How to Help your Child Practice Music

Help Child PracticeSo you got your child started on music lessons. Now he must practice. That’s right, your child’s music teacher expects your child to actually practice between lessons. And if you really want to make those lessons worthwhile, you will have to help your child with this. What does that mean? What does that look like? Keep reading for some suggestions.

Practice is NOT what is supposed to happen during a music lesson.

During your child’s music lesson, the teacher expects to hear how your child has progressed since the last lesson. Has he mastered the material that was assigned? Has she corrected the mistakes or difficulties that were discussed at the last lesson? Also, the lesson is the time to focus on new concepts, new techniques, new music. But if the student does not demonstrate mastery of the last material, how can the teacher justify presenting new material? Practice at home is what allows the student to master material already taught. No practice = no progress!

What does it mean to practice music?

I suppose a good definition of practice is the repeated performance of a new skill or technique with the goal of improvement and mastery. The goal of every practice session should be to improve or perfect at least one problem.

Ideas you can use to help your child practice

Be present, not absent

Be present at the lesson so you know what the teacher expects your child to do.

Be present at practice times to encourage your child, to be sure your child is doing what the teacher expects.

Be positive, not critical

Encourage your child while he is practicing. Tell him he is doing a good job at working through something. Tell her she is following the teacher’s instructions well. Encourage him to keep going.

Consider practice time as play, rather than work.

I know real practicing is hard work, but a young child should view practice time as fun, not a chore. Have a set time every day for practice and see if you can turn at least some of it into a game.

Give praise, not pressure

Praise your child for doing something well. Praise her for following instructions. Praise him for completing an assignment. Don’t let your child come to associate practice time as stress time or pressure time. Don’t threaten.

As a child gets older and advances with his music the demands on the parent change. You are not required to be at every practice session – he becomes more independent with his practicing. But even them some parental involvement in still important. Continue to take an interest in their music. What are they playing? How does his teacher want him to play the piece? Show interest in his work and accomplishments. Maintain good communication with the teacher – is your student meeting the teacher’s expectations?

Notes to musical moms

  • Don’t sit down and play every piece for your child before they begin to learn it! This will not help your child learn or improve his music-reading skills. And it will not help your child to think through and interpret a piece for himself.
  • Don’t over-correct. I had problems with this. Listening to my kids practice and play things incorrectly would drive me crazy! But if I told them everything they needed to fix, they would never learn to listen and find the errors themselves. What to do? Sometimes you just have to leave! Leave the room, leave the house. I have just gotten up, walked around the neighborhood until I figured they were done practicing, and then came back.
  • Play duets with your child – just for fun! Or accompany them – just for fun! That will help to teach them that music can be fun! They also will see that playing with others is truly enjoyable.

What further suggestions do you have for help with practicing? Let us know in the comment section!

Pay Your Music Teacher!

Please Pay your Music TeacherPay your music teacher! Music lessons are not cheap. There, I said it. I know that from experience. But I have also learned that, for the most part, you get what you pay for. Not always true, I know, but most of the time it is. When you want quality, it costs you. And you should want quality for the music lessons you pay for. Granted, a beginner does not need a symphony-level instructor, but you should expect quality from your child’s music teacher. And that means you pay for it. Now, I’m not going to tell you where to come up with the money to pay for your child’s lessons, but I want to help you understand what determines the price your music teacher charges, and how he/she expects to be paid.

Your Music Teacher is a Professional

First of all, understand that a qualified music teacher has put in a lot of time and effort to become qualified. The teacher probably started practicing at a very young age and put in countless hours of practice before he/she even started college! Many music teachers studied music in college – they could have been performance majors, music education majors, or pedagogy majors. They put in the time and effort to be prepared to teach your child. Your music teacher is a professional, and he deserves to be paid as a professional.

Factors that Determine the Cost of Music Lessons

What determines the cost of music lessons? First, your location plays a role in the fees a teacher charges. Teachers in urban areas often charge more than teachers in more rural areas. Competition is greater in cities, living expenses are often greater in cities, studio space rental fees are usually higher in cities. Remember, your music teacher is a small business professional. This is her job. She must pay expenses, taxes, insurance, etc. Secondly, your teacher’s education and experience help determine his/her pay scale. The greater his experience, the more he is justified in charging for lessons. Usually a music teacher will study the market, get a feel for reasonable lessons charges, and try to set a comparable rate.

