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Five ways to get the most out of your music lessons
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 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 be a negative. If children are put into
lessons before they are ready, they may feel overwhelmed and frustrated and
want to stop the 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 lessons their progress can be much
Children that 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.
21/2- 4 Years Old
A group preschool music program such as Tender Ears or music Initiation is perfect for this age. These classes give a good foundation in music basics which will be helpful in later private lessons. At this level, children learn music through songs, dance and games.
Piano / Keyboard
At our school, 4 years old is the youngest age that we start children on piano. We have small beginner group classes for children 4 - 6 years old and their parents. The parent attends classes with the child to later help them with their home practice. We also have small beginner group lessons for 7 - 10 year olds. These classes can be efficient for one session but we encourage students to then move on to private lessons where the classes are personalized for each individual.
Guitar - Acoustic, Electric and Bass
7 years old is the youngest that we recommend for guitar lessons. Guitar playing requires a fair amount of pressure on the fingertips from pressing on the strings. Children under this age generally have small hands and may find playing uncomfortable. We do offer ukulele classes for younger children. This instrument is smaller and easier to hold for younger children. Bass guitar students generally are 10 years old and older.
Voice lessons are now very popular. Unlike the popular belief that only those with talent can sing, everyone has a voice and it can be trained to sing properly in tune. While older students normally start off their classes with vocalises and breathing exercises to then sing the hits, little ones work on tongue twisters, nursery rhymes and pitch matching exercises before singing songs from their favorites. Although we do offer group lessons for little ones, voice lessons generally work better in a private setting as voices can be quite particular to each one.
The average age of our youngest drum students is 8. This varies greatly depending on the size of the child. They have to be able to reach both pedals and the cymbals.
We accept violin students from the age of 4. Some teachers will start young violin students as young as 3, but experience has shown us the most productive learning on the violin occurs when the beginner is 5 or older.
Wind instruments (Flute, Clarinet & Saxophone)
Due to lung capacity, and the size and weight of the instrument, we recommend that most woodwind beginners are 9 and older.
Insist on Private Lessons when
Learning a Specific Instrument
Group lessons work well for preschool
music, theory lessons and very beginner classes. 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 at
their own pace. This means the teacher does not have to teach a class middle of
the road level, but has time and focus to work on 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 many students at one time and can help the
student be the best they can.
Take Lessons in a Professional
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 only a
1/2 to one hour lesson time per week, a professional school environment can
produce better results since the focus at that time is learning music. Students
in a school environment are also motivated by hearing peers who are at
different levels and are being exposed to a variety of musical instruments. In
a music school, the lessons are not just a hobby or side-line for the teacher
but a responsibility which is taken very seriously.
Make Practicing Easier
As with anything, improving in music takes
practice. One of the main problems with music lessons is the drudgery of
practicing 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 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 repetition number 3 they are almost finished.
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 occasional rewards. Praise tends to be the most coveted award - there is just no substitute for a job well done. Sometimes we all have a week with little practicing, in that case there is always next week. In all cases, the students must learn to praise themselves and get personal satisfaction from their practice. They learn to be self-motivated.
Use Recognized Teaching
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 vry 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.
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