Music Lessons 101
Do you want to be a music parent? You need to know these 5 things!
How do you know what to expect from music lessons if you never had music lessons yourself? Maybe you did take lessons, but you’ve never considered lessons from a parent’s perspective. I’m going to show you how to tell if your child is ready for lessons, how lessons work, how to practice, how to help your student be successful, and what your music teacher really wants you to know! I’ve been a piano teacher for over 15 years and this is based on questions I get asked frequently. Please READ THIS if you’re considering lessons for your child because you need to know these things!
How can I tell if my child is ready?
Music lessons are a commitment financially so you don’t want to jump in without realistic expectations. First of all, your child has to really want this. I wouldn’t just enroll them in lessons because you wish that you would have learned an instrument. Do they love music, get excited when they hear their favorite songs, love getting a chance to play on a piano, guitar or whatever instrument they have around them? That’s a great sign that they are ready! If it’s their idea then encouraging home practice will be much easier for you as the parent.
If they can focus on a favorite activity for 5-10 minutes then they are ready. The myth is that they need to focus for a full 30 minutes. Nope! They will switch activities during the lesson to stay engaged and learning. If they are very young (under age 5), having some early reading skills is very helpful. I wrote a blog post with more information about assessing lesson readiness, including a specific evaluation for the parent. If you do the evaluation but feel that your child isn’t quite ready for private lessons then Oconee Music offers preschool group keyboard classes.
How do lessons work?
Once a week the student will meet with the teacher for a 30-60 minute private lesson. The teacher will give an assigment consisting of technical exercises and songs to take home and practice daily. The next week the teacher gives feedback on the progress and a new assignment. In addition to the weekly lesson there are performance opportunities to provide motivation: such as recitals, festivals and group classes.
A private lesson teacher may be one of the few no
n-parental adults who has weekly one-on-one time with your child. They will grow to care deeply about them and can be a wonderfully supportive part of a child’s life! I still keep in touch with my piano teachers and former students and count them as deeply influential in developing character as well as musical skill. You want to make sure that your child likes their teacher and that it is a supportive environment for learning.
Your child will not always love their assignments or practice – learning a new skill is a challenge and a good teacher will push a student to achieve excellence while inspiring them to work hard. Private lessons encourage students to develop great character skills like tenacity, perseverance, grit, determination, patience, and growth mindset as well as tangible skills like remaining poised in front of an audience, setting and working toward long-term goals, time management, and mastering the instrument they are studying.
Should my child practice?
I’m here to drop a truth bomb: if the student is not practicing you’re wasting time and money. That sounds harsh to say but it’s very true because the only way to success is repetition–there’s no quick fix! If the parent doesn’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 going to wonder: “Why did I just spent all this money on lessons and she still can’t play anything that sounds like music?!”
Could your child successfully learn to read if they spent 30 minutes a week with their teacher and never did anything at home? Food for thought…
Ideally the student will work with the instructor to develop a specific practice plan. Maybe that means practicing for a specific time frame (i.e. 30 minutes a day), maybe it means playing each piece or exercise a specific number of times daily, or working on a spot in a piece a specific number of times. If the child is younger than 8 or 9, they will usually need supervision for a portion of the practice time to make sure they are completing the entire assignment accurately.
Parents, this will not always be fun for the kids!!! Rest assured, I hated practicing certain things as a child that are directly responsible to the caliber of musicianship I enjoy as an adult (Ahem, scales…dreadfully boring!) It doesn’t have to be a battle if you get a good, consistent routine but there will always be phases of waning interest or frustration that you will need to guide your child through. This is where those character skills are honed, in the day-to-day work.
How can I ensure that my child is successful?
You’re reading this article so that is a GREAT sign! The parent is the single largest factor in success. I’ve seen very talented children fail or drop off because parents couldn’t set up a consistent routine. I’ve also seen students who struggled at first become beautiful, first-class musicians because their parents cared for the investment and helped with practice and routines at home. Make practice a part of your life like brushing teeth, going to school, and eating dinner and you will always see progress.
Communicate with the teacher if you’re struggling! I LOVE parents who are actively involved and let me know about practice problems. I can only help if I know there is an issue.
Prioritize taking your children to music events and concerts so they are exposed to good music! Listening to live musicians is motivational and enjoyable. Listen to music in the car, discuss it, write down pieces they enjoy and let their teacher know.
What does my music teacher REALLY want me to know?
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. I think a lot of people get into music lessons because they want to play a specific song that they heard in a movie, in church, on the radio, etc. That’s great! It is good to have a goal! Just know that it’s going to take your child several years to get there and that’s if they practice at home! I personally took music lessons from age 5 to 23 and still check-in with an instructor now and then.
Music teachers REALLY want parents to know that “I just want my kids to be exposed to music” isn’t a good reason to do lessons. The child is intelligent enough to know when they are not getting any better and it becomes a frustrating experience for them and actually turns them off of music and makes them feel negative and unsuccessful. Students who put in regular practice time and master new songs regularly find the most enjoyment and excitement from the music lessons because they have a sense of pride and they can also hear how good they sound!