FAQs … about Music Lessons

How gifted does a student have to be to compose?

The quick answer is “not at all.” While talent does play a role in composing, success in composition is based mostly on interest, desire, and hard-work. “Giftedness” sometimes needs to be nurtured before it becomes evident. And a number of composers aren’t “gifted” at all. They just work hard, love what they do, continue to improve their craft, and get their works performed. It is up to future generations to decide if they are gifted.

At what age should a child begin to sing?

Children should begin singing as soon as their voices make noise. My son was imitating musical sounds during my organ practice sessions well before his first birthday. Sing with your children. Encourage them to sing in children’s choirs at church, at school, and in the community.

At what age should a child begin voice lessons?

Formal voice study is not, in my opinion, nearly as important for the young child as singing in a choir. I encourage students to wait until high school, or at least middle school, before beginning formal voice lessons. Prior to that time they should study piano to develop a strong musical foundation.

What difference does the training of a piano or voice teacher make?

  • A music teacher with strong formal training can guide students into good technique, either vocal or piano, from the start of their training. Bad habits are hard to break, and it is a disservice to a child to have them start with a teacher who may teach them poor technique, incorrect note reading habits, or careless rhythm, all of which they will need to change later if their interest grows.
  • A teacher with strong formal training also knows the literature and can nurture children to love quality music, setting up a lifetime of interesting music making in the life of any child.

Is it important for a voice student to be able to read music?

Yes. Singers can get by with learning music from listening to CDs for awhile.  Those singers who read music will function with much more ease in choirs and will learn many more solo works. In the professional world, with a few notable exceptions, singers who read music have a significantly greater range of employment.

Does it matter whether my child studies piano?

Yes.  Studies are proving that young children who study piano have an easier time with core classroom subjects such as math and spelling. Students who study an instrument generally have higher SAT scores in high school.

How can I help my child like playing the piano?

see “Some thoughts on helping your student enjoy practicing …” in the handbook (add this

Do you teach jazz piano?

No, sorry!

Do you accept students with handicapping conditions?

Most definitely. Please discuss with me the nature of the handicap to see if I have the particular skills that would be helpful to this student.

How often should parents visit a child’s lessons?

Parents should visit frequently in the lessons of young students so they can assist with practicing at home. As children grow older, visiting once a month is encouraging to the student and helps both parent and teacher sense any developing problems. As students reach high school their independence increases. But they still like to know their parents care. Occasional visits to lessons can be useful.

How much should my child practice?

This varies with the individual child and the age of the child. Children who love to practice should not be limited in their enjoyment. Children who are not in love with practicing (and many of us are not), should set a limit on the number of repetitions for each piece or exercise they play. Child prodigy Ruth Slenczynska once mentioned her technique for practicing passages that weren’t fun yet (i.e. music becomes fun once we can play it well!). Ruth said that she set fifteen matchsticks (paper clips would work well) on the piano and every time she played a passage correctly she removed a matchstick. When the matchsticks were gone she could quit practicing that passage for the day.  A child might use five repetitions as a guideline.

  • Repetitions work better as a guideline for amount of practice than time limits.  Repetitions represent accomplishments.

How does a student use their practice time most efficiently and enjoyably?

Setting goals for each piece or exercise is very useful and more enjoyable than meeting time limits. Set a goal each time you practice and for each repetition of a piece.

What careers are there for musicians?

See “Careers in Music” Careers in Music

My student wants to major in music.  How should (s)he prepare?

  • Basic piano study is useful for any student who wants to major in music.  This is in addition to formal lessons in their particular area of musical interest. Students should participate in a large ensemble, either band, choir, or orchestra. And studying music theory in conjunction with piano lessons, or in classes in high school, is also very beneficial.
  • Also see “College Degrees in Music” College Degrees in Music