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  • Writer's pictureCristina Sparacino

Practice Like a Pro: How to Get the Most Out of Each Private Music Lesson!

5 Tips on Boosting the Effectiveness of Private Music Lessons

Written by: Cristina Sparacino

Whether you're taking lessons for the first time, trying a new teacher or studio, or returning to lessons after taking a break, it's important to know how to make the most of your private music lessons.

With the proper practice formula, you can transform your weekly lessons and take your skills to the next level simply by knowing the best way to practice!

Tip #1 - Establish Your Goals Before Your First Lesson

Before you even show up to your first lesson, don't be afraid to ask key questions to ensure that your learning goals align with your new teacher.

If this is your first time taking a lesson at a new studio or with a new teacher, make sure that you understand the payment schedule and how lessons run. For instance, if you were supposed to pay ahead or fill out paperwork before showing up for the lesson, make sure you don't arrive and have to waste time pre-paying or registering at the counter.

Before you even leave to head out to your lesson, ask questions about the teacher that will be working with you. Let's say that you are going in for a guitar lesson and you only want to read tablature and want to play a specific style of music. You wouldn't want lessons from someone who doesn't play your style or is strictly teaching notation instead of tab. While many teachers will ask you questions in your first lesson, if you ask them for their email/contact ahead of the lesson, you can cover a lot of your basic questions ahead of time and your teacher will be able to spend more time on the actual lesson material!

Make a list of realistic goals with a rough timeline of when you would like to accomplish them and bring that to your first lesson. Goals and timelines can always be adjusted, but it's good to start out with a plan as opposed to just showing up to your lesson.

Tip #2 - Select the Right Lesson Format for You

Learn all of the schedule options available to you so you can accomplish your goals.

Before you begin taking lessons, ask the studio/instructor what the available options are and get pricing for each lesson option. Some studios offer, 30-minute lessons weekly and give an incentive for having a regularly scheduled spot as this type of lesson tends to make the most progress, but that might not be the best fit for you. Your teacher also may not have a regular time slot available to you and if that's what you're looking for, you might end up taking one lesson only to find that you wasted your time.

Some studios offer an hour every other week, 45-minute lessons or drop-in lessons when it's convenient. You will also want to know the price point for each as you will need to know what is within your budget.

"If I don’t practice for a day, I know it. If I don’t practice for two days, the critics know it. And if I don’t practice for three days, the public knows it."-Louis Armstrong

Tip #3 - Prepare Ahead of Time

It may sound obvious, but being prepared allows you to maximize every available minute of your lesson time.

Knowing how to make every minute of your lesson count is not as easy as it sounds, but when you prep ahead of time, you will find yourself able to meet important goals and feel

'in charge' of your lessons.

Arrive 15- 20 minutes early and plan on traffic or other delays. Also, know your studio/teacher's rules when it comes to late arrivals or no-show appointments. Many places do not allow the lesson to run over when the student is late because they have other students on the schedule at specific times. It is always up to the student to get there early or at least on time.

Besides bringing any necessary instrument, ask your teacher what you should bring to each lesson. This could include a binder with paper and pencil to take notes, a specific assignment book that your instructor may require or sheet music. Guitarists may need picks or a capo, trumpet players may need valve oil, drummers will need sticks, a sticking or rudiment book and possibly a stick bag. Any accessories should be thought out ahead of time. If you are a vocal student, you will want a device for lyrics/music or have what you need organized in your binder and you may want a bottle of water, chap-stick, and arrive having already warmed up. Any type of student will want the WIFI password ahead of their lesson because it is common to use a device to assist your session.

Last, you'll want to use the restroom beforehand and silence your ringer so that you'll have no interruptions during your lesson.

Tip #4 - Understand What to Work On

If you are leaving your lesson without a clear plan, you aren't going to be reaching your full lesson potential.

While you may think that all of the work happens within the time span of your lesson time, most of the work should be done outside of the lesson studio. In order to make sure you are getting the full benefits of your lesson, you need to take notes on what you are supposed to be working on, and you will need to know how to use existing technology to better assist you in between the time you leave your lesson until the time you return for the next one.

There are many apps, online sites, software, and books that can supplement what you are learning and while they can't replace what you are getting from your instructor in-person, you should be asking your teacher questions on what would help you in addition to their instruction. As long as you are working each week on the homework/music that you have been assigned, your instructor should be happy to point you toward the right resources to help you reach your desired goals.

Tip #5 - Learn How to Practice Correctly

Yes, there is a right and a wrong way to practice, and knowing how to change the way that you practice is a game changer!

Most people feel like they are doing everything they could to advance themselves when they find the time to practice each week or even multiple times per week, but the key to lesson success is how you practice.

Each day of practice should not include repeatedly going through a piece of music in its entirety. Whether you are working on one single thing or multiple pieces of music, you want to approach practice in a completely different way, working on a specific section at a time. It's also not imperative to practice for a set time length as long as you are taking enough time to fix the messiest sections of your piece. This means that you aren't constantly playing or singing the piece from the top (beginning) each time you are working.

If you are playing a piece of sheet music, work on getting the piece played correctly before fixing timing and adding dynamics to the piece. If you struggle with timing, first learn the piece before attempting to play with the metronome, and if you feel stuck, make sure to make notes to discuss with your instructor at your next lesson.

In order to improve your technique, you need to approach your practice differently, starting with setting up a calm and comfortable practice space and knowing how much time you will devote each week to practice time. Once you do that, make sure you are able to cover sections and then at the end of the week, play/sing the entire piece a few times through, but only after you have worked with sections, while approaching each piece from the worst to the best.

Make sure to leave yourself time to properly warm up and change your warm ups without doing the same routine at each practice session. Your brain gets tired of doing things in the same order and needs to learn something new for you to be at the top of your game. Open yourself up to learning something new when time allows and you will see more improvement happening at a rapid pace!

Know the 5 to Maximize

If you follow the 5 tips to maximize your private lessons, you will learn more, practice effectively, and will see the results you desire! Do you have a tip to add to this list? Comment below to add to the discussion!,

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