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!


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