5 WAYS TO GET THE MOST OUT OF MUSIC LESSONS
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 and continue to teach 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:
Ages 0-3: We really don’t offer anything in this age range. In our experience, there is little to be gained by taking music lessons at this age. These are always group classes, singing based and bear no resemblance to what real private music lessons would be like. These are more like “Mommy and Me” type classes. So, when your 3-year-old graduates from a group class and time with Mommy to a private music instrument class it can actually be a shock because they are nothing alike.
Ages 4 and up: At our school, 5 years old is the youngest we can start children in any sort of music lessons. At this age they have begun to develop longer attention spans and can retain material with greater ease. The most popular are piano and violin classes. The piano works well because there is no instrument holding involved. Violin works well as there are violins made for people of any size. As well the pedagogy materials are well versed in teaching the very young. Another option is ukulele lessons, because of its small size the “Uke” is an easy instrument to hold and a great beginner instrument particularly by kids who want to learn guitar but are just not big enough
Voice and Singing Lessons: 6 years old is recommended as the youngest age for private vocal lessons. Due to the physical nature of voice lessons (proper breathing techniques, development of the vocal chords and lung capacity), the younger body is generally not yet ready for the rigors of vocal technique. Make sure to get qualified instruction, an unqualified instructor teaching the really young can actually cause vocal cord damage
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. For the younger/smaller student we recommend getting a guitar that is size appropriate. They come in full, 3 quarters and ½ sizes. You can learn more about buying a guitar here.
Electric Bass: Students start at age 7 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 or the idea of playing in a band. If starting a younger student on the electric bass we recommend getting what is called a ‘short scale bass’ 30″ in length from nut to bridge.
Drums: 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. They do make drums sets that smaller people can play but these require more of a commitment as they don’t tend to be sets one can rent. To learn more about buying a drum-set click here
Wind Instruments: 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 Specializes in Private Lessons
While group lessons are a great business model (adopted by much of our competition) because you can cram a bunch of kids in a room and only need to pay one teacher. As well it can seem like a better value as the per lesson cost is reduced.
In the end, it is a lousy music education model. You could have ten 7 year olds in the same room and they will all be at different levels even after only one lesson.
Meaning; some will fall behind and some will be stalled to meet the middle of the class (just like in public school). Add to it the fact it isn’t very flexible because you can’t add anyone after the first class.
With private lessons, you get the benefits of one on one instruction, no distraction from other class members, the ability to start at any time and the class moves at the pace of the student .
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 will not 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 meeting 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 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.
Read More about our practice tips HERE
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.
6. Pick a Lesson Centre that can offer either in-person or remote classes
If the response by governments to COVID-19 has shown us anything, is that we can learn via our devices. While video lessons are not for everyone they can be useful as a replacement for in person when there are minor illness, scheduling conflicts and bad weather. Find a place that can change seamlessly from video to in person and back, depending on your needs
Music Lessons Winnipeg
River Heights School of Music
202-2025 Corydon Ave
2nd Floor of the Tuxedo Park Shopping Center (Safeway, Starbucks Mall)