As a private music teacher you'll combine your musical and teaching ability to provide music lessons to teach pupils to play a musical instrument or to sing
Private, visiting and peripatetic music teachers provide instrumental, vocal and music training for children and adults of all ages. You'll work at a variety of levels teaching different musical skills to individuals or groups.
Teaching can take place in a school, college, university, conservatoire or a community-based setting. Alternatively, you may work in your own home, travel to various locations to teach students, be hired by a local authority music service or music education hub to teach in schools or be employed by a privately or publicly-funded music centre.
Many private music teachers and musicians combine a number of these roles. In this role, you may also be referred to as an instrumental or vocal music teacher.
Most private music teachers are self-employed.
As a private music teacher, you'll need to:
- plan and prepare individual lessons and overall schemes of work for your pupils
- teach 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
- arrange lesson schedules, collect fees and enter students for examinations
- develop your knowledge of materials and repertoire for students at different stages of their musical development
- negotiate time and accommodation slots for school-based music lessons and work alongside classroom teachers on music activities
- provide reports and feedback to pupils (or their parents/carers) about their progress
- establish relationships with schools, local authority music services and others who may be able to offer you work
- develop networks and collaborations with others working in music education in your area
- arrange performance opportunities for your pupils, such as concerts for friends and relatives
- prepare pupils for performances, examinations, auditions and festivals
- work with groups of musicians such as choirs, ceilidh and jazz bands, wind or string ensembles and drumming groups
- expand your own musical experience by familiarising yourself with the music your pupils listen to, learning another instrument, becoming familiar with other musical styles and developing your improvisation or vocal skills
- support students in their use of music technology by keeping up to date with major software tools and making use of recording and other technology
- ensure that you adhere to health and safety standards, are adequately insured and work in line with child protection legislation
- manage the administrative tasks associated with running a small business
- manage the marketing, development and expansion of your business.
- The Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM)'s 2021 survey of teaching, examining and accompanying rates showed that the average hourly rate charged by private music teachers was just over £34 for both face-to-face and online teaching.
- The average hourly rate charged by self-employed visiting music teachers in schools was £34.73 per hour. Hourly rates were significantly higher in independent schools than in state schools.
- A minimum teaching rate of £36 per hour is recommended by the Musicians' Union for individual lessons or for small-group teaching.
According to the ISM survey, fees charged in London and the South East are higher than elsewhere in the UK.
Most 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. For tips on setting your rates, see the ISM website.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
Your working hours typically include after school, evenings and weekends, and may be irregular due to cancellations and rearrangements. Some students may stop lessons during holidays, while others continue throughout the year.
If you're working as a self-employed visiting music teacher, you'll typically work during school hours, although you may have some lessons before or after the school day.
Part-time work is common, and many private music teachers combine teaching with performing, directing, composing or other activities.
What to expect
- Your career may combine several roles or jobs, either in a music-related field or in another sector altogether. For example, you may work for a local authority alongside private teaching.
- According to the ISM's 2021 survey of teaching, examining and accompanying rates, nearly half the respondents taught piano or organ as their main instrument. Other popular instruments were woodwind, vocal and strings.
- 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.
- Travel during the working day is common if you teach pupils in their homes or in different schools.
There are no set qualifications for private music teachers. In practice, however, most have a degree in music, 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.
To enhance your teaching skills, you may decide to take a qualification relevant to music teaching. The Level 4 Certificate for Music Educators (CME), for example, is designed for music educators working with children and young people, including instrumental and vocal teachers working privately, with schools or hubs. The CME is awarded by the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM CME) and Trinity College London (Trinity CME). Check their websites for a list of approved training centres.
Other options include the RSL Professional Diploma at Level 4, which has a teaching pathway and is aimed at new professionals.
If you've already got a degree or equivalent in music and want to work in schools, you could consider doing a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE), or Professional Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) in Scotland. Although this isn't an essential requirement for a private music teacher, it may enhance your application.
You'll need to have:
- musical and teaching ability
- patience, perseverance and excellent communication skills - much of your time is spent with a range of students at different musical levels, as well as with their parents/carers if they are children
- the ability to motivate and encourage your pupils
- high standards of professionalism and professional ethics
- reliability and flexibility - parents/carers often go by word-of-mouth when looking for a music teacher for their child, and often rely on recommendations from their friends
- excellent self-management, planning and organisational skills
- the ability to discuss money frankly and practically
- resourcefulness and the ability to make things happen
- willingness to try new directions
- passion and enthusiasm for music and teaching
- readiness to do the routine jobs as well as the exciting ones
- strong classroom and behaviour management skills if working in schools.
Whatever teaching or performing qualifications you've got, there's no substitute for practical experience. You need to take every opportunity to involve yourself with young people's music making, whether you're coaching ensembles or teaching individuals.
Raise your profile by giving local performances, arranging concerts and gigs, singing or playing wherever you can. Skill as a piano accompanist can be useful and may lead to extra work for examinations, choirs and dance classes/performances.
A private teaching practice is usually built up through personal recommendation, so networking with local musicians and other music teachers is important. Take out student membership of the Musicians' Union and the ISM while studying for a music degree, and join the national Youth Music Network and LinkedIn to help develop your professional contacts.
Find out more about the different kinds of work experience and internships that are available.
Most 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 - bringing 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.
Look for job vacancies at:
- Local Government Jobs - local authorities occasionally advertise vacancies for private, peripatetic and visiting music teachers (or you can contact individual local authorities speculatively).
- Tes Jobs - the education press occasionally advertises vacancies for private, peripatetic and visiting teachers in schools.
Vacancies are also sometimes advertised on LinkedIn.
You'll have to use your initiative to find opportunities and promote your business. For example, advertise your lessons in public places by giving out your card or publicity leaflet to your local music shop, library and schools, or use social media to boost your profile.
You can also register your details on databases such as:
- Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) Music Directory (where all private music teachers listed are members of the ISM).
You'll need to maintain your own musical skills and develop yourself professionally as a teacher. This includes keeping up your awareness of developments in music education and teaching through personal reading, attending conferences, courses and seminars.
The ISM offers a range of training and continuing professional development (CPD) opportunities, including seminars and free webinars in areas such as setting tuition fees, developing a portfolio career and safeguarding.
Training in child protection and safeguarding issues is also provided through the Child Protection in Education (Music) online course developed by the Musicians' Union in partnership with EduCare.
Membership of the MU and the ISM is important as it provides access to careers and business advice to help your business grow, as well as specific assistance in the form of lesson planning documentation, obtaining Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) clearance, National Insurance contributions, legal issues and other teaching-related issues.
As a member of the ISM, you can also apply for Registered Private Teacher (RPT) status to show potential pupils and parents that you've been reference checked and criminal record checked by the ISM, and that you have signed up to their Safeguarding & Child Protection Policy, Code of Practice and procedures. For information on how to apply, see ISM RPT status.
There are opportunities to develop your teaching skills further. The Level 6 RSL Professional Diploma, for example, has a teaching pathway and is aimed at experienced professionals looking to enhance their career. A number of universities offer music education courses at postgraduate level.
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.
Despite limited promotion prospects within music teaching itself, there are various opportunities for professional and musical development, including:
- working as a qualified teacher in mainstream school music teaching
- examining for the music boards, such as ABRSM, which involves assessing performance of candidates in several different instruments and at several different levels
- festival adjudication, judging performances by students 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're a pianist with good sight reading)
- lecturing and research in universities and colleges of higher education.
If you choose to stay in private music teaching, there are several possibilities:
- teaching pupils at higher 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.
To make a full-time sustained career as a private music teacher, you may need to combine several of these activities.