Music is a world of its own with its own history, culture, language, and tools. Because of this it can feel kind of daunting for parents who haven’t been very exposed to the musician culture. In my years of teaching I have often been asked many of the same questions from parents who are new to music lessons. In this article I answer a few of these questions along with some other questions I feel like are must knows for parents with students taking music lessons.
What Does My Student Need?
When it comes to music gear it is important to know that in most cases you get what you pay for. However that being said, beginner gear doesn’t have to be super crazy expensive you just need to get something that is sturdy and reliable. If you you are taking music lessons ask your teacher about what kind of music gear your student needs and where you can purchase it. If you don’t have someone in your life that can point you towards affordable but reliable gear than reviews from online sites such as amazon, guitar center, Reverb, and American music supply are great places to see what people have to say about various instruments. Once you have an idea of what you want I always recommend buying in store rather than online for first time instrument purchases. I have found that for first time instrument buyers they typically feel much better about their purchase when they get a chance to try out the instrument in store as well as ask for help from a sales representative before buying.
Guitar: guitar, tuner, picks, strap, capo, amp (for electric guitars)
Piano: keyboard, keyboard stand, sustain pedal
Drums: Drum set, sticks, metronome
How Often Should My Student Be Practicing?
Practicing should be encouraged daily for older students and at least 3 times a week for younger students. Practicing an instrument should not feel like a chore otherwise your student will just think of the instrument negatively. Teach your student that practicing/playing music is something they GET to do, not something that they HAVE to do. A little bit of practice goes a long way, even 15-30 minutes can make a huge difference. If students want to practice longer than that great, but if not than 15-30 minutes are is a great start.
Consistency is key when it comes to learning an instrument. Practicing often will prove much more effective than scattered practice sessions. I always encourage my students to practice multiple times a week rather than trying to cram in 2 hours of practice the day before our next lesson. At the very beginning it is also important that they take breaks every 30 minutes for younger students and every hour for older students prevent soreness or fatigue in the hands.
How Can I Help My Student?
As a parent there are very practical ways for you to help your student even if you don’t have any prior music experience.
Help them tune their instrument: there are many helpful videos online that can show you how to tune an instrument. Watching a tutorial video and tuning an instrument together is something you can do with your student. Its a great way to show them that they have your support in their music lessons. This is especially helpful for younger students who normally wouldn’t be able to tune the instrument by themselves
Expose them to as much music as possible: On the first lesson I always ask students what kind of music they like to listen to, and the truth is many students aren’t sure. A lot of students know they like music but don’t really know many bands, artists and styles. Playing music around the house or on car rides can be a great way to expose them to new bands, artists, and songs. Show them music that you like and introduce them to different kinds of music. You’d be surprised how often students want to learn songs just because it is their parents favorite song. Help them make a list of songs and artists that they like so that they know what kind of music they will want to learn in their lessons.
Take them to a concert: I will never forget when my parents took me to my first concert. It is a memory that I will have forever, and it was sponsored by my parents. That concert sparked an interest in live music that would carry over into me wanting to learn guitar. You never know what kind of impact a live show can have on a student who is interested in music. It is a great way to inspire your student while also making a lasting memory together.
Encouragement: Learning an instrument can be a tough process that requires a lot of patience. Every musician has moments of frustration and discouragement. Encouraging your student during this process can be the difference between them quitting or staying with it. Point out the progress they’ve made or aspects about their playing that you enjoy or admire. Let the encouragements be specific and honest, because kids can tell when you are just trying to be nice. Kind words from people who care can go a long way.
Be Present: Performing in front of a group of strangers can be tough, especially for new performers. Having a friendly face in the audience who cheers them on can give students major boosts of confidence. Show your students you care about their progress by asking about their lessons and what they learned or what they are struggling with. Knowing that parents care can keep students involved longer.
The thing that many parents forget is that although you may not be a musician yourself, you play a major role in the development of your student’s musical abilities. By providing them with support and the tools that they need to be successful you can be involved in their learning process. Students understand if you aren’t a musician, but they do remember the little things like going to a concert, picking out a guitar, listening to new music, going to and from lessons, and seeing their parents in the audience when they perform. These are the memories they will carry with them and they are memories that you can and should be a part of.