First, some frequently asked questions about lessons:
Who should take private lessons?
Nearly everyone can benefit from private instruction. That being said, here’s an example. Most middle school band students fall into 1 of 3 categories:
A. Challenged enough that class remains interesting, but not so much that it becomes overwhelming
B. Rarely challenged by the music in class, often bored
C. Overly challenged, feels overwhelmed and unable to keep up with class
Most students, probably 90%, will fall into category A. These kids don’t necessarily need private instruction, but if they’re interested in improving and being better musicians, they’ll benefit from it. The kids in categories B and C are the ones that really need private lessons. The under-challenged kids will get the opportunity to work on more challenging music, learn new skills, and feel more engaged. The over-challenged kids will get one-on-one help with any problems they’re having in class, allowing them to hopefully catch up with their classmates.
Other reasons your child could benefit from private instruction:
- He/she is homeschooled, or otherwise has no access to a school band or orchestra program
- He/she want to audition for All-District or other honors ensemble
- He/she is interested in studying music in college
- He/she wants to learn a different style of music, or a different instrument
- He/she simply wants to be a better musician!
Who should NOT take private lessons?
Anyone who is not willing to put in additional time and effort should not bother signing up for private instruction. Lessons aren’t a magic pill. Simply attending them will not make your child a better musician. In lessons I give students tools — they have to go home and practice using them on a regular basis.
How can I help my child get the most out of lessons?
First of all, you can make sure they have the proper materials. See the For Students section (General info and specific instrument info) for materials and music.
Secondly, you can help them develop good practice skills. Help them set up a regular practice schedule and stick to it. (I can help you determine how long each day your child should practice.) Be nearby when they’re practicing to monitor them. If they’re just opening their band book and playing straight through a few pages, that’s not practicing. They should be breaking challenging parts down into smaller chunks, working on details, trying to improve intonation and articulation, etc. I show students how to do this in lessons, but it is more work. They won’t always do it if no one makes them.
Lastly, you can give them moral and emotional support. When they perform on student recitals, be there in the audience with a camera. Invite other friends and family members, and tell them how proud you are of them. Solo performances are a big deal! Be at their band or orchestra concerts. Let them know how much you enjoyed the music they made. Don’t mention the missed notes. Everybody misses notes. Mention the good notes!
Is my child old enough to learn a brass instrument?
There are some different schools of thought on how young is too young to start playing a brass instrument. I take two things into consideration. 1) Is the child physically able to properly hold and operate the instrument? A very young child, for example, couldn’t play the trombone if they can’t reach out to at least 6th position. Holding a heavy trumpet out in front of your body can be tiring. 2) Have the child’s permanent teeth come in (4 on top in the front, 4 on bottom in the front)? In order to form a solid embouchure, there needs to be some stability behind the lips. If the child has a big gap (or will have once the baby teeth fall out), then there’s no support for the mouthpiece.
If your child is still too young to meet these requirements, but wants to get involved in music, I’d recommend starting with piano lessons. That way he or she will be learning to read music and all about melody, rhythm, and harmony. This will allow them to easily transition to a brass instrument once they’re old enough. Southern Park Music School, where I teach, has several very talented piano teachers.