Tell us how you feel about lessons and practicing

For several years I’ve been writing posts and sharing information from our perspective. It is now your turn to share with us. We would love to hear what you like or even dislike about certain aspects of your lessons and your practicing between lessons. We hope you will share your feelings, accomplishments and your frustrations.

We welcome you to share your positive and negative thoughts but ask that either way you express yourself in a constructive manner. You might want to let us know about the struggles you have had and how you overcame them. Perhaps you are currently struggling with something that we can collectively help you with.

It would be wonderful to hear about aspects of your lessons that had far reaching effects on your life. Would you like to share any meaningful exchange you have had with a teacher, a memorable lesson or any other special music lesson related memories?

Don’t be shy. This is an acceptable format to pat yourself on the back as well as a safe place to admit that something is just not working. We have all experienced the frustrations of getting stuck in our musical pursuits. The goal of this blog has always been to be there to encourage you and to guide you to do what needs to be done to overcome obstacles and help you to persevere with your lessons because we know the rewards of doing so.

This post is addressed to students of all instruments, all levels and all abilities.

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Learning to Practice for Music Lessons

We are delighted to extent and warm welcome to all new students to our music school in this new year and to introduce all of you to our NJSM blog.

It is our job as a music school to provide you with every advantage so that your long journey ahead is successful, pleasant and gratifying. Learning to play an instrument does not come naturally to anyone, it requires practice. Practice is the single most important discipline in learning to play an instrument and is in itself an art and a discipline that needs to be learned.

We realize that many of you do not have music lesson experience and that you might benefit from a guide to support your efforts; whether you are a student or the parent of one. To that end I have been writing this blog for the past three and a half years. It is full of helpful information and suggestions to help explain the art of practicing, the importance of recitals, the benefits of music education, interesting facts about music lessons and much, much more.

For the ease of finding those articles that are most pertinent to you, here is an updated index for our blog. Note that the posts are organized in reverse chronological order.  I hope you will refer back to this blog from time to time. It can always accessed from the bottom of the homepage of our website. Just click on the “W” for (WordPress).

Once again, welcome to the NJ School and Music!

NJSM Blog Index
October 10, 2014 through November 13, 2017

2014
10/ 10    Let’s talk about practicing for your music lessons
10/17    Let’s talk about practicing – Practice tips part 1
10/29    Let’s talk about practicing – Practice tips part 2
11/05    Let’s talk about practicing: Overcoming frustrations and challenges – Part 1
11/14    Let’s talk about practicing: Overcoming difficulties and challenges – Part 2
11/26    Let’s talk about practicing: Overcoming difficulties and challenges – Part 3
1212    Let’s talk about practicing: Overcoming difficulties and challenges – Part 4
1230    Getting back to practicing after a break

2015
01/20    Let’s talk about practicing: Overcoming difficulties – Part 5
02/25    Let’s talk about practicing: Overcoming difficulties – Part 6
04/14    Let’s talk about recitals
04/21    Let’s talk about recitals – Part 2
05/05    Let’s talk about recitals – Part 3
05/16    Let’s talk about summer music lessons

2016
01/18    Why schedule private music lessons when your child gets group lesson in school
01/28    Starting lessons and working through the initial learning curve
02/08    Playing a musical instrument is good for your health
02/17    Why make up lessons and substitute teachers?
Series of four posts on what to expect when beginning lessons on different instruments: 02/25    Focus on piano and drums
03/04    Focus on stringed instruments – Part A
03/11    Focus on stringed instruments – Part  B
03/19    Focus on brass, woodwind and vocal
03/28    Passively vs. actively listening to music
05/04    How long does it take to learn to play the __________? (fill in the blank)
05/19    Suggestions for keeping your child interested and excited about their lessons
08/26    What music students need to stay motivated
10/07    Playing music and creativity
10/21    Healthy instrument practice habits
10/26    Recitals – why all of the fuss?
12/12    Note reading and sight reading

2017
01/30    The importance of group playing
02/09    Why do I play worse at my lessons?
02/15    Ever feel like more practice leads to worse playing?
02/21    How many times do you want me to play that?
03/02    Busy week – no time to practice
03/10    The science behind practicing
03/17    The need for continuing private lessons while playing in groups and ensembles
03/24    How to tell if your child is practicing effectively
04/07    Music for aging well
04/10    Music competitions aren’t for everyone
04/20    Preparing for your recital
05/01    It is important to attend live concerts
05/12    How to create a great recital audience
05/19    Recitals are not just for kids
05/26    Keeping your musical skills fresh when life gets in the way
08/22    What to expect when resuming music lessons after a break
08/29    I haven’t practiced all summer and my lessons resume next week.
09/13    What to expect as a student new to private music lessons                                    10/6      The problem with leaving recitals early                                                                     11/13    Parental Involvement in Music Lessons

