By Michael John Sanchez

Finding a good teacher is very important to your development as a fiddle player. Some of the best fiddlers in the world trace their roots back to great instructors who inspired them and taught them how to play.

See the value of a private lesson

Having a professional point out your mistakes can give you confidence in what you need to practice to get better, and professionals may pick up on certain things that you otherwise wouldn’t have figured out.

Another thing that’s really helpful about taking private lessons is the accountability factor. Having a live teacher to report to can do a lot toward helping you continue your journey of learning the fiddle and sharpening your skills.

Understand what makes a good teacher

The four most important areas you want to evaluate in a teacher are playing ability, teaching experience, personality, and adjustability.

  • Playing ability: A good rule of thumb is to make sure the teacher has played at least ten more years than you.

  • Teaching experience: If she has more than 20 students, that’s a sign that she knows what she’s doing and is probably a good teacher.

  • Personality: If you really like and respect your teacher, you’ll want to continue to come to him to improve your skills.

  • Adjustability: Some things in this category are the ability of the teacher to be interested in your goals, encourage you when you’re feeling discouraged, and adjust to your needs and wants.

Know your goals

Everyone has a reason for wanting to play the fiddle. Some goals are more serious than others, but every goal is important because it’s what motivates you to continue to progress.

  • Being good enough to play in a jam session

  • Playing in front of friends/family

  • Being good enough to actually impress yourself

  • Getting accepted into an orchestra or local group

Another big part of knowing your goals is understanding the type of music you want to learn. A particular style goal gives your teacher a clearer vision of how she can help you.

Contact a university/school

A good place to start looking for a private teacher is your local university, college, and/or high school. Most of these places have connections with instructors, and if you call and ask for a reference, they’ll usually point you in the right direction.

Search the internet

Here are some places to find teachers on the web:

  • Craigslist

  • Google search

  • Social media

If you live in the middle of nowhere, you may be better off searching for general fiddle teachers and considering the option of learning fiddle online.

Consider online lessons

Many students think they can only take lessons face to face from a teacher. Now, it’s very possible to find a great teacher online and get effective online lessons. All you really need is a good Internet connection, HD webcam, and a teacher with the same professional setup.

Get good references

A great way to narrow down teacher candidates is to ask for references of past or current students. If the teacher is able to give you many references, that’s a good sign that he has his business in order. If the teacher is hesitant to give you a reference, that isn’t a good sign.

Ask the teacher you’re considering whether he holds any recitals. The ultimate reference is for you to attend one of these recitals to really see how the parents interact with the teacher and what they have to say about their experiences.

Don’t settle for the least expensive

The worst thing you can do is settle for the lowest price because you aren’t sure whether you really need a quality teacher. Finding the right teacher should be the most important thing, and finding a good balance of price and quality should be next.

Try out different instructors

Try to narrow your choice of instructors down to two or three and then ask them whether they’re willing to do a free lesson/meet and greet with you. Most teachers are open to this because it gives you an opportunity to see how they teach, and they want to have you as a new student!

After going to each meet and greet, evaluate the teacher. Which teacher do you feel will inspire you the most, and whom are you most excited to learn from? Go with your instinct.

Ask potential teachers (and yourself) the right questions

It’s always good to be prepared when going to a private lesson. This shows the teacher that you’re serious about learning from him.

Here are some good questions to ask your potential teacher:

  • How often do you think I should practice?

  • What do you think are the areas I can improve in the most?

  • Where do you think my progress should be at various points?

  • What music should I be studying to help achieve my goals?

  • Why am I struggling with a particular area?

Here are some good questions to ask regarding studio policy:

  • Do you allow me to reschedule lessons if I give you enough notice?

  • Will you charge me if I don’t show up for a lesson?

  • Do you give discounts if I pay for lessons ahead of time?

If any responses or experiences seem odd to you, definitely bring it up.

Now a few questions to ask yourself:

  • Am I practicing enough to continue paying for private lessons?

  • Should I try out another teacher because I’m having trouble getting motivated?

  • Is the teacher pushing me to achieve my goals?

  • Do I feel encouraged after leaving the lesson and know what I need to practice?

Persevere

Many players go through multiple teachers before finding one that works for them. It may take you a while to find the right teacher, but there are many great ones out there! Don’t give up.