Why do you need lessons?

Public and private schools (elementary through high school) have been offering music courses for a long time. Students, including trumpeters, usually love band, orchestra and chorus, and the directors for these programs are usually fantastic teachers and will help all the students a great deal. But each of these students needs something more.

If they want to really improve, they should be taking private lessons. Why? Because only lessons with a (good) trumpet teacher can help a trumpet student get a reasonable amount of competency in technique, tone and literature awareness. By “reasonable amount” I am talking about the amount of growth in trumpet playing that a student should make to be the equivalent of other disciplines in high school (such as math or English).

Imagine if you were an incoming college freshman, majoring in English. What if your professors found out that you don’t really know the alphabet (and this affects your ability to read and write)? How could you stay in the college program? You couldn’t. But I will tell you that this level of incompetency happens with music students, and I contend that those students struggle to enjoy the college experience. College should be for literature exploration, professional development and high-level thought in any field, including applied trumpet. A student’s progress before entering college should ensure that the student will get to this level, and each instrument has its own specific needs. A trumpet student needs trumpet-specific instruction.

Let’s look at it from a different angle. Try to answer the following question as a hypothetical middle or high school student who is playing trumpet in the band program: why did you pick the trumpet? Did you want to participate in band? Did you want to become good at music (as a trumpeter)? Did you want to play the things you hear on your streaming services? Did you want to become a professional musician or a music teacher?

If you answered yes to any of these, then you have to do a lot of growing as a trumpeter in order to realize these goals. You can’t even participate in band in a fun way if you are struggling with fundamental problems. The world of music and the world of trumpet are both demanding. If you want to enjoy them, you have to put in a lot of purposeful time. You have to put in purposeful trumpet practice that is distinct from band practice. Who can help design a purposeful program for trumpet study? Usually not a band director. It is usually the private trumpet teacher.

Mastery of language, sports, chess, and music, all require lots of practice. Probably about 10 years of 2-3 hours per day for mastery. The student will benefit greatly in this journey by taking lessons, one-on-one, with a teacher. This teacher guides the student in a series of lessons that keep changing to continually challenge. Band class cannot adequately address the individual needs of trumpeters, who have embouchures, posture, breathing and fingering peculiarities.

The private teacher, who can guide a student in detailed fundamental progress, is the one person in a student’s life who can design lessons that are purposeful and specific enough to address trumpet problems. You can find some trumpeters who have done well without having had private teachers, but of these, you will usually find a parent, relative, friend or band director who actually plays trumpet and has been giving the student the right guidance without actually being a private teacher.

You may point out to me the example of the Beatles, who, when young, really didn’t take private lessons (there were a few for Paul on piano, but not many). And look how well they did! But don’t forget that they had parents who played banjo or trumpet/piano! And as teenagers, John, Paul and George (and Richard) listened to countless records, went to concerts and tried to emulate their idols. They played for each other. They played thousands of hours of shows before becoming great. If a trumpet student could duplicate this kind of experience, then perhaps they might not need many private lessons.

When I was young, my mother was a huge advocate of the necessity of private teachers, whether it was for piano lessons, horseback riding lessons or trumpet lessons. This is what the student needs. Someone to step in at the right time and make lessons happen. The trumpet student needs a private teacher.


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