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sliceswiththings's avatar

Any tips for giving music lessons?

Asked by sliceswiththings (11666points) September 28th, 2010

I am starting someone on accordion lessons today. I think he has no musical background, so I’m going to start with some basic theory and concentrate on the piano half.

I know music well, but I’ve never taught it. Any advice?

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5 Answers

wundayatta's avatar

How old is the student? I would stay away from theory until they’ve had a chance to feel the instrument and feel the scales. I would start with the physical aspect first—let them get some immediate reward. So whatever the basic is on accordion—probably figuring out how to squeeze and getting a feel for different kinds of squeezes.

Music has always been more of an intuitive thing than an intellectual thing. I am a trumpet player and I’ve taught a number of trumpet students. It does help if the students are better educated, but the most important thing is establishing a good rapport with your student. If you don’t do that, they’ll quit (unless a parent is forcing them to do it).

I might listen to some accordion music—recorded and then you. Maybe after the first lesson, I’d leave the student practicing making sounds and, possibly, making rhythms. Different ways of making rhythms. I would work on sound a rhythm for a while before introducing melody. I would work on melody for a while before introducing chords.

In fact, that’s your lesson plan for the first year, probably. Don’t push them too fast. Make sure they have a real solid ability on one step before moving on to the next. No tears (that’s for the parents). They know their own limits better than we do. Keep it simple. Build slowly. Maybe after a year, you might start adding theory—but at a very very basic level. Depending on how old they are, of course.

stratman37's avatar

thread closed – I knew there was a good reason for me to ad you to my fluther, @wundayatta !

sliceswiththings's avatar

Thanks, @wundayatta. The student is around 30 years old, so hopefully there will be no tears:) And I am 22.

wundayatta's avatar

Adults are a little different from children. The physical is still important and still the place to start, but you can add in a little theory much earlier on. You still want them to experience the feel of the thing, but if you throw in a little explanation here and there, that’s cool. They might even ask about it. But resist getting into the head space. That’s a way for students to get out of having to really learn. Answer questions quickly, and always direct your student back to the instrument.

You can also start reading music from the beginning, if your student wants to learn or if you think that’s how you want to teach it. Adults are used to reading, so they expect it when they are learning. It’s a new language, but you can introduce different note lengths along with your rhythmic explorations.

Another thing that’s important, I think, is to show your student the delights of playing together. So your student could keep a rhythmic thing going while you play a melody on top of that. Oh, and an accordion player I play with does this breath thing (just squeezing, but no instrument sound) which is very meditative. But maybe that’s just the weirdness of the place where I play. I don’t know if it would work in other places.

harple's avatar

Wundayatta has covered this beautifully, so there’s very little I can to add…

I would say that adults are often far less confident of children (they have “learnt” that there is a right and wrong way, and are terrified of getting it “wrong”) so you may need to gently encourage them to come out of their shell with the instrument, and as you get further on in their lessons, when they first play through whatever it is you’ve had them practising, you may want to let that be a warm up for them and then let them play it again once they’ve got over their initial nerves.

Also, from the teaching point of view (again, in future lessons) when they play the exercise back to you, try and give them a positive comment first, then go on to the ways to improve.

Teaching is so rewarding – I hope you love it!

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