Learning to play a musical instrument is a journey filled with excitement, challenges, and, most importantly, patience. For children embarking on this adventure, the concept of patience might seem elusive amidst their eagerness to master the instrument quickly. However, understanding the importance of patience in this process is essential for both parents and educators alike.
Patience serves as the cornerstone of a child’s musical development, fostering a positive and enriching learning experience. Rather than focusing solely on achieving immediate results, cultivating patience allows children to embrace the journey of learning an instrument, nurturing their creativity, and building a lifelong passion for music.
One of the key aspects of fostering patience in children learning a new instrument is encouraging them to “play” rather than “practice.” This subtle shift in language can have a profound impact on a child’s perception of the learning process. By framing their musical exploration as play, children are invited to approach the instrument with curiosity, imagination, and a sense of freedom. This mindset shift empowers children to explore the instrument at their own pace, experiment with different sounds, and express themselves creatively without the pressure of perfection.
Here are some practical tips for suggesting children to “play” rather than “practice” when learning a new instrument:
- Create a Playful Environment: Set the stage for musical exploration by creating a playful and supportive environment. Encourage children to view their instrument as a tool for creative expression rather than a daunting challenge.
- Embrace Mistakes as Learning Opportunities: Help children understand that making mistakes is an integral part of the learning process. Encourage them to embrace their mistakes, learn from them, and use them as opportunities for growth and improvement.
- Encourage Creativity: Foster a spirit of creativity by encouraging children to experiment with the sounds and techniques of their instrument. Provide them with opportunities to improvise, compose their own melodies, and explore different genres of music.
- Celebrate Progress, Not Perfection: Shift the focus from achieving perfection to celebrating progress. Recognize and celebrate each small milestone along the way, whether it’s mastering a new chord, playing a simple melody, or improvising a short tune.
- Be Patient and Supportive: Above all, be patient and supportive throughout the learning process. Encourage children to enjoy the journey of learning an instrument and reassure them that progress takes time.
By encouraging children to “play” rather than “practice,” we empower them to take ownership of their musical journey, make it their own, and develop a lifelong love for music. Through patience, encouragement, and a playful approach, we can nurture the next generation of musicians and inspire them to unlock their full potential.
In the symphony of a child’s development, music education plays a pivotal role, harmonizing cognitive, emotional, and social growth. As we delve into the orchestration of academic studies, it becomes evident that the influence of music on young minds goes far beyond the notes on a page. Let’s explore the symphonic journey of why music education is not merely a supplemental class but an essential element in the composition of a child’s holistic learning experience.
The Cognitive Crescendo:
Research from renowned institutions such as Harvard and Johns Hopkins has been tuning into the cognitive benefits of music education for years. The brain, akin to a musical instrument, undergoes a transformative tune-up when exposed to the intricacies of music. Studies suggest that children engaged in music education demonstrate enhanced cognitive skills, including improved memory, attention span, and problem-solving abilities.
One notable study, conducted at the University of California, found that children involved in music education showed accelerated development in the areas of language processing and mathematical reasoning. The rhythm and patterns inherent in music seem to create a neural symphony, fine-tuning the brain for more efficient cognitive processing.
The Emotional Overture:
Beyond the realms of academia, music education orchestrates a powerful emotional overture in the lives of children. It serves as a melodic refuge, providing an outlet for self-expression and emotional regulation. Music becomes the soundtrack to a child’s emotional journey, helping them navigate the complex tapestry of feelings.
A study published in the Journal of Research in Music Education discovered that children engaged in music education exhibited higher levels of empathy and emotional intelligence. The collaborative nature of playing in an ensemble cultivates a sense of camaraderie, teaching children the art of listening and responding to the emotions conveyed through music.
The Social Symphony:
In the grand performance of life, the ability to collaborate and communicate is key. Music education, with its emphasis on ensemble playing and group dynamics, becomes the rehearsal ground for these essential social skills. You will find resonance in the transformative power of music education to tip the scales in favor of positive social development.
Research from the National Association for Music Education highlights the social benefits of music education, noting that children engaged in musical activities develop a strong sense of teamwork, discipline, and leadership. The shared pursuit of musical excellence cultivates a sense of belonging, transforming classrooms into harmonious communities.
