All students hope to find a music teacher who is supportive and nurturing of their dreams. People who decide to take music lessons are all different; therefore the goals when learning a musical instrument for each of these students are inevitably very different.
I’ve been teaching piano lessons in NYC for nearly 25 years now. I’ve had students from kids aged 3 years old to college students, to even folks in their retirement. I love them all, and they all come with unique viewpoints, challenges, and strengths.
New students must understand that there cannot be one-for-all teaching method leading to one required goal for each student to achieve. There are certainly various examination systems out there that assign levels and grades – great stuff! We support that and believe that everyone can benefit from a little bit of pressure to learn their notes, sight reading, and other basic music skills.
In a new professional relationship between the music teacher and the student, talking about personalized goals is extremely important from the very beginning. Some students come into their first music lesson knowing exactly what they are interested in. Other times, it is the instructor’s job to encourage the student open up about what they truly love and aspire to be able to play.
Once a goal has been realized, student and teacher walk together on a one-of-a-kind individual learning path. This path is created by the teacher and leads to a dream created by the student. The goals can and do change along the way. It doesn’t really matter what this dream is, as long as the student is inspired!
All of that said, we can formulate some general goals for music lessons based upon the age of the student. After all, the way you communicate with a 6 year old beginner is not going to work for a 21 year old advanced pianist and vice-versa. This is what makes the music teaching profession exciting! It rarely becomes monotonous.
Let’s get a little more specific and descriptive with what paths you can take in learning a musical instrument:
Musical concepts can be taught as soon as your baby is born, but it’s best to begin formal private music lessons when your child is between 3.5 and 5 years old. Believe it or not, there is a lot to do in the lessons right away.
Of course, the decision to start taking music lessons is almost never the main initiative of a 5 year old. In most cases it is a parent or guardian who falls in love with the idea of their child making music after hearing them sing their favorite song from a cartoon or seeing them enthusiastically banging on a keyboard or drums. If a young child is excited about music, it’s a great time to begin music lessons!
The goals when learning a musical instrument in early childhood are to keep the child motivated and excited to be able to make simple music. With the right music teacher, your young child will continue to love music and should soon be able to play some basic songs.
For example, my youngest son who just turned 5 is currently driving me nuts by playing one song that he really likes over and over…and over again. Of course ,I’m not stopping him from playing it as I think he is exactly where he is supposed to be in his relationship with music.
At this age, kids can learn the basics of strong technique, learn to read the notes, play songs, even improvise their own songs, among other things. Many parents ask for “fun” lessons, and yes, ALL the lessons should be fun! The child’s excitement is the key here.
As children age, the choice of repertoire changes drastically. My older son is taking two piano lessons per week, one classically oriented and another jazz/composition oriented. Ultimately these are two different paths that professional musicians eventually choose between.
For now, my kid is loving both of them: he is working on a Beethoven Sonatina but he is also composing his own blues song!
I can’t stress enough that knowing your notes (as opposed to playing by imitating the teacher or by ear) is the key to accessing all the exciting possibilities for the song choices. Make sure your children know their notes and basic music theory. Without that skill, your child’s musical journey is bound to come to an end most likely sooner rather than later.
Don’t look at the examples of only a FEW musicians who became famous without knowing their chops. That’s a rare exception and not the future of the music.
Back to the goals: middle and high-schoolers know and feel that being able to make music is a very special skill. You should see the excitement in their eyes when they can sing along to that song that everybody knows, while playing!
The goals when learning a musical instrument for older children are to become better at reading and playing music and creating confidence. The musical skills learned at this age can then be applied to many life skills outside of their instrument!
College is the time for an ultimate push! It’s the ideal time of your life to learn. Whether you are starting from scratch or continuing music lessons after many years of experience – you are at a pivotal point of establishing your musical taste, and of truly understanding how the music works (read up on Pythagoras and other cool science stuff about music).
I teach piano at Columbia University and I am continuously amazed at how much the students of this age group can absorb in each lesson. Yes, studying for tests, writing the papers, all the wonderful social life fun often translates into “no time to practice” but guess what: life gets much busier after college.
Don’t miss your chance to get a head start on the hobby that you will have for the rest of your life. What are your dreams? To play “Fur Elise?” To play “River Flows in you?” To play whatever the new cool song that just came out and you are really into?
Yes, yes, and yes. Just do it, because you definitely can.
There is an ultimate freedom in what you can learn and achieve in your music lessons as adults. Unfortunately, there is a very common misconception that it’s just too late to start or re-start learning a musical instrument as an adult because “that ship has sailed.” It’s absolutely not true! The beauty of learning and playing musical instruments is that you really cannot “age out” of this activity.
You will never see a 50 year old professional basketball player but you can easily see a 80+ year virtuoso piano player performing in Carnegie Hall. Our bodies are amazing with learning new movements at any age.
Al began his piano lessons at our studio in NYC at age 50. He decided to ignore snide remarks from family and friends who said he could never learn. Now he says: “If you love music, playing is more satisfying than listening, even if you’re just playing for the cats.” Al didn’t aspire to play at Carnegie hall – he just wanted to play his favorite music. He can do that now!
You could concentrate on classical or jazz or popular styles or any combination of styles, or them ALL. Why not? You can learn to improvise and even compose your own music. And, you can do it at your own pace with a friendly and motivating teacher.
If you are searching for a patient and kind music teacher in NYC, contact Riverside Music Studios at (212) 247-4900. We teach piano, guitar, violin, flute, and voice at our music school in Manhattan.