CURO Financial Technologies Corp president Don Gayhardt is an experienced business executive who places an importance on positive leadership in the workplace. With over 25 years of leadership experience, Don Gayhardt also serves as the chairman of Music Training Center Holdings, a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-based group that provides 2,000 children in Pennsylvania and New Jersey with access to music lessons across multiple locations.
When taking up music lessons for the first time, the most successful music students tend to try harder and practice more effectively than their peers. Listed below are eight ways you can follow their lead and find success in music lessons, no matter your age or experience level.
1. Give maximum effort during practice
Successful music students practice purposefully and often because they understand that mastering an instrument demands hard work. Many music education professionals assert that raw talent is far less valuable when it comes to learning an instrument than dedication. Successful students use this to their advantage and optimize their practice sessions by setting goals, regularly tackling new challenges, and putting their full focus on the task at hand when they sit down to play.
2. Start your lessons before you even leave the house
Successful students look for ways to get as much as possible out of the time they spend in music class, and one way that they accomplish this is by taking time to do their warmups before leaving home for their lesson. Students who get their hands and fingers moving on an instrument with a 15-minute warmup at home are prepared get started right away when they arrive to class. This gives the student more time to spend working on new material instead of using the beginning of the lesson for warmups.
3. Show up prepared
To be successful, a music student must be reliable. This means that he or she shows up for all lessons on time with the necessary supplies for the session, including his or her instrument and music sheets. It also means that the student has spent enough time practicing between classes to move forward with the new material the teacher has planned. Showing up ready with the right tools and enough practice lays the foundation for the student to be focused and engaged in the day’s lesson.
4. Use your teacher as a resource
Successful music students take advantage of the knowledge available to them through their instructors. They aren’t afraid to ask questions during a lesson when they don’t understand a concept, and they work to analyze and understand the information presented to them in class. Additionally, a successful music student may choose to ask his or her teacher for specific feedback on topics like the student’s strengths and weakness as a musician, areas that should receive extra focus during practice sessions, and new practice strategies that may improve the student’s overall playing style.
5. Study more than just musical notes
A successful musician’s interest in music extends beyond simply learning to play notes on an instrument. The best students seek out supplementary knowledge on many different music topics through reading, watching videos, attending performances, and listening to recordings. They may find a musical piece that inspires them and choose to research its history, learning when, how, and why it was written. Participating in music research outside what is taught in lessons broadens the student’s perspective and enriches the learning experience, making for a more well-rounded musical education.
6. Routinely record yourself during practice
One way that successful music students improve their skills on an instrument is by recording themselves as they practice. Recording a practice session gives the student musician an opportunity to hear his or her performance objectively and identify mistakes that may otherwise go unrecognized. Students who save these recordings will also be able to document their progress as musicians, which may help keep them motivated to work toward success when faced with difficulty in their lessons.
7. Don’t let frustration make you feel discouraged
No matter how much students practice their instruments, there will always be challenges to face on the path to proficiency. Successful music students approach challenges with a patient, positive attitude, and do not let problems cause them to lose confidence. The students who eventually become highly successful on an instrument are those who see struggles during the learning process as opportunities to improve, rather than insurmountable problems.
8. Find genuine joy in music
The last and arguably most important factor that sets successful music students apart from their peers is a true passion for music. This is not to say that students who genuinely love music don’t encounter frustration or trouble as they learn, but these problems never erode their overall enjoyment in the process of mastering their instrument. Many successful musicians truly enjoy practice sessions, seek out a variety of musical experiences, and will always strive to learn more, even when they’re at the top of their game.
The former president of Dollar Financial Group, Don Gayhardt today is the CEO of CURO Financial Technologies Corp, a company that offers accessible financial solutions to underserved populations through brands like Rapid Cash, Opt+, and Cash Money. In addition, Don Gayhardt serves as the chairman of Music Training Center Holdings, LLC, an organization that gives children in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the opportunity to take music lessons focused on a wide range of areas, including classes on subjects such as playing in a rock band.
When groups of children or adults form a band with friends or other musicians, the first performance can be an exciting yet intimidating prospect. Below are 10 useful tips to help musicians of all ages prepare for their band’s first public performance.
1. Practice more than you think you need to.
If your band earns a spot to give a performance, take the opportunity seriously. Make sure that in the weeks leading up to the gig, your band dedicates enough time to practice so that every member feels completely prepared when the day arrives. If you don’t take time to prepare, it will show in the quality of your performance, and you may not receive another opportunity to play at the venue. Practice until you feel completely comfortable with the show you’re scheduled to put on—then practice some more.
