Private lessons give students regular experience playing with and learning from professional musicians. Learning from "someone who makes music a living and lives from music" is very different from downloading internet tabs, jamming with machines & working things out without support from a coach. These are valid ways to learn but can't replace interactive live playing with experienced musicians, & of course a program of instruction that systematically covers a full complement of musical skills.
Remember that learning an instrument takes a long time, true mastery happens only over a period of years, never weeks or months.
Anyone claiming otherwise is bogus, though most students can play simple tunes & basic chord accompaniments within a few weeks.
Suzuki of Japan proved that very young students can be taught. The reality was the parent (an Asian Tiger Mum) was hands on in this process as very young children particularly lack the ability to practise & learn independently. Culturally, few Australian parents are prepared to do what it takes to get 3-7 year olds playing independently. Older children who already have some knowledge of songs & an ability to read are more likely to succeed musically without daily support & guidance of parents. Younger stars who are driven & self motivated are rare exceptions.
I am prepared to teach students of any age but your understanding of the nature and developmental level of your child is worth serious thought before you commit a significant budget to music lessons. I wouldn't want to disappoint you.
Individual instruction is $35 per half hour lesson. This time is generally sufficient to review past assignments & set new ones. Successful students always do something at home between lessons on most days. As a general guide, 30 minutes of focused daily practice can go a long way to being a competent musician. A pro would play hours daily but that isn't realistic for everyone.
Owning an instrument is essential. Lessons are pointless without daily access to an instrument. Regular practice is the way to success. Consider instruments in the house as practical furniture. You never know when visitors come through & can also play and teach you something. Educational and entertaining toys to share. Every house should have some.
If you are considering lessons for your kids, clarify your expectations regarding practice. It's not unusual for kids to do sports and parents never tell them to practise every day, but somehow, music is viewed differently. My guess is it's all about the money.
Fair enough, if you spend your money, you expect some results. As long as you & your kids agree about what is expected then you'll both get what you want, or at least a fair compromise.
At home it's helpful to provide an environment & guidelines that support building skills & constructive hobbies. Although I make a point of specifying these things during the lesson time, your input at home is very valuable.
My guidelines include:
1.Make a good practice space with suitable seating, lighting & a certain amount of privacy so nobody gets annoyed at the repetition & noise. Moderated climates are important for string instruments, which lose tuning as temperature fluctuates. Swivel chairs may be a distraction for some, especially young kids. Guitars seats shouldn't have arms & should be at a height where students can touch the floor, although a sturdy box or footstand is fine.
2.Always have the instrument ready if possible. Leave it out of its case (on a stand) with books on the music stand ready to go.
3. Minimise & limit distractions such as TV, toys and computer. This means making a schedule & ensuring it is stuck to. Routines are critical to regular practice and without rules about T.V., phones etc, time is sucked into the vortex of eternal waste. I was lucky as a child to have parents that knew how & when to say "no".
4. Don't overload kids with too many tasks. A drive to succeed pushes some parents to enlist their kids in so many activities that they get stressed or spread themselves too thin to achieve successful levels in anything. A kid doing sport 3 times a week, math coaching & some other activity as well as homework is busy. Success takes focused time. Music integrates well with computer,reading,science, social skills and confidence building. Many benefits too numerous to mention. Better to replace 2 or 3 ordinary activities with one great one I suggest.
5. Good musicians are avid collectors and organizers. Help your kids with the librarian functions required to keep practise material in an organized order. I ask my students to separate out their folders into 1.songs 2. note reading 3. charts & reference material such as scales and chord diagrams and 4. miscellaneous practise items like riffs and patterns to practice. We also use computers.
6. Discuss from time to time what you might expect your kid to do in a week so that it is clear there is some agreement or rule to follow.
7. Family culture is an inheritance & can be a legacy or a lunacy. Have you learnt the language of support & spread the message across the family or is sarcasm the norm ? I'm not going to tell you how to run your family life but it's obvious that some people's sense of humour borders on destructive and the truth is "it doesn't have to be that way." I have a thick skin because I have a big brother, but, helpful and supportive is not how I describe those moments as a child. Imagine how rich and successful I would be if I had a team of supporters from that start point ! Just joking. I've done alright anyway, but I appreciate how supportive networks increase our prospects of success. I've met many adults who were put off singing because someone in their childhood criticised or laughed at their efforts. I work to the principle that there are no bad musicians, just beginners. It is rare to find someone of normal intelligence & physicality who cannot aquire skills under the right circumstances
8. Who are the helpers around you ? Is there a teacher at school who could help change a string between lessons, or tune the instrument when it is desperately wrong ? A neighbour who can help keep the momentum and excitement with a bit of advice ?
