5 Ways To Get The Most Out of Music Lessons
These guidelines will help you to have a successful, rewarding experience learning an instrument. These are practical tips that we have discovered from years of teaching and our experiences with teaching hundreds of students each year.
• 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 teach many beginner students in there 60’s and even 70’s!
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 be 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 anyone wants to do is turn a child off to music just because they had an unpleasant experience, which could have been avoided. Sometimes, even waiting a year can make a big difference in how a child responds and progresses with an instrument.
Piano/Keyboard – At our school 5 years old is the youngest age we start children in private piano lessons. At this age they have begun to develop longer attention spans and can retain material with ease.
Guitar – Acoustic, Electric and Bass (yes, upright too!)
8 Years old is the earliest we recommend for guitar lessons. Guitar playing requires a fair amount of pressure on the fingertips from pressing on the strings. Children under 8 generally have small hands and can often find the dexterity needed very difficult in holding and playing the guitar. Because of the size, Bass guitar students usually start around age 10.
Voice – 9 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 serious vocal technique. For children younger then 9, we have a children’s choir (ages 6-8) that teaches them how to use their voices properly in a fun, relaxed and exciting environment.
Drums – The average age of our youngest drum student is 7. This varies greatly depending on the size of the child, however it is helpful if they can reach both the pedals and cymbals.
Violin – We accept violin students from the age of 5. Some teachers will start children as young as 3, but experience has shown us the most productive learning occurs when the child is at closer to 5 or older.
Cello – We accept cello students starting at age 8. Because of the size, and coordination the cello requires, we have found at least 8 years old is most appropriate to start a child on this beautiful instrument.
Banjo/Mandolin – T ypically the mandolin and banjo will follow suit with the Guitar… Again, we typically don’t start anyone younger then 8 on these instruments.
• Private Lessons When Learning A Specific Instrument
Group classes can work well for preschool music programs, ensemble, or theory lessons. However, when actually learning how to play an instrument, private lessons are typically far superior. In a private lesson, it is hard to miss anything, plus each students can learn at their own pace, and they of course get the undivided attention of the teacher as well! This is extremely important when first starting out on an instrument, as you never want to develop any bad habits right out of the gate. We do still recommend our group ensemble classes for those enrolled in private lessons, as playing music with others is one of the greatest ways to enjoy the new talent you have just acquired as well!
• Take 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 music education. In a professional school environment a student can not be distracted by T.V., pets, ringing phones, siblings or all the other distractions in ones homes. With only a 1/2 hr, to one hour of lesson time per week, a professional school atmosphere can produce better results since the only focus is on what they are working on in the lesson. Students can also be more motivated by peers who are at different skill levels and being exposed to a wide variety of other instruments as well. In our studio, the lessons are not just a hobby or side-job for our teachers, they are a responsibility that our staff and our teachers take very seriously- having fun and playing music is serious business!!!
• Make Practice Easier
As with any skill, improving in music takes practice. One of the main obstacles with learning a musical instrument is the time and drudgery of practicing and the struggle between parents and children to practice everyday. Here are some great ways for parents to encourage and make the practice easier for their children.
• Time – Set the same time each day to practice so it becomes part of a routine or habit. This works particularly well for children. Generally the earlier in the day the practicing can occur, the less reminding is required by the parents to get their kids to practice. At the same time, with the hectic and busy schedules of adults- an early morning time before work or school can be a great time to grab a cup of coffee, and get a good 30 min. or hour in during the quiet and peaceful morning hours before your busy day!
• Repetition – We use this method quite often when setting practice schedules for beginners. For a young child 20-30 minutes can seem like an eternity of practice. Instead of a one-time practice time, have the child practice the piece their working on 4 different times throughout the day, and then increase it to 5 times a day. The child does not pay attention to the amount of time they’re practicing their instrument, but just knows if they are on repetition number 3 they are almost finished!
• Rewards – This works very well for both children and adult students. Some adults reward themselves with a cappuccino after a successful week of practicing. Parents can encourage children to practice by granting them the occasional reward for a good week of practice. Praise tends to be the most coveted award – there is just no substitution for a pat on the back for a job well done. If a student does have an off week because of vacation or a busy school schedule, there is always next week… just keep on workin.
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. For example in piano, there are books for very young beginners, and books for adult students that have never played before. These materials have been researched and are continually upgraded and improved to make learning easier. They also cover all of your bases when it comes to music reading, theory, and give you a good guide to work from on your way to becoming proficient in playing your instrument.
Last But Not Least – HAVE FUN!!! Music should be something you can learn and enjoy for a lifetime. So, be patient with yourself and your children, it is no help to put unrealistic goals on anyone to try and learn too quickly. Playing music is a lifetime journey of learning and enjoyment- make sure to enjoy the ride!