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What makes a great music teacher?

Updated: Jul 14, 2023

Going into teaching is a calling. So is becoming a performing musician. But they are different callings, and require different types of personalities. Some have even written that each instrument has MBTI personality types that do better at playing them. Is it too hard to believe that some personality types are just better at teaching than others?

Think about what makes a performer the best musician on the stage. Usually they are driven, perfectionistic, may want to win at all costs, hyper-focused, put in lots of hard work, and obsessive amounts of practice. We may want to be a professional musician, but to really succeed at that level takes a lot of intensity and focus on the self and their own experience and needs.

Now think of your favorite teacher...

Do they have those perfectionistic, driven qualities? I would suggest that a cherished teacher is the opposite instead: enthusiastic, encouraging, a team player, fun, easy-going, focused more on the student’s experience and needs than their own. Not the same qualities as a performer at all.

This is the reason 94% of music students quit lessons in the first year, and of the 6% that remain, half will quit by year two. That leaves three students out of 100, who started lessons with a music teacher, sticking with those lessons long enough to play an instrument at even a basic competency level. Those are terrible odds. You won’t be the only person quitting lessons with that teacher… they probably have people quit weekly/monthly. But very few will share why.

"It isn’t much more expensive to get a really good music teacher for you"

Don't fall into the trap...

Don’t fall into the trap of “I just don’t have enough money for a good teacher.” I would say you simply don’t have enough money to waste it on an undereducated “teacher”, who may teach you inaccurate information, and who makes things much harder to understand, because they don’t understand the big picture either, and who has the wrong personality for teaching, and no education in how to present a subject to a student, or find out if they have actually learned it.

When starting lessons, or expanding your skills to a new level, selecting the right teacher can make even the most challenging pieces joyful to learn!


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