5 Tips to Getting the Most Out of Your 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.

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 they are to commit to practicing. We teach many beginner students in their 60's and 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 have negative results. If a child is put into lessons too soon, he or she may feel overwhelmed and frustrated and want to stop lessons. The last thing you want to do is turn a child off to music just because of one unpleasant experience which could have been prevented.

Sometimes, by waiting a year before starting lessons, a young child can progress much quicker. 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:

3 - 4 Years Old

If a preschooler has a keen desire and wants to start music, a group preschool music class will provide 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 school, and learns more effectively through the game-oriented preschool environment.

In our K-3 and K-4 music classes, we teach:

  • Beats and rhythm
  • Timing
  • Note recognition
  • Pitch
  • Voice warm-ups and breathing
  • Lots of singing
  • Movement to rhythm
  • Instruments
  • Music History

...and LOTS more!!!!

Piano/Keyboard

At our school, 5 years old is the youngest age that 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 - Classical, Acoustic, Electric and Bass

We also start 5-year-olds in classical guitar lessons. Guitar playing requires a fair amount of pressure on the fingertips from pressing on the strings, but the classical guitar with its wider neck and nylon strings is perfect for young students to learn how to play individual notes on the guitar, read music, and get a good foundation on the guitar. For students 8 years old all the way through adult, we offer classical, acoustic, and electric guitar. Bass guitar students generally are 10 years old and older.

Voice Lessons

10 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.

For ages 6-10, we offer a choir class where young singers can learn the basics of singing, including pitch, timing, simple harmony, and basic breathing and much more.

Drums

On average, drum students may start between the ages of 8 and 10. This varies greatly depending on the size of the child. Students must be able to reach both the pedals and the cymbals.

Flute, Clarinet & Saxophone

Due to lung capacity, we recommend that most woodwind beginners are 9 and older.

Trumpet, Baritone, Trombone, French Horn & Tuba

The brass instruments require physical exertion and lung power. 9 years and older is a good time to start playing a brass instrument.

Violin, Viola & Cello

We accept violin students from the age of 5. Some teachers will start as young as 3, but experience has shown us that the most productive learning occurs when the beginner is 5 or older.

Generally, a student will start on the violin since violins come in very small sizes. After the student has grown a little, it is very easy for to change over to viola or cello if desired. Although viola and cello are made in smaller sizes, a child should still be a little older to start on these instruments.

2. INSIST ON PRIVATE LESSONS WHEN LEARNING A SPECIFIC INSTRUMENT

Group classes work well for preschool music programs, and for theory lessons. However, when actually learning how to play an instrument, private lessons are far superior, since in private lessons it is hard to miss anything, and each student can learn at his or her own pace. This means the teacher does not have to teach a class at a middle of the road level, but has the time and focus to work on the individual student's strengths and weaknesses. For that lesson period, the student is the primary focus of the teacher. The teachers also enjoy this, as they do not have to divide their attention between 5 - 10 students at a time, and can help each student be the best they can be.

3. 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 cannot be distracted by TV, pets, ringing phones, siblings, or anything else. With only 30 minutes to an hour of lesson time 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 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:

Time
Set a consistent time every day for practice so it becomes part of a routine or habit. This works particularly well for children. Generally, the earlier in the day practicing can occur, the less reminding is required by parents to get the child to practice.
Repetition
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 a piece 4 times every day, and this scale 5 times a day. The child then does not pay attention to the amount of time spent practicing, but knows the third repetition is more than halfway finished.
Rewards
This works very well for both children and adult students. Some adults rewards themselves with a cappuccino after a successful week of practicing. Parents can encourage children to practice by granting them occasional rewards for successful practicing. In our school, we reward young children for a successful week of practicing, but don’t forget that 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 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 be 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!!