Lessons are not given, they are taken.
– Cesare Pavese, Italian author and poet (1908-1950)
First, the facts.
1. Music lessons are foundational. Your teacher will help you develop the essential points of technique and musicianship and lead you through standard repertoire for your instrument.
2. Music lessons are inspirational. Your teacher can help motivate you to practice. She can introduce you to musical masterworks and artists whose work you may not have otherwise known. He can open a new world of musical experience to you.
3. Music lessons are expensive. Yep.
So you want to be sure you get your money’s worth. You may love your teacher and be making good progress. But by asking these three questions below, you can be certain that you are getting the most from every lesson.
1. What three things should I focus on in my practice before our next lesson?
Asking for some clarity for your daily work is a great idea. You may leave your lesson with your head full of great ideas, inspiration and be ready to practice, but that laser focus can be hard to find when you’re ready to practice.
If you have three items on which to focus your work, you can begin your practice with the end in mind. You will know exactly where to put your energy, and you can expect your effort to fit in with your teacher’s plans for you. It’s practically a guarantee of a good lesson the next time!
2. What one thing would move my playing ahead the most?
This is more of a reality check. Often what we as students think we need to work on is not the thing that our teacher thinks is holding us back. Spending lots of practice time focusing on one exercise may help our technique, but perhaps poor reading skills are keeping us from learning the music we want to play.
Adult students particularly need this assessment. Adults generally have busier lives, with less dedicated practice time. They are generally clearer about their goals as well, and they want to be disciplined about working toward them.
3. What specific thing – technique work, theory class, extra practice – would you recommend to address that issue?
This is the follow-up to Question 2. If there is something I as a student need to do to make progress, I want to do it. I don’t want to waste time and money working around a problem – I want to fix it!
In my teaching, I have rarely been asked this question. Sometimes I have taken it upon myself to make these recommendations, and my students are usually grateful. After all, my job is to help them meet their goals and to offer new challenges.
One caveat, though. If you decide not to follow through on your teacher’s advice, be open with your teacher about it. The best working relationship requires honesty.
What else would you like to ask your teacher?