Working with lots of music students and being a music student myself (yes even I still study!) I come across a lot of common questions about music. This is to serve as a quick reference guide to help you have better success with your instrument.
**Editorial Note: The sections with capital letters and parentheses around them are future blog posts and will be links in the near future as they become available. ex "(ABCDE)" So check back soon. Thanks!**
How long should I be practicing?
This is the most famous question of them all! The rule of thumb for practicing is twice the length of your lesson. So if you have a weekly 30 minute lesson technically you should be practicing 1 hour everyday… Now this is a great way to make tremendous results with your lessons but honestly how realistic is this for most of the students out there? Most students I have dealt with are not this serious yet about their music nor are they mentally ready for that type of commitment. This is a goal that needs to be built up to over a period of time, one that the teacher and student have mutually agreed on to avoid burn out. A very realistic and achievable goal for beginners is a 20-30 minute playing/practicing session (MAKE IT FUN)
How often should I be practicing?
This goes hand in hand with the previous question. The answer is; no less than five days a week. I will leave the math up to you, I applaud my students for the days they do get practice in and gently nudge them on towards five days of practice per week. Emphasizing that we get two whole days off to not think about music at all (if they so choose). Really what is at hand is consistency. If we are preparing for a race and we need to run 2 miles 5 days a week for training, and then we instead decided to run just 10 miles at the end of the week. What kind of results do you think that would achieve? Here’s the formula for success for you: 5/30/Fun. 5 days every week 30 minutes a day and make it as fun as possible.
Should I as the parent be involved in my child’s lessons/practice?
Short answer is, YES! I have dealt with parents on both sides of this, some parents are really involved and others I hear say a lot, “I want it to be their thing…” Think with me for a minute, we have two students attending the same school one set of parents are very active and encouraging in their student’s school life (classes, sports, etc.) the other set of parents are distant and silent on their child’s education, stating that they want their child to learn discipline, and make school their own thing. Which student do you think will do better? Young students, even into early high school, need coaxing and encouragement. The fact of the matter is if no one is helping them learn self discipline and good study habits on a daily basis progress will be slow. Yes the teacher should encourage these practice habits and tools for success but most students are too undeveloped in this area early on to be trusted with such a responsibility yet. The teacher comes once per week but in reality for optimal results the parents have to do the teachers job the rest of the week. (I HAVE TO DO WHAT?)
"I’m stuck!” “I’m frustrated!” “I’m lost" What do I do?
This is a tough place to be. What I find most helpful here is to take a deep look at myself and the tools I am trying to use to succeed. Am I trying the same things over and over again expecting different results? Do you know the definition of insanity? If not, you should look it up! Check your practice habit, (HOW’S YOUR PRACTICE TECHNIQUE) check your material, is this a level you are truly ready to be playing at yet or did you bite off a little more than you can handle. Are you clicking with your current instructor or does it feel more like a dead end? (SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO?) Finally and most importantly you have to be painfully honest with yourself on all of these questions. If you have tricked yourself on one of these or you’re not willing to look the truth in the eye you cannot make any progress.
My child is not interested in music anymore, what should I do?
This is a constant struggle for parents and teachers alike with younger students. But there is hope! I would start with this list ask yourself these questions and see if one of these can liven things up:
How does my student relate to the instructor? Is the instructor providing material that will inspire my student? (SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO?)
Am I as a parent helping in the process, how much am I contributing outside of financial help? (I HAVE TO DO WHAT?)
Has the teacher been phenomenal, and material is engaging but maybe I have been to overbearing? (AVOID BURN OUT)
Simply find a great teacher and then I can relax, right?
Finding the right teacher for yourself or even for your child can be quite tricky. All I am going to say on finding that teacher is do your homework and check references, online reviews etc. But once you do find that amazing teacher, you just get to sit back and relax, right? Wrong. Learning an instrument is hard work and finding a good teacher is a great idea and they will definitely help you reach your goals faster but a lot is riding on the student and how hard they are willing to work. Once you find a teacher you would like to work with I would work out with them a practice plan and be strategic about your progress if you really want to make quick movements.