2. Establish a set of pre-show best practices.
Before you take the stage, your band needs to get focused. For this purpose, it can be useful to have a pre-show ritual to help clear the mind of any nervousness and put you in the right mindset to perform to the best of your ability. Your pre-show routine can consist of any activity that makes you feel relaxed and ready to put on a great performance. Whatever you choose to do before your band takes the stage, make sure to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. In addition, getting enough sleep before the performance will ensure you’re rested, refreshed, and ready to shine.
3. Look the part.
Every eye in the audience will be trained on you and your band during the performance, so it’s important to go onstage showing that you take your music seriously by dressing for the occasion. The correct attire will differ depending on the genre of music you play, but the important thing is to dress in a way that makes you feel confident and demonstrates that you’re invested in your music and are enthusiastic about the opportunity to share it with the audience. In addition, try to coordinate your outfit with your bandmates. You don’t all have to wear the same thing, but sharing a similar style will make you appear more cohesive and professional.
4. Give yourself enough time for a sound check.
You should arrive at the venue early enough that your group has time to warm up and make sure that all of your equipment is functioning before the show begins. Warming up during a sound check before the show will also give the audio technician at the venue time to set volume levels before the audience arrives, allowing your band to sound balanced when you first take the stage.
5. Have a strong stage presence.
Stage presence is a key part of how the audience perceives your show. If you seem reluctant or low-energy, they are likely to respond less enthusiastically than if you show a strong stage presence. Many musicians even choose to develop an onstage persona in order to feel more confident in front of an audience. Simple actions that can improve your stage presence include standing up straight, moving around the stage instead of staying in place, and interacting with the audience throughout the set.
6. Interact with your bandmates on stage.
Another way that the audience perceives the energy onstage is based on how often and how well you interact with the other members of your band. It may sound strange, but this aspect of your performance is something that should be practiced during rehearsals. Engaging with your bandmates throughout the set shows a connection that the audience will respond to, and will help your performance seem more authentic.
7. Play through your mistakes.
Mistakes are bound to happen, especially during your first gig when nerves are running high. The important thing to remember if someone in your band makes a mistake is to keep playing. Don’t stop in the middle of a song because of a mistake. Push through the stress that you may feel and don’t let it affect the rest of your set. To help your group learn from the mistakes that you make, consider recording the performance so that you can revisit it later and evaluate what needs to be improved. However, if you choose to do this, don’t forget to also notice what the band did well and give yourselves credit.
8. Enjoy yourself.
No matter what the circumstances are surrounding your performance, make sure that you enjoy the experience as you show off your hard work and have a good time on stage with your bandmates. When you have fun doing what you love, it shows. The audience will know you’re enjoying yourselves, and may be more inclined to enjoy listening to your performance in return.
Don Gayhardt is a Pennsylvania-based business executive with more than 25 years of leadership experience in the fintech sector. In addition to serving as the president and CEO of CURO Financial Technologies Corp, Don Gayhardt applies his leadership experience to a position as the chairman of Music Training Center Holdings, LLC, a group that offers quality music programs to children in the Philadelphia area.
One form of music that many parents would like their children to take an interest in is classical music. Studies have shown that exposure to classical music in childhood can have a positive impact on the development of memory skills and spatial-temporal reasoning. Parents who want to foster an interest in classical music in their children should consider the following helpful tips:
1. Demonstrate excitement about classical music.
When a parent shows enthusiasm for a certain type of music, their positive energy is bound to have an impact on their child’s opinion. Look for opportunities to demonstrate your own interest in classical music to your child in everyday situations. It can be helpful to make sharing music a regular family activity, taking turns sharing your favorite classical pieces with your child and listening to music your child has selected.
2. Play classical music in your home and on car trips.
In addition to showing an active interest in classical music, incorporate classical songs into your family’s daily routine. Play pieces from your favorite composer as you cook dinner, or in the car as your take your children to school. You can also consider playing classical music for your children as a lullaby to help them fall asleep. The more familiar your child is with the genre, the more interest they may develop in it.
3. Engage your child’s interest with questions.
Asking your child opinion-based questions about classical music is an excellent way to engage their attention. When you play a piece, ask your son or daughter how the music makes them feel. Ask your child about the parts of the song they most enjoyed, and what the music makes them think of.
4. Take your child on a field trip to the symphony.
Taking your child to a symphonic performance is an excellent way to foster a love of classical music. Apart from the novelty of being out of the house, going to the symphony and seeing the lights, witnessing the orchestra setup, and hearing the music in person for the first time can leave a lasting impression.
