10 Great Gift Ideas for Young Musicians

Are you looking for some great gift ideas? Christmas gifts – the annual dilemma of almost every parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, friend, etc. What should I get so-and-so? So many things to consider when choosing a gift for someone! I mean, we all want to choose the perfect gift for someone. We are always looking for something they will love, something they will use, an appropriate gift, and one in a suitable price range.

I know I always try to choose gifts for others that fit their interests, hobbies, skillsets. So, if you are selecting gifts for young musicians, I have 10 great gift ideas for you. Consider your gift-giving lists simplified. You are welcome!

10 Great Gift Ideas for Young (or not so young) Musicians

Great Gift Ideas

Sturdy Music Stand

Except for keyboard players, music stands are the bane of every musician. Either the stand is wobbly, or it collapses entirely. Or the music stand slowly sinks out of view. Sometimes the desk of the music stand flops and sends all the music flying onto the floor. At some time or other, every musician has fought at least one losing battle with a music stand. Do your young musician a favor and gift them a sturdy, reliable music stand.

Metronome

Almost every musician hates metronomes! At the same time, nearly every musician NEEDS to use a metronome! Metronomes are helpful tools to help young musicians learn to keep a steady beat, a steady tempo, and learn to play at tempo. They can also aid musicians in learning complicated rhythm patterns. Despite the protests, help your young musician by gifting them a reliable metronome.

Colored Pencils/Erasable Highlighters

Marking one’s music is a helpful learning technique. Of course, after time, a piece of music can begin to look unreadable because of all the markings. So a young musician should learn to color-code the markings on his music. Use one color for problem passages, another color for key signatures and accidentals, the third color for time signatures, etc. You get the idea. So get your young musician some quality colored pencils or some light-colored erasable highlighters. Those unreadable pages of music will transform into logical color-coded works of art!

Spotify/Pandora/iTunes/Amazon Music Subscriptions

Who wants their music listening interrupted by annoying commercials? Not me! And probably not your young musician either. And why is it that the ads always seem to play much louder than the music? Bless that person with an annual, commercial-free subscription to their favorite music-streaming app.

Music-Themed Apparel or Accessories

If your favorite young musician is genuinely devoted to his instrument or music, he will want to share that passion with the world around him. So, give that musician an easy way to share his devotion– music-themed clothing. An instrument-themed hoodie, a music-themed graphic shirt, some instrument earrings, a keyboard scarf, shoelaces – all are ways your musician can demonstrate his musical passion. Your young musician will appreciate a way to show off their music devotion to the world.

New Music

Let’s face it; sometimes lesson music can get boring. Band or orchestra music may be too easy. Maybe your student is just looking for different music to play for fun. Get your young musician some new fun pieces to play, to challenge themselves, or to enjoy.

It might be a book of arrangements by their favorite band or the music from a recent popular movie. Maybe you can find them a book of hymn arrangements they can practice and play in church. Be sure, however, to find music that is close to their ability level, or your young musician will not find the selections so enjoyable. You could even consult with the music teacher for some suggestions.

Music Bag/Holder/Notebook

Many kids are notoriously disorganized! And young musicians are no different. Have you ever watched kids assemble their music or school papers? Books, papers every which way, half out of folders, things falling on the floor. I’ve had kids – believe me, I know what I am talking about! Help them get organized with a cool music bag, a music holder, or a great music-themed notebook. Your young musician will love the design of the bag or notebook, and the music teacher will appreciate the organization!

Music-Themed Artwork/Poster

Art or posters are another way for your young musician to declare their passion for their music. Find art that features their instrument. Look for posters with inspiring quotations over a music-themed background. Hey, hunt for inspirational posters about practicing. Have the art help you win the practicing battle! Framed comics about music could be just the right gift for them. (Schroeder from “Peanuts”?) Gift your young musician some artwork to help inspire their musical passions.

