Category Archives: Advice for Parents

How to get the most out of your private lessons

 

As a longtime teacher of music, and even longer student of music, I have had the opportunity to learn via trial and error many methods that have served me and my students. Since we’re getting ready for back to school, and I’m getting ready to welcome a bunch of new students into my studio, I thought I’d share a list of tips on how to get the most out of your private lessons.  Private lessons ain’t cheap, so why not get absolutely everything you can out of them!

  1. Practice

Obviously, you must have known that this would be number 1.   Not only does practicing help you to master the many skills your teacher is teaching you, but it also helps for you to make discoveries, be creative and enjoy your lessons even more.  Aim to practice a little bit every day, even five or ten minutes and increase the length of each session once you’ve established the habit. You’ll find you love your lessons even more!

  1. Get to know your teacher

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had people studying with me, and they have no idea what my training is or even my performance experience.  Not having a clue about your teacher means you’re not getting the most out of them.  Find out how they got into music, where they studied, what their performance background is and how long they’ve been teaching.  Ask your teacher about their experiences as a student, performer and teacher, or at the very least check out their website so you know who you’re working with!

  1. Ask questions

There is nothing I love more than for a student to ask questions. Not only does it help me to structure our work to suit their needs, but it also gives me feedback on the work we’re doing.  Be an active participant in your lessons and you will grow so much more as a musician.  Teachers love to answer your questions!

  1. Do your research

I always love it when my students dig a little deeper into the work we’re doing.  It’s always a good idea to listen to recordings of songs that you are working on, so you can get a sense of how the music is performed.  Watch YouTube videos of professionals, amateurs and students performing, so you can get a sense of what is possible.  It’s also a great idea to research the composers of the music you are learning and even the era of music, so you can get a sense of history and context.

  1. Record your lessons

I make all of my voice students record their lessons, so they can practice along with “me” between sessions.  I have some of my piano students doing this now, as it is extremely helpful to hear directions over and over again and to hear how they sound when they are playing.  Keeping an archive of lessons (I have every lesson I’ve ever taken saved in a folder in my Dropbox) helps you to go back an review past work, and it also helps for you to check in to see how much you have grown.  All you need is a smart phone and you’re good to go!

  1. Perform

Performance is something that can be tricky for people, but it’s important to remember that music is a performing art.  I always urge my students to find a way to perform in a context that they feel comfortable with, in order to grow as a musician.  It’s good to move through nerves in order to get to the core of the music, plus it’s a great way to have a goal to work towards.  You don’t have to book a concert hall to do it either: consider a nursing home, a school or even just have a few friends or family members over.  You’ll be bringing joy to them as you develop your skills.

Back to school time is always a great opportunity to start new habits and to dig a little deeper into your work.  Try out a few of these tips and let me know how it’s helped you!

 

How to get ready for your fall piano/voice lessons

Now that summer is winding down and our minds are on the back to school crunch, I have been getting several questions on how to prepare to start up piano/voice lessons again after summer holidays, or really any holidays when you’ve been away from your music routine for longer than a few days.

Around here (NYC), most children of school age attend camp – either sleep away or day camp, and it is rare that any of them have an instrument or even the time to practice on.   Or maybe you’re an adult student or even a professional musician/music teacher who has been away from the instrument for a few weeks and you want to get back up to speed, PRONTO.  Here are some tips to help get you (or your child) going again

  1. Get organized

The number one step to get ready for the school year is to gather all of your materials and get them organized. Yep, locate your piano books, dictation books, music binder and recordings of your lessons and get them all in one place.  Then get organized – punch holes, put in order, label, etc to make sure that everything you need is in one place.  Don’t throw anything out without discussing with your teacher first!

  1. Review

Now that your materials are assembled and meticulously organized, you should have a look over what you covered in the last term.  What songs were you working on?  What skills were you trying to develop?  What were some of the challenges you had?  Remind yourself where you left off.

  1. Create a short technical routine

If you’re a pianist, put together a few of the technical patterns together that you were working on, either scales or an etude or two.  If you’re a singer, work with a recording of a past lesson, preferably one that’s on the easier side.  Don’t start with a two-hour practice session, as you may injure yourself hitting too hard the first few times.  Give yourself a short 15 to 20 minute session once or twice a day while you build your chops back up.

  1. Reflect

Make a list of what you achieved last semester.  Did you finally sing that high A?  Did you play something very technically challenging? Did you write music for the first time? Write down a list.  Then, make a list of what you had difficulty with and even what you didn’t like about your work last term.  That might give you some clues as to what needs to be addressed this term, and will give your teacher some insight on how to structure learning for this term.

  1. Plan

Think about what you would like to accomplish this term.  Are there songs or pieces you have been inspired by?  Have you noticed deficiencies in your playing?  Did you hear some music this summer that inspired you? Make a list and bring it to your teacher.  I love it when my students come to me with an agenda and list of goals, so that we can come up with a flexible plan together!

  1. Commit

Now is the time to have a good look at your/your child’s fall schedule and figure out when the best time to practice will be. So many people don’t do this and it can cause so much stress!  Study the week’s activities and see when the best time to practice should be.  Maybe you’re a morning person, or you do best before bed.  Maybe Wednesdays are going to be crazy this year, so you won’t be able to practice. Try to come up with creative solutions to make sure practice happens every day, even if only for a short time. If the schedule is crazy packed every single day, maybe it is time to scale back and let go of a few commitments. Better now than when you’re exhausted and worn out in October.

I’m all about organization and reflection when it comes to music.  As a business owner, performer and mother to a school aged son, scheduling and organization is my best friend.  Also, remember that taking lessons is a partnership between teacher and student and the more you participate in the process, the more you’ll get out of it.

Now, get out there and enjoy the end of summer…and start practicing!