Helpful tips and funny thoughts from a musician's mind

Tag: learning

WATCH: Clips from Learning Allegro’s 2018 Christmas Recital

WATCH: Clips from Learning Allegro’s 2018 Christmas Recital

Here are a few clips from our 2018 Christmas Recital — including a guest appearance by Miss Wendy! We heard from over 30 talented young musicians at this year’s event. What a treat! Do you have a budding musician in your home? Check out our […]

Thankfulness at Learning Allegro

Thankfulness at Learning Allegro

One of the best parts of November is the chance to slow down and think about the blessings in our lives. Life, even with all of its pitfalls and hurdles, leaves us with so much to appreciate. We just wanted to share a few of […]

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 […]

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.

Why summer is the best time to try a new instrument

Why summer is the best time to try a new instrument

Here’s what we’ve noticed at Learning Allegro when our students try out new instruments during summer break.  In the last few years, we’ve seen a surge of students at Learning Allegro who try a new instrument over the summer. We don’t blame them! Here are […]

Why do so many schools downplay the arts?

Why do so many schools downplay the arts?

Many public schools treat art and music extracurriculars. In fact, the arts are often defunded before subjects that really are extracurriculars, like sports. Why? In the scheme of global history, we’re really the first era to downplay art education. Our ancestors treated the arts just as […]

When should my kid start music lessons?

When should my kid start music lessons?

IN TODAY’S POST, MISS HALEIGH TACKLES A COMMONLY-ASKED MUSIC QUESTION.

One of my favorite parts about working at Learning Allegro is the diversity of the people I encounter every day. Music is one of those rare things that manages to pull people out of every walk of life and put them under one roof.

Diversity is not just a matter of language or background, though. It’s also a matter of age. Every week, I sit down at the piano with pupils as young as five and as old as…well, old enough that they don’t have to tell me their ages. *wink wink*

That being said, I’m often asked “When is the best time to start lessons?”

Scholars and critics are all over the place on this one. Some people insist that you should start young, citing a child’s powers of retention and motor skills. Others say you should wait a little while, citing the importance of self-discipline and initiative.

PERSONALLY, I FIND THE QUESTION — AND ITS PREMISE — KIND OF FUNNY. 

The question seems to imply that there’s a magical age that somehow makes music lessons more valid or worthwhile. It also assumes that people are cookie-cutters, uniformly developing in every possible way. And both of those assumptions just aren’t true.

The best answer I can give you is this:

THE BEST TIME TO START IS WHEN YOU ARE GENUINELY INTERESTED IN MUSIC. 

Maybe that’s too simple for the scholarly community, but really, I think that’s what the issue boils down to.

It takes time, patience, and practice to become a musician–and from personal experience, you won’t care enough to “stick with it” unless you have some baseline interest in what you’re doing. But that baseline will be different for every person.

I started taking violin lessons somewhere between the ages of three and four (yep!), and although I wasn’t always a diligent student, I stayed engaged in lessons for fifteen years. My sister, who started at the same time, swore off the violin at the ripe age of five–and my parents never made her play again. It just wasn’t her thing.

On the other side of the spectrum, we’re starting to see more and more parents take lessons at Learning Allegro. People are finally getting over the “too late” stigma and treating music lessons as a chance to “learn for fun.” Imagine that!

ARE THERE BENEFITS TO STARTING YOUNG? SURE — BUT I WOULD RATHER TEACH A 64-YEAR-OLD WITH GENUINE INTEREST IN MUSIC THAN AN 8-YEAR-OLD WITH PHOTOGRAPHIC MEMORY. 

Why? Because the person with interest is the one who will practice, push themselves, and value the end goal: great music!

So what’s the right age to begin music lessons? It’s really a matter of personal discernment. Know yourself (or your child)–and if you see that glimmer of interest, give it an outlet! Whether you’re four or four hundred, a little bit of personal desire can go a long way.

Merry Christmas from our STUDENTS!

Merry Christmas from our STUDENTS!

Last Sunday, Learning Allegro held its annual Christmas concert. Over 40 students showed up to spread some holiday cheer–and show off their FANTASTIC skills. It’s a joy to teach (and learn) alongside each of our budding musicians, and we can’t wait to see where they […]