These guidelines will help you have a successful, rewarding experience learning an instrument. These are practical tips that we have learned from years of teaching hundreds of students each year.

STARTING AT THE RIGHT AGE – HOW YOUNG IS TOO YOUNG?

Adults can start any instrument at any time. Their success is based on how willing they are to commit to practicing. For children, starting off on the right foot, at the right age, is a key element to success,The last thing you want to do is turn a child off to music because they had a preventable unpleasant experience.

One: Figure Out the Age of Your Child

If they are young, start music lessons. If they are old, start music lessons. See the list below!

3-4 Years Old

If a preschooler or his parents have a keen desire to start music, a group class will give him a foundation in the basics that will set the framework for later lessons. At this age, private lessons generally produce the positive results that a game-oriented preschool environment can yield. KinderARTS is appropriate for this age group-a theme-based, drop-off preschool program that combines music, art and drama. We also offer Music for Little Mozarts- a first introduction to playing the piano.

Piano/Keyboard

At Pacific Conservatory, the youngest age to start piano lessons is 3 yrs old in our Music for Little Mozarts program. We do not recommend students take private lessons until they are at least 7-8 yrs old. Most of our students begin in the class lessons to build a strong foundation, then add a private lesson after a year or two to work on repertoire and technique. We believe the optimal learning environment is our Comprehensive Musicianship program, which is an integrated class and private lesson for late-elementary, intermediate and advanced students. A strong foundation in playing the keyboard will make learning another instrument or taking singing lessons much more successful as the student gets older. Music lessons are a long-distance race…a child who has nothing but private lessons isn’t as likely to have a positive opinion as a child who has had the right start- a group education

Guitar and Bass
Until a child reaches her 6th year, she may not be ready to learn the guitar. The mechanics of sound production are cumbersome and even potentially painful to the youngest of beginners. We recommend that children below the age of 6 study in a group piano class first, and transfer when ready for guitar. Bass players usually start their studies by age 9.

Drums
The youngest age we accept private students for lessons on drum set is 6. Students need to be able to reach both the pedals and the cymbals, so the age varies on the size of the child. However, we hold drum group classes for children as young as 3 years old.

Voice Lessons
Students ages 5+ may enroll for voice classes at Pacific Conservatory, and there is no minimum age to study privately.

Musical Theater
Students age 4-15 will benefit from our Musical Theater program. Our teachers understand the importance of careful vocal training for the young student. Due to the physical nature of voice lessons (proper breathing techniques, development of the vocal chords and lung capacity), the younger body is generally not yet ready for the rigors of vocal technique. However, children of a young age are sponges. Ear training, pitch matching, intonation and friendship are all teachable elements of performing on stage. Our drama teachers help the younger age groups with their lines and often double cast parts so the children fell well-supported. The older children audition for parts and are expected to memorize their lines.

Violin/Cello
We accept string studens from the age of 5. It is important to have an instrument of the appropriate size for the young student. Both group and private lessons are available starting at this age.

Two: Choose a School That Offers Both Group and Private Lessons

Different students require different teaching approaches. Some students progress best with the peer interaction and class motivation of a group lesson. Other students prefer the focused concentration of a private one-on-one lesson. When a class student is more advanced, it will be necessary to take private lessons to master the advanced techniques of an instrument or voice with individual attention. We also recommend the student continue group lessons for theory, ear training, music history, appreciation, composition, and moral support from their peers.

Three: Take Lessons at a Professional Learning Institution

Learning music is not just a matter of having a qualified teacher, but also having an environment that is focused on music education. In a professional school environment a student cannot be distracted by TV, pets, ringing phones, siblings or anything else. With only 30-60 minutes of lesson time per week, a professional school environment can produce better results since the only focus at that time is learning music. Students in a school environment are also motivated by hearing peers who are at different levels and by being exposed to a variety of musical instruments. In a music school, the lessons are not just a hobby or sideline for the teacher but a responsibility which is taken seriously.

Four: Practice, Practice, Practice

One of the main gripes children (and parents!) have with music lessons is that sheer act of practicing is never convenient. Here are some ways to shoulder the burden:

Time

Set the same time every day to practice so it becomes part of a routine or habit. This works particularly well for all humans. The earlier in the day the practicing occurs, the less nagging is required by parents.The propensity to procrastinate is often lessened. For older children, namely, teenagers, the opposite is true, and the student who practices before bed is likely to retain more. We offer no help to get your teenager up in the morning, though.

Repetition

We use this method quite often when setting practice schedules for beginners. For a young child, 5-10 minutes seems like an eternity. Instead of setting a time frame, you can use repetition. For example, practice this piece 4 times every day, and this scale 5 times a day. The child then does not pay attention to the amount of time they are practicing, but knows if they are on repetition number 3, they are almost finished.

Rewards

This works very well for both children and adult students. Just change the prize accordingly. Parents can encourage children to practice by granting them occasional rewards or outings for practicing. (Different from playing) Our school rewards children for a successful week of practice with stickers and prize boxes. Praise tends to be the most coveted award – there is just no substitute for a pat on the back for a job well done from the teacher you look up to. One of the advantages of group lessons is the subtle and healthy dose of competition that comes from announcing their number of practice days in front of their friends.

Five: Use All Your Teaching Materials

Pacific Conservatory uses excellent teaching materials developed by professional music educators that are made for students in a variety of situations. For example in piano, there are books for very young beginners, books for teens and books for adults. There are books that can start you at a level you are comfortable with. These materials have been researched and are continually upgraded and improved to make learning easier. If you ever have to move to a different part of the country, qualified teachers and institutions will recognize the materials and be able to smoothly continue from where the previous teacher left off. Our class piano students use a standardized curriculum which allows students to make up missed classes on different days and be assured they will receive a matching lesson.

Most Importantly…

BONUS: HAVE FUN!!!!

Music can be something that you enjoy for a lifetime. So, try not to put unrealistic expectations on yourself or your children to learn too quickly. It’s a beauty contest, not a race. Everyone learns at a different pace and the key is to be able to enjoy the journey.