9. Libraries are good places to supplement a collection. My major library branches have vast collections of professionally produced scores free for loan. If requested, they will often order something as they are always increasing and replacing their materials. In this digital age, libraries are often overlooked. Gold Coast libraries, especially the major branches (Southport & Mermaid) are exceptionally well resourced.
10. Patience and enthusiasm are important. Depth of skills take a long time to develop. The drive to "level up" though admirable can destroy the urge to try. Sitting on a level and enjoying playing at that level are important steps to the process. Completing someone else's list ignores personal choice & undermines the value of a hobby. Remember, kids were not born just to please us. However, teach them about the value of work and an appreciation of what they have.
Upon reaching a level, let them enjoy success at this level before moving the goal posts. And revisit simpler material frequently.It is easy to forget our improved skills if every lesson becomes another mountain to climb.
11. What you will witness in your snippets of peeking into the kid's room or sitting in on a lesson is called "practice" and practice can be ugly, riddled with mistakes, trials and errors. Practice is not a performance and less than half a percent is likely to be anything like perfection. In fact it looks a lot like failure. I wasn't often pushed into performances for my family and that suited me just fine. I still see "performance" as something I do like a job as it's not my nature to feel I want people looking at me. No, I just love music & making a job of it means I must perform from time to time but the bits in between performances are often trial and error.
Some people love performing & others just love playing. Stepping outside the comfort zone can focus attention to completion in a performance but beware of making your kids be your entertainment, especially passing judgement on the bits and pieces they do. Don't confuse "process" with "product." And be grateful if they try to please you. Avoid the backhanded compliment. "That was great but......"
FEES and MY POLICY
It's not my policy to bully students into practising. I simply aim to give students a musical experience regardless of their level and give guidance in setting realistic targets. It's up to the student (& you the fee-paying parents) to decide how much practice is enough. I will write students a practice plan as a guide and encourage parents to read this.
I will have conversations with kids who clearly don't practice as to how their parents might better use that money. Parents usually know if their kids are practising though many quiet achievers don't like someone over their shoulder during this time.
I work to a 4 lesson commitment and at the end of a set of lessons, students who wish to continue learning pay their fees at the fourth week. A lesson time cannot be held for a student if it has not been paid for.
If you miss your scheduled lesson time I can't guarantee make-up lessons or refund as time lost can never be recovered. I try very hard to keep my promises & in this way you won't turn up for a lesson to find I am not there. Fair people will appreciate this is the way it must be.
My door is always open for parents who may always enter without knocking. I encourage parents to stay in touch with what is happening & to know that what is happening is in fact a music lesson. I hope that parents that attend lessons will have the wisdom to understand that children benefit from having some space to consider a direction before chirping in to provide the answer or solution.
Mastery is an exercise in persistance & patience.
As the world we live in is in so many ways lacking a moral compass, I do filter out material that I believe may be inappropriate for children.
WHAT WILL THEY LEARN ?
I choose a program to suit the individual needs & interests of students, blending useful related theory with the practical arts of playing.
Popular music is taught and note-reading is encouraged.
For those who are inclined, it's possible to sit external Trinity College Of London Exams. It's not for everyone, but any student considering a music career, especially planning to enter a University Music Course will find this process a useful background.
Many students don't read music and though it's my view that it is preferable, for those that can't manage the time to master a useful level of reading, I have many resources that are not focused on learning to follow and decode a complex score.
A typical lesson could contain:- a review of some previous lesson points, some note reading, always popular songs for chords and singing, an exercise for physical development, improvising from a rule plus something for fun & interest like a cool riff.
I use parts of the Trinity Program from London which has a wide balance of contemporary, folk & classic pieces for reading skills, includes sight reading, scales, technical development and viva voce.
I also use components of the Australian Music Examinations Board's Contemporary Popular Music program. (CPM)
I teach accompaniment for the voice, music technology, including hard disc and computer recording, midi-based recording and editing,producing score, programming and use of FX, PAs, amplifiers and improvisation skills. As I have a collection of instruments, knowledge of keyboard, banjo, mandolin, ukulele, violin, harmonica, recorder and drums may be shared as appropriate.
Often enough my students will record an audio or video project to send to friends and family. Some might publish the result to youtube.
WHAT INSTRUMENT ?
I have biases here because I play guitar and sing, but knowledge gained in one area is often useful elsewhere. Guitar & keyboards are premium choices to me because they offer a full dynamic range accompaniment to singers, keys can easily be changed to suit singers, they can play fully harmonized instrumental music and are relatively portable. In the long run you don't need a band to keep an active instrumental hobby going with either of these instruments but they work perfectly with bands.
You can't sing while playing a brass or woodwind instrument, and it's difficult to sing with a violin tucked under your neck. Instruments like these (and including bass) often play arrangements for part-music so require partner players to keep it interesting.
