Private lessons give students regular experience playing with and learning from professional musicians. Learning from "someone who makes music a living and lives from music" is very different from downloading internet tabs, jamming with machines and working things out without support from a coach. These are valid ways to learn and improve musicianship but can't replace interactive live play situations with experienced musicians, and of course a program of instruction that covers a full complement of the skills of music systematically.
Importantly, remember that learning an instrument takes a long time, true mastery happens only over a period of years, never weeks or months. Anyone claiming otherwise is bogus, though I believe most students should be playing simple tunes and basic chord accompaniments within a space of a few weeks.
Suzuki of Japan proved that very young students can be taught. The reality is the parent (usually a Tiger Mum) must be hands on in this process as very young children particularly lack the ability to practise & learn independently. Culturally, few Australian parents are prepared to do what it takes to get 3-7 year olds playing independently. Older children who already have some knowledge of songs and an ability to read are more likely to succeed musically without the daily support and guidance of parents. Younger stars who are driven and self motivated are rare exceptions.
I am prepared to teach any student at any age but your understanding of the nature and developmental level of your child is worth some serious thought before you commit a significant budget to music lessons. I wouldn't want to disappoint you.
Individual instruction is $30 per half hour lesson. This time is generally sufficient to review past assignments and set new ones. Successful students always do something at home between lessons on most days. As a general guide, 30 minutes of focused daily practice can go a long way to being a competent musician. Sure a pro might play 4 or 5 hours a day but that isn't realistic for everyone.
Owning an instrument is a must. It's no use to have a lesson without daily access to an instrument because that is the way to success.
I view instruments in the house as practical furniture. You never know when your visitors come through and can also play and teach you something. Educational and entertaining toys to share. Every house should have some.
If you are considering lessons for your kids, clarify your expectations regarding practice. It's not unusual for kids to do sports and parents never tell them to practise every day, but somehow, music is viewed differently. I guess is it's all about the money.
Fair enough, if you spend your money, you expect some results. As long as you and your kids agree about what is expected then you'll both get what you want, or at least a fair compromise.
At home it is helpful to provide an environment and guidelines that support building skills and constructive hobbies. Although I make a point of specifying these things during the lesson time, your input at home is very valuable.
This will include:
1.Make a good practice space with suitable seating at the right height, lighting and a certain amount of privacy so nobody gets annoyed at the repetition & noise. A moderated climate is important for string instruments, which lose tuning as temperature fluctuates. Swivel chairs may be a distraction for some, especially young kids.
2.Always have the instrument ready. Leave it out of its case (on a stand) with books on the music stand ready to go.
3. Minimise and limit distractions such as TV, toys and computer. This means making a schedule and ensuring it is stuck to. Routines are critical to regular practice and if there are no rules about T.V., phones etc, time is sucked into the vortex of eternal waste. I was lucky as a child to have parents that knew how and when to say "no" and understood the concept of "less is more."
4. Don't overload kids with too many tasks. A drive to succeed pushes some parents to enlist their kids in so many activities that they get stressed or simply spread themselves too thin to achieve a successful level in anything. A kid doing sport 3 times a week, math coaching and some other activity as well as homework is busy. Success takes focused time. Music integrates well with computer,reading,science, social skills and confidence building. Many benefits too numerous to mention. Better to replace 2 or 3 ordinary activities with one great one I suggest. Too many activities= No focus
5. Good musicians are avid collectors and organizers. You can help your kids with the librarian functions required to keep practise patterns in an organized order. I ask my students to separate out their folders into 1.songs 2. note reading 3. charts & reference material such as scales and chord diagrams and 4. miscellaneous practise items like riffs and patterns to practice.These days we use computers more and similar skills apply.
6. Discuss from time to time what you might expect your kid to do in a week so that it is clear there is some agreement or rule to follow.
7. Family culture is an inheritance and can be a legacy or a lunacy. Have you learnt the language of support and spread the message across the family or is sarcasm the norm ? I'm not going to tell you how to run your family life but it is obvious that some people's sense of humour borders on destructive and the truth is "it doesn't have to be that way." I have a thick skin because I have a big brother but helpful and supportive is not how I describe those moments as a child. Imagine how rich and successful I would be if I had a team of supporters from that start point ! Just joking. I've done alright anyway but I have had many students who have very supportive parents and their careers reflect that support.
