How to Prepare Your Child for Music Lessons

 

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Nurturing a love and appreciation for music in your child is an important and beautiful preparation for formal music lessons. Someone has to invest time into developing their interest in music, and there is no better person than their own Mommy or Daddy!

When preparing your little people for music lessons, keep these three goals in mind: 

  1. Nurturing their interest in music.
  2. Giving them a head-start on understanding foundational musical concepts.
  3. Helping them develop the hand/body coordination they will need to handle the physical requirements of their instrument.

There are so many great exercises and activities you can do with your little ones at home to prepare their minds, fingers, and hearts for music lessons. Let’s look a few practical ways you can do that.

 

Nurturing Musical Interest 

Play Classical Music Around the House.  

Children aren’t likely to develop an interest in music if they rarely hear it, so make music a part of your daily life.  It doesn’t have to be at the forefront – play a variety of composers in the background during playtime, and your little ones will be influenced by the atmosphere.

Attend Real Concerts…

…and make a big deal about it! Talk about it ahead of time, get dressed up, take pictures — show excitement! When it’s over, talk about it some more. Concerts are an invaluable learning opportunity for you and your children and can be a memory they will always treasure, if you make it one.

Make the Most of The Internet.  

Thanks to Youtube, we can give our children musical experiences on the days, weeks, and months we can’t attend concerts. Pull up some chairs, huddle around, listen, watch, and talk about what you’ve heard. Oh, and don’t forget… Popcorn!

Read Stories of Great Composers, Hymn Writers, and Musicians.  

Few things will bring music to life for your children like the fascinating stories of the real men and women who spent their life studying it. Plus, kids love story time. So grab a blanket, snuggle up, and read, read, read, read, read…

Teach Them to Respect Instruments.  

Children won’t have a lasting interest in something they think is just another toy. Teach them how to approach instruments with care, gentleness and respect. It will intrigue their little minds more than you think. (And save your instrument much heartache in the future. ;)

Sing, Sing, Sing!

What child doesn’t like songs? Even my 10-week-old would crack up when I started singing to him! Kids can usually handle simple tunes long before the complexities of an instrument, so when your kids are infants sing to them. When they’re toddlers sing with them. Your voice doesn’t have to be great… just sing – they’ll love you for it!

Celebrate Music

Pick a composer’s birthday to celebrate each month, and have a party! Spend the morning or afternoon listening to that composer’s music, reading stories about his life, enjoying a meal or treat from his culture, studying his time period, and anything else you can think of. If you’re really into it, some birthday cupcakes will be a hit, too! This one is more elaborate than the others, but if you’re up for it, you’ll have a blast!

 

Fostering Musical Understanding

Teach Them Basic Music Terms & Symbols.  

If a child can learn to recognize ball, chair, and cookie, he can learn to recognize note, staff, and “twebble clef”.  Give him a jumpstart on the stuff he’ll need to know when he begins music lessons – it will help him feel less overwhelmed at the first lesson.  Start with helping him to recognize these, and he’ll have a great head start:

  • Staff, Treble Clef, Bass Clef, Measure, Barline, Time Signature
  • Quarter Note, Half Note, Dotted Half Note, Whole Note
  • Quarter Rest, Half Rest, Whole Rest

Ear Training

You can never start training a child’s ear too early. Even the most basic ear training will make a tremendous difference. I’ll be sharing some beginner ear training activities soon, but in the meantime, try starting with simple exercises like these:

  • Loud/Soft, Long/Short, High/Low, Same Note/Different Note, Notes Going Up/Notes Going Down

Help them Learn the Names and Sounds of Instruments.  

This one might just be the most fun of all! Look at pictures and illustrations of instruments online or in a music book together.  Help your children recognize different instruments and instrument families. Watch solo and orchestral videos on youtube to help them learn the sounds of each instrument, then switch to recordings where they can only hear the instrument sounds. This can be a super fun and educational guessing game!

Teach Them the Names of Basic Instrument Parts…

…and what they do!  Kids are fascinated by how things work, and instruments are no exception. If you’re not sure what’s what, do a wink or two of research and then let them learn with you! (Online is an excellent resource.) Keep it interactive and try to get around as many instruments as possible. Your kids will have a blast, and you know what?  You will too.

