5 Ways to Get the Most out of Music Lessons



Adults can start any instrument at any time. The degree of success is determined by the amount of practice. Simply put: no practice, no progress. The key is making the lessons enjoyable so that you want to practice and progress, and not to view lessons as an added stress to your already busy life. That is our goal- to teach you a skill that will not only be a source of pleasure and relaxation, but one that you will be able to draw upon the rest of your life! For children, starting at the right age is crucial to successful lessons. If a child is put into lessons too soon, s/he may feel overwhelmed and frustrated and want to stop lessons. The last thing we want to do is discourage a child from the joys of playing music because s/he had an unpleasant experience that could have been prevented. Sometimes if a child waits a year to start lessons progress can be much faster. Children who are older than our 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. Pre-schooler, 3-4 years old If the child shows an interest in music, a group preschool music class will give a good foundation in music basics, which will be very helpful later on. At this age, private lessons don't usually work as the child has not yet experienced the formal learning environment of kindergarten or school and would learn more effectively through the game oriented preschool environment. Piano/Keyboard We feel that 5 years old is the youngest age to start children in private piano lessons. At this age they start to develop a longer attention span and can retain material more easily. Guitar- Acoustic, Electric, and Bass 8 years old is the earliest we recommend for guitar lessons. This is because there is more motor skill activity required, plus these instruments require a fair amount of fingertip pressure on the strings, which younger children might find uncomfortable. Voice Lessons 10 years old is recommended as a younger child is not yet physically ready for vocal technique: proper breathing techniques, development of the vocal chords, lung capacity. For children younger than 10, we have a children's choir (ages 6-9) and a preschool singing program (ages 3-5) that teaches them how to use their voices properly in a fun, relaxed environment. Drums/Percussion The average age of our youngest drum student is 8. The size of the child is the determining factor. They have to be able to reach both the pedals and the cymbals. Brass and Woodwinds We recommend 9 years as the youngest age for these instruments, owing to lung capacity and the size of the instrument. Violin 5 years old is the minimum we accept. Other teachers go as young as 3, but experience has shown us the most productive learning occurs when the beginner is at least 5.


Experience has shown us that group lessons work best for beginning guitar classes, music theory classes, and preschool music programs. However, for focused instruction suited to each student's level, private lessons are far superior. One-on-one instruction gives the teacher the ability to assess and concentrate on each individual student's strengths and weaknesses. In a large group situation, this isn't always possible. However, at the Monterey Peninsula Academy of Musicwe do offer Beginning Guitar in small group classes in addition to our private classes. The group classes are a fun way to try out playing an instrument. Each group class is no more than 5 students, and close to the same age levels. Yes, and there are classes for adults, too!


Learning in an environment that is focused on music education and conducive to study makes a big difference. At the Monterey Peninsula Music Academy there are no distractions like TV, ringing phones, pets, siblings, or anything else. Here the lessons are not just a hobby or a sideline for the teacher but a responsibility, which is taken very seriously. Here the focus is on learning to play a musical instrument well in the most effective and fun way possible. Students in a music school environment are also motivated by hearing their peers who are at different levels and to being exposed to the sounds and sights of other musical instruments.


The only way to improve in any motor skill activity is by consistent and effective practice. This needn't mean boring and mind-numbing repetition. In teaching a musical instrument, we first concentrate on developing the coordination between the right and left hands, and also explaining the methods by which music is written down. This way the student can start playing songs immediately. Then the student can learn and imitate how others have expressed themselves through music. Eventually the musical instrument becomes a vehicle for expressing the student's own emotions, or sense of beauty, or whatever any artist wishes to express, because that is what s/he has become. Here are a couple of suggestions that we have found effective: Time Set aside the same practice time every day so that it becomes part of your daily routine: after school, before dinner, after dinner, after homework, etc. This works especially well for children. For adults, it isn't always possible to do this as consistently, but try to play at least a little bit on the days you don't have much time. Setting Goals and Rewards When learning a new piece, set a goal for the session- "Today I will learn 4 measures", and then practice the measures, one at a time, until you can play them slowly and evenly. Next session learn the next 4 measures, and so on. Before you know it, you will have learnt the whole song. Then reward yourself (or your child). Some adults have a cappuccino, some kids like stickers, Praise seems to be the most coveted award- there is no substitute for a pat on the back and recognition for a job well done.


At the Monterey Peninsula Academy of Music, we assess each student to find what he or she want to accomplish and give them the teacher who will be the most beneficial to them in reaching their goals. One of the tools we use is recognized teaching materials. There are some excellent materials developed by professional music educators that are made for students in a variety of situations. For most musical instruments there are books for very young beginners, and books for adults who have never played before. There are books that can start you off at a level that you are comfortable with. These materials have been carefully researched and are continually upgraded and improved to make learning easier. These materials ensure that no important part of learning the instrument is left out. If you ever have to move to another part of the country, qualified teachers and institutions will recognize the materials and be able to smoothly continue from where the previous teachers left off.


The ability to make music is something you will enjoy for a lifetime. So, try not to put unrealistic expectations on yourself or your children to learn too quickly. Everyone learns at a different pace and the key is to be able to enjoy the journey.


Our Mission Statement: "To provide students of all ages the skills they need to enjoy a lifetime of making music."


Tips on Getting the Most from Practicing

Be Consistent - Set aside a certain time each day for practicing and do it. Practicing in the same place can also be helpful. The mind begins to associate this time and place with practicing which will help you more quickly mentally "change gears" and focus on your practice.

Be Persistent - Once you've established the habit of practicing don't let yourself fall away and destroy what you've developed.

30 - 50 Minute Sessions - More than 50 minutes and the mind fatigues, less than 25 minutes and you've barely gotten warmed up.

Repetition - Expect to do certain exercises over and over. This is the way your brain develops the needed muscle memory. Go slow and build up speed slowly, always playing as correctly as possible. Your mind will memorize incorrect playing habits also.

Focus- Take a couple of minutes to relax, put away other thoughts and think about what you’re going to work on. Try to put your whole mind into your practice session. BE ORGANIZED- Divide your practice time in parts.


The Monterey Peninsula Academy of Music 30 Minute Practice Session:

3-minutes of warm-up exercise (like the chromatic scale). 7-minutes playing single notes or scales. 15-minutes try new techniques, progressions, song, etc. 5-minutes of review.

Enjoy Music- Make the time to play for fun, jam with friends, play old stuff you enjoy playing or just fool around. This will remind you of the fun side to music and learning. It will also give you more practice.

Excuses Don't Count- Don’t beat yourself up when you don’t practice. Just re–evaluate your priorities, set a time aside and do it. Beware of the conscious mind’s ability to come up with excuses for not doing or getting something in life. In reality excuses simply don’t count, especially in learning a skill like music. If you practice you’ll get the benefits. If you don’t, you won’t. Take lessons from patient, positive instructors who are committed to your improvement.



Monterey Peninsula Academy of Music

546 “H” Hartnell St. Monterey, CA 93940

(831) 646–0528