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Starting Music Lessons
5 Ways To Get The Most Out Of Music Lessons
These tips will help your child have a successful and rewarding experience in learning an instrument. PSMD has discovered these tips from years of teaching and our experiences with teaching hundreds of students each year.
1. HOW YOUNG IS TOO YOUNG – Starting at the right age
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 become a negative factor. If a child begins music lessons too soon, they may feel overwhelmed and frustrated and want to stop lessons. Sometimes if the child waits a year to start music lessons the likelihood of him or her showing interest and practicing is greater. 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 taking music lessons.
At PSMD, 5 years old is the youngest age 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 – Acoustic, Electric, and Bass
We recommend students start guitar lessons around 8 years of age or older. Playing the guitar requires a fair amount of pressure on the fingertips and younger children may find playing uncomfortable. Around ages 8 or 9 children’s hands have grown and toughened enough to manage a junior guitar and can handle tender fingers. Bass guitar students usually won’t begin training on a bass guitar until around age 10.
Our music faculty recommends children wait until they are at least 7 or 8 years of age to begin vocal lessons. Due to the physical nature of voice lessons (proper breathing techniques, development of the vocal cords and lung capacity), the younger body is generally not yet ready for the rigors of vocal technique.
We accept violin students starting at age of 5. Some instructors will begin training children as young as 3, but experience has proven the most productive learning occurs when the beginner is 5 years of age or older.
2. INSIST ON PRIVATE LESSONS
Group classes work well for preschool music programs and theory lessons. However, when actually learning how to play an instrument, private lessons are far superior since in private music lessons it is hard to miss anything, and each student can learn at their 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. During a private lesson, the student is the primary focus of the teacher and provides an environment for maximum productivity.
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 T.V., pets, ringing phones, siblings or anything else. With only half an hour to one 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 at PSMD 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:
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 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 for successful practicing. In our school, we reward young children with stars and stickers for a job well done. Praise tends to be the most coveted award – there just is no substitute for a pat on the back for a job well done.
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 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.