Private music teacher
Private music teachers provide instrumental, vocal and music training for children and adults of all ages. They may work at a variety of levels teaching different musical skills to either individuals or groups.
Teaching may take place in a school, college or a community-based setting. Private music teachers may travel to various locations to teach students (may be called peripatetic music teachers) or may work in their own home.
Teachers may be hired by a local authority music service to teach in schools or be employed by a privately or publicly funded music centre. It is also possible to be self-employed. Many private music teachers undertake a combination of these roles.
Typical work activities
Typical work activities may vary depending on the type of work, client and setting but are likely to include:
- planning individual lessons and overall schemes of work for pupils;
- developing knowledge of materials and repertoire for students at different stages of their musical development;
- teaching individual and/or group lessons lasting from 15 minutes to an hour or longer, usually incorporating elements of general musicianship, such as ear training and theory, as well as instrumental technique and interpretation;
- preparing pupils for performances, examinations, auditions and festivals;
- arranging lesson schedules, collecting fees and entering students for examinations;
- negotiating time and accommodation slots for school-based music lessons and working alongside classroom teachers on music activities;
- extending your own musical experience by becoming familiar with the music your pupils listen to, by learning another instrument, by becoming familiar with other musical styles and by developing your improvisation or vocal skills;
- communicating with parents about their child's lessons and progress;
- developing relationships with schools, local authority music services and others who may be able to offer you work as well as developing networks and establishing collaborations with others working in music education in your area;
- arranging performance opportunities for your pupils, such as concerts for friends and relatives;
- working with groups of musicians such as choirs, ceilidh and jazz bands, wind or string ensembles and drumming groups;
- supporting students in their use of music technology, keeping up to date with major software tools such as Sibelius and making use of recording and other technology;
- planning and working on your professional development by gaining further teaching or performance qualifications and continuing your own performance activity;
- ensuring that you adhere to health and safety standards, are adequately insured and work in line with child protection legislation;
- managing the administrative tasks associated with running a small business including tax and finance issues and marketing your teaching practice.
Salary and conditions
- The Musicians' Union (MU)
recommends a starting salary of £29 per hour for private music teachers. For visiting teachers to schools, salaries vary from £24 to £35 per hour depending on qualifications and experience. The range of typical salaries for music teachers with experience, e.g. after 10-15 years in the role, is £30 to £50 per hour. Information on fees is also available from the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM)
- Many private music teachers are self-employed, so in addition to providing an income, your fees need to cover the overhead costs of running a private teaching practice. These costs may include travel expenses, instrument repairs and maintenance, insurance, studio heating, accounting fees, purchase of music and stationery, lesson preparation time, subscriptions to professional associations, etc.
- Travel during the working day is common if you teach pupils in their homes or have to travel between schools.
- Music teachers employed by local authorities (LAs) and higher education institutions (HEIs) may have more regular terms and conditions, including a contract of employment, pension, holiday/sick pay, etc. Some authorities employ full-time music teachers on teaching pay scales as well as part-time staff on an hourly rate. Others contract out to private providers. To be paid on a teaching scale, you need to have Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) (TQ in Scotland), i.e. hold both a degree and a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) (or a Professional Graduate Diploma of Education (PGDE) in Scotland).
- Hours of work for private music teachers are typically unsocial (after school, evenings and weekends) and may be irregular due to cancellations and rearrangements. Some students may stop lessons during vacation periods, whilst others may continue throughout the year.
- Music teachers often combine LA work with private teaching. The career of a musician often combines several roles or jobs - sometimes in a music-related field and sometimes in another sector altogether.
- As a self-employed music teacher, you need to devote time and energy to generating work opportunities. In the early stages, it may take some time to build up a portfolio of pupils and income-generating activity.
- Part-time work is common, and many combine teaching with performing, directing, composing or other activities. Career breaks do not present a problem.
- It is possible for anyone to develop a music teaching career provided they have the necessary skills, experience and understanding. However, both new entrants and those returning to music teaching could benefit from a professional music teaching programme in order to develop teaching expertise and update practice.
Salary figures are intended as a guide only.
There are no set qualifications for private music teachers. In practice, however, most have a degree, and many have further teaching and/or performance and theory qualifications. The most important qualifications are musical competence and knowledge of your instrument plus a commitment to and understanding of the teaching and learning process.
Private music teachers listed on the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) Music Directory
are all members of the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM)
and so have proven professional credentials.
Members of the ISM who work as private music teachers can apply for ISM Approved Private Teacher status. This involves obtaining a reference from a pupil or parent/guardian (if the pupil is under 18), obtaining a Criminal Records Bureau Enhanced Disclosure and agreeing to adhere to the ISM Code of Practice for Private Music Teachers
A wide range of short, distance learning and part-time courses for music teachers are available, including programmes for people who are wondering whether music teaching is for them. Rockschool
, for example, offers a Level 3 Music Educator qualification for those interested in pursuing a career in music teaching and The Associated Board of Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM)
runs a one-day 'Introduction to Instrumental and Vocal Teaching' course.