 

 

 

Parental Involvement in Music Lessons

Despite all that has been written in this blog and elsewhere the truth is that there is one element of learning to play an instrument even more important than regular practice. This is true for all students but especially important for younger students. The students who make the most consistent progress are the ones who benefit from parental involvement in the process. Parental involvement is linked to increased understanding, practice and enjoyment which are all key ingredients to success.

Parental involvement comes in many different forms, levels and degrees.

Except in certain circumstances it is not necessary for parents to sit in on each and every music lesson but it is absolutely recommended and beneficial to take a few minutes at the end of the lesson to communicate with the teacher. Checking in after every lesson is the ideal but even after every other lesson or monthly is better than never at all. The five minutes you spend talking to the teacher at the end of the lesson is NOT a waste of your lesson time. I assure you that it is just as valuable and essential to the learning process as the time the student spends with the instructor.

Scheduling your time so as to be able to talk to the teacher at the end of each lesson allows you to ask questions, express concerns, offer input and hear the teachers observations and suggestions. You will then be clear about the assignment for the week, the teachers goals and expectations from the lessons and about any upcoming happenings such as recitals and other events and performances.

We do try hard to communicate as much as we can via email and even by leaving phone messages but the purpose of that type of communication is usually to share general information. For information regarding your student and his or her specific needs nothing compares to one to one interaction.

As mentioned earlier there are some instances when a teacher might request that a parent actually sit in on the lessons for at least a brief time. That requirement is more likely to apply to very young students or those with special needs. As the students grows and matures, as trust and relationships build, the parent can graduate to waiting right outside of the studio during the lesson. Ultimately the goal would be for the student to attend their lessons independently with the parent just stopping in at the end of each lesson.

The determination for a parent’s level of involvement in the lessons is one that is made on a case by case basis. Every parent should plan to come into the school with their child at the very first lesson and to meet with the teacher at that time. That is an excellent opportunity for you to let the teacher know anything at all that applies to your child’s learning style or differences.

A bonus to coming in to the school as often as possible is that it gives us an opportunity to get to know one and another. Regular communication is essential for more than the actual lessons. When we see you regularly we build a more personal relationship with you. This creates a better understanding between us and an appreciation of one another’s point of view.  That tends to help avoid situations that can result in misunderstandings about you, your family situation and changing needs or our policies and philosophy.

For those who do not make a habit of coming in during your child’s lessons, I hope that this will help to convince you of the need to do so in the future. We have cozy waiting rooms throughout our buildings allowing you to sit comfortably while you wait. Please know that we would love to get to know each and every one of you.

 

 

The problem with leaving recitals early

One of the things we are bound to hear on occasion, during recital season is, ” We are very busy. We can come to the recital but we have to perform early and then leave.” Even worse is the situation where we receive no advance warning. In that instance students and their families just get up and walk out in the middle of a recital.

I need to say that I feel very strongly about this subject. When asked in advance I will always respond with, “We would love to have you perform but we require that you stay until the end of the recital you are performing in.” Please know that there will be no exceptions made to this rule. If your recital date does not work for you,  we will work with you to find another date (which will most likely be with a teacher other than your own). Again, we will require that you stay until the end of that recital.

We announce recitals months in advance to assist with your calendar planning and we organize our recitals in 90 minute segments. Most recitals are actually an hour or less in duration with time built in to socialize at the end of the event. Most people do take advantage of that extra time and seem to really enjoy the opportunity to interact with and offer praise to the other performers and their families. It does not seem unreasonable to expect that guests of the recital can set aside 90 minutes of their time to attend and support the student’s many hours of preparation.

We understand that everyone is very busy, stressed and even overextended.  That is actually a big part of the problem. Everyone is busy and granting permission to one family to leave early would invariably result in allowing many people to do so. Ultimately this could result in a perpetually shrinking audience throughout each recital.

