The Ups And Downs Of Music Lessons

Discussing the trials and tribulations ALL students go through when learning an instrument!

Ultimate Guitar

"Mom, I don't want to go to lessons (or practise) anymore!"

Sound familiar? It's actually more common than you think! Most people assume that their child should like their lessons or enjoy practising on their instrument every second of every day. Once their motivation starts to "dip" parents are seemingly all too eager to stop their child's lessons. We then see these "students" as adults and too many times we hear "I took piano lessons for 2 years and then "my parents let me quit".

There is a natural ebb and flow to anyone's learning. There are some important steps to ensuring your child has a long and productive music learning experience. Before you get to your first lesson take the following steps:

1.) Get an instrument that is appropriate! (IE size, shape etc.) For guitar the most common mistake is for parents to get a full-size acoustic. Generally acoustic guitars are much more physically demanding to play than their electric counterparts. If your child wants to "rock" and you give them an acoustic guitar that's too big and "hurts" to play you are dooming your child's lessons right from the start.

2.) Find a reputable music teacher/organization that you and your child will feel comfortable with.

Once you've started lessons, you now have a Parent-student-teacher relationship. As a parent you have to be actively involved in conversations with the teacher and your child on a regular basis. Your teacher should direct you on what the homework was and how much your child should practise.

Even with all of this in place, your child will still go through peaks and valleys of motivation. For the first two years you will see wild swings as your child starts to become proficient on the instrument! Is your child going to like to practise? Not always! Does your child like hockey, soccer, baseball etc. practise? Most times the answer is "no". What's the best part about sports practises for kids? Usually the "scrimmage" at the end.

Not only is it important to set-up a regular practise routine for the students in terms of times/days etc, but also what content is covered in the 10, 15, 20 minutes of practise time. You always want to structure the practise for time at the end to just "play"; wether it's their favourite song they've played 100 times, or just goofing around. Giving them the opportunity to "enjoy" their instrument is equally as important in ensuring they learn the scales, pieces etc.

When your child starts indicating he/she doesn't want to go to lessons or doesn't want to practise, that's when as a parent you need to step-in and talk about these concerns with the teacher. Have the lessons become too hard? Have they focused on the same piece for too many weeks in a row? Are the homework assignments to dry? Whatever it is, your teacher should be able to "alter" their lesson plan to re-engage your child! Remember, the teacher only sees the student for 30mins to an hour once a week. You as a parent see your child everyday!

