Music Teacher Certification


The importance of music cannot be measured by any standard. Music is beauty. Music is enlightenment. Music is an art form. It is what makes us innately human whether you enjoy creating it, performing it or listening to it. Learning the joys and art of music will lead to a lifetime of education.

Music education is present throughout a student’s life. A student will start learning music as early as preschool and music classes are a standard in most K-12 schools. Music teachers have the ability to teach a wide array of subjects through different forms of music. They teach the history of music, how to read and write music, understand beats and harmonies, as well as how to play and perform different musical instruments.

Before a teacher starts teaching all the intricacies of music, he or she must get certified. The certification process helps guarantee the teacher has all the skills and knowledge necessary to teach music.

What is Music Teacher Certification?

The purpose of getting a Music Teacher Certificate is to make certain that a beginning teacher has knowledge of and understands the principles of music and music education. The certification course tests the educator’s musical knowledge and professional readiness for teaching K-12 music instruction.

Generally, a teacher will complete an undergraduate program in music or a related field. This education and experience in music or music education is one of the best ways to be prepared for certification. However, the qualifications for the process of getting certified are different in every state.

The Basic Principles of Music Education

To get your Music Teaching Certificate, you need to have a solid understanding of the four major components of music education. The basic principles of music education are Music History, Theory and Composition, Performance, and Pedagogy. Understanding each one of these principles thoroughly will help guarantee you pass the certification.

Music History
Areas that are improved through music education
  • Learning Language and Reading Skills
  • Higher IQ scores
  • Spatial Intelligence
  • Higher SAT scores
  • Highest Grades
  • Problem Solving
  • Critical Thinking

To become certified as a music teacher, the teacher must understand the history of major developments in musical style. They must convey to students a strong knowledge of historical periods from Medieval to Modern and everything in between. This involves knowing about all the different genres and musical styles throughout history.

Along with the knowledge of musical style, a teacher must be familiar with the characteristics of music related to a particular style to get certified. Understanding things like melody, harmony and rhythms in context is important for teaching students about musical styles. This includes knowing examples of relative composers and performers for a certain music period.

Another part of the certification process is having a firm understanding of music in other countries. Recognizing different styles from all around the world is beneficial when trying to get certified as a music teacher. For example, certified music teachers are able to make a distinction between music styles from Africa and music styles from South America.

Theory and Composition

In order for an individual to become certified in music education, he or she must understand and analyze music by ear. Testing for certification may include the demonstration of aural skills through recognition of melody, harmony and rhythm. A teacher would be able to listen to a piece of music and pick out the melody (the notes that form a musical phrase), the harmony (the chords or sonorities) and the rhythm (the duration each note is played). Being able to distinguish between the different sounds is helpful for not only knowing why a piece of music sounds right, but being able to pinpoint why a piece of music doesn’t sound right and taking the necessary steps to fix it.

Potential teachers must understand how melody, harmony and rhythm come together to create a piece of music. It is important to understand each component and how they work together to achieve a final sound. Teachers must be able to hear chords and melodies and analyze them and understand what makes them pleasing to the ear.

To accurately teach their students about music, teachers must also understand how music varies. A teacher must be able to listen to a piece of music and understand the timbre and dynamics of the music. Students need to learn about the quality of sound and tone they are playing and hearing in an instrument as well as the changing levels of sound.


One of the main talents a certified music teacher must have is critical listening skills. A teacher must be able to identify errors in pitch, intonation, or rhythm. In order to teach students how to play and perform music, a teacher must first learn to identify errors and discern why a piece of music does not sound right. Potential teachers must be able to tune students on individual instruments, as well as tune between two or more students.

Teachers getting certified in music need to have an understanding of the basic conducting techniques. Being able to use a baton and understand beat patterns is necessary for becoming certified. A certified music teacher will know how to do cues, have good eye contact and facial expressions, and know how to change the tempo.

