7 WAYS TO GET THE MOST OF MUSIC LESSONS
I host a Daily Music Lesson Show and I often get asked this question. The thing is I feel like most of these points are how to get the most out of anything in life, not just music lessons. So take it, print it out, and read it. Here are my thoughts on what I feel are the 7 ways you can get the most out of your lessons:
1.) HOW YOUNG IS TOO YOUNG? – STARTING AT THE RIGHT AGE/TIME
Students can start an instrument at any time. Their success is based on how willing they are to commit to practicing. I have taught many beginner students of all ages – from 7 to 70.
Don’t worry about starting at the right age – just start at the right time. The answer is usually ‘NOW!’ but don’t confuse the ‘right age’ with being young. Some of my older students excel very fast because they started their instruction at the right time in their life. Age is not the issue, commitment is.
The age that children begin to develop longer attention spans and can also retain material with ease is about 6 y.o.
Stringed instruments – Guitar, Bass, and Violin
Eight years old is the earliest I recommend for guitar lessons. Guitar playing requires a fair amount of pressure on the fingertips from pressing on the strings and a large stretch around the neck of the instrument. Children under 7 generally have small hands and may find playing uncomfortable.
Nine years old is recommended as the youngest age for private vocal lessons. Due to the physical nature of voice lessons (proper breathing techniques, development of the vocal chords and lung capacity), the younger body is generally not yet ready for the execution of vocal technique.
Flute, Clarinet, Saxophone, Trumpet, and Trombone
Due to lung capacity (and in the case of the saxophone / the size of the instrument), and physical exertion – I recommend that most Woodwind and Brass beginners are 8 and older.
2.) TAKE PRIVATE LESSONS WHEN LEARNING A SPECIFIC INSTRUMENT
I never understood the ‘Self-taught’ declaration. We learn through each other, so we should take lessons from each other. Learn it right the first time. There’s music theory, guitar and piano technique, arrangement, music technology, ear training, and so on. Its so much fun to learn, bounce ideas off people, and meet others that have the same interests you have. In private lessons, the teacher can focus on an individual’s strengths and weaknesses while the student can progress at their own pace. In contrast, students who learn in group lessons learn from each other – which is a learning experience that no other community can offer. Do both, and watch yourself excel quickly.
3.) LOOK UP – AND PAY IT FORWARD
Whether its a guitar player, or a music tech inventor, or even a poet who had things to say that make you a better player and person – always have someone to look up to. Learning music is not just a matter of having a qualified teacher. Students are also motivated by having peers who are at different levels and by being exposed to a variety of musicians and instruments. Remember, you only learn by those who are better than you, because one day you’ll be where they are, and you’ll be asked to pay it forward.
4.) MAKE PRACTICING EASIER
Practice… yep – gotta do it – and why not? I have so much fun practicing. Which is why I’ve excelled in such a short time. How short? Well I didn’t start playing guitar until I was 16, and then entered college for Music and was getting ran circles around. But I stuck with it. I was dedicated, passionate about it, and did it everyday. The trick is to learn songs you ENJOY, play an instrument you LOVE, and meet friends you IDENTIFY with. Make goals that reward your awesome work. Maybe you want to learn a song this month, and your girlfriends anniversary is approaching. Well, then learn the song with the goal of surprising someone on their birthday or anniversary.
Here’s how to make practicing easier:
Set the same time every day to practice so that it becomes part of a routine or habit. A 20 minute practice without interruptions is lot more efficient then a 3 hour practice of just fooling around.
For a young child 20 or 30 minutes seems like an eternity. But within that 20 minute practice you should concentrate on ONE or TWO topics. For example, practicing a piece 4 times every day and a scale 5 times a day.
5.) FRIENDS, INTERNET, CONTENT!
The amount of resources out there are amazing. When I was learning guitar I didn’t have Hi-Speed internet, Video Shows, forums, e-books, etc. Today if I have a question then the answer is now at the tip of my fingers. In addition you can now self-publish everything too, so your knowledge can help others in the same way that others have helped you – it’s so exciting! So the easiest way to learn is to pick the brains of EVERYONE around you. Surf the internet, ask your friends, play gigs, make mistakes, learn from them, try everything, teach privately, join a forum, etc.
No matter what your level, or your demographic, or your location, there’s a place for you – there’s a place for everyone!
6.) YOU DON’T KNOW SOMETHING UNLESS YOU CAN TEACH IT TO SOMEBODY
You know that new scale you learned today? Or that cool song you spent hours on? Teach it to a friend! Go ahead – do it. And if you get nervous or unsure about it, then it means your not confident in what you’ve learned.
So stand tall, and smile – because you DO know it, so prove it – teach it!
7.) HAVE FUN!!
I always get asked – whats the better/easier instrument to learn. The simple answer – the one you are passionate about the most. Music should be something that you enjoy for a lifetime! If you play guitar because you think it’ll be easier, but your heart is leaning towards the violin or trumpet, then you’re making a mistake. I truly believe that the reason why I have excelled is because I picked the right instrument. When you FEEL it, then your practices not only become more enjoyable, but more productive, too. Don’t put unrealistic expectations on yourself to learn too quickly. If it was so easy then there would be no reward. Stick with it, you’ll get it. Just remember – it’s about the journey as much as it is about the destination.
Hope this helps!