How to get the most out of Music Lessons
These guidelines will help you have a successful, rewarding experience learning an instrument. These are practical tips that we have discovered from years of teaching and our experiences teaching hundreds of students each year.
How Young is Too Young--Starting at the Right Age
Adults can start taking lessons at any time. Their success is based on how willing they are to commit to practicing.
Starting a child at the right age, however, is a key element to the success of their lessons. Over the years, we have found that if you start a child too soon, they may become frustrated or overwhelmed. Sometimes, if a child waits one more year to start lessons, their progress will 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. Don't forget though, age is just a number. If you feel your child is mature for their years, or have older siblings who are playing an instrument, we are happy to interview the student to see when will be the right time to start lessons.
Guitar: We will start electric & acoustic guitar lessons at 7 years old, and bass lessons at 8. We suggest bass students be a little older because the strings on a bass are bigger. Often we find that full size instruments may be too big for some students, but guitars do come in 1⁄4, 1⁄2 and 3⁄4 sizes that allow them to learn comfortably.
Piano/Keyboard: We like students to be at least 5 years old for private or group piano lessons. Students at this age have begun to develop longer attention spans and can retain material with ease. It is also easier for a younger student to co-ordinate playing the piano because they can look down and easily see the keys.
Drums: As with the piano, we like the youngest drum students to be 5 years old. Students need to be big enough to reach the pedals and cymbals. As with the piano, the student is able to easily see what part of the instrument they should be playing.
Strings: We accept string students (violin, viola & cello) beginning at age 6. At this age students can easily hold the instrument and understand finger placement. Stringed instruments also come in 1⁄4, 1⁄2, & 3⁄4 sizes to accommodate different sized students.
Woodwinds/Brass: Because of physical exertion and lung power needed for these instruments, our students start at about 10 years old or 4th or 5th grade. Most students have an opportunity to join band at school in the 5th or 6th grade. Private lessons help compliment what they learn in school, as well as allow them to advance in band class faster.
Take Lessons in a Professional Teaching Environment
Not only is it important to have a qualified teacher, but the learning environment is also big factor in a student's success. Lessons should be conducted in a location where the focus is on music education. In a professional studio environment, students cannot be distracted by TV, ringing phones, siblings, radios, etc. At Wasilla Music & Dance Center, the lessons are not just a hobby or side-line for the teacher, but a responsibility which is taken very seriously.
Make Practicing Easy & Fun!
Improving in music requires regular practice. This can sometimes present problems when students try to fit an additional 30 minutes into an already busy day. Here are a few ideas to make practicing something to look forward to:
Time: Set the same time every day to practice so it becomes a habit. Try to average 5 days or more each week. Generally, the earlier in the day it can happen the better. For children, that means less reminding throughout the day, and for adults, they can get their practice finished before the day runs away from them.
Repetition: This method works well for beginners. For a young child, 20 or 30 minutes of practice can seem like an eternity. Instead of setting a time frame, try repetition. You can have the student practice this piece 4 times every day, and this scale 5 times a day. That way they're not paying attention to the amount of time they're practicing. But if they are on their 3rd repetition; they know they're almost finished.
Rewards: This works very well for both children and adult students. Adults may reward themselves with a latte after a successful week of practicing. At Wasilla Music & Dance Center, we reward young students with stars and stickers on their work. Parents can encourage children to practice by granting them occasional rewards for successful practicing. Praise tends to be the most coveted award. Sometimes we all have a week with little practicing, but no worries, there's always next week!
Keep it Cool: Pre-teens and teens practice more often and more willingly when they are learning music they like to listen to themselves. Encourage your student to tell their teacher what styles of music they enjoy. Our teachers ask students to bring their favorite CD's to the lesson. The teacher is able to choose how to apply what the student is learning to a song the student is familiar with. Our teachers have access to a computer, where they can "slow down" a song so the student can take it home and incorporate it into their practice sessions.
Music should be something that you enjoy for a lifetime. Playing an instrument provides both a creative outlet for personal expression and an appreciation for all types of music performance. 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!