5 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Music Lessons
AT THE FRISCO SCHOOL OF MUSIC
approved by the Music Educators National Conference
These guidelines may help you to determine the appropriate type of music education program for you and your family. The goal is to ensure that you have a successful, rewarding experience learning music.
1. STARTING THE RIGHT PROGRAM AT THE RIGHT TIME
At our school four years old is the youngest age that we start children in piano lessons. At this age they have begun to develop longer attention spans and can retain material with ease.
Guitar - Acoustic, Electric and Bass:
Five years old and up for private guitar lessons and seven years old and up for group guitar lessons. Guitar playing requires a fair amount of pressure on the fingertips for pressing on the strings. Young children generally have small hands and may find playing uncomfortable (nylon strings and a set-up for the guitar are recommended). Bass guitar students are usually ten years or older.
Six years old is recommended as the youngest age for private vocal lessons. Due to physical nature (proper breathing techniques, development of vocal chords and lung capacity) the younger body is generally not yet ready for the rigors of vocal technique.
Violin and Viola Lessons:
We accept violin and viola students from the are of four years old. Some teachers will start younger children, but our experience has shown us the most productive learning occurs when the beginner is at least four year old.
Usually seven years old would be about right for beginning drums. This can vary quite a bit depending on the size of the child. Being able to reach both the pedals and the cymbals is the main physical concern.
Brass and Woodwind Lessons:
Due to lung capacity demands and sometimes the size of the instrument, we recommend that most woodwind and brass players be nine or older. A younger child can learn note recognition and rhythms by starting on piano or guitar and pick up a woodwind or brass instrument when they are ready.
Early Childhood Music - Three to Six Years Old:
Singing, rhythm instruments, movement, listening, plus many other age appropriate musical activities. Our PERFORMING ARTS PRESCHOOL “Musical Arts Schoolhouse” has a specially designed curriculum for children to experience music and the arts plus academics in a unique preschool setting. Graduates of this program tend to be highly successful in future musical skill building.
Music class activities include songs, chants, singing games, bouncing and rocking songs, instrument playing, short listening exercises, tonal and rhythm patterns, and movement. Children delight in the material and participate readily and joyfully. Repertoire is carefully selected to meet emerging interest in language, and the physical needs of the children as they strive to gain control of their developing bodies and their unwavering sense of wonder.
Research shows that early music experiences open the learning connections to the brain. The same connections that carry music information carry math and science information. Although higher IQ or academic test scores may not be our goal, it is certainly a benefit for all children to have these learning capabilities tapped to their greatest potential.
Group Piano - Four Year Olds to 5th Graders:
This is an excellent setting for introducing you or your child to the fundamentals of music and the piano keyboard. Most importantly, students should be allowed to progress at their own pace (take their time or move ahead in the materials) within the group setting.
Students learn how to read music, understand rhythm and learn about musical phrasing and character while participating in a fun group music-making experience. Knowing these basics will greatly enhance other instrumental study as well. Students should be able to focus and work on their own since the teacher visits each student individually. Look for a small class size.
Private Lessons - Individual Instruction:
For children, starting at the right age for each individual child is a key element to the success of the beginner, regardless of the instrument. Some people will tell you "the sooner, the better," but this attitude can actually backfire and be a negative. If a child is put into private lessons too soon, they may feel overwhelmed and frustrated and want to stop. The last thing you want to do is turn a child off to music just because they had one unpleasant experience that could have been prevented.
Students can be successful at music whether they start at elementary, middle or high school ages. Children who are older than the suggested earliest starting age will generally do very well, though care in building practice habits is essential. Some families choose a special early age program-such as Suzuki violin or primer piano-starting as early as 3 1/2 or 4 years old. Parent support at lessons and during the home practice sessions is required. At this age some children have begun to develop longer attention spans and can retain material with ease. Others will need to wait until the age of 5 or older, depending upon development.
Continuing general music-making in a group setting is very beneficial and highly encouraged. Private lessons provide the optimum learning environment. Look for teachers who use creative artistic materials, and present musical ideas in a positive and motivating way. Quality teachers will provide many opportunities for performance (recitals, festivals, contests) throughout the year.
Adults - It's Never Too Late:
Adults can start lessons at any time. Their success is based on how willing one is to commit to practicing and attending the weekly lessons. Building a skill takes time-give yourself 9 to 12 months to see significant results. Look for a program that will not just encourage you to learn your favorite songs, but help you understand how music is put together. Believe it or not, understanding the basics goes a long way toward making music success easier.
2. TAKE LESSONS IN A PROFESSIONAL ENVIRONMENT
Learning music is not just a matter of having a qualified teacher and a quality instrument, but also having an environment that is focused on music education. In a professional school environment a student cannot be distracted by TV, pets, phone calls, siblings, etc. 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 teaching styles. In a music school, the lessons are not a hobby or side-line for the teacher, but a career responsibility which is taken very seriously, by both teacher AND student.
3. LOOK FOR A WELL ROUNDED PROGRAM
Studies show that students who participate in a weekly group music performance class tend to progress faster and continue their music studies longer. By attending a group class in addition to the private lesson, not only does the student learn the basic skills of literate musicianship, but they are afforded the opportunity to see that other students are pursuing similar worthwhile goals. These classes reinforce what students are learning at the private lessons as well as provide additional performance opportunities. Understanding how music is put together is essential for anyone wishing to excel at an individual instrument. Learning how to read music is like learning a second language. To communicate effectively in a language, one learns not only how to speak, but also how to read and write.
4. MAKING PRACTICE EASIER
As with anything, improving in music takes practice. One of the main concerns heard from students and families is that practicing can become repetitive and unexciting. Fighting between parents and students to practice can also become commonplace if care is not taken to structure the activity. Here are some ways to make practicing more successful.
TIME: Set the same time every day to practice so it becomes part of a routine habit. Generally the earlier in the day the practicing can occur, the less reminding is required by parents to get the student to practice. Also, breaking up the practice period into two 15-minute increments (morning and evening) can be very successful, especially for young students.
REPETITION: Try this method when setting practice schedules for beginners: For some students 20-30 minutes seems like an eternity. Instead of setting a time frame, use repetition. For example, "practice this piece 4 times every day, and this scale 5 times a day." The student then does not pay attention to the amount of time they are practicing, but knows that if they are on repetition number 3 they are almost finished.
REWARDS: This works very well for both children and adult students. For example, parents can encourage children by granting them occasional rewards for successful practicing. Some students earn stickers and stars. Also, yearly achievement programs where students earn ribbons, certificates, medals and trophies can be a great incentive. Praise tends to be the most coveted award-there is just no substitute for a pat on the back for a job well done!
When seeking an instructor or a music school situation, ask about their practice-building methods. Learning an instrument takes the dedication of more than just the student.
5. MOST IMPORTANTLY - HAVE FUN!
Music should be something that you enjoy for a lifetime. So, try not to put unrealistic expectations on yourself or your children to learn too quickly. There are always ups and downs to learning a new skill. The most important thing is to be willing to persevere through the plateaus; and, enjoy the musical experience!