Thoughts on teaching

Today it crossed my mind several times that I should briefly write my thoughts about teaching.  This is something I’ve found myself heavily involved with over the past several years here in Austin.  It’s been a delight to work with around 18 private students each week- all from varying ages, backgrounds, and abilities.  Here are some thoughts that I’ve gleaned from past teaching experiences that  I consider to be essential to the teaching process:

1. Never be satisfied, always set goals and have high standards.  Look for ways to better your own instructional delivery (or feedback) and various ways you can take your student to “the next level” musically.

2. All techniques on the doublebass can be separated into two categories: right-hand bow technique and left-hand posture and spacing.

3. Real progress only comes through repetition.  Many difficult passages often necessitate this, but I often have my students do at least 3 repetitions- even on the easier passages just to make sure they have a good idea of what specific technique (a bowing pattern, shifting, vibrato, bow stroke, etc.) needs to occur.

4. Look for various ways to help a student approach a musical passage.  All students are different, so have as many unique ways as possible on how to teach your student and get the end result- which ultimately should be a better performance.

5. Less talking usually means better teaching (modeling or manual instruction can be great tools).

6. Set short-term, and long-term goals for your student.  Have in mind what your student needs to accomplish in a few months, a few years, or even beyond (for those thinking about music as a possible career path).

7. Stay on top of everything- it’s hard to keep track of so many students, but a simple lesson log is great to have on file for each student.  Pull it out and just write down a few comments or remarks each week.  Good organization is key!

8. Every student needs to perform a public performance (this can be one piece at a solo recital- many of my students will do this in May) every academic year.  No matter the difficulty, it should be a positive experience and something they can feel good about and look forward to playing.

9. Students should feel free to ask a lot of questions.  Not all of mine do, but it shows critical thinking is taking place.

10. Think about teaching proactively rather than just walking into a lesson and “helping them out” (although I confess I’ve done this a few times).  Again, it comes back to having goals for your student.  The more you can plan for student’s lessons, the better you’ll feel prepared, and chances are they will be able to go further in a shorter amount of time.


About tunedin4ths

David Ballam Doctoral Student at the University of Texas at Austin Doublebass Instructor: UT String Project & Round Rock School District BLOG: WEB:
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One Response to Thoughts on teaching

  1. Herb says:

    Hey David,

    Your thoughts on teaching are great! I remember when I was younger, teaching young adults about audio, I tried to take the same approach. It is very important to keep them excited and thinking of ways to be better!

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