Concert/Event Ticket

Does your young musician have a favorite band/group/choir/orchestra? How about a performance hero? Are they passionate about a particular opera or symphony? Get them a ticket (or two – one for you!) to an upcoming concert/performance. A concert could be just the inspiration they need to hone their talents and move on to the next level with their instrument.

Upgraded Instrument

Why is this included in a list of 10 great gift ideas? I know most Christmas budgets aren’t that big! But, hear me out. Most of us start our children on “beginner-friendly” instruments. Really, who pays thousands of dollars for an instrument that a 5th grader might forget on the school bus? Or accidentally sit on (buried under something on the bed). But as children grow, improve their musical abilities, and become more responsible, many need upgraded instruments. (Yep, time to put out some real $$$.) So maybe an upgraded or better instrument could make its way to your young musician’s gift pile.

OK, perhaps that a new instrument might significantly slim down the gift pile, but hey, that’s how life works sometimes. Maybe you could get all the grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors to all pitch in together and gift your young musician that new trumpet, or flute, or violin, or piano. If this idea resonates with you, please consult with the music teacher to ensure you get a quality instrument. You may need to give a certificate as a gift, and then let the child help you shop for a new instrument.

If you are considering a new instrument, these buying guides for piano, strings, woodwinds, and brass instruments might help you out.

Paid Registration to a Music Camp

This idea is your bonus for today. I listed ten ideas but then thought of this one. Gift your young musician an upcoming trip to a music camp. Ask your music teacher for appropriate suggestions. When I was a kid, my annual trip to music camp was a highlight of my summers!

A trip to a music camp could ignite your child’s passion for music. Music camps offer campers instruction by musical experts, grant small group experiences, critiques by people other than their regular music teachers. Registration at a well-run music camp would be an excellent gift for any young musician.

Banish that Christmas shopping brain fog! I just helped you finish your gift lists for every musician in your family. Any one of these 10 great gift ideas is sure to please, delight, motivate, or inspire any musician on your list. Happy shopping!

Are you looking for a few additional ideas? This post might help you out.

And don’t forget about gifts for your music teacher! Get some ideas here.

5 Tips for Better Practice

Practicing is hard work! And practicing is not usually fun. So why practice? Because it is the ONLY way to become a better musician. If being a better musician matters to you, practicing is a must! But don’t waste your time when you practice. Be smart about it. Follow these 5 tips for better practice.

Better Practice Tip #1 – FOCUS

You must focus while you are practicing if you want to be a better musician. Eliminate the distractions! Silence your phone, turn off the TV, retreat to a quiet space, and concentrate on practicing. You must be able to listen and think while you practice.

You can accomplish more in a short amount of time when you have a focused objective.

Better Practice Tip #2 – ISOLATE

Isolate the problem spots in your music and intensely work on those spots until you can play them correctly every time. Don’t spend your time just playing through a piece hoping that your errors self-correct. Not going to happen! Find the problem spots, identify the mistakes you are making, and correct them! This is efficient practicing!

Mistakes are . . . immensely useful. . . they show us . . . where we are right now and what we need to do next

William Westney

Better Practice Tip #3 – RHYTHM

Learn to play all the rhythms in your music correctly. Music is more than just quarter notes and eighth notes. Conquer all those weird and tricky rhythm patterns! How? Mark the places in your music where the rhythm confuses you. Write out the counting if you need to. Clap the rhythm patterns to cement the correct pattern in your mind. Then, practice playing it slowly. Gradually work the passage up to tempo. If you need help, ask someone – your teacher, band director, orchestra conductor, another musician.

Be better than you were yesterday.

Better Practice Tip #4 – SLOW

Spend time practicing slowly! I cannot emphasize this enough. When you play up to tempo, it is easy to fool yourself into thinking that you are playing everything correctly, especially when you are playing in a group. But when you do slow practice, you can hear every section where you have troubles. Are your eighth notes uneven? Do you skip over some of the notes in a sixteenth note passage? Slow practice will make all those errors obvious – and then you will know exactly what you need to work on. Remember this: If you cannot play a passage well slowly, you will not play it well at a faster tempo. Slow practice points out all your deficiencies so you can correct them.

