Full Staff Music, Inc.
School of Music - Instrument Sales - Repairs - Rentals                

614 W. Main St.
St. Charles, Il 60174
(630) 513-7117

Tips for Success                                        

GET THE MOST OUT OF MUSIC LESSONS

This guide will help you or your child have a successful and rewarding experience learning an instrument. These are practical tips that we have learned from years of teaching and from experiences with teaching hundreds of music students.

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." This attitude can actually backfire with negative results. Sometimes, if a very young child starts music lessons too soon, they may feel overwhelmed and frustrated and want to stop lessons. The last thing you want to do is turn a child off music just because they had one unpleasant experience which could have been prevented.

Very young children (ages 3 to 6) are still developing much of their fine motor skills, and most instruments have strength (hand, wrist, arm) and/or air (lung capacity, controlled breathing) requirements that could make learning an instrument difficult for a very young student. Also, some younger children don't have the attention span for a one-on-one 30 minute lesson.
For these reasons, we typically begin teaching private music lessons around 7 years old.

Adult students can start playing an instrument at any time. Their success is based on how much practice they are willing to commit to. We have successfully taught young adult beginner students and mature adults who decided to start music in their retirement years.

2. INSIST ON PRIVATE LESSONS WHEN LEARNING AN INSTRUMENT

Private lessons when learning an instrument are superior to both group lessons and "teach yourself" methods. In a private lesson, the instructor is able to give the student their undivided attention. The lessons can be customized to the student's pace and learning style, and the student's strengths, weaknesses, and interests can be easily addressed. Any questions that arise can be answered by the instructor during the lesson, and instructors can address technique and theory problems that might hinder future progress.
 
3. TAKE LESSONS IN A PROFESSIONAL TEACHING ENVIRONMENT

When students attend music lessons in a professional teaching environment, the typical distractions found in a home are eliminated. A television in a nearby room, siblings running and playing, a friend stopping by, or a barking dog can wreak havoc on a student's concentration and attention span.

In a music school, teaching lessons are not just a hobby or side-job for the instructor, but a career and a responsibility which is taken very seriously. 

In a professional teaching environment the student is encouraged by seeing and hearing their peers also in the process of learning music. Students are exposed to different instruments and different genres of music. They don't feel isolated in their quest for musical knowledge...they are now part of a musical environment.

4. USE RECOGNIZED TEACHING MATERIALS

There are some excellent materials developed by professional music educators that are made for students in a variety of situations. 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, qualified teachers and institutions in your new community will recognize the materials and be able to smoothly continue from where the previous teacher left off.

5. MAKE PRACTICING EASIER

The "old way" of practicing was to set a timer at 30 minutes each day and tell the student that they had to practice until they heard the timer's bell ring. We know that this method of practice doesn't work very well; the student typically loses interest and concentration after the first 10 or 15 minutes. Educational psychology has indicated that there is more to learning than just "putting in a half-hour every day."

TIME - Practicing 20 to 30 minutes everyday is a reasonable goal. The practice sessions can effectively be broken down into two 10 or 15 minute practice sessions everyday. The break between these two daily practice sessions can be 10 minutes to several hours! If possible, set practices for the same time each day so it becomes part of a routine or habit.

REPETITION - Students should practice music the same way that you should eat an elephant...one small piece at a time! It sounds funny, but this is good advice for students trying to learn a challenging piece of music. Learning music in small sections over a few practice sessions will accomplish more than practicing the whole song in one session. When a small section of music is played repetitively, the concepts are more easily "burned" into our mental "hard-drive."

For a younger child, even counting 10 or 15 minutes can seem like an eternity. Instead of setting a time frame, we use repetition. For example, practice this section of this song 4 times every day and this section of this song 5 times a day. Don't count minutes, keep the sessions short and a little less "goal oriented"...just have fun!

REWARDS - HERE ARE A FEW SUGGESTIONS...

  • Parents can set a short term practice goal with a tangible reward at the end; this can be a helpful way to learn self-reliance.
  • At the end of a practice session play a song(s) that you know just for fun.
  • Play a song for yourself, your sibling, your parents, a friend, your pet, or anyone who will listen...it's a mini concert!
  • Remember, praise still tends to be the most coveted reward; A pat on the back feels great after a job well done!
  • You practice daily; you see improvement...upgrade your musical instrument!

6. APPROACH MUSIC LESSONS WITH A POSITIVE ATTITUDE

As music educators, we have been asked many times from desperate, well-intentioned parents: "How do I get my child to practice?"
Let us offer some additional tips that we have picked up over the years as parents and educators.

Nagging your child to practice is not likely to produce a self-motivated child. Leaving it up to your child to practice without some guidance is not fair; few children are motivated without some direction or encouragement. The key is to find a middle ground. Here are some tips for a balanced, positive approach to private music lessons and practicing that can encourage your child and help build self-esteem, self-discipline, and enjoy the rewards of musical accomplishment.

  • Help your child set up a regular time to practice, so it becomes part of a routine or habit. We suggest before or after school, before homework, between chores, after dinner, etc…Whatever works with you and your child’s schedule.
  • Be patient, but firm and persistent about practicing.
  • Praise the act of practicing. Behavior that is noticed and praised tends to get repeated.
  • Notice and praise even the smallest of improvements; criticism doesn’t help.
  • Keep a simple weekly practice chart. Writing in the amount of practice each day or giving a sticker for each day of practice can be motivational.
  • Regularly ask your child’s instructor what they are working on – show genuine interest.
  • Offer (not to be confused with demand) to listen to something your child can play from time to time. Encourage, don’t criticize – this isn’t American Idol!
  • Take your child to see live music. While it’s great to see big acts when they come to your city, you shouldn’t forget to check out live music being played locally at festivals, performance centers, and open-mic nights. Your child can be introduced to new music genres and styles of playing, be inspired to work harder, and have fun when seeing live music up close and personal.
  • Help your child choose a reasonable number of activities to participate in. Be sure to balance the activities between body and mind.
  • Read articles about the value of music education. Parents who are clear on the value of learning music tend to express that value to their children.
  • Remember, music education promotes self-discipline, goal-setting, creativity, self-expression, and builds confidence.

AND MOST IMPORTANTLY...HAVE FUN!
Music is a gift that can be enjoyed on a personal level or with a group, beginning through advanced levels, for a lifetime. Try not to put unreasonable expectations on your children or yourself to learn too quickly. Everyone learns at a different pace, the key is to enjoy the journey!

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