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Every now and then, we’re asked how early a child can begin private music lessons. Is there one right answer? Not exactly. As we all know, people are unique. We all learn at different paces, adjust to new situations differently, and have our own […]
Guest post from former Learning Allegro instructor Haleigh Swansen
When I was at Learning Allegro, my favorite lessons to teach were to brand new violin students — the people (young and not-so-young) who had no idea how to hold a bow or name the strings. Before those lessons, I would always give the same speech:
“Violin takes a while to sound good. Don’t get frustrated if things don’t click right away.
That speech is probably important for beginners on every instrument to hear. Musicianship is a marathon! It takes time, patience, discipline, and faith in what the sound will become over the years.
Eventually, though, those beginner violin students would get a different kind of pep talk:
“Watch your pitch! Other finger! You’re still having trouble with that measure.”
Why the change? Simple: those students were progressing in their studies. The basics were becoming more natural to them. Once a students finds his footing and gets comfortable on an instrument, it’s time to turn up the pressure a little bit!
The pep talk game is interesting. On one hand, there should always be grace for learners! Teachers should help students enjoy their craft, and the classroom should never be a place to fear. As one of my friends always says, “Lessons should be the safest place to fail.”
However, classrooms should also be places where people are challenged. When encouragement is not paired with honest criticism and hard work, you can’t grow!
Personally, I have seen very talented musicians “fizzle out” and plateau because they weren’t encouraged to take their craft seriously. Again, music should be fun and exciting, but it should never be fun at the expense of effort and focus.
From time to time, people ask us, “Why isn’t my child getting better at violin/piano/drums/etc?” Sometimes, the answer is lack of practice. Sometimes, the child lacks confidence and just needs to be built up a little more. But sometimes — many times — the answer is that in the name of having fun, the child is forgetting to take the learning process seriously.
If that’s happening, one of the best people to combat that issue is you, the parent!
Mom and Dad play a huge role in the pep talk game. You need to be your child’s biggest cheerleader, but also a coach — someone who will cheer for their successes, keep the game fun, but also keep their eyes on the prize. As your child practices, attends lessons, and dives deeper into studying music, help them to push towards real growth. Learning does not always have to be boring, and fun should not be purposeless. Help your young musician to find the fun in learning while embracing the challenge of hard work.
After all, the best way to run a marathon is with a buddy — someone who believes in you and won’t let you give up.
Is your practice routine getting stale? Ineffective? Does it even exist? Let’s face it — your not alone. “Practice blues” are part of the journey! When working on your instrument gets boring or fails to yield results, you might just need to rethink your routine. […]
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For a decade, Learning Allegro has been offering group music classes for toddlers — and from time to time, someone will ask us, “Does music really make a difference at THAT age?”
It’s a valid question! After all, the average two-year-old can barely talk, struggles to eat neatly, and can’t put her own shoes on the right feet. Does early exposure to music really make that much of an impact?
Believe it or not, it does.
In the 1990s, researchers discovered that children who start music classes early will speak more clearly, develop a larger vocabulary, and exhibit stronger social and emotional skills than their peers (Novak Djokovic Foundation). When children are exposed to music before the age of 4, they are more likely to master a second language. And since music encourages phonological awareness, toddlers who take regular music classes also tend to make quicker headway with reading and public speaking.
Toddler music classes are good for parents, too! When mothers engage in music alongside their children — especially when they play or hum the music personally — their cortisol levels are lowered. That means lower stress for mom and toddler alike.
Many of the skills that we value as adults — reading, public speaking, a good sense of timing and coordination — begin in the formative toddler years. That’s why Learning Allegro began its toddler music circles nearly a decade ago. Today, some of the toddlers in those early classes have become skilled musicians and students. We have personally witnessed the difference that a “head start” in music can make, and we encourage you to make music a part of your child’s life as early as possible.
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.