If you believe your child is mature enough to sit through a symphony performance, make sure to pick the right show. Some local orchestras host performances specifically designed for children, featuring music from the soundtrack of popular children’s films. For children who aren’t quite interested enough to sit through a symphonic performance, the ballet can be a great alternative. Ballet performances provide visual entertainment while featuring classical music as a soundtrack. The Nutcracker is a perennial ballet favorite for families with young children.
5. Encourage your child to take music lessons on a classical instrument.
Some children may become interested in the genre if they are allowed to take lessons on a classical musical instrument. Developing as a musician can teach your child to appreciate all genres of music, including classical, in a way that they never would have otherwise. Great beginning instruments for this purpose include the piano and classical guitar. Though the right age to begin lessons will vary from child to child, a majority of professionals suggest that five years old is a good age to start piano, while guitar may be better for eight or nine year olds, due to the hand dexterity necessary to swiftly change chords.
6. Read your child stories that involve classical music.
Reading books about famous classical composers to your children during story time may be an effective way to educate and entertain them at the same time. Books like Why Beethoven Threw the Stew by Steven Isserlis and The Farewell Symphony by Anna Harwell Celenza are great choices for teaching children about classical music during story time. Other books like Listen to the Birds by Ana Gerhard, which includes an accompanying CD, can teach your kids about the genre and allow them to hear the sounds of the distinct instruments used in classical music.
7. Watch movies about classical composers.
If your child connects better with films than books, there are many family-friendly movies that can help them learn to appreciate classical music. For a lesson on the life of one of the world’s most famous composers, consider the film Beethoven Lives Upstairs. Other movies for children that incorporate classical music include animated features like Looney Tunes Musical Masterpieces, as well as Disney’s version of Peter and the Wolf.
Studies continue to show the positive effects that music education has on children’s lives. Whether a school program is designed to familiarize students with music in general or to train them on a specific instrument, the impact extends far beyond developing a good ear and a knowledge of scales, and can potentially lead to improvements in areas like language development, spatial-temporal skills, and test scores.
Today, music education classes are more engaging and comprehensive than ever, as modern technology has given teachers new tools to help students develop in their abilities as musicians. Listed below are five ways that technology positively influences the music classroom today.
1. Technology reduces problems associated with paper music.
Traditionally, young music students who train on an instrument are responsible for keeping track of paper music sheets that they annotate during lessons and then bring along to every class. Many teachers admit to struggling with students who routinely lose their sheet music or have a habit of leaving it at home, but technology has the ability to solve this problem.
Instead of using paper sheet music, teachers today can rely on digital tablets that keep all scores in one place and easily save any notes made in class. Tablets are also a helpful option for students during practice—they don’t have to struggle to keep paper sheets upright on a music stand, don’t find themselves missing pages mid-performance, and don’t have to think about turning pages as they play. Some tablet-friendly apps even allow a teacher to turn pages for all of his or her students at once from the teacher’s own device.
Technologies like tablets and computers have also made music homework easier for students to store and organize. Web-based or other digital lessons and homework can be completed from anywhere, at any time, allowing forgetful students to avoid misplacing their assignments and earning lower grades.
2. Technology makes lessons clearer.
Modern technologies like interactive whiteboards (IWB) are making it easier than ever for teachers to help students visualize and understand music concepts in class. When paired with notation programs like Noteflight, Sibelius, or Finale, the IWB can be useful for group lessons on music reading and writing, as the board can display and perform short scores as programmed by the instructor. IWBs also make it easy for teachers to record themselves demonstrating how to draw different notes and music symbols on the board for playback using a screen capture tool. This allows an instructor to step away from the board and give students a clearer view of what is being taught.
Likewise, the ability to annotate scores projected from the IWB in real time allows a teacher to highlight different notes or measures of a song for children, making it easier for students to follow along with the lesson. Certain IWB software can also enable a teacher to mute specific notes or sections within a score to give students the opportunity to play along at designated points. Overall, research indicates that these kinds of technologies create a higher degree of flexibility in class and free up more time for teachers to answer questions and expand on topics during a lesson.
3. Technology makes music more accessible.
One of the best benefits that technology has given to students is to make music more convenient and readily available. From iPad apps that allow children to create digital tunes on the go to the immeasurable catalog of music available for free on the Internet, modern technology has established a world in which people can explore music from anywhere.
In the classroom, this means that teachers can quickly and affordably use the Internet to show students the work of a wide range of musicians throughout history. Students can listen to and be inspired by the work of composers who lived hundreds of years ago, or discover music genres from countries they have never visited. Of course, the Internet is also an excellent resource for finding educational videos and games that help drive home lesson plans without the need for budget increases, which many schools cannot afford.
