MUSIC EDUCATION BLOG – “ON THE ROAD” WITH CHUCK AND SANDI
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by Chuck and Sandi Millar from Lesson Pros
Have you ever wondered how to make your private lessons go better? Great question! Here are some helpful hints.
Lesson Pros has offered private lessons for years, and there is something magical when a student’s eyes light up as they get something you’ve been trying to teach them. That a-ha moment when the light bulb goes on and a smile comes across their face. Priceless!
Recently, we have pushed our business to more of an online direction however, we still love the interaction with our private students and have come up with some ideas on how to make your private lessons go better.
Number one and most importantly choose a teacher that is right for you and/or your child. There are many reasons why a teacher may or may not be a good fit for your private lessons. Personality, too strict, not strict enough, isn’t on time, is too fun, isn’t fun enough, isn’t passionate about teaching, ohhh the list goes on. We might suggest that you try a couple of different instructors out to see if your instructor’s teaching style matches your needs.
Maybe sign up for a month trial, see how it goes and if you love the instructor continue and if not move on. The main thing is to not keep beating your head against the wall if you aren’t sure. Find a different instructor. There are lots of them out there.
This goes for teachers and students. It is important that you are on time and one great way on how to make your private lessons go better.
Being on time for the instructor is just as important for the teacher and it is for the student. Your instructor is most likely stacking their lessons right on top of each other every 30 minutes or 60 minutes. If you are late you have just cut yourself out of precious lesson minutes.
There is always that student that is running a little behind, in most cases it is the parent that is just getting home from work and needs to get the child to lessons. This is very stressful on the student. Be sure to allow enough time to get to your lessons. If you are always stressing out about getting to lessons on time, change your lesson time.
As instructors if this happens we always reassure your student that it is okay and have them take a couple of deep breathes to get their racing heart rate down.
Just being respectful of each other’s time is one of the key things to making sure your private lessons go better.
Communication is the key to rescheduling your lesson. Some things get in the way, life happens. The main reasons why a student or instructor should cancel a lesson is because of death, car accidents or an illness.
Keep me mind your instructor has set aside a specific time for your lesson and when you cancel your lesson the instructor has to add another 30 minutes to their schedule somewhere for you. So for a 30 minute lesson now really has become 60 minutes of their time. Keeping your rescheduling to a minimum is a very respectful thing to do.
Even if you don’t have the things down that were taught last week, come prepared. Beside your standard things like instrument(s), picks, drum sticks, etc, if an instructor has given you materials to study be sure to bring them with you.
It is really helpful for the instructor to be able to glance at your materials and know exactly what the next step is for teaching you. Instructors typically have multiple students in a week, and it is easy for an instructor to not always remember exactly what they were working on with each student. If the student brings their materials each week the instructor can clearly see where they were the week before and quickly be able to have a plan for the next step making the lesson more efficient.
Another thing, we’ve had one parent think that a five year old should remember all the things they need for their lesson. Crazy right? Even for some older children, this can be difficult for them to remember everything they need to bring. Sit down and make a list together and/or just ask them what all they need to bring each week. This will help your student memorize what they need to bring each week by repeating it over and over each week.
Almost always, the first question we have for our students is “How much did you practice this week?” 95% of the time the answer is, “I didn’t get a chance to practice.” Learning the same lesson over and over can get costly, and discouraging for both the student, and if the student is young, the parent as well. As instructors patience is something we should have, but we always want our students to progress as quickly as possible. Honestly, we wish all students would practice some during the week, so we as instructors can see our students grow into the musicians they want to be. It’s one of the most rewarding parts of the job there is.
For younger students this may require a parent’s help. Set up a chart or a reward system. I’ve had a lot of success with a reward system while Chuck doesn’t use one. Some people do well with reward systems, some people don’t and that is okay. You have to do what is best for you.
Chances are if you’re a teen or older there’s a good chance that you’ve developed your own music interest. You may have gone to a concert, or saw a performance that influenced your decision to take private lessons. The wow moment that sparked your interest in music is a very powerful thing, keep it going.
Once you get passed learning the basics, get your instructor to find a way to incorporate your passion into the lessons. There’s a simple way to play most songs you hear on the radio today no matter what instrument you play. Even if it’s just part of a song that your heart is into, the desire to get better faster bears a lot of fruit in terms of practicing and progressing. Inspired learning turns into inspired practice. When your student says, “I just couldn’t put my instrument down” you know they are an inspired student.
There is really no set age a student should start. We’ve had students from age 4 to 96. If you have a very young student ages 4 to 7 keep in mind that there are instructors that will teach students 8 years or older, for some instructors it is 15 year and older.
We took a unique approach for our really young students ages four and five. We’d have the student take the lesson as long as their concentration would hold up, then have the parent take for the rest of the lesson. This way the parent would be able to help the child once they got home. It might be something you can ask your instructor about, keep in mind they might not go for it.
When a parent is in the room it can make your child anxious and/or they can display less than attentive behavior. For 98% of our students we wouldn’t allow the parents to be in the room except for the first lesson.
As a parent we want to help our children achieve greatness which is fantastic! However, many parents like to hover and try to help an instructor do their job. We’ve heard parents say things like “You aren’t doing it right” or “No, Billy, not like that”, etc which is really hard on a child’s self-esteem. Another thing parents like to do, is grab their child’s hand and try to help them put it where it needs to go on the instrument. Trust us this isn’t helpful. Let the instructor do their job. Most are really pretty darn good at it.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. So many students tend to not talk during their lesson. It is healthy for you to ask questions especially if you aren’t getting something. Be creative and curious. Find the drive to want to learn and learn as much as you can. Questions can show that you are passionate about the instrument and excited to want to learn more. 30 or 60 minutes each week goes by very quickly, so get as much as you can for your 30 or 60 minutes as possible.
If you don’t know how to tune your instrument yet, don’t worry your instructor will teach you. If you do know how to tune your instrument, come with it tuned. So many minutes of your lesson time can be wasted tuning your instrument. Arrive 5 to 10 minutes before your lesson and save time and money by tuning up right before the lesson.
With music lessons in most cases there is no negotiating the price. Only once have we encountered someone who asked for a better price. Lessons aren’t like a used car dealership. The instructor has set the price and that is what it should stay at.
Now, if it is a friend or family member that might be a different story. Overall, we don’t think it is a good idea to ask for an instructor to negotiate their price. However, most instructors do offer long term commitments plans, like 3 month, 6 months, 12 months, etc. You may want to ask the question, “Do you have any long term plans or payment plans?”
What have you found the most helpful in making your private lessons go better?
Please feel free to post your positive experiences to encourage, inspire, and/or help others become the best musicians they can be.
Keep in mind this is a complaint free zone.
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