8. Who are the helpers around you ? Is there a teacher at school who could help change a string between lessons, or tune the instrument when it is desperately wrong ? A neighbour who can help keep the momentum and excitement with a bit of advice ?
9. Libraries are good places to supplement a collection. My major library branch has a vast collection of professionally produced scores free for loan and if requested they will often order something as they are always increasing and replacing their materials. I recently surveyed a class of kids I was looking after about whether they had checked out the library and how often they visited. The visits to a library had all but stopped for these 12 year olds. Internet is a reference but it's hard to beat a quality book and the Gold Coast libraries are outstanding.
10. Patience and enthusiasm are important. Depth of skills take a long time to develop. The drive to "level up" though admirable can destroy the urge to try. Sitting on a level and enjoying playing at that level are important steps to the process. Completing someone else's list ignores personal choice and undermines the value of a hobby. Remember, kids were not born just to please us. However, teach them about the value of work and an appreciation of what they have.
Upon reaching a level, let them enjoy success at this level before moving the goal posts.
11. What you might witness in your snippets of peeking into the kid's room or sitting in on a lesson is called "practice" and practice can be ugly, riddled with mistakes, trials and errors. Practice is not a performance and less than half a percent is likely to be anything like perfection in fact it looks a lot like failure. I wasn't often pushed into performances for my family and that suited me just fine. I still see "performance" as something I do like a job and it's not my nature to feel I want people looking at me. No, I just love music and making a job of it means I must perform from time to time but the bits in between are often trial and error.
Some people love performing and others just love playing. Stepping outside the comfort zone can focus attention to completion in a performance but beware of making your kids be your entertainment, especially passing judgement on the bits and pieces they do. Don't confuse "process" with "product." And be grateful if they try to please you. Avoid the backhanded compliment. "That was great but......"
FEES and MY POLICY
It's not my policy to bully students into practising. I simply aim to give students a musical experience regardless of their level and give guidance in setting realistic targets. It is up to the student (or you the fee-paying parents) to decide how much practice is enough.
I will write students a practice plan as a guide and encourage parents to read this.
I will have conversations with kids who clearly don't practice as to how their parents might better use that money. Parents do usually know if their kids are practising though many quiet achievers don't like someone over their shoulder during this time. As for adults, I'm happy if students come along and simply enjoy what is to be enjoyed.
I work to a 4 lesson commitment and at the end of a set of lessons, students who wish to continue learning pay their fees at the fourth week. A lesson time cannot be held for a student if it has not been paid for.
If you miss your scheduled lesson time I cannot guarantee make-up lessons or refund as that time is lost and can never be recovered. I try very hard to keep my promises and in this way you won't turn up for a lesson and find I am not there. Fair people will appreciate this is the way it must be.
My door is always open for parents who may always enter without knocking. I encourage parents to stay in touch with what is happening and to know that what is happening is in fact a music lesson.
As the world we live in is in so many ways lacking a moral compass, I do filter out material that I believe may be inappropriate for children.
WHAT WILL THEY LEARN ?
I choose a program to suit the individual needs of the student, blending related theory when it is useful with the practical arts of playing.
Note-reading is encouraged and for those who are inclined, it is possible to sit external Trinity College Of London Exams. It's not for everyone but certainly any student considering a music career, especially if they wish to enter a University Music Course would find this process a useful background.
Many students don't read scored music and though it is my view that it is preferable, for those that can't manage the time to master a useful level of reading, I have many resources that are not focused on learning to follow and decode a complex score.
A typical lesson could contain:- a review of some previous lesson points, some note reading, always popular songs for chords and singing, an exercise for physical development, improvising from a rule plus something for fun & interest like a cool riff.
I use parts of the Trinity Program from London which has a wide balance of contemporary, folk & classic pieces for reading skills, includes sight reading, scales, technical development and viva voce.
I also use components of the Australian Music Examinations Board's Contemporary Popular Music program. (CPM)
I teach accompaniment for the voice, music technology, including hard disc and computer recording, midi-based recording and editing, programming and use of FX, PAs, amplifiers and improvisation skills. As I have other instruments here, knowledge of keyboard, banjo, mandolin, ukulele, violin, harmonica, recorder and drums may be shared as appropriate.