Qld State Government fund band & string programs for State Schools. Many parents encourage their children to try these instruments, presumably due to its subsidised cost & possibly through a misconception that symphonic instruments require higher level thinking skills.
The path of learning a contemporary instrument with a private teacher is much more expensive. The snobbish favoritism in state funding arrangements rejects more versatile, practical and contemporary instruments from their programs.
While the classical lobbyists demand and receive these specialist privileges, the general public unfortunately misses out on more equitable funding for their kids.
Private schools often present strings programs to give an air of exclusivity that finds favour with their marketing targets.
I think many kids suffer through a year or 2 of strings because they have to, & quit as soon as they are allowed.
Schools would be better off investing in a keyboard and computer based recording lab. It's much more real world.
I love and respect history & I practise a repertoire of classical music, but I don't live in the golden era of classical music circa 1800. Guitars were out of favour during that time as they simply weren't considered loud enough to compete with orchestral instruments.
Guitar and keyboards are complex instruments with so many intellectual giants contributing to their repertoire.
In fact several of the classical giants wrote music specifically for guitar like instruments. Bach wrote for lute. Pagannini (violinist) wrote for guitar. And Stradivarius (the violin maker) even made some guitars. Beethoven commented on the versatility of guitars by saying "The guitar is an orchestra in itself" in reference to Italian guitar virtuoso Mauro Giuliani (1781-1829) whose concerts he often attended in Vienna
Why aren't the most popular contemporary instruments funded from the public purse? Probably the classical people are relentless lobbyists .
Seven additional benefits of keyboard - 1. doesn't require tuning 2. simply touch the key and the sound comes out perfectly - no need for high levels of physical dexterity just to produce a nice tone 3. computer connectivity is inbuilt 4. rapid key-change up or down means a vocal part or other instrument part can be matched without relearning or rescoring the accompaniment 5. beginners will find this instrument much easier than almost any other instrument and 6.headphones can used for practising without disturbing others 7. high quality keyboards have an excellent sound bank selected from the world's best quality instruments.
Seven additional benefits of guitar- 1.the percussive quality of a guitar being almost a drum & tone instrument in one makes it very versatile 2. the fact that you actually touch the strings means that you have a chance to control the harmonic quality of the tone unlike a piano where the string is struck by a hammer or keyboard with preset sounds. 3 . It requires frequent tuning (could be a negative) so it forces higher level of attention to listening in getting pitch right 4. the popularity of the instrument means there are many other people around to share ideas with.
5. the guitar is undoubtably the most portable self-sufficient instrument for the mobile musician. 6.With a capo, the guitar can be adapted to a multitude of different keys quickly. 7. modern guitar technology has given the guitar access to an almost unlimited range of sounds.
There are benefits to learning a range of instruments Some things are better learnt on e.g. a keyboard, such as harmony because a keyboard can produce more than one note at a time whereas e.g. a clarinet can't produce more than one note at a time.
Theory programs feature prominently for many classical instruments. Some would have you believe that is because there is an expectation of a "higher level of thinking " required. Actually, it's more reasonable to expect if you can only play one note at a time, you don't have much else to think about beyond producing a nice sound. The benefit of having less to think about in some areas allows freedom for thought to other matters, namely theory.
Guitar players (especially ones that read), often play several notes simultaneously with lots of memory & calculation involved to work out where those notes are. The instrument's range is big with the same note appearing in several locations, unlike a piano where middle C is found in only one spot.
Guitar players (and strings) can use "moveable patterns" which don't exist on other instruments. Stringed instrument players have more tonal choices ranging from vibrato, tremolo and slide techniques to actually highlighting the varied harmonics producable on their instruments.
The repetitive linear arrangement of a piano makes understanding theory a walk in the park. If I'm teaching guitar, I often refer to piano which can make theory much more obvious.
As producing an acceptable tone is very straightforward on piano, it is a good beginner instrument. All a player can actually control is the volume because the machinery of pianos simply hammers the string. No need to tune daily is a strong advantage.
Playing trumpet teaches you about breathing well. It's also a living science experiment in air pressure. The same length of pipe can give different pitches through the harmonic relationships of a tone. There are factors to consider regarding respiratory system health as well as general hygienic practices using wind instruments. Any instrument that is a repository for spit needs to be cleaned and disinfected regularly.
So all instruments have their strong points and limitations.
GROUP LESSONS OR PRIVATE ?
Group lessons are often run for economy or profit, not effective teaching and learning. I'm a firm believer that private lessons are a superior way to learn music.
However, I do lead groups. Some individuals within groups do very well in this environment & may prefer the social context that a group lesson can offer. They may also like to form and work as a band.
Call to discuss your requirements here.
I am currently running large group guitar lessons at a low cost/student in Miami State School as part of the school's Arts program.
If you would like such a program in your school, with your friends or for a community centre please contact me to discuss this.