Why We Teach Music
Music is a Science.
Music is Mathematical.
Music is a Foreign Language.
Music is History.
Music is Physical Education.
Music is all of these things, but most of all,
Music is Art.
That is why we teach music.
Not because we expect you to major in music
Not because we expect you to play or sing all your life …
But so you will be human
So you will recognize beauty
So you will be closer to an infinite beyond this world
So you will have something to cling to
So you will have more love, more compassion,
more gentleness, more good –
In short, more Life.
— Author Unknown
Are All Music Schools the Same?
Are all music studios the same? Take a look at our checklist to see why Fairfield | Trumbull School of Music is the right choice.
These guidelines will help you to have a successful, rewarding experience learning an instrument. These are practical tips that we have discovered from years of teaching and our experiences with students of all ages.
1. Starting at the right age
Adults of any age can start any instrument at any time. Their success is based on how willing they are to commit to practicing.
For children, starting at the right age is a key element to the success of their lessons. Some people will tell you “the sooner the better,” but this attitude can actually backfire and be a negative. If a child is put into lessons too soon they may feel overwhelmed and frustrated and want to stop lessons. The last thing you want to do is turn a child off music just because they had one unpleasant experience that could have been prevented. Sometimes if the child waits a year to start lessons, their progress can be much faster. Children who are older than the earliest suggested starting age usually do very well. The following are guidelines we have found to be successful in determining how young a child can start taking music lessons.
Infants through 5 Years Old
Early Childhood Music programs are a wonderful introduction to music and usually feature singing, movement, rhythm activities, and playing instruments. These classes provide a great foundation for music studies in a fun, game- like environment. In addition to musical benefits, these programs also influence other areas of development, including speech and language, aural and listening skills, motor skills, creativity, and overall self-confidence. At our school, we offer Music Rhapsody, which has classes for all ages ranging from birth through age 5. Each class is developmentally appropriate for each age group and are attended by the child and a parent or caretaker.
Five years old is usually the youngest age that we start children in piano lessons, although generally starting at 6-7 years old is often better. At this age they have begun to develop longer attention spans and can retain material with ease. In addition, they need to have already developed some fine motor skills which are necessary to physically play the instrument without too much frustration. The best starting age really varies from child to child, depending on both their innate interest level as well as where they are developmentally. As everyone learns differently, we offer traditional (reading-based) and Simply Music(play-based) methods for children and adults.
For younger students, we offer classes in Play-a-Story Piano, an age-appropriate and creative way to learn basic piano skills in an improvisatory setting. These classes are designed specifically for children ages 4-6 and are taught in small groups of 2-3 children.
Guitar, Bass & Ukulele
8 years old is the earliest we recommend for guitar or bass lessons, as they require a fair amount of pressure on the fingertips from pressing on the strings. Children under 8 generally have small hands and may find playing uncomfortable. Ukulele can be a good choice for younger students. Bass guitar students generally are 10 years old and older, as the strings are thicker and harder to play.
10 years old is recommended as the youngest age for private vocal lessons. 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.
Because younger children are interested in singing, we do teach children younger than 10. For these students, we focus on how to use their voices safely and confidently in addition to building skills in rhythm, pitch-matching and more.
For students 5 and under, check out our Music Rhapsody classes which include lots of singing!
The average age of our youngest drum student is 8, although this varies greatly depending on the size of the child, as they need to be able to reach both the pedals and the cymbals.
Flute, Clarinet and Saxophone
Due to lung capacity (and in the case of the saxophone, the size of the instrument), we recommend that most woodwind beginners are 9 and older.
We accept violin students from the age of 5. Some teachers will start children as young as 3, but experience has shown us the most productive learning occurs when the beginner student is age 5 or older.
The trumpet requires physical exertion and lung power. Age 9 or older is a good time to start the trumpet.
2. Take lessons in a professional teaching environment
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, etc. 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, teaching music is not just a hobby or sideline for the teacher but a responsibility which is taken very seriously. All of our teachers are university-trained and are passionately committed to providing the best musical education experience possible for each individual student.
3. Choose a school that offers lots of performance opportunities
Performing in recitals can be a nerve wracking experience for some students, especially if they only perform once a year. At our school, we offer a variety of opportunities for students to get comfortable performing:
4. Make practicing easier
As with anything, improving in music takes practice. Sometimes sitting down to practice is a bigger struggle than actually doing the practicing. Here are some tips to help incorporate practice into your life.
Creating a routine
Set the same time every day to practice so it becomes part of habit. Having a practice routine is really important to success, so that even on days when we “don’t feel like it,” it’s already automatic and engrained, like other daily activities that we don’t always “feel like” doing, but do anyway, such as brushing our teeth.
Time of day
Generally the earlier in the day that practicing can occur, the less chance there is for procrastination. When possible, practicing in the morning seems to work well, before going to school or work for the day, even if it’s just 5- 10 minutes of attentive practice. Sometimes practicing at night can be more difficult when you’re worn out and less motivated at the end of a long day, although understandably so, sometimes there is no other option, so again, having a regular time will help establish a routine.
Another great option for children is to practice before homework, right after school. Although school work is obviously of utmost importance, the amount of homework given each day by teachers usually varies, and oftentimes homework seems to expand to fill the time allotted to it, which can crowd out other important responsibilities. All of a sudden, after homework it’s dinner time, then it’s time to wind down and maybe watch TV before getting ready for bed. A whole week can very easily go by without practicing in these situations, which only leads to feelings of guilt and frustration. This situation can easily be remedied by creating a regular routine of practice, preferably in the morning or before homework, or at the very least, at the same time each day.