Often enough my students will record an audio or video project to send to friends and family. Some might publish the result to youtube.
WHAT INSTRUMENT ?
I have biases here because I play guitar and sing, but knowledge gained in one area is often useful elsewhere . Instruments such as guitar and keyboards are premium choices to me because they offer full accompaniment to a singer, can play fully harmonized instrumental music and are relatively portable. In the long run you don't need a band to keep an active instrumental hobby going with either of these instruments.
You can't sing while playing a brass or woodwind instrument, and it's not easy to sing with a violin tucked under your neck. Instruments like these (and including bass) often play arrangements for part-music so require partner players to keep it interesting. Here in Queensland, the State Government fund band and string instrument programs for State Schools. Many parents encourage their children to try these instruments due to its subsidised cost. The path of learning a contemporary instrument with a private teacher is much more expensive. The snobbish favoritism in funding arrangements rejects more versatile, practical and contemporary instruments from their programs. The classical lobbyists demand their specialist priviledges, the general public misses out on something that would be more interesting for their kids. Expensive private schools often present strings programs to give an air of exclusivity that finds favour with their marketing targets. I think most of these poor kids suffer through a year or 2 of strings because they have to, and give up as soon as they are allowed. If they do it, love it and want it, then it's not a waste of time.
However there are vasts numbers of any population who have no care or interest in listening to and playing symphonic instruments and yet these people love music. Why not start with something they care about?
Better to invest in a keyboard and computer based recording lab. It's much more real world. Much as I love and respect history, I don't live in the golden era of classical music circa 1800.
Six additional benefits of keyboard - 1. doesn't require tuning 2. simply touch the key and the sound comes out perfectly - no need for high levels of physical dexterity just to produce a nice tone 3. computer connectivity is inbuilt 4. rapid key-change up or down means a vocal part or other instrument part can be matched without relearning or rescoring the accompaniment 5. beginners will find this instrument much easier than almost any other instrument and 6.headphones can used for practising without disturbing others.
Six additional benefits of guitar- 1.the percussive quality of a guitar being almost a drum and tone instrument in one makes it very versatile 2. the fact that you actually touch the strings means that you have a chance to control the harmonic quality of the tone unlike a piano where the string is struck by a hammer 3.because it requires frequent tuning (could be a negative) is positive as it forces higher level of attention to listening and getting pitch right 4. the popularity of the instrument means there are many other people around to share ideas with and 5. the guitar is undoubtably the most portable self-sufficient instrument for the mobile musician.6.With a capo, the guitar can be adapted to a multitude of different keys quickly.
There are benefits to learning a range of instruments Some things are better learnt on e.g. a keyboard, such as harmony because a keyboard can produce more than one note at a time whereas e.g. a clarinet can't produce more than one note at a time.
Theory programs are quite prominent for many classical instruments and some might believe that is because there is an expectation of a "higher level of thinking " required. Actually I think it's more reasonable to expect if you can only play one note at a time, you don't have much else to think about beyond producing a nice sound. So having less to think about in some areas allows some freedom for thought to other matters.
Guitar players (especially ones that read), often play several notes simultaneously with lots of memory and calculation involved to work out where those notes are. The range of the instrument is big and the same note can often be played in several places, unlike a piano where middle C is found in only one spot. Guitar players have a tendency to use "moveable patterns" which don't work as well on other instruments.
What I'm saying is high level guitar is not for dummies, there is an intellectual side that exceeds many other instruments.
The linear arrangement of a piano makes understanding theory a walk in the park. If I am teaching guitar, I would often refer to another instrument such as piano which can make the theory much more obvious.
Playing trumpet is likely to teach you something about breathing well and is something of a science experiment in air pressure.
So all instruments have their strong points.
GROUP LESSONS OR PRIVATE ?
Group lessons are economical but you get less personal input from the teaching music-professional. I'm a firm believer that private lessons are a superior way to learn music. However, I will and do lead groups. Some individuals within groups do very well in this environment & may prefer the social context that a group lesson can offer. They often push each other along, encourage each other and form little teams. They learn to co-operate with the oversight of a professional. They may also form and work as a band.
Call to discuss your requirements here.
I am currently running large group guitar lessons at a low cost/student in Miami State School as part of the school's Arts program. If you would like such a program in your school contact me to discuss this.
If budget is a problem you can share a spot with a friend.