In the symphony of a child’s education, music is not merely an optional chord but a fundamental note that resonates across the cognitive, emotional, and social dimensions. Let us acknowledge that the true crescendo of a child’s potential is orchestrated by the transformative power of music education. It’s not just about creating musicians; it is about sculpting minds that resonate with the harmonies of lifelong learning and emotional intelligence. The importance of music education, when understood in this comprehensive light, becomes a powerful testament to the enduring melody that shapes the future of our young minds.
As the holiday season approaches, finding the perfect gift for your young guitar player can be challenging. To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of the top 5 holiday gifts based on consumer and expert reviews.
1. Music lessons:
Music lessons provide a unique and lasting experience that fosters creativity, skill-building, and personal growth. Lessons can ignite, or re-ignite passion and help beginners start their creative musical journey. Additionally, music lessons offer a chance to connect to a mentor and join a community, making a thoughtful and engaging gift!
2. PRS Headstock Tuner:
Stay in tune easily and in style with the PRS Clip-On Tuner.
3. Ernie Ball Musician’s Tool Kit – Best Tool Kit:
Ernie Ball’s all in one tool kit is perfect for cleaning, maintaining and keeping your instrument in perfect playing condition. Change strings, set intonation, adjust the action, check string height and more. Tool kit includes Microfiber Polish Cloth, Wonder Wipes, Heavy Duty String Cutter, Peg Winder, 6-in-1 Screwdriver, Ruler, and durable Hex Wrench Set.
4. Caroline Guitar Co. Hawaiian Pizza pedal:
A bespoke artisanal blockchain of handcrafted tone, the sonic equivalent of a forbidden delicacy, all from just three knobs and the truth.
5. A new guitar from Sims Music
What young guitarist wouldn’t love a new guitar? Our partners at Sims Music have an incredible selection for every style and budget with an extremely friendly and knowledgable staff, there to help you make the best decision that will absolutely put a smile on your young guitar player’s face!
These gifts cater to different needs and skill levels, offering a well-rounded approach to learning and enjoying guitar playing. Whether it’s lessons, accessories, or a new guitar, your young guitarist is sure to be delighted with any of these thoughtful gifts.
Drumming takes many skills. Not only do you use both hands and feet on a kit, but they’re all most likely going to be doing different things at once. It takes practice to build the skill of rhythmic multitasking, which most drummers won’t have developed when they decide to pick up sticks for the first time.
Here’s five songs for beginning drummers that will help them build up the skills needed for harder songs.
AM by Arctic Monkeys is full of songs with interesting and tricky drumming patterns that challenge a drummer to use their entire body. The exception, of course, is Do I Wanna Know, which has an easy to follow beat on the kick drum and snare during the verse. While the chorus does add some flare, with a different kick pattern and some high hat, the beat is steady and slow enough for starters to keep up with.
Ah, the dreaded beginner’s song. While every instructor on the face of the earth may be sick and tired of hearing this song, that doesn’t change its simplicity that any new drummer can easily pick up without any prior experience. Sure, your teacher might lose their mind, hearing this song for the thousandth time, but it’s good practice to work up your leg muscle on the kick and teach your hands to do two different things at once.
Dreams, among many other Fleetwood Mac classics, is a great song for any beginner to try out. It has a sweet and mellow vibe that’s easy to keep up with on the kit. Although it’s slightly faster than the other songs on this list, it’s a great way to build up that high hat speed and have fun with new drumming patterns that don’t become too complex. This song also allows you to have some fun with fills and adding ghost notes to the pattern if you feel up to it.
A loud, heart-thumping banger, Buddy Holly by Weezer is the perfect dip-your-toes song for any young rockers eager and ready to go all out without the struggle of a difficult drum beat. It has an easy tone to keep in time with, a slower pace so you don’t lose the tempo, and enough leeway to use the space and play any funky little drum fill that your heart desires.
This classic by the Talking Heads is one that everyone should learn purely for its funky bass, catchy guitar stings, and of course, the heart of the song: the drum beat. Although it’s nothing too difficult for a beginner, Psycho Killer leaves plenty of room to experiment with patterns, drum fills, and anything else your heart desires. And, if you’re feeling particularly experimental, try and play Cage the Elephant’s cover of this iconic song.