How long to practice
For young children, practicing just 10-15 minutes a day is usually plenty. Even older beginners shouldn’t need much more time than that in the beginning. Quality is always more important than quantity. 5 minutes of intensely focused practice can be more beneficial than 30 minutes of unfocused practice, which can actually have negative effects by ingraining mistakes and bad habits that take more time to undo. During shorter intervals of practice time, focus on just small sections of material that need work, rather than simply playing through each piece. (Playing is different than practicing). Even on an exceedingly busy time, squeezing in 5 minutes of effective practicing can still lead to progress or at least ensure that ground is not lost.
5. Be patient and enjoy the journey
Music should be something that you enjoy for a lifetime. So, try not to put unrealistic expectations on yourself or your children to learn too quickly. Making progress in music happens gradually over time, and everyone learns at a different pace. The key is to be able to enjoy the journey and trust in the process. While we believe learning and playing music should be fun, realistically there may be times when it does not feel 100% “fun.” As with anything in life, there are going to be plenty of ups and downs along the way, which is very normal. Riding these waves and not giving up is crucial to the process; over time, you will reap the benefits of your perseverance and patience. In the meantime, enjoy the ride!
FTSM Practice Tips
Practicing at home is an integral part of your musical training and essential to making progress in between your weekly lessons. Your teacher will discuss their personal recommendations for practice with you and offer help & suggestions whenever you need it. Practicing can be enjoyable, but like most things in life, it won’t be fun all the time, so here are some tips that can help you practice more efficiently and progress more quickly in your studies.
When to Practice:
Set a Regular Practice Time
Practicing becomes easier when it’s part of your routine, just like brushing your teeth or exercising. Having a habit of practicing at a set time makes it less of a struggle on those days when you don’t feel like practicing.
Practice Right after Your Lesson
Much of what you learn with your teacher can be lost if you don’t practice within 24 hours after your lesson. To get the most out of your lessons, try practicing when you get home from your lesson, even if just for 5 minutes, to help process any new information and instructions.
Be an Early Bird
Everyone is different, but many people find that they practice best in the morning or early in the afternoon while their minds are still fresh. Some people prefer practicing in small chunks of time a couple times a day (ex: 15 minutes in the morning & 15 minutes in the afternoon). Experiment and find what works best for you and your schedule.
When Life is Hectic
We all have days or weeks when we are busier than normal. If you don’t have enough time to fit in your regular practice session, try squeezing in even just 5 minutes. You’d be amazed at what you can accomplish in a small amount of time, especially if you try some of our “how to” tips below. If practicing falls through the cracks, don’t be too hard on yourself. Just dive back in and start fresh when you can!
If You Get Frustrated
Walk away and clear your mind by doing something else for a few minutes. Or try playing a piece of music that you love and know well, which can boost your mood and rekindle your enjoyment. If nothing helps, call it a day and resume tomorrow when your mind is fresh.
How to Practice:
Create a Practice Chart
Sometimes creating a practice chart can help you accomplish your practice goals more effectively. Young students can help create their own charts with crayons or stickers. Even older students can benefit from planning out which days they’ll practice particular exercises or different sections of a song, rather than winging it and practicing aimlessly. A chart can also help you see how much you’ve accomplished over weeks and months of practice!
Divide & Conquer
Playing an entire piece over and over is not the best way to practice. Divide a song into small chunks of a few measures or one line, and practice each chunk slowly until it feels easy. Then slowly connect the chunks and practice transitioning from one section to another, before adding on the next chunk.
Start at the End
Very often we know the beginning of a piece very well and the end not so well, because it is so tempting to always practice from the beginning of the song. Try learning the end of the piece first, and then adding on section by section till you get to the top and can play the whole song through. Psychologically speaking, this can be a great tool to help when you feel overwhelmed by learning the whole piece or feel stuck somewhere along the way.
Focus on One Thing at a Time
When learning a new piece, you don’t need to perfect everything all at once. If you’re still learning to read music, you may find it helpful to point to each note and say the name out loud before playing. You can also try clapping and counting the rhythm a few times before playing. Once you’ve mastered the notes and rhythm, focus on the expression and dynamics (the louds & softs) of the piece to make the music come alive.
Slow Learning is Quick Learning
When in doubt, slow it down! Most of us practice too fast to allow our muscles and brains to process the new material, and we make mistakes that quickly become engrained in our muscle memory. Go as slowly as necessary to master each passage perfectly, and you’ll be amazed at how quickly you will learn without having to undo mistakes!
Parents Can Help
Even if you don’t have a musical background, you can still help your child practice and ensure all assignments are completed. Review your child’s assignment notebook, ask the teacher for specific things you can help with, or sit in on part of the lesson if you need clarification. Help your child build practicing into their daily routine and implement the strategies outlined above. Discuss how learning music is journey with many ups and downs along the way. As your child gets older, parental involvement will lessen, but it is still important to take an active role in ensuring they practice regularly and to help them to communicate any personal goals, needs or struggles with their teacher.
We Can Help
Please don’t hesitate to call or email us if you or your child is struggling with home practice or anything at all concerning their lessons or teacher. Part of our job as school directors is to serve as a liaison between you and your child’s teacher and to take care of any issues that may arise during the school year. Perhaps a change of pace or a lighter assignment load is needed. Or maybe even a different path altogether, such as studying a new genre or taking lessons with a different teacher might help. Contact us as soon as you have any questions or concerns so we can quickly address any issue, big or small.
Stick With It
While the overall experience is a positive one, it is not unusual to get frustrated and want to stop lessons prematurely. Many adults who took lessons as a child say their greatest regret has been not continuing with lessons or playing music. Continuing with lessons, even through all the inevitable ups and downs, has incredible benefits towards building future success, confidence, and a lifelong enjoyment of music.