After 20 years of private one-on-one music teaching, we've made a discovery.
Ever seen a sample of a typical 1800's grade school test? The barre was high, and these kids knew their stuff! In the school houses of the past, many students of varying ages, levels, and ability, successfully learned together, and made extraordinary progress, under the supervision of one teacher.
To understand how to be great at playing....let's take a look at what happens (and doesn't happen) during a traditional one-on-one private lesson....
Nothing against anyone's childhood music lessons (I dearly loved my first piano teacher, and modeled my first 25 years of music teaching after her). But, the traditional one-on-one private lesson is BACKWARD! If you've ever experienced those private lessons, they were most likely 30 minutes once a week (mine were, too). During the week, on your own, is when you were expected to make the real progress - to remember what was taught/fixed during the lesson, make improvements, memorize stuff, drill on exercises and scales. Then, at the next lesson, the pressure was on to present all that...perfectly...then grab the next assignments. Your teacher sat next to you, showing you everything you needed to know, providing music theory, playing the music so you could hear the finished product, ever at the ready to correct mistakes (sometimes before you even made them!). This method of teaching has long been the gold standard, but there's a problem with traditional private lessons, and it puts music learners at a huge disadvantage, without even realizing it. Let's examine some serious and obvious flaws with that model...and how to fix them!
Flaws with the traditional private 30-minute weekly lesson:
30-MINUTE LESSONS ARE TOO SHORT Thirty minutes is simply not enough time to cover everything necessary to make fast musical progress, or to allow the student to make a true physical connection to music (at any age!). It might be, if perhaps a student consistently showed up to each lesson ready to play the assigned songs at tempo perfectly, completed all exercises flawlessly, took initiative to work on sight reading new songs during the week, correctly completed pages in their theory workbook, memorized the upcoming recital song. More likely, the student practiced something incorrectly that will then need to be fixed (there goes the rest of the lesson time), ran into struggles and didn't practice everything, forgot about the sight reading, left the theory workbook at home, or didn't practice at all (the lesson is then spent repeating everything from the previous lesson).
TOO MUCH ONE-TO-ONE TIME While you might think having a teacher all to yourself the entire lesson gets you the most for your music dollar, it's not necessarily good for encouraging a student's independence. With the teacher completely accessible the whole time to answer any and all questions, it's too easy for a student to simply ask "What's this note?" rather than work to figure it out, or find the answer. Likewise, it's equally tempting for the teacher to quickly blurt out answers or demonstrate how a song should be played, without allowing the student a chance to attempt it and make their own connections first.
LESSON NERVES You remember your childhood lessons, right?...and feeling like you were on the hot seat, breathing a sigh of relief when it was over? There's a bit of pressure on students during a 30-minute private lesson, with the teacher right beside you the whole time, watching your every move and at-the-ready to provide corrections. What a student practiced (or didn't) during the previous week is about to be closely examined and critiqued for mistakes. Personally, I recall being so nervous during my childhood piano lessons that most of what my teacher said was white noise. Nerves during a lesson can severely inhibit students from truly absorbing new information and forming a deeper connection and understanding of their music.
UNSUPERVISED PRACTICE Unfortunately, unless you happen to be the child of a piano teacher, all practice during the week (if there is any) goes unsupervised and unchecked by the teacher. Even the most dedicated practicers work in mistakes and poor habits that need to be "un-practiced" at the next lesson. Another common occurrence is that students may not realize how much time should be spent practicing, and will simply skim through playing their songs rather than mastering them.
LACK OF MASTERY In traditional 30-minute lessons, the bulk of the lesson time is spent either fixing mistakes or introducing new concepts and music. There is very little remaining time for the student to play repeatedly and to truly absorb something new. Repetition and mastery of songs is expected to be done during home practice, and the student is left to decide where that barre is.
LITTLE OR NO SIGHT READING With little or no time during a lesson to practice sight reading (sight reading is the skill of being able to play through a new piece of music almost perfectly without having practiced it beforehand), this skill is often neglected and very underdeveloped in most students. As sight reading becomes more challenging, it's not likely students will put it in their Top Five list of things to work on during the week.
LITTLE OR NO PERFORMING We're not talking about actual formal "performances" here, like recitals or competitions. We mean there is little or no playing in front of people (friends, family, other students). Students might eventually get used to playing comfortably and privately in front of their teacher, but any other playing/practicing is probably done in solitude. Performing and learning to be comfortable playing for others is a skill rarely practiced (no wonder recitals can be such nerve inducing events).
POTENTIAL FOR A WEAK FOUNDATION When you're building something -- a house, a building, anything -- where do you start? How do you build it so it stays in place, doesn't shift or fall so that you can finish the project without endlessly starting over? By putting down a solid FOUNDATION. Without it, music lessons are like constructing a building on quicksand...and a waste of your time. You will still learn some skills along the way, but you're in danger of the slightest "earthquake" setting you back, making you feel like you're not getting any better, or that you can't be as good as the "talented" students. If the weekly lesson format and length simply doesn't allow time for a student to comfortably absorb basic skills and concepts, it's likely those skills will never become "natural".
So, what's the solution?...and the secret to amazing progress, and becoming a great player? How do we build a great foundation?
Based on 35 years of both private and group format music teaching, the key to achieving exceptional musical proficiency lies in a thoughtfully designed and restructured approach to lessons...one that effectively addresses various challenges such as lesson duration, performance anxiety, unsupervised practice, lack of mastery, deficient sight-reading and performance skills, as well as the need for self-sufficiency.
It sounds complicated, but it's really quite simple -- we teach with a method that enables students to intuitively and subconsciously absorb musical concepts and solidify foundational skills—all within the lesson itself.
Through this unique lesson structure, students become great sight-readers.... effectively tackling musical and practice-related issues during their lesson time, transforming home practice into an enjoyable endeavor rather than a burdensome task. This approach fosters confidence in students, empowering them to confidently showcase their musical abilities through performances. Much like the one-room schoolhouses of bygone eras, our lesson framework empowers students to practice autonomously and at their individualized pace, guided by a personalized lesson plan. This approach nurtures a sense of ownership over their musical journey while fostering collaborative learning within the same classroom setting. At The Music Studio, the lesson extends beyond the classroom to encompass practice itself, with the emphasis placed on deriving enjoyment from playing music. In this context, "homework" becomes synonymous with having fun while playing—an approach that truly sets us apart.
Our apologies....At this time, openings for instruments other than Piano are limited. However, we are still accepting inquires, so let us know if you'd like an updated list of availability. If a convenient in-studio lesson time is not available, we also offer a "Virtual Instruction (online) Wait List" for all instruments -- students may enroll in a virtual/online lesson until a class for their instrument becomes available.