It’s a new year- welcome to 2016! Lessons are starting back, classes have resumed, and activities are already filling up the calendar.
With all the looming homework, projects, activities, and fun things to do, you might be thinking: “Do I really need to continue to make time for my music lessons this year? With all the time allotted for practicing and driving to and from lessons, I could be doing a lot of other things!” If you’ve been looking at your lessons as just another time-filler, perhaps the new year is a great time for new perspective: Why do you take music lessons?
As an aspiring musician, you are an artist- one who works to create beautiful sounds out of strings, ivory keys, or rosin and a bow. To most of the world, a piano is nothing more than a pretty, large wooden box with neatly arranged black and white things. People admire the skill required to play it, and enjoy the beautiful music that escapes the wood, but only a pianist can truly appreciate the amount of practice and dedication required to make a cohesive melody or song out of the 88 black and white keys.
As an artist, you see your instrument as a vehicle for the sounds you love- rock, jazz, blues, folk songs, country, or classical- and you continually work to make better music. This year, share a little bit of your music with the world. Let people see more than just a guitar with strings or a drum with sticks- be creative, be original, and share your love of music with those who support you and your art!
Take it on as a challenge for 2016: share your music with those around you. Through charity events, hospitals or medical centers, religious events, or other community opportunities- you have a chance to make the world a better place by sharing your passion and musical talents!
Don’t just view your music lessons as a way to spend your time. Look at them as your unique
Summary: No one wants to practice an instrument, but everyone wants to play. Parents are the key to succeeding during the six days between lessons.
About six years ago, I changed a core expectation as part of my teaching to beginning through early-intermediate students: I no longer asked them to practice. I completely eradicated the word ‘practice’ from every aspect of my teaching to students on this level. Of course, this required a monumental overhaul of how I taught, but in the most basic sense, I viewed the six days between lessons as an opportunity for each student to play the piano, not practice it. I only assigned music that was learned successfully in the lesson, could already be performed well, and used each piece to teach how a student would eventually come to practice so when the time came, the fundamentals were all in place. The success of this, however, is in the third party involved in the lessons: the parents.
There are really only two kinds of children who begin lessons: the first is the student who wants to play an instrument and the second is the student whose parents want him or her to play an instrument. Regardless, my job is to teach them how to do it and have it be a rewarding and positive experience along the way. The idea of practicing a sport and practicing an instrument are often compared, but I’ve never really believed these analogies hold up. Really, a better argument might be drawn that these analogies were created because many people quit music to play sports. Why? Practicing a sport is social while practicing an instrument is isolated. Playing a sport can result in a quantitative gain – a winning score, a total number of wins – where playing music has no measurement beyond personal growth. Private music teachers are left trying to find a way to tangibly or numerically show progress. We invent practice charts where minutes are recorded, wall charts where stickers are earned, or the antiquated check-mark that lets a student know they ‘passed’ a piece. A better comparison might be between practicing medicine and practicing music. Do you really want a doctor to ‘practice’ their craft on you? No! You want them to know what they’re doing just as I want my students walking out of the lesson knowing what they are doing. So, I beg all of the parents out there to no longer ask their child, “did you practice,” and, instead, I want to give you easy ways to get your child playing. This should be the first tip to parents.
Change the Question
Instead of asking, “did you practice,” ask a telling sentence. Try, “how was playing piano today” and listen to the response. The likely response will be, “I didn’t play piano.” We want to eventually transform that response into, “I didn’t play yet,” and finally to where they answer the initial question. How? A follow-up question: “why don’t you go play for a little bit and then tell me about it,” or, “we’ll talk about it at dinner.” The number of minutes played don’t matter since they can already play the piece successfully. This is just about building a positive relationship with time at the instrument. As they talk about playing they will develop ways to talk about music even if it sounds like nonsense. This connection matters. Over time, the language will smooth out into correct terms and there will no longer be the response, “I didn’t play yet.”
Stop Designating a Practice Time ALL the Time
Yes, kids need structure, but this doesn’t always build a good relationship with playing. I had a friend in middle school who came home from school and had to practice piano for a half-hour every day from 3:30-4:00pm. I remember thinking, “gosh, that’s awful,” and I even liked the piano. Kids are busy and busy minded, so remind them when they haven’t played, but don’t force time at the instrument. The point of playing is to engage the busy mind, but designating a set number of minutes can be torturous when they already know how to play their music.