Before receiving certification, teachers need to understand the interpretation of notation and expressive elements for performance in relation to score markings and style periods. For example, a teacher must demonstrate knowledge in interpreting music symbols used for pitch or rhythm. Understanding dynamic, articulation and tempo markings is critical for becoming a certified music teacher.

Teachers looking to get certified should also have a thorough understanding of basic accompanying patterns and techniques. They should be able to easily identify appropriate harmonies to accompany certain melodies. For example, if a music teacher is conducting a high school band, it is important to know that the saxophones are playing the melody and the flutes are playing the harmony.


A large part of becoming a certified music teacher is knowing how to plan and structure your different classes. A prospective teacher must have an understanding of how to organize performance classes and rehearsals. It is important to be able to manage a classroom and know the rules and procedures of the classroom, as well as know and understand your state’s national standards and instruction.

In order to pass certification standards, a teacher must demonstrate knowledge in instrumental techniques and how to teach them. This includes knowledge in woodwinds, string, bass, percussion, etc and how to properly care for each instrument. Knowing about how to play and care for different types of instruments allows a music teacher to educate a more assorted group of students.

For a teacher looking to be certified in music, being able to select appropriate repertoire for the classroom and performances is imperative. A certified teacher must be able to pick music suitable for different age groups and understand each student’s abilities as a musician. Picking music too easy or too hard for an age group wouldn’t be beneficial for the students. Instead, a potential teacher should know the skill levels of each class and also provide a diverse selection of music.

Gaining Certification

Music teachers have the ability to teach students in a creative and enjoyable way. If you’re interested in becoming a certified music teacher and would like more information, find your state’s certification requirements here.

Using community resources to enhance learning

When teaching students about something as intrinsic and abstract as music, you must come up with equally abstract ways for them to learn. Utilizing any and all resources is a good way to do this and looking to the community is a fitting place to get started.

Being able to use different resources in the community can enhance the student’s learning experience. According to “Making the Most of Community Resources” by Peter Finn, “Music education at the secondary level can be greatly enriched when teachers and students tap the human resources of the local community.”

A great way to “tap the human resources of the local community” is to have professional musicians in the community as guest speakers or mentors. Letting students see how they can turn their music education into a career can get them excited about music and learning. It can also give students tips on how to improve their techniques and motivate them to excel farther in class.

First, as a teacher, you must identify what kind of musicians and careers interest your students. You want to make sure you find musicians that are similar to what the students venture to be. Then look out into the community and schedule a professional musicians to come into the classroom. Set up a workshop to have a professional critique or speak to the students about what it takes to have a successful career in music. Following up with the students and mentors to see how their experiences benefited them can help you determine the next step.

Using community resources to show students how their education in music can turn into a career is an excellent way to enhance a student’s music education. This allows students to not only improve their abilities as a musician but see a vision of the future.

The benefits of music education for children

Many studies have been done about the effects of music education for child development. It has been shown that music education prepares students to learn and assists students in their overall academic performance.

Music has the ability to help a child prepare to learn very early in life. Learning the rhythms of music helps facilitate the learning of language as well as reading. When a child learns to read, already knowing certain phonetic sounds and fluency from music can be beneficial. According to Ron Butzlaff and the Journal of Aesthetic Education, “When students learn the lyrics of songs they may engage in reading written text. The lyrics are often repetitive and hence predictable. It is possible that experience in reading such predictable text may train reading skills.”

In a study performed in 2004 and published by Psychological Science, E.G. Schellenburg came to the conclusion that music lessons enhance a child’s IQ. The researcher found that the children who had music education had a significantly larger increase in their IQ compared to the students who did not. Your IQ is linked to spatial intelligence. This means children that have higher IQs are able to visual objects and shapes and see how they all form together. This allows children to learn and think in a new way that is valuable in an academic setting.

The article Twelve Benefits of Music Education from The Children’s Music Workshop says that “recent studies show that students who study the arts are more successful on standardized tests such as the SAT. They also achieve higher grades in high school.” Learning the basic principles of music will help a child develop problem solving and critical thinking skills. The child can then take these skills and apply them to mathematics and language and ultimately have a better overall academic performance.