However, there is more to this situation than that. Simply put, staying until the end of a recital is a matter of respect. Walking out before the conclusion of a recital is inconsiderate of everyone, students, teachers and other guests. Recitals are special occasions occurring only twice per year. I understand that something else might have to be sacrificed and I thank you for prioritizing recitals when you are able. I assure you it is a sacrifice worth making. If it is truly impossible to do that then we hope you will be available for the next recital series or perhaps a less formal community performance.

There are rewards attached to attending entire recitals on a continual basis. On a strictly personal basis recitals offer a chance to sit back, unwind, enjoy a performance. Unlike many of your other family activities, once you arrive we provide comfortable seating in a relaxed, temperature controlled environment that is safe from the elements! There are more social and educational rewards as well. Young students can be inspired by more experienced performers. More experienced players gain insight into just how much they have progressed. Families get to know one another and share in the joy of witnessing musical growth. A camaraderie develops between students that can lead to long term friendships.

In general I feel that we very understanding of your needs and that we regularly go out of our way to try to be as accommodating as possible in scheduling and rescheduling lessons when conflicts arise. With that in mind, I hope that you can appreciate and respect our relatively inflexible feelings about not leaving before the end of your recital.

 

 

 

An index to our music lesson blog and an introduction for all new students

New beginnings are often exhilarating but we all know that in time some of that initial thrill can begin to fade. At some point all new music students come to the very real understanding that attaining those dazzling dreams will require some work and we don’t want that to scare you away. Learning to play an instrument doesn’t come naturally to anyone, it requires practice. It is our job, as a music school to help make this new endeavor a successful one and to keep the long journey ahead pleasant. We realize that many of you don’t have music lesson experience and that you might benefit from a guide; whether you are the student or the parent of one.

To that end I have been writing this blog for the past three years. It is chock full of helpful information and suggestions to help explain the art of practicing (the single most important activity required of all music students), the importance of recitals, the benefits of music education, interesting facts about music lessons and much, much more. I know that this blog will provide a great deal of helpful information for all of our new students (as well as those who have been with us for a while). I realize that the blog has become quite lengthy and so I have created an index (scroll down) for ease of finding helpful articles. Please note that the posts on the actual blog are organized in reverse chronological order.

I hope you will take the time to read those posts that seem most pertinent to you and that you will refer back to it from time to time. You can always find access to it by going to the bottom of home page of our website, scroll down to the bottom and click on the “W” (for WordPress).

NJSM Blog Index
October 10, 2014 through May 12, 2017

2014
10/ 10    Let’s talk about practicing for your music lessons
10/17    Let’s talk about practicing – Practice tips part 1
10/29    Let’s talk about practicing – Practice tips part 2
11/05    Let’s talk about practicing: Overcoming frustrations and challenges – Part 1
11/14    Let’s talk about practicing: Overcoming difficulties and challenges – Part 2
11/26    Let’s talk about practicing: Overcoming difficulties and challenges – Part 3
1212    Let’s talk about practicing: Overcoming difficulties and challenges – Part 4
1230    Getting back to practicing after a break

2015
01/20    Let’s talk about practicing: Overcoming difficulties – Part 5
02/25    Let’s talk about practicing: Overcoming difficulties – Part 6
04/14    Let’s talk about recitals
04/21    Let’s talk about recitals – Part 2
05/05    Let’s talk about recitals – Part 3
05/16    Let’s talk about summer music lessons

2016
01/18    Why schedule private music lessons when your child gets group lesson in school
01/28    Starting lessons and working through the initial learning curve
02/08    Playing a musical instrument is good for your health
02/17    Why make up lessons and substitute teachers?
Series of four posts on what to expect when beginning lessons on different instruments: 02/25    Focus on piano and drums
03/04    Focus on stringed instruments – Part A
03/11    Focus on stringed instruments – Part  B
03/19    Focus on brass, woodwind and vocal
03/28    Passively vs. actively listening to music
05/04    How long does it take to learn to play the __________? (fill in the blank)
05/19    Suggestions for keeping your child interested and excited about their lessons
08/26    What music students need to stay motivated
10/07    Playing music and creativity
10/21    Healthy instrument practice habits
10/26    Recitals – why all of the fuss?
12/12    Note reading and sight reading

