How do you know what to expect from music lesson if you never had music lessons yourself? Or maybe you had a bad experience with music lessons and want to make sure your kids do not have that same experience. I’m going to give you an overview of the lesson process, home practice expectation, general policies, and tell you what your teacher really wants you to know!
Lesson Process: How do Lessons work? What do I need to know?
Your instructor is your child’s guide to their own self-discovery. Once a week you will meet with your teacher for a private lesson, in which the teacher will give you an assigment consisting of technical exercises and repertoire (songs!). The assigment should be taken home and practiced daily. The next week your teacher gives you feedback on the progress and a new assignment. There will be performance opportunities to provide motivation: recitals, festivals and group classes. The bulk of the learning will take place at home, like I said before, your instructor is a guide.
Before you get your children started in music lessons, one of the first things to consider is the long-term commitment. Learning an instrument takes years. To be able to play something recognizable takes years. I think a lot of people get into music lessons cause they want to play the song that they heard on youtube, in a movie, in church, on the radio, etc. That’s great! It’s a good goal but it’s going to take your child several years to get there at a minimum and that’s if they practice at home. When you think about the time and financial commitment for your family, just realize that if you want to achieve even a basic level of competency at the instrument then it will take YEARS! I personally took music lessons from age 5 to 23 (when I finished college). Obviously not everyone will become a music major, but that brings us to another point when considering lessons: KNOW YOUR GOALS!
People look for lessons because
- I want my kid to be exposed to music
- I want my kid to be able to play proficiently songs that they love (pop, musicals, etc)
- I want my kid to be a competent classical musician and potentially major/minor in music OR get a college scholarship in music.
If you’re on the number 1 train, just go find a group class. Seriously, if you’re just looking for a short-term exposure, you will waste so much money going through private lessons. Numbers 2 and 3 will follow the same structure as far as the length of time in lessons and the years it will take but the teacher will develop a different plan for the technique and repertoire at some point. ALWAYS COMMUNICATE YOUR GOALS TO YOUR INSTRUCTOR!
Ok, I understand the actual lessons, now what about practicing? Do we really need to do it?
I’m here to drop a truth bomb. If the student is never practicing at home you’re just wasting time and money. That sounds harsh to say but it’s very true because the only way to improve is to do something over and over – there’s no quick fix. If you don’t follow through and help the student practice at home then they’re not going to make progress, they’re not going to learn how to play music and then you’re gonna be like, “Why did I just spent all this money on lessons and she still can’t play anything that sounds like music?!”
If you just want your kid to be exposed to music have her take a group class somewhere! If you want your child to really learn an instrument then make sure that they are practicing at home! That’s the only way that they’re going to actually develop and make progress. I’m not kidding – there is no short fix for this. I have never, ever, ever met someone who learned to play an instrument at a level without practicing at all; at least, not in a way that people want to hear! Haha!
What does the parent need to do?
encourage the student to practice
get them set up on a practice routine
make sure that they’re practicing their assignment
communicate with the teacher about progress
Some people can get away with less practice than others but everyone needs practice! That’s just the truth. One of my most talented friends in college as a music major could play just about anything she picked everything up very quickly: piano, accordion, violin trumpet, saxophone, etc. You name it, she could probably play it. When this girl decided she wanted to go for the violin she practiced all the time and become VERY good at that one instrument. The moral of the story is that even though she had natural talent, she was willing to work at it and put a lot of effort into so she saw results!
I never enjoyed practice as a kid — I’d be lying if I said that I did — but I did do it, mostly because of my mom, which took me to a point of proficiency. When I realized what I was playing was starting to sound like real music, I got my own motivation behind it and started practicing on my own. It wasn’t until I was putting in several hours a day that I got to be more advanced That’s just the case with musical instruments. Now, don’t worry. You’re not going to have your six-year-old practicing two hours a day but they should be at least putting in enough time to finish what their instructors assign them. When you are planning your child’s extracurricular activities don’t think that Music is just going to be a commitment once a week because it’s going to be a commitment every day!!
Depending on how young the child is, they will probably need some help in the beginning! If you have a 6-8 year old beginning in music lessons they’re going to need a little bit a help at home. It’s just like learning how to read, if you think about it. They’re going to school for 5-6 hours every day, five days a week, to learn their other subjects. Music is a full-brain, complicated skill to learn and we also have to learn to read essentially a new language. You’re only with your teacher one day a week for 30-60 minutes. The person who makes up the slack is the parent and if you can’t sit down with your child and you don’t have the time then I just don’t want you to waste your money with music lessons. It’s a big commitment to be a Music parent. It really is!!! This is why I really appreciate all of the music parents at my studio because I know that they have really worked and sacrificed to get your kids in music lessons and to give them this gift so that the rest of their life they can always have music.
Do I need an instrument?
Yes, you absolutely need an instrument. I get asked this question a lot! If you read the practice section above, then you hopefully understand the importance of regular at-home practice. It is crucial for progress. You’re investing in an education for your child where you get to be the teacher for the rest of the week after lesson day is over. Being a music parent takes a lot of commitment, but knowing that the end goal is so amazing should help ease the burden!
So how do lessons really work? What does my teacher want me know?
In a nutshell, you need to practice every day for years and years to achieve mastery. Malcolm Gladwell suggests in his book Outliers that there is a 10,000-Hour Rule. He considers the 10,000-Hour Rule to be the key to success in any field. It is simply a matter of practicing a specific task that can be accomplished with 20 hours of work a week for 10 years.
Perhaps I should have titled this article with something about practicing, but I think if you aren’t a musician, then you don’t necessarily think that there is so much work involved. It seems like it’s just something fun and glamorous that should come easily and always be fun. It is super fun and some people have more natural ability than others but to be a GREAT musician takes something even more special and rare than talent: discipline and perseverance!!!