7 Top Tools & Tips for Teaching Instrumental Music Lessons

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When you become a music teacher, no one warns you of all the extra time and effort that you’ll spend not actually teaching. We could’ve done with a heads up on the number of plates we’re expected to keep spinning at any one time. It turns us into some bizarre music teaching circus act rather than just being a music teacher! 

Do you ever feel like you’re perpetually stuck in this crazy performance? It starts with a crack of the whip and a headache-inducing search for material, before cartwheeling over to jugglers’ corner (aka communicating with parents). Here, you seamlessly transition to the tightrope as you field emails and negotiate weekly lesson times. Even if you’ve managed to dance around the circus lion of school scheduling requirements and backflipped through ever-changing learner timetables (careful of offsite games!) you still need to execute the final flurry of twists in your changed-at-the-last-minute practice room manoeuvre to land on your feet.

Teaching enthusiasm is quickly drained when you persevere with ‘re-teaching’ because the pupil has forgotten what you taught them the week before. The grand finale is a cacophony of show-stopping acts, including a mad dash to chase invoices, awkward conversations about forgotten payments and responding to endless queries.

Exhausting, isn’t it? Time to kick the old routine out.

1. Create YouTube Playlists for Teaching 

Make the most of other people’s work! There are lots of great videos on YouTube, especially for beginners. Whether it’s technique, notation or rhythm, playing some of your all-time favourites in-lesson is a great use of outsourcing. Just hit the three dots by the video and click ‘save to playlist’. You can even make different playlists for different ages and stages! Be aware that the standard platform doesn’t give you control over advert content, so invest in a YouTube Premium account to build up your lists and make the most of the advice. These videos can deliver a level of consistent enthusiasm, so save your energy and use it elsewhere. It can make for a much better lesson!

2. Make Detailed Lesson Plans for your Beginners

This one might not be a quick fix, but it will be time well spent and you’ll be so glad you did it. Every student will be a beginner at some point. Plan the initial five lessons blow by blow and you’ll never dread those first lessons again! Yes, some teachers are amazing and have a real enthusiasm for beginners, but the majority of us find it a little harder however good our intentions are! This tip also follows on nicely from the previous as having videos for those first lessons can be a game changer. Keep an eye out for the best beginner books and take your favourite ideas from each. You don’t need to be limited to one book or method – get creative and make your own! If you feel there’s a page or two which doesn’t work where it is, cut and change the pages around to build your ultimate Learner Bible. Voila! A beautiful, streamlined, glorious path for your pupil’s first lessons without the unnecessary pieces or time-gobbling extras.

3. Use the Whole of the Exam Book

Exam boards can give a really helpful basic framework, but using this effectively is really important. Often hopping from one grade to the next won’t cover everything you need to unless you’ve been secret-agent-level cunning. So, get the student to learn parts of four or five pieces before choosing three for the exam. Don’t avoid the tricky pieces! These will cover all the techniques they need before the exam rather than afterwards. After their exam, that grade will be old news. They’ll just want to open up the next shiny-new book and tell all their friends they’re working on the next grade. 

4. Send Notes to Parents After Each Lesson 

Despite all our best efforts, we won’t remember what we did in the previous lesson. Writing lesson notes is the highway to straightforward teaching! If you’re writing them, why not get extra mileage from them by emailing them out to the parent or guardian? They will a) think you’re ultra-brilliant and super-organised, and b) increase the chance of the notes being shared with the student at home. Whether you’re teaching online or in-person, when you use the Lesson Room feature on Practice Pal the notes will go straight to the guardian after the lesson without even needing to click a button!

5. Record Videos for Pupils to Use When They Practise

Make the dreaded ‘re-teaching’ a thing of the past! It can take up valuable time and energy unpicking passages a pupil has mislearned. If you record a demo video of that tricky section during the lesson and email it along with the lesson notes, they will practice correctly! Practice Pal’s Lesson Room feature allows you to record clips which will be shared and stored in line with best safeguarding practices. If you’re not using Practice Pal, just make sure you record and store it in line with safeguarding requirements and share it appropriately with the guardian, rather than just with the learner.

6. Move your Billing Online

Automating your billing can save hours of time! None of us want to chase after unpaid invoices. Practice Pal is the best choice with fully automated billing and automatic follow-up requests for payments until they’re received. It’s one of our most-loved features! Alternatively, use Calendly Premium or PayPal –  they’ll take a little more time to use in setting up and chasing payments for each lesson but they will at least mean you can keep track of who has or hasn’t paid for their lessons without trawling through your diary and bank statements.

7. Use Practice Pal for Building a Timetable and Scheduling Lessons 

At the top of the organisational game, Practice Pal has scheduling features which include: intelligent lesson rotation, clash flagging for weekly/fortnightly school activities (like offsite games) and automatic messaging to notify pupils and guardians of new or updated lesson times. The Practice Pal app will even send a reminder notification to the learner’s phone or device shortly before the lesson starts!

Embrace the Future of Music Teaching

We welcome anything that means more time teaching and less time in the Musical Big Top. We know that music teaching has its tough moments alongside its joys, but can be made a whole lot more straightforward by streamlining your workload, which is exactly what we’re trying to do at Practice Pal. By pairing Practice Pal with the best tools and tips like YouTube playlists, your tailored beginner books and comprehensive pre-exam learning, we hope teaching can be more effective, more efficient and even more fun! As teachers, we need to have the best access to platforms and advice to make our teaching as successful as it can be. We’re here to help you do that. Turn your back on the circus and say hello to the future of music teaching.

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