Frequency of Payments

How or when does my child’s teacher expect me to pay? Good question. When I was in grade school, I remember walking to my piano teacher’s house after school, handing her a $5.00 bill, and sitting down to take my lesson. Things have changed since then! Some teachers still ask to be paid each week when a child comes to a lesson. Others request to be paid monthly (number of lessons in a month multiplied by the amount per lesson). Many other teachers operate on a term or semester basis. They will calculate how many lessons are in the given term, how much per lesson, then give you a total amount you owe for the term. They may expect you to pay for the entire term at the beginning of the term, or half at the beginning of the term and the other half at the midpoint of the term. Usually, paying your music teacher by check makes it easier for them to keep their records correct. Some will even take credit cards.

Cancellations and Missed Lessons

What about missed lessons or cancellations? Be sure to discuss this with your music teacher when you start lessons. Each teacher or studio has its own policy. Find out what it is and keep a copy of the studio policy. Some teachers will work with you to reschedule in case of sickness or emergencies. Some build an extra lesson into their studio term. Others will reschedule if the teacher misses a lesson, but not if the child skips the lesson. It is your responsibility to know the teacher’s policy. Don’t expect the music teacher to make exceptions just for you.

Pay the Music Teacher

Finally, most importantly, pay your music teacher promptly! Remember this – your child’s music teacher is teaching because she loves to teach and see children learn, but this is still her job. She has bills to pay, expenses to meet, and she is depending on your payments to meet those expenses. The teacher still must pay her bills on time whether you have made your payment or not. So, pay your child’s music teacher with a smile!

 

Finding a Music Teacher

How to Find a Music Teacher

So, you decided that your child will take music lessons, and now you must find a music teacher. How do you do that? Obviously, you want to find a teacher who is qualified, who will work well with your child, who will inspire your child to greatness, and will make every lesson as exciting as a favorite video game. Is there such a person? Probably not, but I am sure you can find a music teacher who is just right for your child! I managed to find at least 10 different music teachers for my children, so I am pretty sure you can find one too!

Finding the right music teacher
Finding the right music teacher

How or where to look for a music teacher:

  1. Word of mouth is probably the best way to start looking for a music teacher. Ask your friends if they know anyone qualified. Does your child have any friends at school taking lessons on the same instrument? Ask them who their teacher is. Is there anyone at church who plays that instrument? Ask them if they know anyone who teaches that instrument.
  1. Ask the music teachers at your child’s school. They often know people in the area who teach lessons. See who they recommend.
  1. Also, ask at your local music store. Sometimes a music store has teachers who teach lessons there. Or they might have a list of private music teachers in the area. One of my girls took lessons for a while from a teacher at our store.
  1. Are there any universities, colleges, or community colleges in your area? Check with them. If the school has a good music program, there are probably students who would be happy to earn some extra money giving lessons. Also, some music departments have a “prep” school connected with them. This gives their music students an opportunity to give lessons in a supervised environment. Other colleges may have a community music program that offers lessons by qualified instructors to the general community. Three of my girls taught at their college music prep school. Three of my boys took lessons from the community music school at a local college.
  1. Search the internet – there are professional organizations that list music teachers by area. Sometimes music teachers have their own websites. Do some research.

Okay, so you narrowed your search down to a couple names, now what? How do you proceed? What things do you need to consider before making a final choice?

What to look for in a music teacher:

  1. Does the teacher have openings in her schedule, or would your name go on a waiting list?
  1. Where does the person teach? At school? In your home? At the music store? In his/her own studio? And are you willing to drive to this location every week? (Or clean your house every week before the teacher appears? Been there, done that!)
  1. Does the teacher have good references? Ask for some names you can contact as references.
  1. Do you think this person will be a good fit for your child? Will their personalities work well together?
  1. Can you (or your child) deal with the teacher’s expectations? I took my son to a trial lesson with a music teacher once, and I thought the teacher was just a bit too intense for my son. A few years later we came back to that same teacher, and my son had developed enough so that this teacher was just what he needed. They worked together for several years after that.
  1. Ask for a trial lesson before making a commitment. Sit in on the lesson. See how your child and the teacher interact. See if you are both comfortable with the teacher’s style.
  1. Also, be sure you understand how the teacher expects to be paid.

Don’t settle for the first teacher you find, look for someone who will challenge and inspire your child. Look for someone who will care about their progress and who will motivate them. I hope you find a great music teacher!

What other suggestions do you have? Leave them in the comments section. I look forward to hearing from you!