Parents Guide to Music Lessons 

Your own talents

There is an illusion surrounding music that some people 'have it' and others do not, this is not the case. The most successful people in music are those who simply don't give up. This is the same with any major artist you may be familiar with. People who are determined in music always get recognition from their closest friends and family even if their dream is to conquer the world. We all know that it is the opinions of those closest to you that counts the most anyway.

Expectations of children

It is fair to have high expectations of children, this will not discourage them in any way. A positive parent can always set the goals high and easily achieve them over time. If you are a person who is easily put off then don't pass it on!  A student under 8 years old often has more focus and concentration but will soon begin to establish more independent thoughts and may not always dedicate enough time to practice when left to do so independantly. I will provide you with plenty of helpful advice in this guide .

Recognizing Ability

Ability is usually spotted through enthusiasm. Young musicians are often keen to participate by singing or clapping rhythms. Many of the most successful musicians however are unassuming in character and become successful through a quiet and careful approach to reading music which eventually leads them to becoming successful musicians. Occasionally students display an ability to recognize pitch, this is rare but should be worked upon if it is found to be occurring regularly.

Musical pathways and choosing instruments

This can be an instinctive decision and often a sound will draw their attention to a particular instrument or family of instruments. The piano is always the first thing recommended in higher levels of music education as it provides an overview of the structures found in music harmony. Many top musicians also play the piano as a second instrument. Learning to read on the piano even to grade 1 will at least provide a base for further learning if you are keen to take up a second instrument. Be clear about the family of instruments you choose. Be clear that you have the space at home to allow a student to practice freely without feeling ashamed of wrong notes or strange noises which occur when trying to develop a new skill. Instruments are often a refection of character in a person. It is not good to generalize but many of the same types of people are attracted to similar instruments although there are of course many people who do not fit in to these stereotypes. Here are some examples. The flamboyant nature of the saxophone is often an attractive prospect to those who love to be center of attention, this is common in popular music. The violin may appeal to those who are inclined to react deeply to feelings of romance and poetic expression. The drums require incredible energy, bounds of enthusiasm and also space to practice. Alternatively the flute or recorder may appeal to those who enjoy its warm tone and it is suitable for making music in smaller spaces. Vocalists have the ability to practice anywhere but certain styles, like opera, require substantial practice space. The guitar is the most popular instrument in popular music during the last 100 years, it is very portable and ideal for practicing quietly until you plug it in....... All instruments require patience and all can either be loud or quiet depending on the type of music, the atmosphere in the room and the amount of space available to play in.

Piano or Keyboard 'What's the difference?

The technique used to play the piano is also suitable for the keyboard. A student who has only been taught to simply find the notes and to read on a keyboard however, may find classical piano grades difficult without proper tuition on technique. Generally speaking a piano has heavier keys which are weighted to provide the musician with a suitable amount of resistance and more control over expression. A keyboard may be touch sensitive but will not be as expressive because the plastic keys all feel the same. Keyboards are fine until a student passes Grade 2, then a fully weighted instrument is required.

Working with the teacher

The student will progress well if the parents and the teacher are both involved. Both must provide inspiration and encouragement! Parents provide the drive, teachers control the direction. It is not possible to progress on any instrument by playing in lessons only. Music is a very gradual process which must develop through daily practice. Enthusiasm of younger teachers is often preferred to the experience of older teachers. Both will provide the same level of expertise but the ideas are packaged differently. It is good to experience both. The aim of our scheme is to find a suitable match.

Your role in practice at home

Simple methods are always the best, music is open to all who try and continue to try. The effort you put in will always be the same, if you start off well then you will progress quickly and be rewarded sooner. When you receive that rewarding feeling it will encourage you more. Never think anything is impossible, music is an illusion to the audience, they don't know how much work you put in, they only see the show at the end. The trick is to make it look easy and pretend it was!


The art of note reading in music

The notes are actually the easiest part of music reading, it is actually the rhythms which require attention. Any student who quickly grasps the procedure of counting will be more independent and more confident to make progress on their own. Rhythmic reading can always be taken to higher levels, throughout a person's musical career, so taking time to approach the subject on it's own is always time well spent. Note reading quickly develops through familiarity but the most important thing to remember is fingering. A wise student will always check which finger goes on which note throughout a new piece of music. The human brain can only take so much. Music reading is an ancient and traditional art form and there will always be new positions for a student to adapt their hand to. These tried and tested old methods are the key to music reading. Without this form of discipline the mind will never settle on any definite way of performing a piece of music.


Patience and Determination

The rewards far outweigh the work. Music is the only profession where there is a perfect balance between what you put in and what you get out. It is like a bank where you save your money. The best thing being, that even when you spend heavily you never run out. Music is for life and is something you carry with you wherever you go, something to share with everyone, something that brings people together. It is a personal reflection of all your strongest feelings, without words. When you meet with other musicians it is a joy to share these experiences.
Music is a recommended career to any person with a clear vision of their future. It requires dedication like everything in life but can be exciting and rewarding on a level like nothing else. Remember these things when you have moments of frustration or doubt.


Confidence

Confident parents are always the key to unlock a child's musical potential. Many musicians have achieved great success from their parents dreams. A parent may see that their child is curious about music and this is a good sign. If you are a person who has good ideas and you are dedicated to seeing them through please remember that it is your vision of the future which will eventually help your child achieve the first few steps. When your child is able to play their instrument then your job will become easier. A child will improve if they approach the instrument gradually over the first few months without too much pressure to perform in front of other people. The exercises are simple and this will allow them to be comfortable with the instrument. The most important thing for every musical parent to remember is patience. The most determined and patient parents always get the most out of their music lessons.


The illusion of sound

The wealth of traditional music means that any student should be creating popular melodies after a few months of lessons, it is always good to encourage but not to expect too much too soon. Given time, any popular melody can be played on any instrument. For a quick fix of creating music for special occasions the guitar is a great way of involving large numbers of people into group singing and is ideal for parents wishing to reflect on the music of their era. The structure of popular music is very simple and open to those with an interest in it. Guitarists often approach this at an earlier stage than other instrumentalists as the guitar played an intrinsic part in the creation of popular music. The open strings on a guitar and strumming technique provide a pad of ringing sound as an accompaniment with rhythm as the player strums. Melodies are usually sung when playing popular music with beginner guitarists. This is why the guitar is so popular as an instrument for groups of singers. As the guitar is portable, the music can be created anywhere at all. Many popular tunes can be performed using as few as three chords.


Play it again Sam

To ensure strength in a musicians playing it is always beneficial to keep track of all the music which they have played. This creates consistency in music reading and confidence when asked to perform. An aspiring musician always has a 'party piece' which they can play without reading music dots, this is what establishes your reputation as a performer. Even a shy person can get immense satisfaction and sense of achievement through performing to others. It is an incredible boost to a person's confidence when performing in front of people of their own age. It also provides a reason to learn more as many enjoy the feeling of being an individual, many musicians look forward to their next performance and work towards it. Keeping the favorite pieces to perform at a later date is called establishing a repertoire, when performing in public as a professional it is still not uncommon to hear...'Play it again Sam', the famous phrase from the old American movie 'Casablanca' before playing 'As Time Goes By'.


Good Luck

 

I wish you all the very best in your musical pathways and careers, I know I have immensely enjoyed all aspects of being a professional musician.

Best Wishes

Alex Cockle

Musical Director