10 Tips For Music Lesson Etiquette

This is a guest post written by Aeyons violin teacher Ben Wragg.

Maybe this one isn’t such a big deal? But the way in which you approach your lessons and the respect you show towards your teacher is actually likely to have a big impact in how much you learn and achieve in and from your lessons. Here is my advice:

1. Eye contact: When your teacher speaks, it’s polite to look at him or her. It’s rude to look away or look around the room – apart from my feeling that darting eyes make a person appear a little crazy! If you’re doing this it’s likely that you’re distracted and not digesting what your teacher is saying. This results in your teacher needing to repeat it which causes time-wasting.

2. On interrupting: Always wait until your teacher has finished demonstrating what they’re playing to you or finish their sentence. By interrupting and starting to play yourself before they’ve finished you may miss the most important part. Even if you’re doing this through eagerness to show you understand or you’re keen to try it, it’s rude and you’re the one who’ll miss out. Again it wastes time as your teacher may then have to repeat it. 

3. Punctuality: Always do your best to be on time and if you are late, it’s only polite to apologise. If you’re early (for face to face), always enter quietly so as not to disturb the previous lesson. There’s the story of a famous violinist whom as a new student got lost in New York City on his way to his first lesson with Ivan Galamian at Juilliard and as punishment Galamian refused to teach him for the rest of the term! When he explained what happened Galamian said he should’ve planned his journey better…

4. Dealing with frustration: Everyone gets frustrated sometimes but just as it’s a teacher’s duty not to lose his cool (as much as possible), for a pupil to show it too obviously in the lesson isn’t respectful to your teacher so it’s important to also try to keep a lid on it as much as possible. By doing this you’ll also of course simply achieve better results more quickly.

5. Parents attending lessons: Regarding parents of young children – in this case, a parent would normally attend the lessons. So bring a notebook and your total focus. Some important points: bring water but not food! No teacher wants to work with the sound of crackling packets and munching in the background not to mention cleaning up the crumbs!

6. Siblings attending lessons: avoid bringing younger siblings if possible unless they’re great at sitting quietly! Of course, this is not always possible so try to see it in an exercise in teaching the sibling to behave appropriately in this kind of setting. A very useful skill in many kinds of situations!

7. Phones and other devices: if you’re attending the lesson it’s so you can help your child at home – take notes and don’t be on your phone! Your child deserves your full attention, not a diluted version. You want to send your child the message that their lesson time is very important and it also sets the tone for the week of practice ahead. If you absolutely have to send a message (we’ve all been there!) please make sure that the device is on silent so your clicking doesn’t disturb the lesson. Try to be as quiet as the younger sibling! Let the child get on with the lesson and receive all the attention!

8. Don’t leave any nasty surprises! This includes rubbish, discarded homework, old photocopied sheet music and half-eaten snacks. One of my earliest students (now a professional musician) was a bit of a practical joker and he once left a roll of sellotape in the toaster! If you’re reading this, you know who you are, but I forgive you..!

9. Appropriate attire: if you’re bringing a very young child for a lesson make sure they are wearing underwear (yes this has happened and no they didn’t come back!).

10. Mobile phones: teenage or older students turn your phone off!

These are of course great life skills that will help your child in everything they do, so it’s worth the effort!

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