Ask for a Private Concert
A private performance is a special time with Mom or Dad. Alone time with kids and one parent is sometimes more meaningful than any activity. This special time where a student gets to perform for a parent is their own private showcase where they are the star. Does it need to happen every week? No, but sometimes this can be the greatest motivator on the weeks when a student just doesn’t want to play.
Generating Positive Responses from other People
When I was a kid, the most technology we had was the GIANT Macintosh computer with the floppy disks that were the size of an average face. That has changed and technology is everywhere, including in my teaching. When playing at home, why not record a performance and send it to Grandma or Grandpa or even the teacher? Yes, I know this isn’t ground breaking, but most people miss the point of the recording. It’s not so the child can be recorded and shared; it’s that they get a positive response back from whomever you send it to. This feedback can be critical for students who don’t like to perform and can build a positive relationship with the process. Furthermore, they can record their own teaching video showing you or a family member how to do something musical. A seven second “Vine” video and positive feedback from Grandma can be all the motivation in the world.
Integrate Playing into Daily Life
This idea comes from another teacher friend who gave me this advice. Sometimes spontaneous activities with a quick goal can be all it takes. Imagine it’s just before dinner and your child is walking past you. All you have to do is say, “I totally forgot! I was thinking about your song you played the other day. How super-fast do you think you can play that? Can you do it before dinner?” Yes, it’s going to sound terrible fast, but it doesn’t matter. They’re engaged at the instrument again and Mom or Dad has shown that they remember a musical performance from before and not just making them do a task. Does this playing use good technique? No, but that’s not the goal here. The goal is a positive feeling associated with playing. Let me fix technique and I’ll let you know when issues arise.
Talk to the Teacher After Music Lessons
One of the biggest things that makes me feel defeated in my teaching is when I haven’t inspired a parent enough to be outside the door asking how a lesson went and the child is instead walking out to a parking spot. I have one of the few professions where I am able to give you a weekly progress report on how your child is doing and the more I can involve you, the better the experience for all of us. Plus, this isn’t a classroom; this is one of the few things in a child’s life that is literally one-on-one and I am giving you 100% undivided feedback. Take the time after the lesson to hear about how we made music this week. Even more importantly, take five minutes in the car to ask the child what they learned with details and not just “how was the lesson?”
Whenever I hear a parent wanting to withdraw an early student for lack of practicing, I ask them, “what have you done to make it a positive experience?” I usually hear, “well, I ask him/her to practice and he/she just doesn’t want to,” and I have to continue to emphasize how my expectation is that a student plays piano, but doesn’t practice. I’m hoping that these few ideas might help parents see that the goal isn’t to practice early on, but to play and to play enjoying what they do. Remember, when someone signs up for lessons, they want to play the piano, not practice it. In time, and by teaching skills that aren’t even obvious to the student or the parent, it’s my job to create the path to practicing. In the meantime, it’s the parent’s job to help them love to play.
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David Pacific is the Assistant Director of The Southeastern Piano Festival. Make sure to check out the SEPF!
The relationship between a teacher and his/her students is the central component to a private music instructor’s career and the linchpin to success in this profession.
Students vary in age, but there are some constants that affect the opinion that they have of their instructors: personal appearance, demeanor, enthusiasm, organization, punctuality, and the ability to confidently demonstrate any and all topics discussed in a lesson. The conscientious instructor will be objective about his/her ability to project a positive version of each of these assets.
Let’s begin with the asset that affects a student’s opinion of his/her instructor before the lesson can even begin: personal appearance. A line of work such as private music instruction has certain “perks” that other professions with more formal atmospheres cannot offer. The most obvious is a relaxed personal appearance/dress code. Dressing similarly to how students will be dressed is one way to create a relaxed environment that encourages communication between instructor and student; however, a private instructor can damage the respect students should have for him/her if their appearance is too unkempt or they are wearing inappropriate clothing. Never underestimate the affect that your appearance has on your students and/or your students’ parents.