If you can play it slow, you can play it fast.

Better Practice Tip #5 – MUSICIANSHIP

Playing all the notes correctly and perfectly performing all the rhythm patterns does not make you a good musician. You may be good technically, but musicianship goes far beyond that! A good musician turns the notes on the page into art for the ears and transforms the score’s black and white into beautiful colors that speak to our hearts. So, practice the dynamic changes. Perfect the expressive elements of your music. Give every note a sense of direction. Pour passion into your music by practicing it that way. Give your music some love!

You practice and you get better. It’s very simple.

Phillip Glass

If you add these 5 smart strategies to your practicing routine, you will make your practice time more efficient, escalate your musical progress, and become a better musician. So, go for it! Go forth and practice!

For more information about practicing see the following articles:

I Don’t Know What to Practice

Practice Like a Pro

When Your Child Doesn’t Want to Practice

The Importance of Review

What is the Impact of a Good Music Teacher?

What is the impact of a good music teacher? Can it be measured? All teachers have an impact on a student’s life. But I believe the relationship between a music teacher and a music student is unique. Music teachers have an incredible impact on the life of a student. Never underestimate that impact or the value of that connection.

I remember every private music teacher I ever had and all the ones my kids had. Each of those teachers had a different impact; each one was valuable in his own way to our musical advancement.

My Piano Teachers

The first piano teacher I ever had was my dad. While he was not an accomplished pianist, he knew enough to get me started on the piano and instill in me a love of good music. My dad started teaching me piano when I was six. We had an old, massive upright piano that he painted a pale pink. I used the old piano books he studied from when he was young. I may even still have a couple of those books!

My next piano teacher was a lady who lived across the street from my grade school when I was in 5th grade. One day a week, I would take my piano books to school, and after school, I would walk across the street to her house for piano lessons.

When I was in high school, I switched piano teachers. This new teacher challenged me to push myself harder, to tackle more challenging music. Under her teaching, I mastered the art of playing duple against triple rhythm. (eighth-notes in one hand, against triplet eighth-notes with the other hand). I think some people figure it out by feel, but not me. I had to use math to conquer this one! Common denominators and counting it all out. (Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, 3rd movement) I also remember her teaching me how to do glissandos. And scraping the skin off the back of some fingers in the process.

Mrs. Grubbe taught her lessons on an older upright piano in a small room in the back of her home. She always made me feel welcome. But when I was preparing for a competition or other special performance, she took me into her living room, walking across white carpeting (!) and allowed me to play my piece on her wonderful grand piano. I learned a lot about teaching piano from how she taught me.

My college piano teacher was wonderful. She was always calm and quiet but had a way of pushing me far beyond what I thought I could do. She understood about life sometimes conflicting with practicing, but she pushed me to practice in her own quiet way. And practice. And practice some more!

She mastered the art of reverse psychology, I think, and used that “against” me! I studied both flute and piano and had to decide which instrument to choose for my senior recital and major proficiency. At some point, she confronted me and told me I had to make a choice! And then, in her quiet way, she told me that I could do both, but that it would be very difficult. My choice was made. I did both. I appreciated Mrs. Barnes for the piano skills she taught me, for her role model as a wife, mother, and musician, and her sense of joy and humor.

As many children do, I started playing the flute in 5th grade, when beginning band was offered to any interested student. I don’t think it was a conscious decision on my part. It was more like my day telling me this is what you are doing, so choose an instrument.

My Flute Teachers

My first flute teacher was my beginning band instructor. I worked with him, primarily in group classes for at least the 5th and 6th grades. Perhaps even 7th and/or 8th grades because he did the middle school band as well. Mr. Hawes gave me a good foundation for my future flute-playing.

