music student plays concert

Learning to play enriches a whole lifetime by fulfilling the desire to make music. The gradual mastery of an instrument is pleasureable, strengthens the imagination, builds self confidence and articulates emotions. It encourages self-motivation, rewards discipline and contributes to the development of social skills. A musical instrument isn’t just another toy – it might be one of the most important things you buy yourself or your child.

  1. Buying or renting an instrument
  2. Do you have concerts, tests, or exams?
  3. What about playing in public?
  4. Can I be present during my child’s lessons?
  5. Practicing
  6. Should my child learn to read music or study theory?

1) Buying or renting an instrument

If you don’t already own a bass, a guitar or a drum kit, renting costs about $20 to $30 a month. Some stores have a rent-to-buy option. Avoid buying the cheapest models as they often develop pricey repair problems later on. A better instrument is also easier to re-sell or trade in. Does the store’s policy have a one year guarantee and a return or exchange within 3 months? Used guitars often have a guarantee too. Think about the size and weight of the instrument – stores often sell kids inappropriately adult sized ones. What about lefties? Call me for more specifics.


2) Do you have tests, or exams?

Tests. I usually don’t give tests since I think playing a piece of music well is passing a musical test. I use participation, effort and improvement as yardsticks of success. I can set up tests to assess skills if this is your approach, and some children like a certificate as it provides a sense of achievement.


3) What about playing in public?

It depends on what’s right for you. Some people love to perform, some like it but need assistance managing the challenges, others are happier playing for themselves or in jam bands. Wherever you fall along this spectrum your music is of value. A comfortable way to start playing for others is to have me help put on a small home show for family and friends.


4) Can I be present during my child’s lessons?

For younger students I like the parent to be present for the first lessons or more. For older youth, after the first class it’s distracting and a bit demeaning, so I prefer we work alone. I welcome questions on the content or nature of lessons and will gladly discuss progress with you.


5) Practicing

The purpose of practice is to get specific physical movements to become automatic enough to allow easy self expression. The musical mind and emotional attitude also need training alongside the body. How much time is needed? 15 to 30 minutes daily is ideal, but depends on age and other factors. I’ll give you practice concepts, routines, playing log charts and discuss more in detail with you.


6) Should my child learn to read music or study theory?

There’s a range of beliefs about reading music. On one end of the scale are musicians who insist it’s a must, on the other end those who find it a barrier. Teens often don’t find it useful, depending on who else they play with. I don’t introduce it in first lessons as it distracts from focusing on sound making. Once I get to know the student’s musical direction, personality and work habits, we can decide whether to introduce this skill. Other ways of communicating and organizing musical information are sol-fa (do-re-mi), tablature with rhythms, numbering systems and playing by ear.

Theory is the name for ways of investigating the elements and structure of music, and describing the way tones and rhythms behave in relationship to each other. It uses note names, a numerical naming system and listening to intervals, scales, chords and chord progressions. It’s useful if you’re interested in creating music or exploring and developing existing pieces.
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