Many skilled musicians started off by taking lessons from a music teacher they looked up to. Most of the music teachers from earlier generations possessed professional training or music degrees before taking on teaching roles. However, a degree isn’t required to become a music teacher in the modern era.
This guide will examine the steps and requirements to become a music teacher without a degree.
Private Lesson Music Teachers vs School Music Teachers
Before discussing the steps to become a music teacher, it is worth distinguishing between private lesson music teachers and school music teachers.
Private Lesson Music Teachers
Private lesson music teachers are instructors who teach students privately. They may offer lessons on a one on one basis, or in small groups. Such music teachers typically host lessons at their home, at a music store, or in a special rented space.
Private lessons music teachers do not need to possess a degree to teach students. However, they must possess an in-depth understanding of music theory and playing techniques. They should also be skilled at playing their instrument.
The average private music instructor earns around $76,000 per year. However, this figure will vary depending on your ability to attract students and host lessons.
School Music Teachers
School music teachers offer lessons in a variety of settings. This includes bands, choirs, orchestras, music history, and general music. They typically teach at private or public schools and are required to possess degrees.
If you intend to become a music teacher without a degree, you should therefore opt to give private lessons. However, some states accept school music teachers who possess a degree in education, along with relevant music experience.
In this guide we will examine the various ways to become a private lessons music teacher, as this route is easier for aspiring instructors.
How to Become a Private Lesson Music Teacher?
The steps for becoming a private lesson music teacher is as follows:
Step 1: Assess Your Musical Competency
The first step in your quest to become a music teacher is to assess your musical competency. There are multiple skill levels when it comes to playing music, and you should have a good understanding of where you stand.
For example, piano music difficulty can be broken down into nine distinct levels. You can determine your skill level by checking if you are capable of playing challenging pieces. Piano pieces of different difficulty levels are shown below:
- Level 1:Bach, Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach, nos. 4 and 5
- Level 2: Bach, Well-Tempered Clavier I, no. 1 Prelude C major
- Level 3: Beethoven, Piano Sonatas op. 49,1 and 2
- Level 4: Grieg, Lyric Pieces op. 12, no. 4
- Level 5: Schumann, Fantasy Pieces op. 12, no. 1
- Level 6: Chopin, Nocturnes op. 27, nos. 1 and 2
- Level 7: Beethoven, Piano Sonata op. 10, no. 3
- Level 8: Beethoven, Piano Sonata op. 81a
- Level 9: Schumann, Toccata op. 7
In addition to being able to play difficult pieces, you should be able to understand the music theory behind their composition. Music teachers should also be able to identify different playing techniques and how to apply them appropriately.
Understanding your musical competency is important, as will determine the level of students you can teach. Most aspiring music teachers should be capable of providing lessons to beginners without any problems. However, they may run into issues when they attempt to teach students who are at a higher skill level. Therefore, you must ensure your skills and knowledge are always above that of your students.
Step 2: Find a Suitable Teaching Space
The next step is to find a suitable teaching space for your lessons. As mentioned earlier, many private lesson music teachers offer lessons in their home, music stores, or in rented spaces.
When choosing a space to host your lessons, you should ensure it is available at the times you wish to use it. For example, if you intend to provide lessons in a rented space between 3pm and 6pm on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, you should check to see if it is always free during those hours.
You should also ensure this space is located somewhere that is accessible for students. For this reason, many music teachers choose spaces in central areas. However, you should also note that the rent may be higher in densely populated areas. If you don’t expect to earn a lot of revenue as a music teacher, you may want to avoid renting a space with high rent.
Step 3: Create a Curriculum
The next step is to create a curriculum for your lessons. Your music lessons should essentially serve as courses for your students. Therefore, it is vital to chart out a proper curriculum that covers the basics and follows a progression to more advanced skills and techniques.
It may help to purchase a few music lesson books when devising your curriculum. These will show you the core concepts to cover before you branch out into different techniques and playing styles.
Step 4: Find Students
The most difficult step in becoming a music teacher without a degree is learning how to find students. Most music school teachers simply need to apply for a job at different schools to get dozens of students. Private lesson music teachers must take a different approach.
The good news is that there are plenty of ways to find music students independently.
Word of Mouth
Promoting your services through word of mouth can be incredibly useful when finding your set of students. Let your friends and family know that you are offering music lessons, and to inform any would-be students about your services.
Another useful strategy is to advertise your services in different places. For example, many music teachers put up flyers advertising their music teaching services in public places. Similarly, if you live in an apartment building, you can put up a flyer on your mailroom board.
This strategy can help you reel in a few students while your reputation is still growing.
Sign Up on Freelancing Sites
Many music teachers in the digital era promote their services on freelancing sites such as Fiverr. Such sites are useful because you can create a custom profile to advertise your services appropriately. You can mention your musical experience and show off your skills through videos or audio demos.
Such freelancing sites also allow clients to leave reviews. This means you can build a positive reputation on the site and draw in more students if your past clients leave positive reviews about your services.
Music teachers on the platform can also set their own rates. New teachers with no reviews should start off with a low hourly rate. They can then gradually increase this rate as they gain more students and build a better reputation on the platform.
The road to becoming a private lesson music teacher may not seem easy at first, but the payoff can certainly make it worthwhile. In addition to receiving good compensation, many music teachers enjoy sharing their passion for music with their students.
Prospective music teachers should not feel discouraged if they do not possess a degree. They simply need dedication and a drive to succeed.
Eduardo Perez is a multi-instrumentalist with over 20 years of experience playing instruments such as piano, guitar, ukulele, and bass. Having arranged songs and produced music in a recording studio, he has a wealth of knowledge to share about analyzing songs, composing, and producing. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Musical Studies at Berklee College School of Music. Featured on Entrepreneur.com. Subscribe to his YouTube channel, or follow him on Instagram.