It's unfortunate that there' s no oversight or organization that regulates private music teachers. This is especially true for private guitar and ukulele teachers. Anyone can hang a shingle out advertising private lessons or put content online. So finding a good teacher can be a problem.
Here are a few questions you can ask prospective teachers and generally speaking what their answers should be. I'll also input my perspective which should give some info on accurately evaluating a prospective teacher or online content.
Evaluating a Teacher's Experience
Your actually not so much interested in a teacher's performance experience, I'd more inclined to want to know their teaching experience. Remember your not hiring them for a gig or performance you asking them to help you with learning the ukulele. Not all great players - in fact just because they can perform on an instrument that doesn't always mean they can effectively communicate the process for you to achieve the same results.
Questions from Students Point of View
What is the teacher experience? How long have they been teaching? Who did they study with? What styles of music do you teach? How many students do they have and how long does a student remain with them? Are the lessons customized to your goals? Are the lessons private or group? How are lessons structured? What materials do you use? What do I need for lessons? How is payment structured?
As you can see there is a lot that can be asked and the typical student I've encountered never asks even a small percentage of them. I'll address each question and what my response would be and teacher responses that should throw up a red flag for you.
How long have they been teaching?
A teacher's experience as any job experience is gained over time and the number of students they have and have taught. A private music teacher gains experience on the job. It can't be found in a how to book, in a college course - which I've never even heard of such a course for private teaching anyway. A teacher learns by actually doing - at a minimum - 3-5 years of teaching experience and not 5 to 10 students a week, more like 20 to 30 or more students a week. The more students a teacher teachs each and every week the more experience they gain. I personally, constantly refine, research and polish my teach skills and maintain 50 to 60 students a week or more depending on the time of year. A really good guideline if to find a teacher where the majority of the income comes from teaching - not performing. This shows a level of commitment to teaching and not that it is a sinply sideline. There are a lot of was to pake a linving with music and the music business beyond performing.
Are the Lessons Private or Group?
You'll make the best progress with private one-on-one lessons and coaching. These private lessons can be in person or with the Internet via video services like Skype or a correspondence lesson program. Unless you a total beginner and simply looking for an overview or just shopping stay away from group lessons.
What Styles of Music does a Teacher teach?
Be sure to ask this question before a prospective teacher asks what styles of music you would like to play.
A teacher should be honest on the types and styles of music they teach. A jack-of-all-trades teacher. Search out a teacher that is an expert in the particular styles of music you would like to play. My response for a student wanting to learn classical guitar is: I can help with the music principles, the technique BUT I have not experience with repertoire as the classical guitar has a very specific repertoire that is typically required for most classical players.
When I first meet a prospective student I tell them their lessons are customized one-on-one lessons based on their goals and experience. It includes a core foundation of the principles of music that all students for any instrument get and builds on that foundation depending on their short and long term goals. It includes work on the technical issues inherent with actually getting the instrument to consistently sound good and for and guitar ukulele students it's getting the hands to co-operate and consistently be able to perform what is asked. You looking for low maintenance technique that you can call on at anytime to get the music out.
Jazz and classical music is one area where a dedicated jazz or classical teacher specializing in that genre is most beneficial. Granted there are fewer of these specialists. A good jazz guitar teacher should definitely be able to help you with the non technical aspect of your study on ukulele. A really good classical guitar teacher can help with the technical fingerstyle part of ukulele.
Remember you don't have to study with only one teacher at a time. A good teacher would ne be offended if you studied with other teachers at the same time.
Cost shouldn't always be a deciding factor in selecting a teacher but can the old adage "You get what you pay for." sometimes can hold true. In demand teachers will command higher rates simply by demand. It can actually be used as a way of filtering out less committed students. The rate in my are ranges from $15 1/2 hour to $100 hour.
How Do You Teach?
If a teach answers this question without knowing your musical knowledge, your technique or your musical goals tries to explain how he or she will teach you, then this is not a competent teacher. I tell students that the lessons are custom lessons based on their goals. It's as simple as that. They are private lessons and each student is different and lessons actually evolve as students progress and their goals change or evolve. Each lessons contains specific tasks geared to those goals.
This is a sidebar for guitar students. If the teacher does not got over a specific way to hold the pick - run for the door. It's not just do what is comfortable. For both ukulele and guitar students the fretting hand thumb has a specific role and that should be talked about and the student giver specific direction on what to do with it. There is an art and science to playing the ukulele - techniques is an important part of learning the ukulele. This is actually the one are where there are a lot of teachers out there that don't even address this important aspect of playing. You'll never be any better than your ability to technically execute what you want to perform musically. Doing what feels natural is typically not the most efficient and easy to maintain.
Some Other Thoughts on Teaching
Equating the success of students to the success of a teacher is only a good indicator if that student started with that teacher as a beginner. You can however ask successful performers who they studied with and if one teacher's name keeps popping up that might be a good indicator.
Just because someone is a good player do not assume they are a good teacher. Teaching is the ability to develop and nurture a student and help with then to achieve their goals and develop their own voice as a player. I know a lot of very good players that are not very good players. I was very fortunate early in my development as a teacher and performer to hook up with a few good teacher and ultimately one of the best teachers in the area if not the USA.
Here are a few requirements to look for in a teacher:
- Pedagogy - Big word but basicallt means learning how to teach. I studied how to teach a variety of techniques, music theory, ear training, song writing, improvisation, etc. I learned how to deal with a variety of personality types. Everyone leans in different ways and a teachers needs more than on way to teach. It is important for a teacher to understand this proccess. A good teacher can present the same information in several different ways so that you will be better able to teach all of your students well.
Recording - As you get more profiecent you might want to record your self and with recording in a home studio being more affordable then ever a good teacher should be able to help with that. Recording yourself is also a good way to track progress.
The Music of Business - There are more than one way to make money as a musician. A good teacher will be able to help with that as well.
This should give you some insite onto finding a good qualified teacher. Whether is face-to-face or online the search for a qualified teacher is well worth it.
It can take a bit to find a qualified / good teacher as the best teachers typically do not advertise. There are several sources for finding a private face-to-face teacher. Contact the music department of colleges and universities near you. They can refer you to qualified teachers. Your local music is one place to check - but they don't have the higest standards for their guitar teachers and even worse for ukulele teachers. Use all the questions from this lesson / article for helping you find a teacher.
For online lessons as all the same questions and your seach can be wider. However, all the same issues and questions apply to online lessons as well as face-to-face lessons. The online lessons I offer are not a "course" they are a custom lessons program for the students.
End of Lesson - Thanks, Hope You Enjoyed It!
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