What Sets a Music Teacher Apart from A Musician?

What Sets a Music Teacher Apart from A Musician?

There is this old adage I’ve heard before: “Those who can’t do, teach”.
I’m sure sometimes, they do (teach), but I’m certain, they’re not very good at it. After all: the top teachers know their stuff and can pull it all off too.

That adage itself has about as much truth or value as the saying “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. It’s interesting to note that, having lived in other countries for half of my life, the US is the only country I ever heard anyone say “Those who can’t do, teach”. Not sure where that’s coming from.

Musician’s Institute (MI, music school in Hollywood) likes mentioning in their marketing how their programs are taught by “professional musicians who teach”.
The thing one needs to be careful with here, is that there is a HUUUGE difference between a “professional musician” and a “professional music teacher” (who also performs and plays sessions professionally).

According to MI’s marketing campaigns: Teachers at MI fall in the first category first and foremost. They are performers who also happen to teach on the side: as opposed to a professional trained guitar educator who also performs.

The main difference between the 2, lies in the countless hours a pro teacher spent on learning about pedagogy, learning styles, teaching styles, psychology, mental processes, curriculum development, drilling and training procedures, setting educational standards, providing educational value, accountability techniques, and so much more.

Would you rather study with someone who plays guitar really well, or with someone equally good who knows how to teach it really well?

A musician doesn’t learn any of that, which is why musicians are hardly ever the best teachers.
You want someone who is equally skilled, trained, AND passionate about teaching as he is about performing and playing guitar. And THAT, is not necessarily easy to find.

Teaching is as much an art, as music is. It’s not for everyone.


Patience is a really important personality trait for teachers. I have seen teachers before who lashed out to students, which is not conducive to creating a great learning environment, to say the least.

Someone who is worried or who feels threatened, cannot learn. The student’s mind needs to be at ease. Being impatient, unfriendly, frustrated, etc, doesn’t help the learning experience and accomplishes exactly the opposite of what you’re there to accomplish as a teacher.

So what if you have to explain something over and over again: that’s what you get paid for. 🙂 Teachers are trained in patience, in ways that most musicians are not.

Teaching Music For the Right Reasons.

A teacher who teaches for the right reasons, doesn’t just teach for the money. He enjoys the process of seeing his students improve really well. He’s constantly looking for ways to make his students do even better.

He never stops updating or improving his curriculum with new exercises or new materials. He cares about his students and about their progress, and is passionate about sharing his knowledge with them so they become better.

A great teacher’s ultimate goal is always to make the student a better musician than he is, and he works very hard on this teaching skills, his curriculum and his musicianship to accomplish that.

This is different from the musician who also teaches. The musician who teaches more often than not, sees teaching merely as an extra stream of revenue to pursue during downtime. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with that, but it is one of the many things that sets music teachers apart from musicians.

The way I look at it: anytime anybody learns something new and has fun during the process, that’s a victory right there. However; time is precious and flies by very quickly: the more quickly and the more effortlessly you learn, the more free time you have available to live and enjoy more fun adventures in your life.

The student who masters in 5 months what takes someone else a year, has 7 free months to enjoy the fruits of that mastered knowledge/skill, and can get more new, exciting, fun life experiences, travels, adventures, friendships, connections, moments of silence, life lessons and so much more out of life. A trained professional music teacher makes a huge difference in that regard.


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