An instructor’s demeanor is closely related to his/her personal appearance, but it isn’t as easy to recognize initially. Personality determines how an instructor will communicate whatever training he/she has acquired. This communication can either be helped or harmed by the way an instructor behaves during his/her interaction with students. Empathy and genuine concern combine for a great foundation for an instructor’s relationship with students, but are not the only way to establish a meaningful connection. Generally speaking, being pleasant and likeable go a long way to endearing an instructor to his/her students and that likeability starts with an instructor’s attitude.
Having an enthusiastic attitude about teaching is one of those all or nothing propositions; you cannot fake it. Any student can sense whether their instructor is genuinely concerned with and excited by his/her musical development. That isn’t to say that a musician that has never considered teaching privately can’t discover some real interest or passion for it, however. If there were one single linchpin that holds all of these pertinent qualities together, it would have to be sincere enthusiasm for the process of sparking students’ imaginations and motivations.
Organization and Punctuality
Organization and punctuality go hand in hand. No private teacher can successfully maintain a student roster of any size without organizing a schedule, a method of instruction, their teaching philosophy, regular reviews of student development, public student performances, clinics or other opportunities to inspire motivation, personal study time, “maintenance” and “improvement” practicing, etc. The list goes on, but you get the point.
While punctuality is commonly thought of as only applying to the beginning of a lesson and maintaining a consistent lesson flow between scheduled lessons, there is also the punctuality involved in other important aspects of these relationships: consistent communication via texts, phone calls, or e-mails about schedule changes or other info that should be sent (or replied to) in a timely manner. As a matter of fact, promptly replying to any communication from current or prospective students is paramount in sustaining success as a private instructor. Develop the habit of replying to any and all messages as soon as you can, even if to postpone a more thoughtful reply. This habit separates the most successful instructors from the rest. Then, there is showing up for the lessons more prepared as the instructor than the student is prepared to learn.
Demonstrate and Discuss
The ability to demonstrate and thoroughly discuss topics that occur during a lesson are the hallmarks of an accomplished instructor and build the confidence of that instructor’s students that they are in qualified hands. Honesty about any limitations that you might have will also go a long way in assuring students that they can trust your guidance. In other words, DO NOT ATTEMPT TO MISLEAD OR BLUFF A STUDENT WHEN YOU ARE NOT ABLE TO PROPERLY DEMONSTRATE A TECHNIQUE OR ARE NOT KNOWLEDGEABLE ABOUT A TOPIC. Students are usually very perceptive to this unnecessary tactic because it is completely obvious to most people, regardless of their experience. Rather, when you don’t feel prepared to demonstrate or discuss something, use that incident as inspiration to become more knowledgeable and increase your technique. This honesty will keep you sharp and produce more confidence among your students.
The relationship between an instructor and student (and that student’s parents, if applicable) can be a wonderful, positive connection. The most reputable teachers have positive relationships with their students, without fail. Strive for this strong bond with all of your students and your teaching career will flourish.
In Private Music Instruction: A Primer Part 3, the logistical aspects of the teacher/student relationship will be considered.
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“If you can dream it, you can do it”
– Maggie Melogy (guitar student at Freeway Music)
That’s right. This quote doesn’t come from a famous, wise person, but rather one of my guitar students. This was the theme of her newest original song, and it resonated with me. I often spend time discussing this topic with my students who are serious about pursuing their dreams and careers during our lessons.
If you are not serious about pursuing your dreams and goals, this blog is not for you.
Set Your Dream Goal
“Having an unusually large goal is an adrenaline infusion that provides the endurance to overcome the inevitable trials and tribulations that go along with any goal. Realistic goals, goals restricted to the average ambition level, are uninspiring and will only fuel you through the first or second problem, at which point you throw in the towel. If the potential payoff is mediocre or average, so is your effort.”
Timothy Ferris-The 4-Hour Work Week
Don’t set a small goal. Set out that big “unrealistic” goal that excites you. If you set the bar low, then that is as far as you will go. So, aim high. Then, take it a step further. Go from “I want to make an album” to “I want to sell a platinum record.” Then, work backwards from there. Does this sound scary to you? Yes, of course it does…but doesn’t it also seem exciting?!
Down with the Naysayer
Naysayer: “a person who says something will not work or is not possible; a person who denies, refuses, or opposes something”
Naysayer: “Don’t make that move to Nashville; you’ll never survive.”
