How to be a bad music teacher: ten terrible things to remember

Ten bad things to remember about music teaching … and ten good alternatives imgres

1/ Sit and listen to a piece all through, picking out the mistakes … or teach actively first – small sections, slowly

2/ Praise indiscriminately … or say what was good and what might be improved

3/ Just teach the notes first, then add on the details later … or insist, from the start, on correct fingering and articulation

4/ Count out tricky rhythms in jazzy pieces … or fit the tune to words, resulting in correct, memorable rhythms

5/ Don’t bother about tone production … or demonstrate and teach exactly how to create a beautiful sound

6/ Teach music reading by note naming (and write the notes in) … or teach by interval and pattern recognition

7/ Don’t let parents sit in on lessons … or invite parents to observe, so they understand how to support practice time

8/ Test sight reading and aural only just before an examination … or teach the concepts first, a little every lesson

9/ Don’t tell your students how to practise – they’ll work it out … or give specific advice and instruction

10/ Teach only how you were taught  … or keep up to date, with professional development courses, online resources and the best Youtube clips.

Try E-MusicMaestro resources:

Aural Test Training free at

E-MusicMaestro Grades 1 – 5 ABRSM and Trinity piano exam piece videos with tips on interpretation and demonstration of good technique at



Filed under Music education

4 responses to “How to be a bad music teacher: ten terrible things to remember

  1. Dominic

    I recall being part of a student orchestra in London and being bawled at in front of the whole orchestra by a conductor/ music teacher called Fred Applewhite, I think. “OFF THE STRING. BOY!!” he kept yelled at me like a schoolmaster with everyone staring at me .. I hadn’t even been taught about playing “off the string” yet back then!
    That put me off playing violin in an orchestra for at least 10 years, until I found a friendly folk group who didn’t shout .. so another rule: don’t shout at your pupils: music should not be associated with stress!!

  2. Sorry you had such a bad experience Dominic. Shouting at a pupil is so appalling that I hadn’t even thought to include it!
    Music should be enjoyable for the student and teacher alike and those teachers who cannot be polite should do something solitary for a living.

  3. Elise

    Well, I was shouted by that same Fred as a child, along with dozens of other string players. Thirty five years later, many of us professional musicians or successful and happy in other professions all met up with him at a grand reunion. We were queuing up to thank him for his strictness and refusal to accept anything but the best from us. Thank you Fred. Sorry it didn’t work for you. We’re all different.

    • Thank you for your contribution, Elise. It’s interesting how each of reacts in a unique way to a teacher. My sister and I had the same piano teacher and my sister gave up because she was frightened of the teacher but I loved my lessons and went on to become a professional musician. Like you, Elise, I am grateful for having been taught by an exacting teacher who expected only my very best playing and effort, although I’m sure that she never actually shouted; of course, it’s different in a one to one lesson. It does seem a pity that a potentially good musician like Dominic was put off music by Fred’s unfortunate manner, though. The important thing seems to be that, because we all respond differently, the same teacher – however talented – is probably not going to suit everyone.

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