These guidelines will help you to have a successful and rewarding experience studying music. These are practical tips that we have discovered after years of teaching and from our experiences with teaching hundreds of students each year.
1) 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, TV, pets, cooking, siblings, or anything else cannot distract the student or the teacher. With only ½ to one hour of lesson time each 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 from 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 a side job for the teachers, but a career and a responsibility, which they take very seriously.
2) Insist on Private Lessons When Starting to Learn an Instrument: A group class works well for intermediate and advanced students. They are also great for theory and preschool music classes. However, when first learning how to play an instrument, private lessons are superior. The advantage of private lessons is the one on one communication between the teacher and the student. In private lessons, it is unlikely that the student will miss anything. Each student can learn at his or her own pace. This means the teacher does not have to teach to a class at the middle of the road level. The teacher 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 teacher also enjoys this because they do not have to divide their attention between 5 or 10 students at a time. The teacher can help each student reach the highest level of performance.
3) Customized Lessons: There are some excellent materials developed by professional music educators, but there is no specific method that works for everyone. While all musicians need to learn the same things, the order in which you learn it varies from person to person. Your teacher should be flexible enough and understand your needs and goals, and ultimately help you learn to play the music you want to play.
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 fighting between parents and students to practice everyday. Here are some ways to make practicing easier: a) Time - Set aside the same time everyday as practice time. It becomes part of a routine or habit. This works particularly well for children. Over time, the students require less reminding because there is a routine. b) Repetition - We use this method quite often when setting a practice schedule for beginners. For a young child, 20 to 30 minutes seems like an eternity. Instead we use repetition. For example, practice this piece 4 times everyday, and this scale 5 times everyday. The children do not pay attention to the amount of time they are practicing their instrument, but they know after repetition number 3 they are almost finished. c) Rewards - This works very well with children and adult students. Parents can encourage children to practice by granting occasional rewards for successful practicing. Praise tends to be the most coveted reward - there is no substitute for a pat on the back for a job well done. We all have a week with little practicing, in that case there is always next week.
5) How Young is too Young - Starting at the Right Age:Teenagers and adults can start at any time. Their success is based on how willing they are to commit to practicing each day. 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. This attitude can actually backfire and be a negative. If children are put in lessons too soon they may feel overwhelmed and frustrated. They may want to stop lessons. The last thing you want to do is turn a child off of music just because he or she had one unpleasant experience, which could have been prevented. Sometimes if a child waits 1 year to start lessons his or her 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 should start.
Piano/Keyboard At our school 4 is the youngest age that we start children in private lessons. At this age they have begun to develop longer attention spans and can retain material with ease.
Guitar- Electric, Acoustic, Classical and Bass 5 years old is the youngest we recommend for guitar lessons. We recommend a ¾ size classical guitar for students 5 to 7 years old. Classical guitars have nylon strings, which require less pressure on the fingertips. The ¾ size seems to fit the student better than a full size guitar. In general, electric guitar is easier than acoustic guitar. Electric guitar has lighter strings and a smaller size body that students tend to find more comfortable. An electric guitar is also much quieter because it has a volume control.
Drums The average youngest starting age is 8. This varies greatly depending on the size of the child. He or she has to be able to reach both the pedals and the cymbals.
Voice 6 years old is recommended as the youngest age for voice lessons.
Music should be something that you enjoy for a lifetime. So, try not to put unrealistic expectations on yourself or your children. Everyone learns at their own pace and in their own way.
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