By Janice | July 12, 2010
Many parents of music students have wondered what kind of a role they should play in their children’s education. Is it just paying for lessons, does it entail encouragement of practice, or is there an even more active way for parents to help their children learn music?
Learn and Teach
With the right tools, parents can learn music theory themselves and teach it to their children with simple visual aids. This is also a great review method to help young students internalize and retain the skills they will need to become accomplished musicians. Ricci Adams, a software engineer and music theory aficionado, has developed a comprehensive website that includes interactive lessons, exercises, and tools. The lessons start with the essential basics: learning what the staff looks like (5 lines) and gradually adding clefs and ledger lines. Animated visual aids and textual explanations accompany each step, so it’s hard to go wrong with these lessons.
How to Help Children Practice Music Theory
Adams’ exercises are a little more advanced than his lessons, so the most basic ones deal with note identification and scale ear training. While it’s important to emphasize ear training, students must first know their notes and be able to identify them on the staff. The interval ear training exercise is ideal for students who have a solid understanding of visual note identification, as it prepares them for a life in music. This is a must for serious music students because the ability to identify notes and intervals heard in a simple recorded excerpt will be tested throughout formal education.
For students who are still learning their notes, there are exercises to identify notes on the staff and on the keyboard. Parents can go through these exercises with their children, predicting the correct answers and checking them immediately. Clicking on an answer results in a verdict of “correct” or “incorrect” and there is the option to reveal the correct answer at any point during the exercise.
Tools of the Trade
If parents or their young music students encounter unfamiliar notes or intervals in music assigned by teachers, they can use the helpful tools provided by Adams to correctly identify any mystifying cases. In addition to interval and chord calculators, there’s a “pop-up piano” that displays a keyboard for hands-on visualization of abstract intervals. Parents can use these resources to play an active role in their children’s music education and might even learn something new in the process.
This is a Guest Post from Alexis Bonari. Alexis is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at onlinedegrees.org, researching areas of online universities. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.?
By Janice | June 10, 2009
This is a question which often came up when we had our music school. The parents would come to us with questions like
“Shouldn’t my child be doing some theory homework?”
“What other theory practice can I get my child to do?”
“What can we do to improve my child’s grades in music theory at school?”
These questions are on the mind of every parent who’s child is doing music. Sometimes theory gets forgotten or put “on the back burner” by the teachers, who understandably have a great deal to cover in their lessons.
Theory is something that should be able to do be done at home – its something that with the right music theory materials and just a little bit of guidance from the teacher then should be simple for the child to learn by themselves.
If your child is preparing for a theory exam (which is a great thing to be doing!) then they’ll definitely need as much practice as possible! Don’t let them say..”I’ve done enough worksheets and practice” as one thing they definitely always need is more practice!
At the Fun Music Company we’ve been working hard at a new product which we have just released, called Printable Music Theory Books, which is a set of Music Theory Worksheets which cover all the bases when it comes to music theory.
We’ve designed it around the major examination systems around the world, structuring it into grades so that each level effectively covers the material in each grade.
It doesn’t matter if your child is going to do theory exams or not – if they are able and competent to go through our materials then you’ll know what level they are up to.
It’s brand new – and only just been released – so go right now and check out our brand new Printable Music Theory Books for parents who want to help their children learn music theory.
By Janice | January 31, 2009
I have been asked this question many times, but I now feel very compelled to write about it after receiving this email.
“I have played piano before I was 5, and have had years of classical. My grand daughter wants to learn, but she won’t let me teach her. My daughter in law insisted that a group piano teaching was avaliable this past fall and wanted to sign her 6 yr. old daughter up for it–I said I’d pay for the lessons.(and you pay for 4 months all in advance!) My G.daughter loves it, but I don’t see any progess when she plays–mostly one hand–no note reading etc. I’m VERY unhappy about it. What is your opinion of “group lessons?. There are 9 in the class. thank you. J> “
Firstly, I want to start by thanking you for your honesty and sharing your frustrations with your grandaughters music lesson. Let me say right from the beginning, that this is a similar frustration that all grandparents, parents, children and even teachers share in many learning experiences and you are certianly not alone. If I was seeing this in my own daughters music lessons, I would be feeling the same emotions and reconsidering if I had made the right choices too!
