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What does a Music Teacher do?

B. Miller
B. Miller

A music teacher has different job duties depending on the types and ages of the students that he or she teaches. For instance, an elementary school teacher who works with larger groups of students has a significantly different job than an instructor who works one on one with students teaching classical violin. In general, it is the job of a music teacher to instruct students in both theoretical and practical applications of music, as well as the relevant history of music as it pertains to the other subjects being taught in the class. The depth of study will increase as students get older and become more proficient in reading and playing music.

General music classes given to students throughout their elementary and middle school careers are some of the most common. A music teacher who teaches these classes will generally first give students an overview in the different types of music and the most significant musical time periods and musicians throughout history. Often, these classes will also include an introduction to musical instruments; students may be given simple instruments such as drums or a recorder, and be taught to play simple melodies by reading music. These classes are rarely very in-depth, but they are required in many schools.

A music teacher instructs students to play instruments that may include the electric guitar.
A music teacher instructs students to play instruments that may include the electric guitar.

In a school, a music teacher might also work as a band or choir director. In this job, he or she will give students more in-depth instruction on reading music and playing musical instruments, often over the period of a few years. Students will often become very proficient at playing an instrument and reading music after spending time in band or choir. More detailed instruction on music theory will also often be given in these types of classes, or in more advanced music classes offered to students as electives. These types of classes usually exist at colleges or universities as well.

Music teachers may teach music theory.
Music teachers may teach music theory.

The private musical instructor is another type of music teacher. For individuals who want to work on their voices for singing, for example, or those who wish to become experts at playing a musical instrument, this type of teacher is often hired. This music teacher will work one on one with students, typically once a week, providing specific instruction and exercises for the students to complete. Everyone from beginners to people who are already proficient at playing a musical instrument might be able to benefit from personalized instruction; it can also be a good way to identify and resolve any mistakes that are being made while playing or singing.

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Discussion Comments


Do most music teachers need to know how to play a lot of instruments?

I love music and enjoy singing, but don't know how to play any instruments. I never took band and never had access to any kind of piano lessons.

I do have a guitar, and thought I would try to teach myself how to play. I remember the music teacher we had in high school knew how to play just about every musical instrument in the band.

Even though I am interested in pursuing some type of music degree, I wonder how hard it would be to learn so many different instruments.


I don't have much natural musical ability, but enjoy watching and listening to people who do. I am amazed how a music teacher can take a group of voices or several different instruments and create such beautiful sounds from that.

This also reminds me of the movie Sister Act, where the power of music really changed the lives of the kids in the movie.

Since I don't have much natural ability, I always enjoy listening to other people sing who have so much talent. Many times it only takes the interest of a good music teacher to really bring out the best in someone.

Music has a way of touching people on many different levels, and a good teacher will be able to use music as a way to accomplish many things.


When my daughter was in high school, she was quite involved in local theater as well as productions at school.

They had a good music program at her school and a teacher who did a good job, but I wanted her to get some specialized training.

I hired a music teacher who gave her private voice lessons. Because of the one-on-one instruction she received, she really made great improvements in her voice.

This also gave her the confidence she needed when she was going for auditions. Having the private music instruction helped her have more control over her voice, and the confidence to try different styles of music.

I have found that most gifted and talented music teachers really love what they do, and like to share this with those who are trying to improve.


I think music teachers can have just as much impact on a student's desire to learn as all other teacher's have.

My husband took piano lessons when he was growing up at a private school. His teacher was not very kind and was very critical. He felt like he couldn't do anything right and never again pursued playing the piano.

I took piano lessons for many years growing up and had the same teacher for about 8 years. She was very encouraging and talented. Even though she was a very pleasant teacher, she kept pushing me to try a little harder and excel, not just get by with a small amount of effort.

Both of these music teachers shaped the way we still feel about playing the piano. I enjoy sitting down to play whenever I get the chance, and my husband would rather do just about anything else.


@everetra - I can’t make that generalization, really. Of course with a private music teacher you get dedicated one on one instruction, which is always better than mass instruction in my opinion.

It also depends on the kind of instrument. If you want to know how to play piano, for example, I think your best route – perhaps your only route – is private instruction. I don’t know what kinds of programs the public schools have for piano.

In the final analysis, what really makes the difference however is dedication and practice. With enough practice, anyone can excel in a musical instrument, regardless of where they received instruction in my opinion.


@miriam98 - That’s great to hear. Based on your comments, would you say that in general private instruction is better than regular instruction through the child’s school music program – or does it matter either way?

Obviously you’re paying more for private instruction, and of course the school music program is funded by taxes. They’re both being paid one way or another. But do private schools attract the more talented music teachers in your opinion?


When she was very young my daughter expressed a desire to learn piano. Of course we were very excited and so signed her up with a private music teacher.

She took lessons once a week and became very proficient, eventually performing in recitals. She did this for several years. I remember the last recital she performed in.

She played a classical piece and everyone was absolutely delighted, including of course her proud parents. However, while she is certainly talented, I think it was the quality of the music teacher who made all the difference.

The lady who taught her was quite gifted and we felt fortunate to have had our daughter sit under her instruction for several years.


I remember I had a music teacher in middle school who had gotten the job as a late life second career. Before this he had worked as an engineer and played the bass in a local bar band.

So his background was in the bass but pretty much all music teachers have to learn the piano. So he got a crash course and then started teaching the class. Well, he wasn't much of a teacher to begin with, but it was made even worse by the fact that he was a horrible piano player. Most of class was spent listening to him screw up songs and start again over and over and over again. I learned less about music that year than any other year.


It is a shame that as education becomes more and more focused on standardized test taking support for arts education has fallen off in many areas. There have been significant cut backs in music departments across the country.

Music education has enormous benefits for students and for society at large. No one does not react to music. It is a fundamental part of human culture. Interacting with this rich tradition offers students a unique and rewarding learning experience. I hope that we can snap out of our cultural short sightedness and start supporting the arts once again.


I had a really inspiring music teacher when I was in elementary school. He saw talent in me and really encouraged me to study the piano. He was one of my earliest teachers and also biggest advocates.

I have been playing for 30 years now and it is one of the true sources of happiness in my life. I don't know what I would do if I couldn't play. I will always credit the early influence of that music teacher for helping me to discover the music in the world.

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    • A music teacher instructs students to play instruments that may include the electric guitar.
      By: mekcar
      A music teacher instructs students to play instruments that may include the electric guitar.
    • Music teachers may teach music theory.
      By: db238
      Music teachers may teach music theory.
    • Singers often hire private music teachers to help them with their singing.
      By: yanmingzhang
      Singers often hire private music teachers to help them with their singing.
    • Music teachers help students learn how to read sheet music.
      By: Monkey Business
      Music teachers help students learn how to read sheet music.