Starting Lessons Right
These guidelines will help you to have a successful, rewarding experience learning an instrument. These are practical tips that we have discovered from years of teaching and from our experiences with teaching hundreds of students each year.
1. HOW YOUNG IS TOO YOUNG - STARTING AT THE RIGHT AGE
Adults can start any instrument at any time. Their success is based on how willing they are to commit to practicing.
For children, starting at the right age is a key element to the success of their lessons. Some people will tell you “the sooner the better” but this attitude can actually backfire. If a child is put into lessons too soon they may feel overwhelmed and frustrated, and want to stop lessons. The last thing you want to do is turn a child off music just because they had one unpleasant experience that could have been prevented. Sometimes if the child waits a year to start lessons their progress can be much faster. Children who are older than the suggested earliest starting age usually do very well. The following are guidelines we have found to be successful in determining how young a child can start taking music lessons.
At our school, 4½ years old is the youngest age that we start children in private piano lessons. At this age, kids start to develop longer attention spans, have better physical hand abilities, and can retain material with ease.
Guitar - Acoustic, Electric and Bass
8 years old is the earliest we recommend for guitar lessons. Guitar playing requires a fair amount of pressure on the fingertips from pressing on the strings. Children under 8 generally have small hands and may find playing uncomfortable. Therefore for 4½ - 7 year olds, we offer Guitar Jr. to get a head start on learning using a smaller guitar. Guitar Jr. is made to introduce the children to beginning theory, playing simple rhythms and songs with a single string and with easy chords.
Bass guitar students are generally at least 10 years old.
7 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 body is generally not yet ready for the rigors of vocal technique. For children younger than 7, we recommend a children’s choir or a preschool singing program that teaches them how to use their voices properly, in a fun, relaxed environment.
If you'd like your younger musician to start taking voice lessons as early as 4½ years old, you can add Piano to your lesson and split your time between both Piano AND Voice. This option is great if you have an interest in both, or are trying to decide between the two for your younger musician. Taking Piano and Voice together provides a basic foundation of music, such as ear training, while keeping the student engaged.
The minimum age for our drum students is age 7. This varies greatly depending on the size of the child. They have to be able to reach both the pedals and the cymbals.
We accept violin students from the age of 4½. Some teachers will start children as young as 3, but experience has shown that the most productive learning occurs when the beginner is 4½ or older.
2. INSIST ON PRIVATE LESSONS WHEN LEARNING A SPECIFIC INSTRUMENT
Group classes work well for preschool music programs and theory lessons. However, when actually learning how to play an instrument, private lessons are far superior to a group lessons since privates give students the opportunity to learn at their own pace. This means that students won’t miss key points and the teacher does not have to teach a class at a middle-of–the-road level, but has the time and focus to work on the individual student’s strengths and weaknesses. For that lesson period, the student is the primary focus of the teacher. The teachers also enjoy this as they do not have to divide their attention between 5 - 10 students at a time and can help the student be the best they can be.
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 TV, pets, ringing phones, siblings, etc. Even in just 30 minutes to one hour of lesson time per week, a professional school environment can produce better results since the only focus during that time is learning music. Students in a school environment are also motivated by hearing peers who are at different levels and by exposure 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. One of the main problems with music lessons is the drudgery of practicing and the fight between parents and students to practice every day. Here are some ways to make practicing easier:
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.
We use this method quite often when setting practice schedules for beginners. 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.
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. Praise tends to be the most coveted award - there just is no substitute for a pat on the back for a job well done. Sometimes we all have a week with little practicing...in that case there is always next week.
Music should be something that you enjoy for a lifetime. So, try not to put unrealistic expectations on yourself or your children to learn too quickly. Everyone learns at a different pace and the key is to be able to enjoy the journey.
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. 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 city or state, qualified teachers and institutions will recognize the materials and be able to smoothly continue from where the previous teacher left off.
Ask any music school or music academy in Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach, Manhattan Beach, El Segundo, Torrance, Hawthorne, Lawndale, Palos Verdes, Gardena, Lomita, Westchester, or anywhere in the South Bay these questions and you will see why more families choose our studio each year than any other. After browsing this site please call us with any questions you may have about getting the most out of your music experience.
Hermosa Beach - 310-318-6260
Redondo Beach - 310-406-1700
Manhattan Beach - 310-546-7654
Why Choose Us?
- Professional 'Floating Marley Dance Floors' reduce fatigue and prevent injury
- Small class sizes
- Customer service - desk staff available during class times for assistance
- Wide selection of class times to fit your busy schedule
- University trained teachers
- Instructions in rock, classical, pop, jazz and more
- Optional, low pressure recitals
"It has been amazing to see my son tranformed through his discovery of the violin. Since starting at the School of Dance & Music, he has gained a deep sense of accomplishment and confidence."
"My 7-year-old son LIVES for his weekly electric guitar lesson! We have to ask him to stop practicing!"
"I love the School of Dance and Music! I have danced there for years and I always love my teachers. They are always willing to listen and are open to what the students have to say. I like that all the teachers are friends and are nice. The teachers and students works well together (we are a team) and when I am there I feel at home."
"My daughter has met lots of friends at the school and has a great time coming here. She loves the teachers and staff and looks forward to the fabulous dance & music recitals they put on every year. The school is very well run and very accommodating to stressed out parents with ever changing schedules."
"What wonderful life long lessons my kids are learning at the School of Dance & Music! The teachers are positive and motivating and they each bring their own originality every week. The staff is kind and professional. Our family looks forward to a long relationship with the school."
Brand new to dance classes or music lessons? Find out what you need to know!
Starting Lessons Off Right
- How Young is Too Young. Starting at the Right Age
- Insist on Private Lessons When Learning a Specific Instrument
- Take Lessons in a Professional Teaching Environment
- Make Practicing Easier
- Use Recognized Teaching Materials
Q: Do I need a piano at home to take a piano lessons?
A: It is ideal if you have a piano at home, but you can start lessons by using an electric keyboard to practice on. Most our students rent or buy...
January & June 2016 Music Recital General Info