Music Teacher Training (DE)

Background / Organisation

Teacher training in Germany is – like the education of children and youngsters in schools – organised by the Federal States and is, therefore, set up in different ways accordingly. Teacher training consists of three phases:

  • studying at a scientific university or “Hochschule” (institutions developed from conservatoires to establish academic training in the arts and equated to the scientific universities) – in Baden-Württemberg, this also includes the pedagogical universities;
  • a induction period of 18-24 months at a school together with university lectures and discussion of lesson observations in the “Fachseminar” and
  • a variety of insets, which music teachers may attend during their teaching career.

There is a specific course for training teachers to teach in secondary music classrooms which is different from other pedagogical studies of music like instrumental teaching or elementary music teaching. The following article only refers to teacher training in schools.

Students doing teacher training at university are entitled to teach in different types of schools and key stages – this depends on the Federal State and the type of schools found there. Usually, there is a special training for all the various types of “Sonderschulen” (schools for children with learning disabilities and mentally and physically handicapped children) as well as for Grammar Schools and Comprehensive Schools which are special types of “Sekundarstufe I” (up to age 14, grade 8) and “Sekundarstufe II” (age 14-18, grade 8-12 or sometimes age 19, grade 13). All remaining types of schools (from grade 1 to 10) offer a variety of options, for example one can focus on a certain type of school only. It is also possible for a university course to cover all the key stages, focussing on either primary schools, “Hauptschulen” or “Realschulen”. However, the overall structure of studies has the three-part school system in mind.

Usually, it is essential to study two different subjects during the course of teacher training. In some Federal States, however, it is possible to study Music only. The process of changing to Bachelor and Master degrees in Music is currently on its way and has made different progress in different Federal States. The new degrees will replace the previous “Staatsexamensprüfung” – here, all the major and final examinations used to be organised by a central Federal Examination Department.


Music teacher usually study two subjects (e.g. music plus math) plus pedagogiy. The average duration of study is between 6 and 10 semesters.

The amount of study for Bachelor courses is currently 180 ECTS, for Master courses it is 120 ECTS. Some German Bundesländer returned from Bachelor/Master-system to “Staatsexamen” (e.g. Saxony).

Area of Study Subject
Performance Studies One-to-one instrumental tuition on one or two instruments as well as vocal tuition

Vocal training and speech training

Participation in instrumental and vocal groups and guidance in leading those. There are some, modules particularly relevant for school teaching e.g. “Percussion” or “practical piano accompaniment in lessons”

Practical arrangement using IT

Movement / dance

In principle, there is a consensus of opinion that a whole variety of styles should be included in performance studies. However, this may vary in different universities.

Music Theory / Science of Music Ear Training, Harmony, Musical Form, History, Psychology, Sociology, Ethnology of Music
Music Pedagogy Music Pedagogy includes practical training (sometimes only 2×4 weeks, sometimes 6 months at schools), lectures about different ways of teaching, current and historical philosophies of music education.

The proportion of each area of study may vary according to the university. Please find below some examples of teacher training courses for grade 5-12 or 13 (grammar Schools, partly also comprehensive schools):

In the case of teacher training for primary schools and for “Sekundarstufe I”, there may be changes in the area of studies in terms of content and proportion. For example, at Potsdam University, there is a difference of 15 ECTS less in performance and scientific areas of studies.


There is an emphasis on Classical music. However, students on teacher training courses are additionally offered theory and practice in the field of Jazz/Rock/Pop and sometimes forms of ethnic music. In some cases, students may focus on Jazz/Rock/Pop and ethnic music for their performance studies. The theory side of music is treated in a similar way: The various curricula offer certain flexibility in terms of the selection of modules. To what extent students are allowed to make their own choice depends on the structure of the curriculum and the size of the institution.

School placements  happen during the training course (either one-day-only placements during semester time or longer placements during out-of-semester time) or, currently very rarely, as a condensed placement between the initial and main study periods. There are about 12 compulsory weeks of school placements.

Learning and Teaching Approaches

The teacher training course includes – most commonly – single tuition in major and minor performance studies (one or two instruments and vocal tuition) as well as group tuition in other performance related areas. There is a significant difference between conservatoires and universities in terms of the amount of single tuition: the former in general has more of an emphasis on the performance side. Overall, certain forms of teaching such as seminars and exercises outweigh the number of lectures. Many curricula include projects as a way of teaching. Tutor sessions are in place to support and supplement lectures and seminars. E-Learning is used occasionally.

Assessment / Examination

Entrance examinations In order to be offered a place on a music teacher training course, an audition in musical performance has to be passed. The candidate has to perform on one or two instruments; singing is also included. The piano plays an important role within the teacher training course and is offered either as a major or minor module. In teacher training for Primary Schools, the guitar still is (almost) equally important. Apart from the audition, there are also compulsory written and oral exams in ear training and classical harmony. Other forms of examination may occasionally be relevant, e.g. an interview or assessment of group activities covering pedagogical issues.
Examinations during the course of study Changing to modular organisation means that examinations are spread more equally over the total course of study. In addition to traditional forms of assessment, it may occasionally be possible to opt for other forms like portfolios, projects and tutorials followed by a feedback.

The assessment criteria are mostly set by the university lecturers. Study syllabi may give guidelines for assessment. Seminars and instrumental tuition in small groups also allow for assessment by way of mutual feedback from students. However, the exam results for certificates are managed by the lecturers. Systematic forms of self-assessment like logs and protocols are still exceptions.

Final Examinations The overall study attainment is assessed by way of performance and exams both oral and written, in music science and music pedagogy. By the end of the teacher training course, an extensive scientific work has to be submitted. This is particularly important for the “Staatsexamen” or for the Master degree.

Current and Future Challenges

Universities and other institutions of higher education in Germany changed to modular organisation and mostly to Bachelor and Master courses of study as a result of the Bologna process during the last years. Today not everything is working as well as hoped. Particular challenges of the structural changes are:

  1. to keep the balance between a broad training and the development of individual profiles,
  2. to continue the music teacher training for primary schools (which is currently at risk)
  3. to link the study/training with possible professions,
  4. the adequate, lively link between current music trends outside the educational institutions and the internal main focuses (between “Pop Academy” and the elite “Temple of Art”)
  5. to foster self-controlled, individual forms of learning and teaching
  6. to simplify the process of mutual recognition of study attainments whilst keeping regional particularities,
  7. the problem of a “scholarisation” by a too narrow-minded ECTS system in Germany,
  8. to effectively link the three phases in music teacher training,
  9. the extreme regional differences in teacher training as a result of the federal system in Germany.