Untitled Document
Advertisement Click to advertise with us!

Just starting teaching private lessons...Help!

I have been studying clarinet for over 13 years and now that my life seems a bit more settled, I am going to begin tutoring private students. I am kind of nervous since I've never taught private lessons before. I just need any and all advice from you who have been in this game longer than me :) I plan to use the blue Rubank books and as for theory I will use the first 3 Master Theory books and if the student has more of an interest I will have them continue on with the final 3.

Carl H.

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
Work on remaining positive. Some days it may be a challenge for reasons other than the student. Be happy to see EACH student, regardless of how you really feel.

The student deserves a teacher who is obviously on their side and not just nitpicking every little thing. Find ways to spin things as to be positive about how it will make things better and not just "that's wrong".

Step outside of yourself when you are struggling and try to see yourself through the students eyes. Sometimes finding the way to connect with a student can be harder than anything. !!

Have some hard work, and have some fun. Don't skimp on the fun, but don't avoid the hard work.


Admin and all around good guy.
Staff member
Prepare a syllabus for the first practice. I often ask the student what kind of music they favor and then hand them the classical, community band, or jazz version. List your fav play along music for the genre the student is interested in. List the three top challenges for any musician, what reading is available on those areas, and how you will be able to help them. You don't have to give them a handout, you could just use it as a guide that you develop for yourself. And if you really want to be a successful teacher, donate time to community bands, local big bands and ensembles. Networking is how your get your name out there and grow your customer base.

Here are some of my posts from my blog on the subject:



Old King Log
Staff member
This is where I tout one of my favorite teaching tools. Back when I took in private students (mostly on bass clarinet, but quite a few on clarinet as well), I worked towards playing "recognizable music" as part of the syllabus for advanced first year and all second year students.

And, the cheapest and most useful forms of this that I found were so-called SSA vocal arrangements, purchased from the choral music department of the local music emporiums. At about three dollars a piece, they were a cheap yet useful form of music that both parents and students can related to.

The music types you can find range from classic pop (Gershwins are particularly good, with syncopation you are unlikely to find elsewhere at this level) to classic rock, and everything in between. At one point, I had a library of twenty five to thirty of these, long since handed off when I stopped teaching.

Arranged for two soprano voices and an alto, they are (of course) at concert pitch, which renders the piano accompaniment almost useless (unless you have a pianist who can transpose at sight). But, the three participants (two students (more on this in a minute) and the teacher) can play straight from the chart and all will line up correctly. I would estimate that you could use up to 85% of each tune without having to introduce the piano.

As you are playing a vocal line, the parts tend to be unornamented. But, these arrangements are often used for contest (with swing choir competitions), and they have the melody line pretty evenly distributed between the three parts. So, everyone gets featured. And, since the tunes are recognizable, the students are a lot more motivated than when playing Étude No. 32 out of a method book.

Two students? Well, I worked this by extending the lessons at which they were presented by ten minutes for the first student, and starting the next lesson ten minutes early for the second student. All three lines were assigned to each student (most of whom I had doubling on both clarinet and bass at that point in the cycle), and all would be cycled through each line on each arrangement.

At the end of the lesson cycle, we would do a performance of the worked up tunes for both sets of parents, swapping out the parts in three different arrangements.

If you can come up with a talented pianist, you can really make a production of it. I never landed such a person, but I know that they are out there.


Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
I worked towards playing "recognizable music" as part of the syllabus for advanced first year and all second year students.
The only problem I have with this is that people are essentially learning to play by ear. I had a student that was taught with the Suzuki Method -- a lot of that emphasizes the "play by ear" idea -- and he couldn't play harmony, much less read music.


Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
If you have been studying clarinet for 13 years you are bound to have had some good teachers, and some who were not as good. Try to emulate the best teachers that you had---the ones who had the greatest influence on you and taught you the most. If you do that, you will be just fine. All of the other details will take care of themselves. Supplement the Rubank Methods with some suitable solo literature, and work toward public performances/recitals as a means of motivation. If your student's band teacher has passed on information that you disagree with, be tactful and explain that different teachers have different approaches. Explain that their teacher is not wrong, but you would like the student to try your approach which is different.