Getting The Most Out Of Music Lessons

Every student has a different motive to take music lessons. Some students take lessons to eventually play in a band, while others do it solely as a hobby, and others may do it for a career opportunity. I discuss the different kinds of students and demographics in detail in my resource: "Why Take Lessons? What is your Motive?" There are two primary concerns parents have before making a long-term commitment to music lessons: 1. Will my child practice regularly? 2. Will my child maintain interest? These are legitimate concerns to have, considering the time, money, and commitment that go into taking music lessons. I address these issues in my resources: "Develop Good Habits At Your Instrument", and "How To Prevent Getting Bored Playing Your Instrument". The main purpose of this resource is getting the most out of music lessons, prior to attending, and during the lessons. We will discuss practical ways to make lessons an enjoyable experience, as well as a productive and progressive one.

1) Come Prepared – this is obvious, but often neglected. Many students want progressive results during the lessons, but don't practice outside of the lessons. What you do outside of the lessons will determine your overall success during the lessons. Diligent study and hard work at your craft are the ingredients to great success. The more prepared you are, the more productive you will be during the lessons, and the more progression you will make toward new material.

Second, preparation always precedes fun. When you are prepared for each lesson, you will have fun at each lesson because there will be time to progress to new material; there will even be time to conduct a fun musical activity. Conversely, a lack of preparation results in boredom and apathy. This is because students will keep working on the same material and making no progress, thus producing indifference and tedium.

Third, preparation will keep your mind fresh. Because you will progress as a result of your hard work, your mind will continually be afresh and renewed with new concepts and ideas. This is a great way to build drive and motivation on your instrument.

Lastly, preparation will increase your confidence. Nothing is better than coming to a lesson knowing you are well prepared and ready to proceed to new material. This will help maintain a positive attitude and strong outlook for each lesson.

2) Be On Time – Considering there is so much to cover during each lesson, time goes by very fast. Being on time is important for two reasons: 1. It shows your interest for the lessons and respect for the instructor. 2. You will get the most out of your lessons. Students who run late are often more frantic during the lessons, and don't perform to their fullest potential. Furthermore, time is reduced to review/progress. There have been many times students have come prepared for the lessons, but because they were late, we were still not able to progress with new material. Make every effort to arrive 5 – 10 minutes before the lesson so you're situated and mentally prepared. If the instructor is behind schedule, he/she will always make up any missed time.

3) Be Organized –
To develop a life of self-discipline, you must start with the small things before taking on the big things. Developing organizational skills is one of those small things, yet so important! So much time has been wasted in lessons when students come disorganized. For example, forgetting to bring your folder or assignment for the next lesson has hindered many students by paralyzing their progress. More time can be wasted searching for an assignment than practicing it because of the lack of organization in a student's life. Organize all your lesson materials. When you receive an important document, immediately place it somewhere you can find it. This will significantly reduce wasted time and increase your efficiency outside and during the lessons. Several organized students have folders for different purposes with each one labeled. These are the students who are the most time efficient during each lesson.

4) Review Your Material Just Before The Lesson –
During my college years, I would quickly review my study notes before an exam. I would never thoroughly study them just before the exam, but quickly skim my notes as it reinforced anything I forgot. I believe this is also helpful for music lessons. There have been students who practiced hard during the week, but didn't review their materials the day of the lesson. As a result, this led to some forgetfulness. Spend some time reviewing what you practiced just before the lesson. This will keep you alert and on guard.

5) Practice Consistently – Some students practice up to a couple hours a day, which is great, but won't practice again until four days later. This practice approach can hinder a student's progress. Find a regular time to practice each day. The key is not quantity (how long you practice for), but quality (how you practice). Developing a consistent practice schedule will cultivate self-discipline on your instrument. Plus, you will be able to manage your time reviewing all the lesson material, as well as having extra time to work on your own material!

6) Ask Questions – It has been said that the inquisitive/curious student learns the most. I firmly believe this. Most of my own learning has occurred by asking entrepreneurial experts questions on what to do and what not to do. Surprisingly, there have been many occasions when students agreed to understanding something, but came to the next lesson not sure about what to do. You are only hurting yourself. Do not hesitate to ask questions for clarification on the material, or if you don't understand something. It doesn't end there. The student who wants to be the best at what they do will ask additional questions about other styles of music, verification of playing a created pattern correctly, or ask a question on how to help them improve. A lot of positivity comes by asking questions. If you have any questions, but think you'll forget, write them down or contact the instructor.