As a music teacher, you need:
- musical and teaching ability;
- patience, perseverance and excellent communication skills - much of your time will be spent with a range students all at different musical levels as well as with their parents;
- high standards of professionalism and professional ethics;
- excellent self-management and organisational skills;
- the courage to be frank and business-like when discussing money;
- resourcefulness and the ability to make things happen and determine your own direction;
- willingness to try new directions and be flexible;
- readiness to do the routine jobs as well as the exciting ones.
Private music teachers who already have a degree or equivalent in music and wish to work in schools could consider a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) or Professional Graduate Diploma of Education (PGDE) in Scotland in order to achieve Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) (TQ in Scotland). This is not an essential requirement, but it may enhance your application and credibility.
Whatever teaching or performing qualifications you acquire, there is no substitute for practical experience.
- Take every opportunity to involve yourself with young people's music making, whether it is coaching ensembles or teaching individuals.
- Raise your profile by giving local performances. Arrange concerts and gigs. Sing or play wherever you can. Skill as a piano accompanist can be extremely useful and may lead to extra work for examinations, choirs and dance classes/performances.
- Network with local musicians. A private teaching practice is usually built up through personal recommendation and local advertising. Talk to other music teachers, take out student membership of the Musicians' Union (MU)
and the ISM, join the MusicLeader
national network and distribute your card or publicity leaflet to your local music shop, library and other public places.
- Pay attention to the business side of setting up a teaching practice. The ISM and the MU offer advice and support, and you may find a local small business adviser who specialises in the creative industries. See GOV.UK
or your local arts centre for information. Your university careers service may also be able to provide you with business start-up advice.
For more information, see work experience and internships and search courses and research.
As a private music teacher, you must be prepared to maintain your own musical skills and develop yourself professionally as a teacher. You must keep up your awareness of developments in music education and teaching through personal reading, attending conferences, courses and seminars, etc.
The Associated Board of Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM)
and the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM)
offer both initial training and continued professional development courses (CPD) at various levels.
offers the Diploma and Licentiate in Music Teaching at levels 4 and 6 as well as other qualifications for those interested in music teaching. Trinity Guildhall
also offers a wide range of qualifications and opportunities for professional development for music teachers.
The Musicians' Union (MU)
and the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC)
, in partnership with MusicLeader
and the ABRSM, have developed Child Protection Awareness in Music, an online training course for musicians who teach children.
Further professional training for private teachers is offered by the University of Reading
. Their MA in Instrumental Teaching is a part-time, distance learning course, taken over three years, and is aimed at music teachers (including voice) who may have a private practice, work in music services or teach in secondary and/or tertiary education.
Ongoing training requires keeping up to date with the requirements of the awarding bodies and their syllabuses. You also need to develop your knowledge of repertoire appropriate to pupils at different stages.
You may be able to access bursary support from an organisation with a brief to support practitioners in the cultural sector in your area. For information, see GOV.UK
. You may also be able to offset some of the costs against tax.
Membership of the MU and the ISM is also useful as it provides access to careers and business advice to help your business grow, as well as specific assistance for teachers in the form of lesson planning documentation, obtaining Criminal Records Bureau clearance, National Insurance contributions, legal issues and other teaching-related issues.
There are limited opportunities for hierarchical progression as a private music teacher, although coordinating and managerial roles do exist in local school music services. Arts management and leadership roles are also possibilities.
In spite of limited promotion prospects within music teaching itself, many musicians can look back on a satisfying teaching career that has allowed all sorts of opportunities for professional and musical development.
Career development possibilities for music teachers include:
- mainstream school music teaching if you have Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), or TQ in Scotland;
- examining for the music boards, such as The Associated Board of Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM)
, which involves assessing performance of candidates in several different instruments and at several different levels;
- festival adjudication - judging performances by students of various ages in different instruments and singing;
- curriculum development;
- orchestra, choir or arts administration;
- directing choirs or orchestras;
- composing music;
- accompanying at examinations, recitals or dance lessons, if you are a pianist with good sight reading;
- lecturing and research in universities and colleges of higher education.
If you remain in private music teaching, there are several possibilities:
- teaching pupils at the higher musical grades;
- specialising in a particular type of music such as early music or jazz piano;
- directing choirs and orchestras for local and regional educational bodies;
- teaching masterclasses.
In order to make a full-time sustained career as a private music teacher, you may need to combine several of these activities.
Employers and vacancy sources
Many private music teachers work on a self-employed basis, sometimes combining teaching with other activities such as performing or composing. As a private music teacher, you may be 'employed' directly by your pupils or an organisation such as a school music service, which employs you to teach pupils attending schools in their area.
Typical employers include:
- local authorities (LAs) - LAs may bring pupils together into local or regional choirs, orchestras, wind ensembles and jazz bands;
- schools, colleges and universities;
- young people's arts and drama organisations;
- privately and publicly funded music centres;
- private pupils - both children and adults.
Sources of vacancies
As a music teacher, you have to use a certain amount of initiative to find opportunities and promote your business. Probably the best way to find pupils is by advertising your lessons in public places and registering your details on databases such as MusicTeachers.co.uk
(online database of UK music teachers and accompanists). You can register for free and showcase your skills and experience.
Other useful directories include the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) Music Directory
. Private music teachers listed in the directory are all members of the ISM.
Get tips on job hunting, CVs and cover letters and interviews.