Helpful tips and funny thoughts from a musician's mind

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FAQs about Renting an Instrument

FAQs about Renting an Instrument

Renting an instrument for the first time? Here’s what you need to know!   If the idea of renting an instrument stresses you out, take a deep breath! When you have the right help, renting is actually an easy process and comes with LOTS of […]

Back to school checklist for music students

Back to school checklist for music students

As your son or daughter heads back to school band, orchestra, or choir, here are a few tips to help pave the way for success! 1. PRACTICE AT HOME.  The best way to prep for the work you do in class is…you guessed it…practicing on […]

Private Lessons vs. Group Lessons: Which are Better?

Private Lessons vs. Group Lessons: Which are Better?

Every now and then, someone asks us whether their child should be in group lessons or private lessons — but believe it or not, the two are really designed to work together. Allow me to explain!

Group lessons and private lessons, as separate entities, both have a LOT to offer. In private lessons, your child gets one-on-one help that is impossible to duplicate in a full classroom. Since a lot of group music is arranged orchestrally, a student in private lessons will also have more exposure to the gorgeous solo pieces written for their instrument.

Group lessons have their perks, too — they tend to be more high-energy and social, which is a huge deal in terms of personal development. They can teach students the importance of listening to the musicians around them, following a conductor, and how to hear different parts within a larger piece of music.

However, both group lessons and private lessons have their limits — which is why we normally encourage people not to isolate one from the other. 

When a student’s entire exposure to music is just in private lessons, they miss out on the larger purpose of playing an instrument. Most music is played with other people, not in a vacuum! As such, a life of private lessons without exposure to group work is unrealistic. Since private lessons lack the energy factor of a group lesson, it can also be easy for a child to get bored if that’s his or her only musical outlet. I (Miss Haleigh) started private lessons at the age of three or four, and I didn’t play in a formal group setting until I joined my first orchestra thirteen years later. I can honestly say that I would have been a more enthusiastic student if I’d had the group experience earlier in life.

On the other hand, when a student’s only exposure to music is in group lessons at school, I find that they don’t progress as quickly or as independently. It’s easy to practice when 20 other kids are playing the same thing as you — and honestly, it’s easy to “fake it” and hide your mistakes in that scenario. Private lessons force the student to take ownership of his instrument’s individual voice in a way that group lessons do not. They are a better place to correct bad habits, explore new musical genres, and gain confidence as a soloist. For timid students, private lessons are also a space where they can ask questions without getting embarrassed. There is no social pressure, no peers to impress, and no competition–just the student and the teacher.

Having taught literally hundreds of kids over the last few years, we at Learning Allegro are strong proponents of BOTH group and private lessons. Both are incredible opportunities with unique strengths — and they balance out each other’s weaknesses.

Rusty? We can help!

Rusty? We can help!

Did your young musician take a break from lessons this summer? Then she might feeling a bit rusty. May we humbly suggest a great way to get back on track? Let’s face it — we don’t use every musical skill in day-to-day life. Street signs, thankfully, are […]

Musical burnout? Finding the source of your child’s frustration.

Musical burnout? Finding the source of your child’s frustration.

I SHOULD PREFACE THIS POST WITH A LITTLE NOTE. Yes, I’m in the music education business. No, I’m not writing this to guilt-trip you into keeping an unhappy child in lessons! There are certainly times to take a child out of music lessons, just like […]

Help! My child is in lessons, but I’m not musical!

Help! My child is in lessons, but I’m not musical!

What do you do when your child is taking music lessons, but you don’t consider yourself a “musical person?” How can you make sure your child is truly progressing? Miss Haleigh returns to the Learning Allegro Blog to tackle this common question.

 


I grew up with musical parents. My dad has an amazing ear and hails from a long line of musicians with perfect pitch. My mom CLAIMS she can’t carry a tune, but I inherited that perfect pitch gene, and I can attest that she’s more musical than she thinks. I also had the influence of my grandfather, an orchestra violinist, and several musical siblings in my life at an early age. In other words, as far as growing up with music goes, I hit the jackpot.

That’s not the case for everybody. I’ve met many parents over the years who worry that their own lack of musical ability (or even interest) will keep their children from reaching their full potential as musicians. It’s true that having a musical parent is handy, especially when you’re learning music theory, but I promise it’s not the deciding factor in your child’s musical future.

With that in mind, here are a few common concerns I have heard from parents that need to be addressed:

 

1. I DON’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT MUSIC.

That’s okay! My younger brother is currently majoring in finance at a state school. I know nothing about finance — but it doesn’t stop me from supporting him and appreciating his passion. It’s okay if your child can read sheet music better than you, or if you don’t know too much about technique. Your support and encouragement can honestly go just as far as a crash course in technique or theory.

 

2. I DON’T LIKE HOW IT SOUNDS WHEN MY KID IS PRACTICING.

Okay, music teachers get this one. As much as we love our students, anyone can get tired of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” after hearing it 500 times! Remind yourself that the season of squeaky notes and nursery rhymes is short, especially if your child loves his or her lessons. The more they enjoy themselves, the more they will practice! The more they practice, the more enjoyable their music will sound to everyone around them.

