violin teacher and student in lesson“Establish an honest dialogue with your teacher.”
-Wynton Marsalis
The Musician’s Way, p. 293

Vast numbers of students take music lessons, but I’ve observed that few speak authentically with their teachers.

The following guidelines, adapted from Chapter 14 of The Musician’s Way, help students get more out of lessons by boosting their communication habits.

In fact, these habits enhance learning in any instructional setting.

3 Ways for Music Students to Enhance Communication with Teachers

1. Clarify Goals

To ensure that you and your teacher share common goals, ask yourself these questions and then discuss your answers with your instructor:

• What are the primary ways you want to be different after taking lessons over the coming months or year?
• How does your teacher want you to be different?
• What are your long-term goals as a musician?

2. Ask Questions

During any student-teacher collaboration, questioning is one of the best communication habits that students can adopt.

So, at every lesson, be sure that you and your instructor spell out objectives for the coming week. Then, at your subsequent session, ask questions like these to help you gauge how well you’re achieving lesson aims:

• “Am I accomplishing what you expect?”
• “In what ways am I practicing more and less effectively?”
• “How might I alter my practice habits to overcome my weaknesses?”
• “Are my technique and musicianship improving as you think they should?”
• “Is there anything that I should be doing differently to upgrade my skills?”

3. Record Lessons and Promptly Review

To capture a teacher’s advice, record your lessons, and then review your recordings and take notes.The Musician's Way book cover

Recommended audio and video recorders:
Audio: Zoom H4n Pro | Zoom H2n
Video: Zoom Q4n | Other HD camcorders at Amazon

Also practice soon after your lessons, when your teacher’s ideas and demonstrations are fresh in your mind.

Then, during practice sessions, jot down questions as they come to you, and bring your list of questions to your next lesson.

What you may find is that, “The most important practice session of the week isn’t the one right before your lesson; it’s the one right after.” (The Musician’s Way, p. 296)

Related posts
Clear Goals, Clear Process
The Growth Mindset
Making the Most of Music Lessons
Maximize Your Music Education
The Most Important Practice Session

© 2013 Gerald Klickstein
Photo © John Keith, licensed from