Names of Keys

They’ll need to know how the music alphabet works, and the piano is a great place to learn.  The keyboard is arguably the easiest instrument to learn how the music alphabet works – partly because of its simple visual patter (it is straightforward and repetitive, unlike the violin or trumpet), and partly because it’s right in front of your face instead of left, right, up, or down, like the violin, flute, trombone, or cello.

 

 

Developing Physical Coordination

Clapping their Hands to the Beat in Music

This one is important! Clapping their hands to the beat will not only help them recognize where the beat is, it will also help them learn to coordinate their body movements with the beat, which is a crucial part of understanding and executing rhythm on an instrument.  You can do this one with classical music, or your favorite hymns, folk, or pop tunes. P.S. …it’s lots of fun!

Holding a Ball

If your child is starting with piano lessons, holding a small ball will help to prepare his hand for the correct playing position.  The ball should be small enough for him to wrap his fingers around in a curved position, but large enough that his fingers aren’t touching. (A $1 bouncy ball from Dollar Tree will do the trick!)

Learning Good Posture and, um… Sitting Still

Help your child understand what it means to sit with his back straight and his legs not twisted into a knot.  His teacher will be thoroughly impressed if you get this one down.  ;)

 

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And last, but not least… Remember that Your Attitude is Key.

You don’t have to be an expert in music to encourage a love of music in your child; you do have to have a love of music yourself. Your attitude and actions alone will make a difference. Your children learn what it important by watching what you get excited about. Watching you approach music with enthusiasm will show them that it is something to be valued. 

 

“Make delighting in music a part of your daily life,
and your children will learn to delight in it too.”

 

Have any question or additional ideas? I’d love to hear them. Comment below or send me an email through my contact page. 

16 ways to prepare you child's mind, fingers, and heart for music lessons. www.sfzMusicBlog.com, Lacie Bowman Music #music #musiclessons #musiclessontip #musictips #musiceducation #musiced #piano #teaching #homeschooling #homeeducation

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2 Free Printables: Naming Notes in the Treble & Bass Clefs

 

Hi there, teachers & parents!  Today’s two printables are exercises that every beginning student needs – reading notes!  I find that I almost can’t give my little students too many of these!  

Download directions are at the bottom of the page.  Enjoy them!

 

WORKSHEET 1:   READING TREBLE NOTES

This worksheet gives students practice in identifying notes in the Treble Clef.   Notes in exercise range from Middle C to A5.

 Reading Treble Notes Free Printable Theory Worksheet | The Music Blog

DOWNLOAD WORKSHEET

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WORKSHEET 2:  READING BASS NOTES

This worksheet gives students practice in identifying notes in the Bass Clef.   Notes in exercise range from E2 to Middle C.

 Reading Bass Notes Free Printable Theory Worksheet | The Music Blog

DOWNLOAD WORKSHEET

Please PRINT them, USE them, & SHARE them freely with your friends!

And remember to check back tomorrow for more free theory worksheets!

[box style=”white” ]Download Directions:  Click “DOWNLOAD WORKSHEET” link.  When file loads, press ctrl+s [PC] or command+s [Mac] to save file to your computer.  Press ctrl+p [PC] or command+p [Mac] to print. [/box]

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2 Free Theory Printables: Time Values & Note/Rest Identification

 

Here are 2 NEW printables for you to use with your students during the lessons or with your children at home!  

Download directions are at the bottom of the page.  Enjoy!

 

WORKSHEET 1:   NOTE & REST KINDS

This worksheet requires students to circle individual notes & rests that are mixed into a variety of others.  One line each is devoted to quarter notes, half notes, dotted half notes, whole notes, quarter rests, half rests, and whole rests.  

Free Printable Theory Worksheet NOTES & RESTS | The Music Blog

DOWNLOAD WORKSHEET

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WORKSHEET 2:  TIME VALUES

In this worksheet gives students practice in identifying the time values of basic notes and rests.  Drills include quarter notes, half notes, dotted half notes, whole notes, quarter rests, half rests, and whole rests.  