So how do you?
a) Help your granddaughter continue to enjoy piano lessons- From what you wrote in the email,this sounds like it is important to her and your daughter in law,
b) Ensure she achieves- You are the paying customer and want to see some return for the money you need to continually pay out (and I know that it adds up quickly!). You have also had the experience of playing piano from a very young age, so you feel that she will give up if she becomes bored or starts to underachieve. It is important to have common ground with your grandchild and it seems like piano playing is certainly strong common connection you would like to have with her.
From the outset I want to let you know that this post won’t make a decision for you. However, I know it will encourage you to make the right course of action to support yourself and your family in getting the most out of her music sessions in an environment that best suits you all at your grandaughters age. I have thoroughly considered the research avaliable to me and have thought about my own experiences on this topic. I want to let you know that I really care that this blog will help your grandaughter thrive in music.
I would love to hear how you get on in due course and I would love for other grandparents, parents, students or teachers to add to this disussion and share their own experiences.If you would like to take part and share your stories, just fill in the comment box below.
So lets get to it…
In my experience as a teacher and business owner in my own music school and as an Aunty to or 5 nieces and nephews (at the time) who all learned through our music school system, I learned that every child is different. Everyone has different needs to fulfill and have different learning styles and abilities.
You see, I thought I knew it all. With my experience in studying music for my school years, then completing a university degree, then teaching classroom music while spending every extra minute I had with ensemble, band and choir rehersals, then teaching group and individual lessons, then to going back and teach classroom in different countries…I thought I knew all there was to children learning music.
When I started to work in our own music school, I soon discovered I was incredibly wrong!
I forgot one important point in my teaching and the courses I taught. I forgot that every parent, grandparent, child and teacher has very different needs. The amazing thing about human needs is that no two people are the same and they all play music for different reasons.
In the beginning of our new music school, there were times that things started to feel like they were going well. We ran groups of junior level piano courses such as the one your grandaughter participates in and it worked for some, but for others it just didn’t work and they dropped out quickly.
At first, we believed that’s just the way it was – that not everybody was cut out for learning music and so there was a natural drop out rate after the first few lessons. After a while our belief started to change and we started to say to ourselves that wasn’t good enough. We started to believe that anyone can enjoy music at any age as long as it completely fufills their needs and their care giver or parent needs. If it was not compliant between parent or the care giver and the child then it almost always didn’t work out. If the parent or caregiver agreed with the type of course undertaken and supported it- it always worked out.
So at our school, what we found ourselves doing was re- learning what was important to each individual family and tailoring our courses to their needs and wants. So we started to ask each individual family “What is it that you want to get out of your music lessons?”
This one question changed everything..we asked this to every family that ever came through our doors and it competely revolutionised our business from one that some people just loved to one that everyone just loved and raved about, because it met our students and families needs.
Thats great, but How does this help me? I hear you ask…
My advice would be to find out what’s important to your grandaughter and to her mother. Ask them “What is it that they might want to get out of their music lessons”. You may find that they have a different reason for it than you do.
By the way.. the most common response to the question was “We just want to see (our child) enjoy and have fun with music” – in this case every time the group lesson structure always worked remarkably well. Both parent and child always enjoyed their lessons immensly and always finished the remainder of the course. Paying in advance was a wonderful way to ensure that the family knew when the beginning and the end of the course occured. If they chose to end lessons after the duration of the course there were no hard feelings from the teacher – and in almost every case after implenting this pay in advance program more families actually continued after the duration of the course on to the next levels.
Very rarely was it an answer such as they wanted their child to learn Fur Elise within a year of starting- and if it was, we suggested a private lesson so that this could happen- it kept everybody happy- happy parents and children are all that matters in a childs learning and development and the achievement then comes naturally.
So that’s it. I know it’s not rocket science, but its that one question that will help you know where
to go next with your grandaughters music lessons are whether group or private lessons are best for her.