Music lessons offer an opportunity for students to learn a new language, creative expression, hard work and problem solving skills. Often a parent’s or student’s expectations for their first music lesson may differ from a teacher’s expectations for quite a few reasons.
Language offers a variety of colorful ways to express how we feel, what we think, and what’s important to us. We all use language and approach problems differently, and therefore the private music instruction will take on a flavor unique to each student.
Parents often feel that a first music lesson is wasted by introductory measures like getting to know each other and reviewing past work. Rather, this step is critical to understanding the unique nuances of a student’s best learning method. Some of us are visual learners, some aural, and some tactile. Putting in the time to get to know and understand the student is critical to success, and ultimately makes the lessons more productive in the long run.
From a teacher’s perspective, this time spent getting to know the student sets the stage for what we hope to be a great working relationship. Without that time to really get to know the student, it’s a bit like steering in the dark. You might go somewhere, but you won’t really be sure where or how fast/slow to go in the process.
There are a few key elements to be aware of when preparing for your first music lesson. First, no one wants to waste time. You don’t and neither does your teacher. Have a space prepared in a quiet room or area of your home conducive to productive listening and learning. Noise and activity makes focus difficult and will only create a chaotic atmosphere that distracts everyone.
Have your instrument ready. It is unfair to assume a teacher will bring an instrument for you. Often teachers will use professional instruments that may cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. It may make a teacher extremely uncomfortable to share their instrument with children or students not yet familiar with best practices. In the case of brass or woodwinds, it’s simply unsanitary and unhealthy to share instruments. And many instruments may be too big or cumbersome to transport, like digital pianos or upright basses. Additionally, it’s important to be able to sit down with your instrument after your teachers leaves. This is important time when we develop a relationship with the new instrument we’re learning how to play. This is when we learn how much we like it and how much it inspires us. We can’t do this unless we have our own!
Make sure you have staff paper or pencils handy in case you want to write something down. Chances are your teacher will bring music for you or make a recommendation at the end of your lesson. But best to be prepared ahead of time.
Knowing what you want to get out of the lessons will make the experience that much more enjoyable for you or your child. Ask yourself some questions so you can give your music teacher some helpful guidance. This will help make sure teachers stay on track to meet your needs and expectations.
- Are you interested in popular or classical music?
- Are there specific songs or pieces you want to play?
- Do you want to learn to read music?
- Would you like to prepare for an audition or jury?
Making A Plan
As a student, we have so many questions like, what’s my plan? How do I reach my end goal? What am I going to learn? Why am I going to learn those things?
Music is a winding journey and learning it is full of unexpected twists and turns. Like improvising, sometimes what you plan is not necessarily the path you take. Your various skills will develop at different rates, and, with that in mind, the structure of your lessons will vary from time to time. Tastes evolve and your listening skills will ultimately determine how fluidly you’re able to execute so many concepts.
For the first lesson, focus on where you want to go. How you get there and what to learn will be determined at each incremental step that will depend on your improvement, facility, ear development, and mastery. So the “what” and “why” will come at each incremental lesson in order to make up any deficiencies that may develop along the way.
Building A New Relationship
In the end, because your very next step is largely dependent on where you are now, it’s important to spend that first lesson making sure your teacher understands you, your learning style, and your goals. It’s not a waste of time, but rather an important first step in building what will become an important relationship.
Even transitioning from one teacher to another is a new opportunity to build another lasting friendship and bond. Don’t think of it as starting over, but getting fresh perspective. Teachers appreciate the work fellow colleagues do and enjoy seeing how different methods and approaches work with different students.
Prepare yourself. Set goals. And enjoy the ride.
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