Free Printable Theory Worksheet Time Values  |  The Music Blog

DOWNLOAD WORKSHEET

Please PRINT them, USE them, & SHARE them freely with your friends!

[box style=”white” ]Download Directions:  Click “DOWNLOAD WORKSHEET” link.  When file loads, press ctrl+s [PC] or command+s [Mac] to save file to your computer.  Press ctrl+p [PC] or command+p [Mac] to print. [/box]

[box style=”light-gray” ]Like Lacie Bowman Music on Facebook
to get our NEW music freebies as soon as they’re published! [/box]

3 Free Theory Worksheet Printables: Major Scales

Free Printable Theory Worksheets MAJOR SCALES | The Music Blog

 

Here are today’s 3 free printables!  These three theory worksheets are focused on strengthening the student’s ability to recognize and work with white-key major scales.  Complete descriptions & download directions are below.  Enjoy!

 

WORKSHEET 1:  IDENTIFYING MAJOR SCALES

This worksheet on is designed to help students identify scales as they are notated on the staff.  This exercise includes the white key major scales written in one-octave: C Major, G Major, D Major, A Major, E Major, B Major, & F Major.  The order of scales are scrambled, and some of them are included twice.

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DOWNLOAD WORKSHEET

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WORKSHEET 2:  COMPLETING MAJOR SCALES

In this worksheet the student is asked to add the sharps and flats needed to complete the major scales.  Scales are one octave, ascending in the Treble Clef and include the white-key majors: C Major, G Major, D Major, A Major, E Major, B Major, & F Major.

Completing Major Scales Free Printable Theory Worksheet | The Music Blog

DOWNLOAD WORKSHEET

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WORKSHEET 3:   MAJOR SCALE NOTATION

This worksheet gives students practice in writing out scales on the staff (Treble Clef).  The directions ask for scales to be written one octave, ascending and descending.  Scales included are all white-key majors:  C Major, G Major, D Major, A Major, E Major, B Major, & F Major.

Writing Major Scales Free Printable Theory Worksheet | The Music Blog

DOWNLOAD WORKSHEET

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Please PRINT them, USE them, & SHARE them freely with your friends!

And remember to check back tomorrow for more free theory worksheets!

[box style=”white” ]Download Directions:  Click “DOWNLOAD WORKSHEET” link.  When file loads, press ctrl+s [PC] or command+s [Mac] to save file to your computer.  Press ctrl+p [PC] or command+p [Mac] to print. [/box]

Time Signatures & Counting: Free Printable Theory Worksheets

Free Printable Music Theory Worksheets | The Music Blog

Alright, friends, it’s time to get the “Free Downloads” section growing around here!  I’ll be sharing 1-3 free, printable theory worksheets every day this week on The Music Blog for my fellow Music Teachers to use in lessons with your music students!  (Parents, these are great to use at home with your children, too!)

I’m excited about these, so let’s get to ’em…  Here are the first three downloads – all focused on strengthening a student’s ability to count, identify, and function within different basic time signatures.  Enjoy!

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[box style=”white” ]Download Directions:  Click “DOWNLOAD WORKSHEET” link.  When file loads, press ctrl+s [PC] or command+s [Mac] to save file to your computer.  Press ctrl+p [PC] or command+p [Mac] to print. [/box]

 1. COUNTING WORKSHEET

This worksheet is designed to help music students gain confidence and accuracy in counting.  Exercises drill basic note & rest values and are in 2/4, 3/4, and 4/4 meter.

Counting Free Theory Worksheet Printable  |  The Music Blog

DOWNLOAD WORKSHEET

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 2.  TIME SIGNATURES WORKSHEET

This worksheet will help students to determine correct time signatures and placement of bar lines.  Exercises include basic notes & rests and are in 2/4, 3/4, and 4/4 meter.

Time Signature Free Theory Worksheet Printable  |  The Music Blog

DOWNLOAD WORKSHEET

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3. TIME SIGNATURES & COUNTING WORKSHEET

This worksheet requires the student to identify & write in one missing note or rest for each measure.  Exercises include basic notes & rests and are in 2/4, 3/4, & 4/4 meter.

Time Signatures & Counting Free Theory Worksheet Printable  |  The Music Blog

DOWNLOAD WORKSHEET

 

 

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Please print them, use them, & share them freely with your friends!