29 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I don't like how the article calls practicing at home "the homework assignments". I never thought of playing the guitar like that =\
    ^ I disagree. I think learning early can never hurt because the player now has a head start over anyone who starts later. He/she can learn the basics and the techniques at a much earlier age so when they get old enough to handle the more complex techniques/theories, they'll be able to jump right in.
    As a kid of about 7 I took guitar lessons at school for about a year. The usual "Tune A Day" garbage with a 3/4 size classical. I then went on to have a go at trumpet and piano, ech of which had similar longevity (at least I got my Primary Grade on piano). I then didn't touch another instrument until I was 17 or 18 and I discovered Heavy Metal. From that point I simply bought tablature books and magazines (there was no internet back then) for what I wanted to play and taught myself; never took another lesson. Now I've been playing for over 20 years. I think my three main points are: 1) Having had proper tutelage I had a good understanding of music theory, and although reading tab and playing by ear means that's not entirely necessary I'm sure it helped a lot. 2) My dad is also a guitarist, so there was always plenty of music around the house for me to mess with when I got "fatigued" with Maiden, Metallica and Sabbath. Picking up Classical, Folk and Blues pieces every now and then probably helped too. But he never butted in. 3) When I finally stuck with it I was doing it for _me_. No-one was forcing me into it, it was what _I_ wanted to do. Although, to be fair, there have been plenty of times when I wish I'd been persuaded to keep up the piano lessons.
    Yoyo Of Death
    Snowman388 wrote: ..... I'm 16
    *Claps* good job sonny! im sure that info will come handy to me at some point in my life ANYWAYS good article XP
    Guitar lessons may not be school (unless of course your school has a guitar program which many do) but it is most certainly education. The main difference between learning guitar and math is that you find the guitar interesting which is why you like it. Work you recieve to do from your teacher at home. Sounds like homework to me... He's not telling people that parents should be going around telling their kid what to practice. But rather, that the parents should find out what the kid is supposed to be practicing by talking to the teacher. This is very true. As a guitar teacher the kids whose parents get involved always do better than those whose parents don't. Little kids often need help and if the parents don't know what the hell is going on they can't give the help. This is a well reasoned article that you should all keep in mind. That said, a good teacher should be making his lesson plan to help you develop your goals. Which should keep you interested and having fun. However, there is a fair amount of crap you have to go through before you can start playing songs you like. Unless you have one of those shitty teachers who just plops songs down in front of you and doesn't actually teach you how to play the guitar.
    ... This makes it sound like guitar=school. And I hate that, because I like guitar, but not school. I don't think of lessons with my teacher as 'getting lessons and homework and crap,' more as him giving me cool shit to practice and add to my playing and experiment with.
    Snowman388 wrote: ..... I'm 16
    And pretty much this. :p
    Decode Music
    I really appreciate everyone's feedback and opinions! I just wanted to clarify one thing - I did not mean that parents should force their kids to take lessons if they absolutely don't want to. The point the article was trying to make was that the parents should talk to the teacher to see if there is anything that can be done to re-motive the student. Again, the column probably applies more for guitar students between the ages of 8-13, but communication regardless is still important! Most teachers (especially the good ones) have a tendency to really be focused driven - teach as much as you possibly can in the lesson. They don't see what happens at home and they sometimes need to be reminded that it's OK to "back-off the gas pedal" from time to time. I also don't like using the words "homework" or "practise" with a student. But it's terminology that I'd use with the parents! If a parent is paying $20-$25-$30 a lesson, they want to know and see what is being done in each lesson and how the teacher is working towards improving the student.
    russian bear
    I've been going to piano lessons for 4 years now, my parents have always encouraged me but when there were times when I wanted to quit they let me decide and didn't push me to carry on. In the end I decided to carry on with the lessons and it has helped me with guitar, rhythm, scales etc. Parents should never force a child to play an instrument. I've seen it,parents get involved to much, the child gets rebellious, refuses to practice to spite the parents and loses any love they had for the music. And in response to the acoustic guitar, its always better to start on an acoustic, its not as easy to play as an electric and builds skills. My dad has been playing guitar for over 30 years and when I developed an interest for the guitar he helped me a bit with technique, taught me the chords and thats where I think parents should stop.
    I feel that kids shouldn't have lessons until they're about 14 - Start of high school thereabout - Unless they are hungry to learn before that. Otherwise it often ends up with the kid giving up or they grow up seeing the instrument one dimensionally
    Josh Geohagan wrote: Parents, please don't buy your kid a guitar if he wants to play drums. That is seriously the biggest mistake ever.
    Daron Malakian would like a word with you XD...
    Philly080 wrote: I don't like how the article calls practicing at home "the homework assignments". I never thought of playing the guitar like that =\
    me neither, its a bad idea for a teacher to call it homework. id imagine it would put the student in the mind set that it was a chore rather than a hobby.
    hmm. is it a standard that when you take music lessons its only for 30 mins? my guitar lessons were an hour. and i feel like i learned a lot during that hour. but then again, my lessons were private and not from a guitar school or anything like that...
    Forever Yours
    If you have to tell someone to do something, it's probably not fun. Lessons should be half teaching and half just screwing around with whatever the student finds to be good. Have lessons that not only cover basics but anything specific that the student likes. i.e. if he listens to Judas Priest have him start on alternate picking and sweeps early.
    I agree with pretty much everything Etiquette said. When I was in piano lessons as a kid I started to hate it, and my parents tried to force it. Looking back, I probably should have stuck with it. Then around 15 I started playing guitar, same thing happened. It also didn't help that I was learning stuff that I didn't really like. Now that I'm 23, and listen to ALOT more/better music, things are coming along much better. And you can't play for someone else, you gotta do it for you. If it feels like homework, switch it up a bit. You gotta pick up the guitar because you want to.
    link no1 wrote: i just wouldnt bother buying my kid an instrument untill old enough that it is not just a faze they go through
    I'm pretty sure its "phase" and not "faze"
    Josh Geohagan
    Parents, please don't buy your kid a guitar if he wants to play drums. That is seriously the biggest mistake ever.
    Snowman388 wrote: ..... I'm 16
    well done? Useful lesson if i should ever have kids in the futre
    tbh, I'm 15 and i started playing when I was 12. My dads a very good guitarist who can play almost anything and has many spare guitars (acoustics, semis, electrics). So it was no problem for me as I could choose what I wanted to play (as long as it wasn't his Les Paul Gold Top)and what I wanted to learn. Easy.
    Unknown_Biskit wrote: Practice is definitely spelled with a "c", not an "s".
    It can be spelled either way...
    #1 in this article completely applied to me. My parents got me an acoustic to start with and I wanted to smash that thing almost every time I practiced. I think by the end of one year of playing I could still only play about as well as I could in the first month of playing. After that I got an electric and my skill increased dramatically in a really short time.
    metalband84 : I don't think many players exactly see playing songs as "homework"
    Exactly...I mean its something you do because you want to whereas you do homework because you have to
    Whenever my parents interrupt me playing just to tell me wat songs i should learn, i quit practicing, so, umm... yeah... but their friend plays, and i like it wen he tells me wat to practice... also, dont tell ur kids to leave tuning to the professionals, thats like a knife through the heart
    Its good lesson and a good point about the teacher-parent-child but as I see it, unless the parent used to play an instrument, he shouldnt put his nose into it too much. I dont know about you but I stared to play the guitar because it fascinated me. Should my mom start to push into something or make the guitar another school-like subject I have to atend every day, I would hate the guitar for the rest of my life as well as my mom :-D
    link no1
    i just wouldnt bother buying my kid an instrument untill old enough that it is not just a faze they go through i remember when i was 14 and bought my first guitar with my own money, then my dad started putting his nose into my buissiness...cut short, i only ever touched the guitar a year later when he moved away =P