They meet them every week. They give them the benefit of their knowledge and experience. They demonstrate how music should be played. They know their instrument and how pupils play intimately. They do many things but how well do music teachers really know their students?
We’ve listed 13 things teachers should know about their students. These have nothing to do with playing standard and everything to do with understanding how to get the best out of them. The extra knowledge you gain will help tailor a practice regime to each student. If you are a teacher make a point of discussing these points with your students. If you are a student tell your teacher about these things and ask how what they are asking you to do is helping you.
1. Short, medium and long term goals.
Ideally you should know what your student wants to achieve both on their instrument and also on a personal level. The second of these is important as the students personal goals will give you an insight as to the priority that music takes in their lives. Make sure to spend time discussing and reviewing these.
2. When, where and what is being performed well in advance.
Encourage your students to tell you about all their performances ” no matter how small or insignificant the performance may seem. Make a note if you have to. Being well informed will help you help them be the best prepared they can be.
3. Their daily & weekly practice goals.
If you are clear on what their short term goals are you can help articulate these back to the student in a way that they will understand. You are also well placed to suggest the best methods for practice so that they meet these goals.
4. How do they learn best?
If you are a teacher that uses the same methods and exercises for all your students you should perhaps have a rethink. Some students will be more “left brained” meaning they will respond well to direct instructions and explanations. Others will be “right brained” or more visual and require a more pictorial examples.
5. Personality type.
Does the student do everything at 100 miles an hour or are they more sedate in their approach? Knowing this can help you to reign in and focus the quick ones or push and be creative with the slower ones.
6. What is their motivation for learning the instrument?
Does the student want to be the next Jimi Hendrix? Is there a certain tune they want to play? Knowing why the student wants to play can form an important part of setting long term goals.
7. What do they want to do with music?
Is this just a hobby for the student or do they intend to make a career out of music? If so do they see themselves primarily playing or teaching? This question is again key to knowing how to teach a student. A player who is just doing it for fun will perhaps be taught for the enjoyment whereas someone who intends to make a career in music will need to be taught a range of associated skills.
8. What type of music do they like?
Set the right sort of music and the student will remain motivated, choose the wrong style and this can be a turn off for the student. Use the music they like to your advantage – explain why a specific skill is needed to play a particular piece or in a certain way. You might also use the music they like to focus their goals.
9. How do they respond to instructions/suggestions?
Some students respond very well to specific and detailed instructions while others respond best to ideas and suggestions. Strike the right balance for each student to get the best out of them.
Does the pupil have any personal strengths that can be brought to their music? Equally it is important to be aware of any weaknesses so that you may work on them or around them.
11. What is their aural ability?
Aural tests are not just for exams! Knowing and working on your students aural ability will improve their playing and all round musicianship.
12. How is their music theory/history knowledge?
To make well rounded musicians it is important for teachers to impart a broad knowledge to the student. Whilst a focus on instrumental technique and repertoire is important it is also important to develop knowledge about the history and development of their instrument, music theory, musical styles and to encourage the student to listen widely to music.
13. What does their daily routine involve?
Most students learning instruments tend to lead very busy lives. Other hobbies, school work, etc all take a slice of their time and attention. If you have a good view of the different calls on the students time you can set practice and advice accordingly.