Result: Jesse Isley appears on the Letterman show and gets offered a position on an international tour.
Naysayer: “You can’t have a music lesson studio separate from a retail store. It will never work”
Result: Freeway Music is born and will soon open its fourth location.
Anyone who tells you that “you can’t” is simply jealous and, frankly, doesn’t have the guts to make a move themselves. Fear is what drives most people into complacency. They don’t want to see you succeed because they haven’t succeeded. The old saying “It’s lonely at the top” is often true. If you can will yourself into taking that leap of faith and pushing yourself to the next level, you will find that a lot of people aren’t there. This truism is the result of the fact that it takes a lot of will power and belief in one’s self. So strip yourself of anyone who is negative or holding you back and move towards your dreams.
What are you waiting for? What excuse are you giving yourself today? Start at your dream goal, work backwards, and figure out what the very next step you need to take to achieve that goal. For example, I want to create an instructional book and video series for guitar. Let me rephrase that: I AM going to create an instructional book and video series for guitar. That’s a better mentality. Before I begin putting my lessons into a book or video, I need to develop and refine my curriculum. Before I do that, I need to set aside the time. So, I set aside time each week to work on it. This is my way of taking course of action. If I don’t do this, I will surely fill my time with something else…generally something that will likely be a waste of my time. Figure out your first course of action and do it!
Take a moment to ponder your dream goal and make sure it is the highest point you can imagine. Don’t listen to the naysayers. Move them out of the way. Work backwards from your dream goal and set your course of action. Start ASAP! No one knows how far you will go, but you will certainly make it MUCH further with a higher bar, no negative baggage, and the guts to take action. Best of luck with your dreams!
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Matt Nelson’s Wisdom
My friend referred me to a guy named Matt Nelson that lived in Columbia, SC who used to hang with jazz legends. He said I should spend some time with him. So, I got his number and gave him a call. I drove over to his house near the airport. It was such an amazing time! Apparently, Matt was friends with two of jazz’s greatest guitar players, Wes Montgomery and Grant Green. He even showed me Grant Green’s autobiography, where Grant mentioned Matt. Matt shared stories from meeting Wes Montgomery at a local jam to running into Charlie Parker at a candy store. He spun record after record, and shared so many great jazz artists with me.
Then, it came to play.
We went it to his music room where he had an array of beautiful and expensive guitars.
He generously placed a Benedetto in my hands and asked me to play. So, I launched off into a Thelonious Monk jazz blues song called “Blue Monk”. I was walking the bass line, while Comping the chords in between. Just as I thought I was doing a good job, he stopped me and said, “no, no, no…you are doing it all wrong!”. I was super confused. I thought I was playing it right. He said, “You need to be tapping your foot on 2 and 4.” I was tapping my foot on each quarter beat, which is what I thought you were supposed to do. Then, he demonstrated and asked me to try it.
So, I did, and I immediately felt a difference. It was way groovier! From that point forward, I began tapping my foot on two and four for a lot tunes, making them way groovier. I’m just thankful that I was able to spend time with Matt Nelson, because I my groove was forever changed that day. If you aren’t tapping your foot on two and four ever, go try it. It will blow your mind!
The Producer’s New Groove
I was in Nashville recording a record with a producer/engineer named Stephen Gause. It was one of the best months I’ve ever had in my life. When we weren’t recording on music row, we were out catching the Wooten brothers play, or Jonathan Brooke playing a free concert on the green.
One day, I was laying down my guitar tracks in the basement of Ben’s house, the session drummer of the project. As I’m recording, Stephen stops the track and says,“man, you are pushing the beat hard.” With much youth and arrogance I replied, “No, I’m not. I’m definitively playing on beat.”
He said,“Come into the control room.” So, I went in there and he showed me on Pro Tools the lines of the beat, then the sound waves that I just recorded. Sure enough, I was ahead every time. So, he then began to explain “pushing the beat” vs “playing on the beat” vs “playing just a tad behind.” I had no concept of this at the time, but he planted the seed.
I spent the next several years being cognitive of where I play on the beat. I now have much better control and I play with a lot more groove…all thanks to Stephen Gause.