Here are some practical tips that we have discovered from years of teaching and our experiences with teaching hundreds of students each year.
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. Every child is different and we feel parents know their child best. Some parents may begin lessons when the child shows an interest in music and asks to play an instrument. Other parents may begin lessons because they consider music an important part of their child’s overall development. Other parents may begin lessons because they see music as fun and want their child to have the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of music. There are many other great reasons to begin lessons. The following are guidelines we have found to be successful in determining how young a child can start taking music lessons. Adults can start any instrument at any time.
- 3 – 6 Years Old For a pre-schooler starting private music lessons, we have found that the Suzuki teaching method works best. At this age, the student would begin with an introduction class, then take weekly private lessons in violin or piano with the parent. You can start weekly private cello lessons at age 5 with parent.
- Piano At our school, Suzuki piano students can begin as early as age 3. Beginner students starting at the age 7-8 years old, may use the traditional method for private piano lessons or the Suzuki piano method.
- Voice Lessons 8-10 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 child is generally not yet ready for private lessons. For younger children, we recommend children’s choir.
- Flute We recommend that most woodwind beginners are 9 and older, due to lung capacity, .
- Violin We accept violin students from the age of 3 and up for our Suzuki strings program. Beginner students who are 9 years old and up, may enroll in private lessons with the traditional teaching method or Suzuki method.
2. Insist on Private Lessons when Learning a Specific Instrument
- When actually learning how to play an instrument, private lessons are superior. During private lessons, each student can learn at their own pace and lessons are adapted to the learning style that works best for each student.
3. Take Lessons in a Professional Teaching Environment
- Learning music is not just a matter of having a qualified teacher, but also having an environment that is focused on music education. In a professional school environment a student cannot be distracted by t.v., pets, siblings or anything else. With only 1/2 to one hour of lesson time per week, 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 musical instruments. In a music school, the lessons are not just a hobby or sideline for the teacher but a responsibility which is taken very seriously.
4. Make Practicing Easier
- As with anything, improving in music takes practice. We recommend talking with your child’s teacher to design a practice plan. Here are some suggestions to make practicing easier:
- Time Set the same time every day to practice so it becomes part of a routine or habit. This works particularly well for children. Generally the earlier in the day the practicing can occur, the less reminding is required by parents to get the child to practice.
- Repetition We use this method quite often when setting practice schedules for children who are beginner students. For a young child 20 or 30 minutes seems like an eternity. Instead of setting a time frame, we use repetition. For example, practice this piece 4 times every day, and this scale 5 times a day. The child then does not pay attention to the amount of time they are practicing their instrument, but knows if they are on repetition number 3 they are almost finished.
- Rewards This works very well for both children and adult students. Some adults reward themselves with a cappuccino after a successful week of practicing. Parents can encourage children to practice by granting them occasional rewards for successful practicing. In our school we reward young children for a successful week of practicing with stars and stickers on their work. Praise tends to be the most coveted award – for a job well done. Sometimes we all have a week with little practicing, in that case there is always next week.
5. Use Recognized Teaching Materials
- There are some excellent materials developed by professional music educators that are made for students in a variety of situations. For example in piano, there are books for very young beginners, and books for adult students that have never played before. There are books that can start you at a level you are comfortable with. 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 to a different part of the country, qualified teachers and institutions will recognize the materials and be able to smoothly continue from where the previous teacher left off.