While just showing up to your music lessons will yield a small amount of progress, to get the most out of your lessons it’s important to really commit to your chosen instrument. Check out these 7 tips for having successful music lessons, then get practicing!
1. Pick the right instrument.
It’s important to consider the instrument you are using and how you will be using it. Material variation such as composite-based materials versus natural fibers can affect the tone, sound, weight, and durability of an instrument. Some students require instruments that are sized down to fit their body structure. Shoulder straps, finger pads, and chin rests can be augmented to provide the most comfortable fit possible. Spend time finding the best ways to custom fit your instrument to your body and practices. Comfortable and familiar instruments allows you to focus on the lesson without frequent shifting or adjusting.
2. Be open to instruction.
While many students focus on a particular genre of music or style, it’s important to listen to constructive criticism from a trained ear. Sometimes it’s the quick exercises, like scales and runs, that help us develop lighting fast sight-reading skills or pick up our favorite tunes. Be willing to enter lessons knowing that you’re going to mess up and that your instructor is going to know the best ways to help you make progress. Know your progress plan and be sure to communicate your goals with your instructor.
3. Be ready to learn.
Life is hectic! Most students may also be attending school or working. As a result, sometimes we grab a quick snack or maybe drink a quick coffee during our busy day. Take a moment before lessons to take a deep breath, stretch out, and make sure you have everything you need. For all lessons, drinking a bottle of water is a great way to keep yourself hydrated and brushing your teeth before lessons for wind instruments helps keep your instrument clean of sugars or acids that can degrade it over time while also refreshing yourself. This crucial moment will help you be more present and aware during your lesson.
4. Bring a pencil.
Store it in a case or clip it to your music but make sure you have it and an eraser. Notation on sheet music and in practice books will allow you to write crucial reminders, make note of sections to practice later, and give you a way of remembering the very important lessons you learn in class. It’s easy to forget something in the rush of the day that could help you make big progress at home between lessons.
It sounds cliche but consistent and regular practice is the only way to build muscle memory and make success second nature. Students aren’t just training their minds, they’re training their bodies with proper posture and increased dexterity. As a result, those muscles remember and benefit from regular exercise. Really want to hit an audition out of the park? Make sure that you practice a little each day. Want to nail your favorite song? Make playing the notes second nature by repeating them until you don’t need the music any longer. Struggling to remember the key? Scales are a great way to make the adjustments quickly and easily.
6. Proactive Progress
Often in practice it’s easy to realize what you don’t know, but your instructor isn’t with you. By keeping a notebook and/or notating on your music/workbook you can remind yourself in a lesson about your questions in practice. Make sure that before you go to a lesson you have your questions in one place so you can address them all, and notice any patterns (is one type of transition bogging you down? Is this tempo just not sounding right?). Addressing those problems first in a lesson can help you make quick and consistent progress.
You’ve done it! You’ve nailed the song, finished the book, or finally hit that third octave on the scale. Take a moment to celebrate! You can share the music with your friends, post a video on youtube, or do a happy dance wherever you are. Mastering an instrument is a life-time pursuit, but every little victory is worth celebration! While there is always more to learn, it’s important to celebrate how far you’ve come with your instructor, your family, or your friends. Sharing the music, and the success, is half the fun.