5 WAYS TO GET THE MOST OUT OF MUSIC LESSONS
River Heights School of Music – 487-3664
Tuxedo Shopping Mall Professional Offices 2nd floor
These guidelines will help you or your child have a successful, rewarding experience learning an instrument. These are practical tips that we have discovered from years of experience, teaching hundreds of students.
1. How Young is too Young - Starting at the Right Age.
Adults can start any instrument at any time. Their success is based on how willing an adult is to commit to practicing. We have taught many students between the ages of 25 and 70.
For children, starting at the right age is a key element to the success of their lessons. Some people will tell you, "the sooner the better", but this attitude can actually backfire and become a negative. If a child is put into lessons too soon, they may feel overwhelmed and frustrated and want to stop lessons. The last thing you want to do is turn a child off music just because they had one unpleasant experience, which could have been prevented. Sometimes if a child waits a year to start lessons, their progress can be much faster. Children who are older than the suggested earliest starting age usually do very well.
The following are guidelines we find to be successful in determining the best starting age for lessons:
Age 3 - 4 years:
If a preschooler has a keen desire and wants to start music, a group preschool music class will give them a good foundation in music basics which will be helpful in later private lessons. At this age, private lessons generally do not work as the child has not yet experienced the formal learning environment of kindergarten or grade school and learns more effectively through the game-oriented, preschool environment.
Guitar - Acoustic / Electric:
7 to 8 years old is the earliest we recommend for guitar lessons. Guitar playing requires the ability to hold the guitar properly and the fine motor skills to manipulate their fingers on the neck of the guitar.
Electric or Acoustic Bass:
Students start at age 10 or older. Because the nature of the bass is one of a supportive instrument (i.e. playing in a band), it is usually chosen by a child drawn to the instrument itself.
The average age of our youngest drum student is 8. This varies greatly depending on the size of the child. They have to be able to reach both the pedals and the cymbals.
Piano / keyboard:
At our school, 5 years old is the youngest we can start children in private piano lessons. At this age they have begun to develop longer attention spans and can retain material with ease.
Flute, Clarinet and Saxophone:
Due to lung capacity (and in the case of the saxophone the size of the instrument), we recommend that most woodwind beginners are 9 and older.
Trumpet, Trombone and other Brass:
Brass instruments require physical exertion and lung power. 9 years and older is a good time to start.
2. Choose a school that offers Private, Semi-Private and or Group Lessons
Different students require different teaching approaches. Some students progress best with the peer interaction and class motivation of a group session. Other students prefer the focused concentration of an individual one on one lesson. Once a student is more advanced it will be necessary to take private lessons to master the advanced techniques of an instrument or voice with individual attention. Make sure that your student has the option to select the learning style that is best suited for them.
3. Taking Lessons in a Professional Teaching Environment.
Learning music is not just a matter of having a qualified teacher but also having an environment that is focused on education. In a professional environment, a student cannot be distracted by television, phones, siblings or retail foot traffic. With only one half hour of lesson time per week, a professional environment can produce better results since the only focus at that time is learning music. Students in this type of environment are also motivated by hearing peers who are at different levels and by being exposed to a variety of musical instruments. In a professional teaching environment the lessons are not just the teacher's hobby but a responsibility that is taken very seriously. Of course, there also has to be some fun included as this also improves learning.
4. Making Practicing Easier.
As with anything, improving in music takes practice. One of the main challenges with music lessons is the perception of practicing as work. Sometimes there can be tension between parent and student when it comes to practice.
a. TIME - set the same time every day to practice so it becomes part of a routine or habit. Generally when practicing occurs earlier in the day, it can prevent two possible negatives. They are - the tension that can build from constant parental reminders to practice and - the child's perception that they are being taken away from something fun they are already doing.
b. REPETITION / BLOCKS OF TIME - For a child 20 or 30 minutes seems like an eternity. Instead of setting a blanket time frame, I like to use repetition and/or short blocks of time. For example, with repetition, practice this piece 4 times per day and/or this scale 3 times per day. With small blocks of time, it might be - play this piece for 7 minutes per day, play this scale for 5 minutes per day. Repetition works better with younger children and the time blocks with older children or adults. But either way regular, consistent effort produces the most improvement.
c. REWARDS - Praise tends to be the most coveted reward - there is just no substitute for a 'pat on the back' for a job well done.
5. Use Recognized Teaching Materials.
There are some excellent materials developed by professional music educators that are made for students in a variety of situations. There are books for very young beginners and for adults who are 'brand new' to music. There are books that can start you at your comfort level. These materials have been researched and are continually upgraded / improved to make learning easier. These materials are used to ensure that no important part of learning the instrument can inadvertently be left out. If you ever have to move to a different part of the country, qualified teachers will recognize the materials and be able to smoothly continue where the previous teacher left off.