Sometime during middle school (I think), I took private lessons from a college student. My mom drove me 30-45 minutes one-way every other Saturday morning to get to these lessons. Maybe that is why these lessons, and this teacher, are a little vague in my memory! This is the only one of my teachers who I don’t clearly remember.

But then we found a teacher much closer to home, and I studied with him throughout high school. His house was on my way home from school, so I would stop in once a week for my lessons. I enjoyed working with him – a couple of his children were in band with me. One of my closest friends in high school also took lessons from him, which was great when it came time to work on duets for competitions!

I learned so much from Mr. Bolman – technique, tone production, musicianship. He worked with me through the challenge of flute-playing with braces. To this day, I remember him encouraging me to work through the awful tone quality I was hearing while trying to adjust to all the changes in my embouchure because of the braces. I can still hear him telling me that all the work I was doing to get a good sound with the braces would pay off in a big way when I got the braces off! And he was right. It just took me two years or more to get to that point!

And then there was college. My flute instructor in college was a gem. While he was not a proficient flute player himself, he understood the flute and what I needed to do to get the sound I wanted. And more than that, he understood music and musicality and musicianship! I loved my flute lessons with Dr. Budahl. From him, I learned how difficult it is to get through everything in a 30- minute lesson. Always too much music!

Dr. Budahl taught me so much more than music, though. He taught me about life, about priorities, about graciousness, and about loving God. I met him first at music camp when I was in high school. He was always cheerful, always working on music, always with a smile. And even though he is officially retired, he is still the same! When I have occasion to see him, his face still lights up with his smile. I am so thankful for his impact on my life.

My Children’s Music Teachers

I won’t list for you all my kids’ music teachers – we would be here far longer than you would like! But each one of them was perfect for them at the time. The cello teacher whose cello case was painted like a cow. He was a computer tech guy by day and was perfect for my techy son who was a reluctant cello student at the time. And his next cello teacher taught him to think about what he was playing and why he played it the way he did. (And who always served snacks at his recitals!) Thank you, Mr. Moore.

And our Russian violin teacher, the one who kept relocating further and further away from us, but was so worth the longer drive! Ada Ignatov inspired my girls to practice and devote themselves to the violin. And my sister Brenda, who started my girls on their violins/viola. Even though we only saw her a few times a year, she gave me ideas to work with them as they started.

And the brass teacher who suffered through the excruciating sounds of beginning trumpet and French horn students. My son and his French horn – starting out sounding more like an elephant with a bad cold blowing his nose. Joe Pluth, Dan Askins, Mr. Riffel – thanks so much!

Never Underestimate the Impact of a Music Teacher on your Student!

A Unique One-On-One Relationship

All teachers have an impact on the lives of their students. There is a different teacher-student dynamic because of the unique one-on-one relationship between a music teacher and his students. The connection is on a much more personal basis.

Music Teachers See and Relate to Real Struggles

Music teachers are mind readers. Not really, but since there is that special connection between music teachers and their students, music teachers are often much more sensitive to possible problems a student might be facing. Music is an art form, and as such, it can be very emotional. The emotional aspects of music allow teachers an insight into struggles a student may be facing. A good teacher can help a child face problems or situations, offer solutions, or direct them to someone who can give them the help they need. We are all good at hiding problems most of the time, but music sometimes allows them to surface.

Visibility of Vulnerabilities

We all have hidden vulnerabilities. Kids especially try to hide their deepest vulnerabilities. Music teachers can often pick up on those things and help students confront and overcome them.

Choose your children’s music teachers carefully – they will have a big impact on your child’s life. Let that impact be for the good of your child. Someday they will think back on their music teachers as I did for you earlier. What will they remember? What impact will that teacher have on your child?

Think back and remember your music teachers or your child’s music teachers. What do you remember most about them? What impact did they make on your life? Share your stories in the comments!

Check out some other articles about music teachers:

Choosing a Music Teacher

Best Gifts for Music Teachers