5 Ways To Get The Most Out Of Music Lessons:
These guidelines will help you to have a successful, rewarding experience learning a musical instrument. These are practical tips that we have discovered from years of music teaching and our experiences with teaching hundreds of music students each year.
1. How Young Is Too Young – Starting At The Right Age
Adults can start any music instrument at any time. Their success is based on how willing an adult music student is to committed to practicing. We teach many beginner music students in their 60’s and 70’s.
For children, starting at the right age is a key element to the success of their music 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 music lessons too soon they may feel overwhelmed and frustrated and want to stop music 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 the child waits a year to start music 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 have found to be successful in determining how young a child can start taking music lessons. At our school we offer free samples classes where you can get to know the teacher and let them give you their recommendation on whether your child is ready to start music lessons. Below are our general recommendations for the following instruments:
Piano Lessons: Ages 4 and older
Children that are 4 years old can start piano lessons in our Pre-Piano group class. Children age 5 and older can continue advancing in a piano team class or start private piano lessons. For more information about our piano lessons visit our music page.
Violin Lessons: Ages 5 and older
We accept violin students from the age of 5. Some teachers will start children as young as 3, but experience has shown the most productive learning occurs when the beginner is 5 or older.
Guitar Lessons – Acoustic, Electric and Bass: Ages 8 and older
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 may find playing uncomfortable. A guitar teacher may recommend your child to start guitar earlier than age 8, if the parent is willing to come to each guitar lesson and give the needed support at home. If this is not possible, you may want to consider starting your child in a private piano or a group piano team class. The skills they learn in piano will help them move more quickly when it comes time to start guitar lessons. Read more about guitar lessons here.
Voice Lessons: Ages 8 and older
8 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). For a singing experience for younger ages try our Bravo Broadway class. You may also consider starting your child in piano lessons, a piano foundation helps every vocalist.
All other instruments: Ages 8 years and older
Instruments like drums, trumpet and trombone require a fair amount of strength and fine motor skills. A teacher may recommend your child to start earlier than age 8, if the parent is willing to come to each lesson and give the needed support at home. If this is not possible, you may want to consider starting your child in a private piano or a group piano team class. The skills they learn in piano will help them move more quickly when it comes time to start another instrument.
2. Choose a school which offers a choice of group or individual lessons for beginners
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. Take music 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 cannot be distracted by t.v., pets, ringing phones, siblings or anything else. With a lesson time once per week, a professional school environment can produce better results since the only focus at that time is learning music. Students in a school environment are also motivated by hearing peers who are at different levels and by being exposed to a variety of musical instruments. In a music school, the lessons are not just a hobby or sideline for the teacher but a responsibility which is taken very seriously.
4. Make music instrument practicing easier
As with anything, improving in music takes practice. One of the main problems with music lessons is the drudgery of practicing and the fight between parents and students to practice every day. Here are some ways to make practicing easier:
Set the same time every 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 parents to get the child to practice.
We use this method quite often when setting practice schedules for beginners. For a young child 20 or 30 minutes seems like an eternity. Instead of setting a time frame, we use repetition. For example, practice this piece 4 times every day, and this scale 5 times a day. The child then does not pay attention to the amount of time they are practicing their instrument, but knows if they are on repetition number 3 they are almost finished.
This works very well for both children and adult music students. Some adults reward themselves with a yummy dessert after a successful week of practicing. Parents can encourage children to practice by granting them occasional rewards for successful practicing like a new book or a game. In our school we reward young children for a successful week of practicing with practice tokens and stickers on their work. Praise tends to be the most coveted award – there just is no substitute for a pat on the back for a job well done. Sometimes we all have a week with little practicing, in that case there is always next week.
5. Use recognized music 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. There are books that can start you at a level you are comfortable with. These materials have been researched and are continually upgraded and improved to make learning easier. These materials 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 and institutions will recognize the materials and be able to smoothly continue from where the previous teacher left off.
Most Importantly… HAVE FUN!
Music should be something that you enjoy for a lifetime. So, try not to put unrealistic expectations on yourself or your children to learn too quickly. Everyone learns at a different pace and the key is to be able to enjoy the journey.