7) Listen Up – Listening skills are, without a doubt, the most important skills to communication. Apart from it are communication breakdowns, misunderstandings, and quarrels. People in a marriage, business partnership, sports team, or band have had major problems because of a lack of listening skills. This happens because we are so consumed with what we want to say and brush off the other person, or because our minds are somewhere else (e.g., tasks at home, dinner, etc.). Thus, we fake our attention and don't genuinely absorb the information the person is saying. During each music lesson, make every effort to block out distractive thoughts so you can concentrate exclusively on the instructor and lesson material. Turn off your cell phones as text messaging creates a HUGE distraction! Take notes if you need to so no information is lost. There have been occasions where students have come prepared and came on time, but still had an unproductive lesson because of their lack of listening skills. This is a vital skill to develop at a young age, as it is applicable to every aspect of life.

8) Attitude Is Everything – This final principle is the one that is the master piece to all the above. On many occasions, professional athletes have been released or cut from teams. This was not because of their talent or sometimes even work ethic, but because of their prideful, arrogant attitude. I'm sure we can think of celebrities or people we even know who are like this. While the above principles focus on the external, this principle focuses on the internal. It deals with the condition of our heart. Students can encompass all of the above attributes, but if they lack character and a positive attitude, they will get nowhere. Not only will this put a damper on their musical skills, but will also negatively affect the people they work with. The following are some basic ways of maintaining a positive attitude during the lessons:

Be Receptive To Constructive Feedback – The Scriptures say, "Be quick to listen and slow to speak. "Be open minded to constructive feedback. A lot of your learning will come from people telling you what you're doing wrong. The instructor's job is to identify areas of improvement in your playing and help you develop those. When a student refuses to hear constructive feedback or just brushes it off, this will result in stagnation in your playing, and harden your heart in other areas of the music lessons. Be responsive, receptive, and humble in accepting constructive feedback. While it may be frustrating to hear in the short run, it will work great wonders for you in the long run!

Don't Interrupt – A lot of time can be wasted during lessons, because the instructor is busy repeating points that were interrupted. Although basic, this skill of fully listening to what the instructor says is so important. You will fully understand the points that were made, and this will avoid any tension from the student/instructor.

Even If You Know Something, Listen To It Again – One of the keys to effective leadership is reinforcement. A leader often reiterates a point to effectively drive it into the minds of his/her corporation. The worst thing a person can is say, "Yeah, yeah, I've heard this before." This kind of response develops sarcasm, friction, and a negative attitude within a relationship. As a student, always have an open ear to what the instructor says. No important information is left out, you're being reinforced about something that will benefit you, and most of all, you're exhibiting humility, which will significantly help you in the long run.

Don't Allow Yourself To Get Angry With The Material – In my "Facing Challenges As A Musician" document, I discuss how emotions are detrimental to our practicing, because they cloud our comprehension. When we allow ourselves to become angry by not understanding something on our musical instrument, this will prevent us from playing effectively, and have an adverse effect on other aspects of the music lessons. Emotions and anger, without immediate self-control, are like a cancer. They permeate in other areas of our lives. It is not unusual for students to become so angry playing a beat that they were not willing and able to do anything else. Their anger consumed them so much that it affected other things they played and their attitude. Maintaining a calm composure throughout the lesson will help you have a clear mind to focus on the material and block out emotions.

You might be thinking that some of these principles seem too autocratic or like a military camp. It may sound too regimented and dry. In fact, these principles will bring about the exact opposite approach. These are foundational to your overall success. It is like the wise man and foolish builder. In the Scriptures, Jesus gives a parable about a wise man building his house on the rock and a foolish man building his house on sand. When the home is on the rock, it will be able to withstand any strong winds and storms because of its strong foundation. On the contrary, when the home is built on sand, it cannot withstand any winds or storms. It will immediately destruct. This rule also applies to music lessons. The stronger your foundation is abiding by these principles, the more productive and successful you will be at each lesson. Now you might be thinking, "That's all great, Chris, but it still doesn't sound like fun!" Nothing can be further from the truth. Fun and enjoyment will be the manifestation of having a strong foundation. In other words, the more you improve at these qualities, the more fun you will have because you will clearly see progression. Remember – what causes tedium and indifference? Working on the same thing every lesson, which comes from a lack of preparation, and/or more of the principles we discussed. However, preparation, practicing consistently, punctuality, organization, an inquisitive mind, and a positive attitude will truly manifest into a productive and enjoyable lesson experience!



"I was first drawn to Breaking Grounds in Music due to Chris' working with special needs clients. My 9 year old son had anxiety issues that would need a "special" hand. Two years later, I have no doubts that Chris' engaging and calming influence has helped my son be a confident and social middle schooler. 

In addition, the skill my son has developed on the drums is outstanding. Chris developed a customized plan that works perfectly for our son and family overall. 

We were so pleased with the results from Breaking Grounds that we have enrolled our 8 year old son in guitar lessons (at a 15% sibling discount!).

Highly Recommended!"

- Michael T. (Review from Yelp)