Music Lesson Practice Tips

February 2021

PRACTICE TIPS: MAKING YOUR PRACTICE TIME MORE PRODUCTIVE

• Practice a little every day. This is more beneficial than one or two really long practice sessions every week.

• Find a quiet place to practice so you don’t have any distractions. Practice slow, and gradually speed it up.

• Set aside a specific time each day to practice. It will become part of your daily routine and make practice consistent.

• Learn each phrase at a time. Practice SLOWLY until you have it, and then move to the next phrase.

• Playing from the beginning to end, but consistently making mistakes is not productive. You’re simply practicing mistakes. Break it up into sections that are harder for you, then try to piece it all together.

Record yourself. This is a great way to listen back and see if you made mistakes that you didn’t realize. LISTEN CAREFULLY!

• Practice the hard parts. It’s fun to play the parts you like, but you’ll only get better if you practice the things that are hard.

• Always refer to your teacher’s notes and comments to be certain you are practicing the correct material.

• Play for your family and friends. It might make you nervous, but make it fun and you will become a better musician.

• Remember to stand or sit in the correct position. You don’t want to hurt yourself! Before you leave, make certain you understand everything your teacher assigned to you.

• LISTEN. Listen to your favorite music and pay attention to what your instrument is playing.

5 Ways To Get The Most Out Of Music Lessons

February 2021

5 Ways to Get the Most Out of Music Lessons

These guidelines will help the music student have a successful, rewarding experience learning an instrument. Below are practical tips that we have discovered from years of teaching.

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 the are to commit to practicing. We teach many beginner students in their 60’s and 70’s.  For children, starting at the right age is a key element to their success in lessons. Some people say, “the sooner the better” but, this attitude can actually backfire. If a child is placed in lessons too soon they may feel overwhelmed and frustrated and want to stop taking lessons. The last thing you want to do is turn a child off music just because they had one unpleasant experience which 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 when to begin lessons.

Piano/Keyboard

We typically start private piano lessons at age five. At this age, they have begun to develop longer attention spans and can retain material with ease.

Guitar – Acoustic, Electric, Ukulele and Bass

Eight years old is the earliest we recommend for guitar lessons. Playing guitar requires a fair amount of pressure from the fingertips to press the strings. Children under eight generally have small hands and may find playing uncomfortable. Bass guitar students generally start at 10. Ukulele students are generally five years or older.  Ukulele is a great way to begin for a young student who wants to learn guitar. 

Voice Lessons

Private vocal lessons are generally most beneficial for children 10 years and older.  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. 

Drums

The average age of our youngest drum student is eight. This varies greatly depending on the size of the child, as they need to be able to reach both the pedals and the cymbals. 

Violin and Viola

We accept violin and viola students from the age of five and up. Some teachers will start children as young as three, but experience has shown us the most productive learning occurs when the beginner is five or older.

2. 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 music school environment a student is not distracted by TV, pets, ringing phones, siblings or anything else. With only half to one hour of lesson time per week, a professional school environment can produce better results, since the only focus at that time is learning music. Students in a school environment are also motivated by hearing peers who are at different levels and by being exposed 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 they take very seriously. They are dedicated to helping your child have the best music learning experience possible.

3. 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:

Time

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.

Repetition

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 for practicing, we use repetition. For example, “practice this piece four times every day and this scale five 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 three, they are almost finished.

Rewards

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. In our school, we reward young children for a successful week of practicing with stars and stickers on their work. 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.

4. 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 beginner and books for adult students who have never played before. There are books that can start you at a level with which you are comfortable. These materials have been researched and are continually upgraded and improved to make learning easier. These materials ensure that no important part of learning an instrument can inadvertently be left out. If you ever have to move to a different part of the country, qualified teachers and institutions will recognize the materials and be able to smoothly continue from where the previous teacher left off.

5. Most Importantly … HAVE FUN!

Music should be something that the learner enjoys 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.

Music Lesson Frequently Asked Questions

February 2021

Music Frequently Asked Questions (And Answers)

Q. Do I need a piano at home to take piano lessons?

A. While it is ideal if you do have a piano at home, you can start lessons with our piano teachers by using an electric keyboard to practice on at home. Most of our students rent or buy small electric keyboards to practice on at home. We recommend a keyboard that has regular sized keys and a touch sensitive response. A touch sensitive keyboard means if you press a key harder it will play louder and if you press a key softer it will play quieter.

Q. Do I need a full drum set to take drum lessons?

A. No. You do not need a full drum set to start drum lessons. Students can start lessons by using a practice pad. This is a small dinner plate sized pad that costs $20-$30 that is used for practicing basic drum rhythms.  As a drum student gets more advanced, our teachers can recommend options to help the student continue to grow.