And remember to check back tomorrow for more free theory worksheets!

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Masterpiece: 400 Years of Classical Music in 12 Minutes

If you’ve never heard The King’s Singers’ performance of “Masterpiece”, you’re in for a serious treat!

This vocal piece summarizes the development of western classical music over the last 400 years in 12 minutes.  It highlights some of the most influential composers and demonstrates their individual styles while singing the composer’s name or their most-used musical elements.  It’s a brilliant composition, and talk about a fun performance!  
(Note: the singing starts 30 seconds into the video.)

 –

Here’s a break-down of the composers featured in the piece:

0:30      Johann Sebastian Bach
1:29      J.S. Bach vs. His Sons
2:30      George Frederic Handel
3:30      W.A. Mozart
4:43      Ludwig van Beethoven
6:25      Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy
7:05      Strauss Family
8:44      Claude Debussy (Impressionistic Composer)
10:01    Richard Wagner (Wagner was known for his drama; thus the outburst.)
10:15    Assorted Composers in Impressionistic Style
10:22    Back to Wagner
10:46    Assorted Composers in Impressionistic/20th Century Style
11:10    William Bird
11:23    John Cage (Ever heard his 4:33?)
11:27    Assorted Contemporary
11:35    George Gershwin (Rhapsody in Blues)
11:44    Back to J.S. Bach

This is a fun resource for studying music history and composers’ styles.   So enjoy it and share it with your friends, family, and music students!  They’ll love it.

 

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26 Questions for Prospective Music Teachers

26_Questions_for_Prospective_Music_Teachers_The_Music_Blog

Getting To Know Them Before You Walk in the Door 

Finding a good music teacher can be a challenge.  Ideally, you’ve been able to get a recommendation from someone you trust, but sometimes that just isn’t possible and you have to head out on your own to find that teacher who will be a perfect fit.

Whether you are pursuing a teacher who has been recommended to you or one you found online, it’s wise to have a thorough list of questions to ask when you make that first phone call.   It’s an extra step, but it’s one that makes tremendous difference in the success of your relationship from the start.  You need to know if the teacher will be a fit for your family, and if the right questions are asked it can be the beginning of a relationship that flourishes into a life-long friendship for your child and yourself.

Here are a few to help you get started.

 

Teaching Logistics

  • How long are your lesson times?
  • What is your fee per lesson?
  • How do you like to be paid?   Some teachers prefer to be paid weekly; others require four weeks’ payment at the beginning of the month.  Some even work in terms of entire semesters with accompanying contracts.  This is important to ask so you know from the start if their payment plan is compatible with your budget.
  • Are there any other yearly fees associated with the studio?
  • What levels do you teach?   Many professional instructors do not accept beginner musicians or will only work with students older than age 12.  So, ask what ages the teacher prefers and what difficulty levels they are comfortable teaching.
  • How often will we be expected to purchase new books?   Some teachers have one book that they work from almost exclusively for each “level,” while other teachers have you purchase a new book for every new piece.  That can add up quickly, especially if the teacher only keeps your little one on a piece for 2-3 weeks (an additional $10-40 per month).  If this is the case, knowing ahead of time will allow you to determine if you can work this extra monthly cost into your budget.
  • What days and times do you teach?
  • Do you teach through the summer?
  • What does your holiday teaching schedule look like?
  • Do you have a studio policy you can send me?   This is really important.   Is payment required in every cancellation situation, or is a 24-hour notice accepted?  What about sickness?  For what reasons will the teacher cancel lessons?  All of the important business logistics will be addressed in the policy, and you need to know the answers before you make a commitment.
  • Do you prefer to schedule a meeting first or start lessons right away?

 

Teaching Experience*

[box style=”white” ]*These questions really only apply if you haven’t had a recommendation for the teacher and you suspect that he/she might be substantially inexperienced.[/box]

  • How long have you been teaching?  Keep in mind that a short teaching history doesn’t necessarily mean the teacher is “green”, just as a long teaching history doesn’t guarantee that the teacher is “seasoned!”  Keep asking questions, and their answers will show you if they are really experienced or not.
  • Have you worked with children ___ years old {insert child’s age}?  If the teacher is relatively new to teaching, you will want to find out if he/she has ever worked with students your child’s age before or if your child will be their first experience.  Again, it doesn’t mean you should rule them out if they have never taught a 6-year-old or 14-year-old, but it is something you will want to know so you can make an educated decision.