You can also ask questions (kindly!) to steer your child in the right direction–questions like “Are you sure that’s the proper note?” or “How did your teacher ask you to hold your bow?” Those questions allow your child to “teach” a little by relaying the information to you, and they should also help correct the sour notes.

 

3. I DON’T FEEL EQUIPPED TO HELP MY CHILD AT HOME.

There are plenty of ways to troubleshoot this one. The best way is to sit in on your child’s lessons. Listen to the teacher’s dialogue with your child and take a few notes. It’s amazing how much you can learn as a fly on the wall! You can also check out some simple theory videos on Youtube or find a theory app for your smartphone.

When I was taking algebra in grade school, my mom bought herself an algebra textbook and would teach herself the problems at night while we were asleep. She always managed to stay one step ahead of us–and it was a huge help! I’m not suggesting you lose sleep over your kids’ lessons, but I do believe that a little bit of self-education can go a long way and make you a more confident source of support for your young musician.

 

4. I’M NOT REALLY INTO THE MUSICAL GENRE MY CHILD IS LEARNING.

If your child is learning an orchestra instrument, he or she will probably get a foundation in classical music because it really is the best technical training you can get. Country, pop, and fiddle are all fun, but they don’t typically test your skillset as thoroughly as classical music does. If your child is learning a genre you don’t particularly enjoy, that’s okay. Again, your support is the main thing

You might find, however, that you enjoy it more than you think. Do a little research! Play the classical/folk/rock and roll songs around your house. The more you expose yourself to the genre your child is playing, the more you will be able to appreciate it.

 

5. IT’S TOO HARD (OR TOO LATE) FOR ME TO LEARN THIS KIND OF THING.

Nope! Some of my favorite students are parents who wanted to cross “play piano” off their bucket lists. You can do this! More specifically, you can learn to enjoy your child’s passion. Why not try classes for a month or two? It’s a good way to give yourself some “me time” while challenging your brain, learning a new skill, and entering the musical world of your son or daughter.

 

For more information about lessons at Learning Allegro, click here!

 

 

Highlight clips from our 2018 spring recital!

Highlight clips from our 2018 spring recital!

Our student musicians did not disappoint! Check out a few of the very talented young artists who played at our 2018 spring recital. So proud of ALL of our Learning Allegro families!  

Five ways to jazz up your summer music lessons

Five ways to jazz up your summer music lessons

Are you struggling to keep music lessons fun and exciting during the summer? Here are five easy ways to jazz up your studies, keep learning, and make the summer months feel fresh.   1.  EXPLORE A NEW GENRE OF MUSIC.   Are you a classically trained […]

How a summer camp helped me see the FUN in violin lessons

How a summer camp helped me see the FUN in violin lessons

In last week’s post, I said that I did not start playing violin in a community-oriented way until I had been in private lessons for thirteen years. That’s a partial truth.

My middle school and high school did not have onsite music programs, so until I joined a local orchestra at age 16, I really hadn’t played in a formal group setting. However, there were two brief, awesome exceptions to that statement: when I was in fourth and fifth grade, one of my former violin teachers ran a weeklong violin day camp.

I can honestly say — no hyperbole! — that those day camps were game changers for me. 

Most of the camp activities were fun, simple things. We tried to count how many times we heard “da da da DUM” in Beethoven’s 5th Symphony (it’s a big number), learned about classical music in cartoons, made bad music puns during snack time, and did all sorts of fun activities. I also remember candy; the teacher clearly had her priorities in line!

However — and most importantly — we put our music stands in a little cluster one day and took a stab at playing a concerto written for four violins and a cello. We were pre-teens with fairly little experience, so obviously, our efforts were a bit shabby. I don’t think we even finished one page of the song. But I do remember being wowed by the few moments when the music sounded…. well, musical!…. and at that point, I fell completely in love with playing in groups.

Before that camp, I had no idea that people could just get together and play a five-part song for fun. I especially didn’t know it was possible for five KIDS to come together, play five different sheets of music, and sound great in the process!

Why did those camps make such an impression on me as a fourth-and-fifth grader?

Probably because they were so different than formal lessons. There was no homework, no hours of practice to log, and nobody to impress…just a week to make new friends, have fun, and make music. During the school year, music was work. At camp, it was play — and honestly, I think kids need that work-play balance in music just as much as they do in any other context of life.

In my experience, the students who stick with their instruments long-term are the ones who truly enjoy it. If it’s all play, they won’t ever learn good technique…but if it’s all work, they’ll never see it as something to love.

If you’re thinking about putting your child in a music-themed day camp, I strongly suggest you go for it. Fifteen years ago, as a student, music camps truly changed my perspective on violin lessons… and today, as a violin teacher, I can see the payoff!


 

To register for summer strings camps at Learning Allegro, visit our website.

Thoughts from above a stage

Thoughts from above a stage

This week, Miss Haleigh shares a little bit about the important role music plays in live theatre.      This spring, a number of the Learning Allegro teachers, myself included, have been playing in the pit for local theatres. If you’re not familiar, “playing in […]