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One of the most popular recreational activities to take up for people of all ages is music. It's fun, it's engaging, and after putting in the work there's hardly anything as rewarding as sharing the gift of music with friends and family. Even if you're introverted and you play only for your own ears, music is its own reward. But at least in the past generation music lessons have changed in some considerable ways, and they aren't quite what they used to be.

Old-fashioned music lessons evoke the image of an unwilling pupil forced to play complicated classical music by rote. While you can still find traditional teachers, and for some students who fit this mould it's perfectly appropriate, many teachers cater towards a different kind of student. Most students now are looking to play popular music they already know, and they're satisfied playing songs as opposed to learning heaps of music theory they won't really apply. The best thing is to meet somewhere in the middle: while you don't want to ram anything down the throat of an unwilling student, there's something to be said for understanding rudimentary elements of music. This can be done in engaging ways, and not all at once.


A good teacher balances the needs and wants of the student so that they don't ever feel like they're struggling through a boring element of music that doesn't appeal to them. This requires a rapport based on trust, and even humour, and it takes time to develop. While instilling the desire to learn about music is key, the most essential thing is to engage the student in the music itself and make sure they're playing. This is the prime directive, so the extent you can push for more traditional demands depends on their determination and their inclination, but all good music teachers have a good sense of how to do this. This is the art of teaching music.

The first responsibility is to transfer the love of music. When the student wants to play, they'll overcome whatever obstacles there are. It's essential to foster their desire to improve. This means that the beginning of music lessons is characterized by a series of small accomplishments that are within reach of the novice, but not so small that they don't feel significant when they're reached. Favourite songs can be learned, but easier versions which still carry the essential flavour of the song. All the while the teacher inspects the hands to ensure all fingering is correct, and explains along why certain techniques are useful.

But perhaps the best thing about music lessons is the relationship you form with a figure that becomes a friend, a mentor, and hopefully a source of inspiration. You want to emulate their ability and you're grateful to be on friendly, approachable terms with someone whose skills you admire. The end result is you look forward to a certain time each week where you get excited to make some music.

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