Ever heard of first impressions? For music teachers meeting with a student for the first music lesson, it is particularly important to make a great first impression. If this is a trial lesson, even more so!!
The job market for music teachers is tough, so once you’ve successfully scheduled the first music lesson, it is important to prepare yourself and your teaching space to create a good vibe and leave the student satisfied and enthusiastic. Whether you are teaching in-person or online, follow these tips to help have a successful first music lesson!
1. Be Active and Clear in Your Communication
Clarity of communication is a must for any profession. When it comes to music lessons make sure you have clearly stated the day, date, time, and location in case any issues arise the day of the lesson. It is important to provide an emergency contact such as a phone number or check your email often if you prefer not to text and call.
If you are teaching virtually, it is super important to also provide your Zoom link ahead of time. One of the common issues with virtual lessons is the miscommunication of the lesson time due to time zone differences. Double-check the time zone!! It is good to bold, highlight, underline, or emphasize the time zone in your email, as people will certainly miss it otherwise!
Any rescheduling is a hassle and a waste of time, so make sure you have their phone number as well if they are late to the lesson. Even if you think it is redundant, confirm with them the day of the lesson or make sure the lesson time is visibly clear in your email. Better be safe than sorry!
2. Prepare and Double-Check Your Equipment
Now that the lesson time is set, you need to prepare your teaching equipment beforehand so that everything works smoothly and flawlessly the day of. This is more important for those teaching online lessons, as technology makes everything happen. Of course, glitches here and there are inevitable, but the more you avoid these mistakes, the better. You do not want your student waiting there as you figure out how Zoom works!!
For online lessons, the teacher’s setup is of particular importance. You must be able to get your ideas across through the screen, so your equipment is everything!! Make sure your video captures both your face and your hands, that your video quality is good enough, and that your background space is appropriate. If your video is fuzzy or your setup is not ideal (aka, only showing your face with the ceiling as background), students lose interest or are distracted during the lesson.
Audio quality is also important. While the internal speakers of a computer may be adequate for family virtual meetings, it is not good enough to capture the intricacies and nuances of music. Invest a little in a USB microphone or decent webcam, phone, or video camera to improve your setup. You can get decent microphones – good enough for teaching –at a reasonable price range of $60-150.
Check out these two microphone options on Amazon: FIFINE USB Podcast Microphone or Blue Yeti USB Mic
Once you have your equipment, make sure to spend a few days and sessions exploring the capabilities and ideal settings. Again, you want to avoid technological glitches the day of the first lesson, so try Zoom calling your friends or colleagues and have them provide honest feedback regarding your video and audio quality.
3. Have Good Lighting
As part of your online setup, it is extremely important that the light source illuminates your keyboard and face. We often place our keyboards near the window, and having a window behind you over Zoom actually darkens the face and hands. Either move your camera so that it is between you and the window (so that the window illuminates your face), or have an external light source to counteract the background lighting.
For those teaching in-person lessons, just make sure the room is properly lighted!
4. Have a First Music Lesson Plan
Students want to get the sense that you know what you are doing. That means having a lesson plan that you can reference or fall back on if intuition does not strike. It is best to get a preliminary background on your student’s past music lessons in order to know what skill and level of repertoire to expect. Prepare the student’s pieces ahead-of-time, making sure you have access to the book, piece, or song that they plan to bring, or the general level of books you use with students of that particular level.
Also plan for skill checks such as sight-reading books, etude books, or some theory-related material. Additionally, you will often find a student to be at a different level than expected, so plan to have materials available for all levels of teaching.
Check out these websites to repertoire guides:
- The Royal Conservatory examination books
- (For piano) Piano Repertoire Guide: Intermediate and Advanced Literature
In addition to a music plan, also have your studio syllabus or other studio material handy. These are things best discussed in-person (or in the first meeting) and show that your studio is organized. If you use technology to manage your studio and require the student to do the same, let them know that as well. Tonara Studio, the ultimate music practice platform, is a great tool for teaching and keeps the lessons fun and motivating for students.
5. Dress Professionally
No explanation needed! Remember, students are looking to make a genuine connection with you and must be comfortable or enthusiastic to meet you as a person. Make sure everything you wear is professional and appropriate.
6. Remove Distractions
If you teach in a school setting, this is not an issue. But for many private teachers with their home studio, make sure to remove personal distractions that could cause disruptions for the first lesson.
It is not the best time to show off your cooking skills or your favorite pet, or have your children barge in screaming for attention. These would be fine for students who have worked with you a while, but for new students, it shows that you are not entirely committed or focused on the current lesson.
And heaven forbid, do not text or be on your phone during the lesson!
7. Be on Time
Time management is crucial in any lesson, and it is inevitable that lessons will run overtime. If you know you have a trial lesson or first music lesson that day, aim to be stringent with your time if you have back-to-back students. If you are teaching online, make sure your waiting room is set up and the new student knows to expect delays. Otherwise, they may end up calling you or freaking out over the apparent miscommunication of lesson time!
8. Engage With the Student During the Lesson
As teachers, nothing is more important than giving a great lesson. For new students though, make sure you attempt to make a personal connection in the very first music lesson. They want to know that you are invested in them, their personal music goals, and interested to work with them as an individual.
It is more difficult to create a personal connection in virtual lessons than in-person lessons. That is just the way it is. If you know you are shy or awkward in virtual scenarios, take some time to practice and develop an engaging attitude as this is extremely important for new students.
Be appropriate in your personal questions. As an icebreaker, it is usually good to ask them again about their piano background, what they want to achieve out of music lessons, and just to know them more as people. Always listen attentively, as their background will be helpful in understanding them and connecting with them in the lessons to follow.
9. Follow Up After the Lesson
It is also important to follow up after the first music lesson. Even if you and the student hit it off wonderfully in the first meeting, confirm the assignments, lesson materials, and future lesson time. It is also good to reiterate your enthusiasm to work with them.
For trial lessons, this is particularly helpful in solidifying the student’s decision. If students are on-the-fence about studying with you, the follow-up email may help tip them towards making that decision. We always want positive feedback after an initial meeting, so that each side knows that the other is enthusiastic to continue forward.
Teaching is often a trial-and-error journey, so the more you do it, the better you will be. Always plan ahead for unseen situations, but also trust your instinct and judgement to make good decisions on the spot. Remember, every student is an individual who will respond differently to seemingly similar scenarios. But if you show your genuine interest in getting to know them as a person and help them in their musical journey, they will respond enthusiastically as well!