Q. How long does it take to learn an instrument?

A. There is no set answer of how long it takes to learn an instrument. With regular practice, a basic level of playing can be accomplished in a few months. Most of our students take lessons on a long term basis because they want to be constantly improving and they find the lessons enjoyable.

Q. I don’t have any musical background or ability; can I still help my child practice?

A. Yes. Even if you don’t have a musical background you can ask the teacher for advice on how to help your child practice. By simply monitoring they are doing exercises a certain number of times per day, the student will progress. Many parents occasionally sit in on their child’s music lesson to get an idea of the proper way a song should sound or how the student should be positioning their hands.

Q. When is the best time to start?

A. The short answer is NOW!  The best time to learn an instrument is as young as possible.  You can see our guide on ages we recommend starting instruments HERE.

Q. What is the best instrument to start on?

A. If your child doesn’t have a preference of what instrument to learn, recommend they start on the piano because,

  • Notes are visually laid out from highest to lowest.  This makes it easy to understand
  • It requires the least amount of coordination and finger strength.  Other instruments such as the drums and guitar require a significant amount of coordination and strength such as holding down the strings or using different limbs to play a drum beat.

Music Lesson Parent Handbook

February 2021

Private Music Lessons

The majority of music students at the Spark School of Music choose to take private lessons. They enjoy working at their own pace, according to their own learning style, and on material that is best suited to them. Their teacher will develop a lesson plan specific to them. We have an open door policy and parents are welcome to chat with the teacher at any time they wish. We find that students usually learn best without the distraction of a parent in the room, but if desired you can sit in on your child’s lesson. We find the most successful approach is to take a few minutes at the end of the lesson to speak with the teacher and see how the student is doing. Students start out with a 30-minute private lesson once a week and can progress to a 45 minute or 1 hour lesson. Every conceivable style of music is taught at our school.

Practicing

In order to progress and learn their instrument, it is essential that your child regularly practice. This does not have to be a negative experience for them and their teachers can let you know what they expect in terms of practicing each week and give helpful hints on making practicing easier. You can also look at our practicing tips page.

Attendance

Regular attendance at lessons really supports your child’s success. If your child is ill, please call the school before their scheduled lesson time, and we can schedule them in a group make up class.

Substitutes and Makeup Lessons

In the event that, for any reason, a teacher cannot teach a lesson, we will provide a substitute teacher. If we are unable to secure a substitute to teach the lesson, we will reschedule the missed lesson at a future date. If we have to cancel a lesson due to acts beyond our control, such as a power failure or a snow day, the lesson will be made up at a future date.

Bring a Friend Week

Twice a year all music students can bring a friend to their music lesson. As much as possible the teachers will have the friend participate in the lesson. An invitation is sent home for your child to give to their friend. Each student who brings a friend is entered into a draw for a prize.

Treasure Chest

We want to reward each of our students for doing a good job in their lesson. Several times a year the teachers will reward the student with the opportunity to pick a prize out of the treasure chest. This is earned for attendance, attitude and practice.

Spring Break

Please note that our spring break may not coincide with the public school system’s spring break. Please consult our music calendar for the dates we are closed.

Student Appreciation Day

Each year in June we hold a Student Appreciation Day party. This is a fun way to end the year and to thank our students for all their hard work throughout the year. We provide live music, hot dogs, pop, ice cream and more. Everything at the party is completely free as a thank you to our students. At Student Appreciation Day we award a trophy to every student who has been taking music lessons for five years and a very large specialized trophy to each music student who has been taking lessons with us for 10 years. Please plan on joining us, and the whole family is welcome.

MUSIC RECITALS

Each year music students are given the opportunity to participate in a music recital. These recitals are optional and the student can decide, along with their teacher, if they wish to participate. The recitals are free of charge, although we do ask that you bring a non-perishable food donation for the food bank. Recitals typically happen in November and in May.

Recitals are held at a local church and maps to the location of the recitals will be available on our website www.sparkschoolofmusic.com. Each recital session is approximately 1 to 1 ½ hours long.

We try to keep our recitals as stress free as possible so that the students gain performing experience in a supportive environment. Students do not have to memorize their pieces and we encourage them to select a short piece. Vocal students will use a microphone and our staff will adjust the mic for them. The order in which the students are performing is listed in a recital program.

Recital Etiquette

It is just as important for students performing at the end of the recital to have an audience as it is for students at the beginning. We ask that you plan to stay for the entire duration of the recital. Please refrain from talking in the audience while the recital is happening. Should you need to use the restroom, please only exit between performances and return between performances. Cell phones should be turned off. Video recording and taking of photos is highly encouraged.

Year-End Recital Participation Medal

At the recital in May, every student will receive a recital participation medal.