 

Teaching Method

  • What are some of your ultimate goals for your students?   If a teacher doesn’t have any long-term goals in mind for his students, you might want to call someone else.
  • How would you describe your approach?   Don’t just ask what the approach is; ask the teacher to describe it.  Here’s why.  A teacher who says, “I teach Suzuki,” might only mean that she uses the Suzuki repertoire books, not that she  follows the entire Suzuki approach.  In the same way, a teacher who says she follows a “traditional” approach might actually mean that she doesn’t… really… have… an approach, not that she follows the teaching models of Chopin or Liszt.  So ask what an average lesson look like, and get an idea of their approach in action.
  • What skills do you consider essential for your students to learn?  Ear training? Sight-reading? Performance? Memory? Improvisation? What are their priorities, and what will they focus on teaching? 
  • Do you teach music theory, and do you integrate it into the lessons?  This is a very important question.  Many teachers do not spend time on theory during the music lesson.  They either offer monthly group theory “classes” which are separate from weekly lessons, or worse, they don’t teach theory at all.  Music theory is vital, so make sure to include this question on your list!
  • What music genre(s) is your primary focus?   Classical, Pop, Folk, Etc.
  • Are you willing to teach other genres in addition to the main genre during lesson time?  Obviously, when you choose a music teacher, you do so because you are interested in the particular genre he specializes in.  However, if another genre is also important to you – hymns, for example, in addition to classical – ask if he would be willing to spend a portion of lesson time on that genre as well.  If he isn’t, that is something you will want to know when making your decision.
  • What repertoire & theory books do you use?
  • How much will you allow / expect me to be involved in the lessons?
  • Am I allowed to stay during the lessons, or am I required to drop my child off?   If you plan to bring other children with you, ask about them, too. 

Studio Opportunities / Participation

  • Do you have any other studio events? Master classes, socials, recitals, etc.
  • Do you have studio recitals?  How many recitals do you have a year? 

[box style=”white” ] Ask if the teacher has any upcoming recitals you can attend!  Studio recitals provide the perfect opportunity for you and your child to meet the prospective teacher, observe how well his students perform, and see his professionalism in action! [/box]

  • Do your students participate in competitions, festivals, etc.? 
  • Which of your studio activities are required?

 

You might scratch some of these questions from your personal list, and you might have several more to add, and that’s great!  As a parent, your list of questions will be unique from everyone elses’ – questions that reflect the priorities of your family, your child, and your situation.  What is important is that you take the time to think through your priorities before you call so you can make a thoughtful, educated decision that will be the very best for your family and your child’s musical experience.

In closing, here are three things to keep in mind when you talk with a prospective teacher:

1.  Only ask questions you really want to know.  Only you know what issues will really make a difference in your relationship with your music teacher, so prioritize your questions and only ask the ones that are important to you.  This will keep your conversation purposeful, productive, and efficient.

2.  Be sincere.   Professional teachers can tell if you really care or if you’re just reading down a list of questions for duty’s sake.  So be warm and open, and let the teacher see that you really want to know answers, not just drill him.  A genuine teacher will be excited to connect with a parent who is sincerely interested in knowing their goals and wants the best for their child.

3.  Be humble.   Professional teachers rarely want to work with a parent who is already trying to one-up them in the first conversation.  On the other hand, teachers are eager to work with parents who promote respectful interaction from the start.  Ask questions freely, but always ask them kindly.

[box style=”white” ]The way you speak to the teacher will lay the foundation for your relationship and set the tone for how the teacher responds to you.  Be sure your confidence is always balanced with respect.[/box]

The first conversation with a prospective teacher is a wonderful opportunity, so get comfortable and try to enjoy yourself!  This may be the beginning of an experience with an individual who will become a treasured part of you and your child’s life!

Do you have additional questions to add to the list?  
Share them in the comments!