FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What is a good age for a child to start learning an instrument?
In recent years we have seen an increased number of students ages 4 & 5 starting to learn an instrument in a private lesson setting. With the introduction of full time kindergarten, students are getting used to longer school days so focusing on the instrument in private lessons is no longer an issue. This was not a case 10 years ago. Of course, every child is unique and has a different attention span.

I used to play an instrument and I decided to quit. Now I regret it. What should I do?

Knowledge can be renewed so go back to your instrument before it is too late. Playing an instrument can be one of the most fulfilling hobbies that will stay with you for a very long time.  


At what age we can start beginner voice lessons?

At least age 6 because voice training requires physical, mental, visual and audible engagement from the student. Instructions will be more abstract than instrumental instruction because singers use their body as an instrument.


How often should my child practice?

The best thing is to establish a daily routine of 20-30 minutes of practice, but often that is not possible with our busy lifestyles. In that case try to have your child practice 10-15 minutes every day. The practice session does not have to be very long as long as it’s effective and continuous.


I have an extremely hard time making my child practice … any tips?

Many parents deal with the same issue. Here are some practical tips. - Try to set a goal for your child like a getting a reward if they do well with their practice sessions. Make sure that the sessions are timed and regular, especially for younger students. - Allow the child to choose one or more pieces that they love. Normally children learn pieces very quickly and hopefully that will develop in to other repertoire. ( Teen student) - Encourage them to practice with a friend, cousin, or older sibling that plays the same instrument. Often they will inspire each other or compete. ( Middle age student)  - Work on boosting their interest in music. 


Noticing extraordinary talent in music or a highly motivated student?

If you notice that your child or a family member has a great talent in music you have to take action as soon as you can. Try not to postpone the music training because talented students progress very fast so every term or a year counts. Ideally is to start them young. Talent has to be nurtured in the right way and develop the right attitude towards it. Students should be prepared to work twice as hard because every experienced teacher will demand more in order to achieve grater results. Parents are expected to be supportive, serious about the training and aware that talent, hard work and right attitude can lead to possible future successful career.

                                                                                                                                                                       

I want my child to learn an instrument but I can tell that there is not a lot of talent going on. Any advice?                                                                                                      

Talent is something that we inherit. It can be certainly helpful, but it is not the most important thing. I believe that talent makes up only 1% of the equation whereas 99% is hard work, determination and love. If your guidance is based on these principles there will be success regardless of the level of talent.                                                                                              


My child is losing interest in the instrument, what should I do?                                                                                                                                                                                  

Children lose interest for two reasons. First they do not understand the point of learning an instrument, and second, there are too many activities or instruments and not enough time to focus on developing them. If you fall into the second category you need to limit activities so that children can focus on what they really enjoy instead of unsuccessfully trying to keep up with everything.   If you fall in to the first category then you need to explain to your child that music has many purposes in our lives. It can be used as a hobby or profession, but the most important thing is to make your child understand that music is one of the most important forms of art. Start exposing your child to different styles of music. Take them to see their favorite band, artist or a fully staged musical. Introduce them to some classical music at home and then take them to see a classical concert. Eventually the interest will return and your child will know that they are learning a form of art that will have a positive impact on their lives.                                                                                                                                                      


What is the best thing that parents do in terms of music?                                                                                                                                                                                    

I have seen a tremendous amount of support from parents. They keep encouraging their children to study music even when the student is ready to quit the lessons. Sometimes their persistence works out for the best. In any case that kind of attitude deserves respect.                                                                                                                                                     


What is the most common mistake that the parents make when it comes to music lessons?                                                                                                                            

The most common mistake is stopping music lessons for the summer because parents want to give children a break. Summer is the best time to practice and it is a good balance between outdoor activities. Children have more time to practice and there is no pressure of other homework. In fact, I have seen the most progress over the summer with students that continue with their lessons. In contrast, the students that take a break tend to forget a lot of the details and lose their reading skills. It takes on average one to two months for the teacher to bring the student back to the level that they were at in June. That is time consuming and costly.


What is RCM program?

The RCM program is a certified music program by the Royal Conservatory of Music.

How do the RCM exams work?

There is a certain amount of pre-knowledge required before a student is able to start the RCM program. Once the teacher and student start the program, it can take from 6 months to 1 year to prepare one RCM grade. Of course, this is only approximate timing. For some students it is faster, and for some students it takes longer. It depends on a student’s motivation and engagement. It is the teacher’s responsibility to notify the parent that the exam will soon take place and that they will have to register the student for the exam at the next exam session. There is a fee for the exam and there is a late fee if you register your child past the deadline. You must also keep in mind that there is a fee for an accompanist if your child takes violin, voice or another instrument that requires one. When the process is over the student will receive marks and a certificate in the mail or on-line.

How do we choose a music teacher?

First of all make sure that you hire a music teacher, somebody that does teaching for living with professional music training, not a person that uses his teaching as hobby for some extra income. Verify that the chosen teacher has the relevant education and has mastered their instrument. Teaching an instrument or music is a skill and only a teacher with a high level of expertise can transfer that kind of knowledge. It is important to remember that only “perfect practice makes perfect”. A student who learns incorrectly in the beginning will have a very difficult time correcting those errors later. Because the teacher interacts with your child on weekly basis it is important to choose a teacher who will influence the student in a positive way.

Why is it that the prices of music lessons are so different out there?

Parents looking for music lessons should know that there are no regulations when it comes to who can or cannot offer music services and lessons. Reality is that anyone with some music training can advertise to teach lessons, from teenagers to part time teachers with degrees in other fields. Therefore, the cost of lessons can vary greatly. Grade 9 Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM) is not sufficient to be a teacher; in fact it is a pretty low level, no matter how highly it resonates with parents. You wouldn’t hire a mechanic who has not quite completed his training. It is better to invest a little more and engage a qualified teacher than to learn bad habits.

What are the signs of insufficient instruction?

The most obvious signs that parents without a musical background can easily notice are: - Body posture that does not look right. - Singing out of tune or coarse voice. - Inability to read music after months of training. - Playing random pieces without any structure or plan. - Playing the same pieces for extensive periods. - Not having a clear goal even if it’s learning just for fun. Parents should also know that once a student is trained incorrectly, it is very difficult to change those habits.

My child takes piano lessons but we have no space or funds to purchase an instrument. How do I keep the practice routine in this case?
It is not impossible to keep up with the piano lessons without instrument. There is always a way if there is a will. Many organizations and homes have a piano. Schools, churches, music schools, and possibly even a friend or neighbor will be more than happy to let you practice on their instrument. All you need to do is ask and keep a firm practice schedule so they know that you are serious about it.

We need to purchase an instrument. What are my options?

Parents should know that there are plenty of options out there. You can purchase a new or used instrument or rent an instrument. Make sure that you talk to the teacher before you purchase an instrument to set up the goals and needs of the student. The teacher can assist in ensuring that the instrument fits the student, which is very important especially for string instruments. Various stores sell musical instruments, but you can always check the specialty stores that only carry instruments. A great resource for used instruments is Kijiji classified advertisements. If you are not sure that you or your child will have a long term commitment to the instrument or if your child is growing then it may be a good idea to rent an instrument for some time and decide later if you are going to purchase one.