|These guidelines will help you to have a successful, rewarding experience learning to
sing. These are practical tips that we have discovered from years of teaching and our
experiences with teaching hundreds of students each year.
1. HOW YOUNG IS TOO YOUNG - STARTING AT THE RIGHT AGE
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
and be a negative. 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 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 how young a child can start taking music lessons.
5 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 our students 5-8 a 1/2 hr class is recommended. For
students 9 and up an hour class is suggested.
2. CHOOSE A SCHOOL WHICH OFFERS A CHOICE OF GROUP OR INDIVIDUAL LESSONS
Different students require different teaching approaches. Some students progress
best with the peer interaction and class motivation of a semi-private session. Other
students prefer the focused concentration of an individual one on one lesson. Once a
student is more advanced it will be necessary to take private lessons to master the
advanced techniques. Make sure that your student has the option to select the
learning style that is best suited for them.
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 t.v., pets, ringing phones, siblings or anything else.
With only 1/2 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. 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
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.
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.
Most Importantly . . .
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.
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