they’ve never heard of, and give them a little background on the artist and their contributions to music culture. I have had a lot of positive feedback from students who appreciated being exposed to new music. One of my students, many years after taking lessons with me, told me how much he enjoyed learning about “cool bands he didn’t know existed!”
Overall, I hope to give students a greater appreciation of music as well as the increased self-confidence that comes with the achievement of any goal. Ultimately, music lessons are not simply about learning an instrument. At the risk of sounding a bit “over the top,” I would say that music lessons are one of the best ways we can enrich our lives and become better people.