Accompanist for Music Recitals

Voice students, violin students, or any other students requiring an accompanist will need to sign up for a rehearsal time at the school. We have a professional accompanist who will rehearse with your student at the Spark School of Music, and then attend the performance to accompany them. Students need to provide a copy of their music to the front desk at the time they sign up for accompaniment. This needs to be done before the rehearsal so the accompanist has time to go over the music. Any changes to the music need to be clearly marked. There is a fee for the accompanist, as they have to come to rehearsal, learn the music and come to the recital. 100% of the accompaniment fee goes directly to the accompanist. The fee is low, as we provide a large number of students for her/him to accompany. We will make you aware of rehearsal times several weeks before the recital.

Music Parent Handbook

Music Parent Handbook

CLASS INFORMATION

Private Music Lessons

The majority of music students at the Spark Music Studio choose to take private lessons. They enjoy working at their own pace, according to their own learning style, and on material that is best suited to them. Their teacher will develop a lesson plan specific to them. We have an open door policy and parents are welcome to chat with the teacher at any time they wish. We find that students usually learn best without the distraction of a parent in the room, but if desired you can sit in on your child’s lesson. We find the most successful approach is to take a few minutes at the end of the lesson to speak with the teacher and see how the student is doing. Students start out with a 30-minute private lesson once a week and can progress to a 45 minute or 1 hour lesson. Every conceivable style of music is taught at our school.

Practicing

In order to progress and learn their instrument, it is essential that your child regularly practice. This does not have to be a negative experience for them and their teachers can let you know what they expect in terms of practicing each week and give helpful hints on making practicing easier. You can also look at our practicing tips page in the appendix of this handbook.

Attendance

Regular attendance at lessons really supports your child’s success. If your child is ill, please call the school before their scheduled lesson time, and we can schedule them in a group make up class.

Substitutes and Makeup Lessons

In the event that, for any reason, a teacher cannot teach a lesson, we will provide a substitute teacher. If we are unable to secure a substitute to teach the lesson, we will reschedule the missed lesson at a future date. If we have to cancel a lesson due to acts beyond our control, such as a power failure or a snow day, the lesson will be made up at a future date.

Bring a Friend Week

Twice a year all music students can bring a friend to their music lesson. As much as possible the teachers will have the friend participate in the lesson. An invitation is sent home for your child to give to their friend. Each student who brings a friend is entered into a draw for a prize.

Treasure Chest

We want to reward each of our students for doing a good job in their lesson. Several times a year the teachers will reward the student with the opportunity to pick a prize out of the treasure chest. This is earned for attendance, attitude and practice.

Spring Break

Please note that our spring break may not coincide with the public school system’s spring break. Please consult our music calendar for the dates we are closed.

Student Appreciation Day

Each year in June we hold a Student Appreciation Day party. This is a fun way to end the year and to thank our students for all their hard work throughout the year. We provide live music, hot dogs, pop, ice cream and more. Everything at the party is completely free as a thank you to our students. At Student Appreciation Day we award a trophy to every student who has been taking music lessons for five years and a very large specialized trophy to each music student who has been taking lessons with us for 10 years. Please plan on joining us, and the whole family is welcome.

MUSIC RECITALS

Each year music students are given the opportunity to participate in a music recital. These recitals are optional and the student can decide, along with their teacher, if they wish to participate. The recitals are free of charge, although we do ask that you bring a non-perishable food donation for the food bank. Recitals typically happen in November and in May.

Recitals are held at a local church and maps to the location of the recitals will be available on our website www.sparkschoolofmusic.com. Each recital session is approximately 1 to 1 ½ hours long.

We try to keep our recitals as stress free as possible so that the students gain performing experience in a supportive environment. Students do not have to memorize their pieces and we encourage them to select a short piece. Vocal students will use a microphone and our staff will adjust the mic for them. The order in which the students are performing is listed in a recital program.

Recital Etiquette

It is just as important for students performing at the end of the recital to have an audience as it is for students at the beginning. We ask that you plan to stay for the entire duration of the recital. Please refrain from talking in the audience while the recital is happening. Should you need to use the restroom, please only exit between performances and return between performances. Cell phones should be turned off. Video recording and taking of photos is highly encouraged.

Year-End Recital Participation Medal

At the recital in May, every student will receive a recital participation medal.

Accompanist for Music Recitals

Voice students, violin students, or any other students requiring an accompanist will need to sign up for a rehearsal time at the school. We have a professional accompanist who will rehearse with your student at the Spark Music Studio, and then attend the performance to accompany them. Students need to provide a copy of their music to the front desk at the time they sign up for accompaniment. This needs to be done before the rehearsal so the accompanist has time to go over the music. Any changes to the music need to be clearly marked. There is a fee for the accompanist, as they have to come to rehearsal, learn the music and come to the recital. 100% of the accompaniment fee goes directly to the accompanist. The fee is low, as we provide a large number of students for her/him to accompany. We will make you aware of rehearsal times several weeks before the recital.