Music Teacher's Helper Blog

8 Non-Musical Qualities of Excellent Teachers

music teachers helperSix years of tertiary training gave me the musical knowledge I use everyday in my studio, but when I started teaching I quickly realized that there was a lot more to teaching than music. I’ve compiled a list of  qualities every great teacher needs. While many teachers spend the summer reflecting on or increasing their musical knowledge and skills, perhaps there is also time  to consider where you stand on the essential non-musical skills also.

  1. Marketing: If you can’t effectively market your studio then all the musical knowledge in the world wont help you. Perhaps you need to revamp your website, take some flyers to a local music store, network with other teachers.
  2. Organization: This is one quality that I get complimented on most commonly from parents of my students. ‘You’re always so organized’ they remark, while I smirk to myself, thinking back to my disorganized past in the ‘pre-Music Teacher’s Helper’ days! Automatically emailed lesson reminders, payment receipts and lesson notes make organization a breeze.
  3. Patience: No explanation required!
  4. Creative thinking: If a student doesn’t understand a concept the first time, you need to think of another way to explain it, and another, and another, until the student understands.
  5. Enthusiasm: If I’m enthusiastic,  my students are enthusiastic. I can present them with technically or artistically challenging repertoire and if I’m enthusiastic they don’t even notice the challenges.
  6. Open minded: Not every students’ path is the one that we would choose for ourselves, and it’s easy to forget that not every piano student wants to be a concert pianist. We need to be open to the different goals and needs of our students and respond appropriately.
  7. Confidence: You need to have the confidence to stand up for yourself, enforce your studio policy or to justify to a parent why you are teaching a particular way when necessary.
  8. Committed: Teaching is about building relationships with your students. Instrumental teaching is a long term commitment, with equal dedication from student and teacher.

I imagine everyone has their own ‘top 8’, so I’d love to hear some of yours in the comments section below.

About the Author

Nicole Murphy
Nicole Murphy is a pianist and composer residing in Queensland, Australia. She has been teaching both piano and composition privately and in schools for over 8 years, with students currently ranging in age from four years to eighty-five years. She holds a Bachelor of Music (Honours Class I) from the Queensland Conservatorium of Music and is currently working towards a Masters of Music. As a freela... [Read more]


  1. Suzy

    Great list! There is so much that goes into being a great teacher, beyond just musical knowledge. I’d also add “flexibility” to the list – along with creatiive thinking, you need to be able to think on your feet and adjust your lesson plan if you get off track or your student takes a little bit longer to get through a piece!

  2. Reuben Vincent

    I agree completely. Being a musician is only the start. Thanks for the good reminders

  3. Leila Viss

    All Good points, thank you!

  4. Bella

    I think you nailed it!

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