2017
01/30    The importance of group playing
02/09    Why do I play worse at my lessons?
02/15    Ever feel like more practice leads to worse playing?
02/21    How many times do you want me to play that?
03/02    Busy week – no time to practice
03/10    The science behind practicing
03/17    The need for continuing private lessons while playing in groups and ensembles
03/24    How to tell if your child is practicing effectively
04/07    Music for aging well
04/10    Music competitions aren’t for everyone
04/20    Preparing for your recital
05/01    It is important to attend live concerts
05/12    How to create a great recital audience
05/19    Recitals are not just for kids
05/26    Keeping your musical skills fresh when life gets in the way
08/22    What to expect when resuming music lessons after a break
08/29    I haven’t practiced all summer and my lessons resume next week.
09/13    What to expect as a student new to private music lessons

 

What to expect as a student new to private music lessons

Welcome to our school and to the world of music education. You have made a very important decision and the first step in what could be a lifelong exploration into the art of playing an instrument or singing (your voice is indeed an instrument). We know that you will approach this milestone with a great deal of excitement. We want to help you to hold onto that same feeling as your lessons progress. Toward that end this blog is full of helpful information for you and we hope you will take the time to get acquainted with it.

The purpose of this short post is to help you begin your lessons with healthy expectations geared to getting you started on the right track toward many years of musical and personal growth, self expression and satisfaction. Whether you are the student or the parent of a student I am sure you will find this guide very helpful.

  1. It is essential that you have a working, well maintained instrument. If your instrument needs repair or tuning please don’t wait to see how the lessons go before attending to that. The lessons will not go well without a playable instrument.
  2. Make a commitment to attend your weekly lessons; to arrive a few minutes before the lesson is due to begin and to be properly prepared.
  3. Dedicate yourself to practicing regularly (see many of the other posts in this blog for helpful information). Your teacher will give you weekly assignments and help you to understand how to practice.
  4. Know that playing music is very satisfying and that practice can be hard work and that the more you practice the more satisfaction you will derive!
  5. There is work involved in the learning process. Know that and approach it with a positive attitude.
  6. Little will be accomplished by just attending lessons without practicing; working on your assignment at home in preparation for your next lesson. Your actual lesson time is for review of previous assignments and  the introduction of new material.
  7. Communication is essential. Get engaged. Don’t hesitate to ask questions. The more involved you are, the better the outcome.

You have made the all important first step of beginning your music lessons. These simple expectations will help to set you on a successful path.

I haven’t practiced all summer and my lessons resume next week…

Avoid the tendency to panic! If you have been away from your lessons and your practice for a while have faith in the process and in your teacher to put you back on track. Prepare yourself for the inevitable and rather than getting bogged down by your frustration just accept the situation and resolve to go forward from wherever you are.

Your teacher has many years of experience and has worked with many other students who are a bit rusty after a break. There is no shame involved. We would certainly rather see you and do some review with you than not ever see you again. We would rather help you to get back to where you were and beyond than to see you let all of the work you had put into your lessons before your break, simply go to waste.

If you haven’t played at all this summer and you don’t even know where to begin, don’t stress, just come back to your lessons and allow your teacher to be your guide. There is no need to do anything in particular to prepare for your return at this point, however, if you have some time and the motivation in the days or weeks before your lessons resume by all means sit down with your instrument and do some light review. Scales are an excellent place to begin. The perfect speed is very slow, focusing on tone, intonation and technique. If time allows you can work up to a tempo that is closer to what you had been playing before your break.

If you do nothing else before resuming your lessons, practicing your scales will prove very helpful. Just playing will help to reconnect you with your instrument and to act as a reminder to your muscles. If you are using a scale book when you play, you will be reviewing your note reading skills as well as helping your body and mind to recall all that is necessary to think about and to focus on as you play.

If you are motivated to do more in preparation for your return to lessons then after you feel comfortable with your scales choose something that you knew well before your break, something that you had already completed and that was easy to play. Spend some time going over that piece rather than challenging yourself with a new piece. Again, trust your teacher to move you ahead once you are back on track.

Getting back after a break can be frustrating if you let if but it can also be an opportunity to let go some of your old, less than ideal practice and playing habits. Starting with a clean slate provides a chance for you to begin anew and to take your playing further than before. No doubt you do remember many basic skills.  Now you can get back into your fundamentals and reinvent yourself as a music student, taking the best of what you used to play and bringing in new inspirations and your development as a person.

We welcome you back! Please take your time and allow your playing to gradually reach a level that feels satisfactory in terms of having regained any lost skills.

*Note, remember to bring your books with you to your first lesson back even if you haven’t looked at them recently.