Additionally, the Internet gives students access to websites and tablet apps that enable them to experiment with music composition long before they’ve developed the ability to play a traditional instrument. Some of the best apps that help children learn about composition prior to mastering an instrument include Sound Drop, SoundPrism, inHarmony, Dropophone, and Pattern Music.
4. Technology enhances communication between teachers and parents.
Though not directly related to the lessons that take place in a music classroom, one important thing that technology has done for students is establish stronger lines of communication between teachers and parents. Research shows a connection between positive parent-teacher communication and student performance, and modern technology has made it easier for the two parties to communicate through email, classroom web pages or portals, webchat, video conferences, and social networking tools.
Children with parents who are involved in their education typically have better class attendance and behavior at school, and may be more able to see their music homework in a positive light. In addition, parents who have good communication with teachers are more likely to be familiar with the topics that their child is learning in class and can reinforce these lessons at home to bolster the child’s understanding of the material.
Singing is a musical hobby that can have an incredible impact on your mental and physical health. Vocalists often benefit from advantages like an improved immune system, better posture, sounder sleep, lower stress levels, and increased mental acuity. Singing can be especially beneficial for those who choose to sing as a member of a group. Joining a choir can be an excellent option if you want to improve your vocal abilities in a social atmosphere.
If you’re thinking about joining a choir for the first time, here are six things you’ll need to do in order to prepare for a successful audition that earns you membership into your ideal choral group.
1. Before you begin:
Make sure you’re taking care of your voice.
Voice care needs to be a priority for all committed singers, so if you’re thinking about joining a choir, you should start by taking simple steps to maintain your vocal health. Small actions that have a big impact on the health of your voice include drinking plenty of water, limiting the amount of alcohol and caffeine that you consume, avoiding cigarettes and spicy foods, and setting up a humidifier in your home. Additionally, make sure to always perform warm up exercises before you start singing in order to stretch out your vocal cords and the muscles surrounding the larynx. Doing so is a key part of protecting your voice from injury.
Find a group that suits you.
All choirs are different, so make sure that you research and explore the opportunities available in your area before choosing a group to join. There are choirs open to members based on age, as well as groups open to singers based on gender, while others are co-ed and/or all ages.
If you have an idea of what kind of music you would like to sing, make that the primary focus of your search. If you’re interested in timeless classical music, consider a choral society or symphony chorus. Singers who are drawn to show tunes and pop-influenced numbers may be well-suited to a show choir. For those who seek a more improvisational, energetic experience, a gospel choir may be the best fit. If you’re unsure of what kind of music you’re most interested in singing, consider attending a range of local choir performances to help you decide.
2. Prior to the audition:
Select the right song to perform.
If you choose to join any chorus other than a community choir, you will likely need to audition for a spot in the group. For your audition, you’ll want to prepare a song that highlights the strongest aspects of your voice. For example, if you’re most comfortable using your middle voice as opposed to your chest or head voice, look for songs that allow you to predominantly rely on that aspect of your vocals during the performance.
In addition, make sure that your arrangement isn’t too long. It’s better to demonstrate your abilities powerfully and succinctly than to sing too long and risk an audition host asking you to end your performance. Whichever song you choose to sing, make sure you devote plenty of time to practice so you feel well-prepared on the day of your audition.
Familiarize yourself with sight reading.
Though select choirs still teach songs by rote, many more require members to have a basic ability to read sheet music. In some cases, sight reading will be a required part of the audition process, so make sure you know whether or not it will be expected of you ahead of time. There are many books, websites, and online courses that can help you learn how to sight read. Two resources online are www.sightreadingfactory.com and www.thepracticeroom.net.
3. The day of the audition:
Dress correctly for the occasion.
Once you’ve secured an audition with your chosen choir, make sure that you show up on time and in clothing that demonstrates your professionalism. First impressions are important, and showing up in a professional outfit will help put the focus on your singing rather than on your wardrobe. A good rule of thumb is to show up to an audition dressed as you would for a job interview.
Don’t let a mistake stop you.
During an audition, there are two things that you shouldn’t do. The first thing you need to avoid is apologizing for your performance. Do not enter the audition room with excuses, and don’t verbalize your own critiques of your performance afterward. Telling an audition host that you didn’t give your best performance due to poor warm-up habits or a cold will not bolster his or her opinion of your audition, nor does it project confidence.
The second thing you want to avoid is stopping mid-song if you make a mistake. Mistakes are common during auditions because singers are often nervous, no matter how many times they’ve practiced. If you hit a wrong note or forget the words to the song you’re performing, focus on moving forward and recover confidently to show your ability to bounce back from an error.
For many children, learning to play a musical instrument is an exciting extracurricular activity that can yield many benefits, including better academic performance, improved social skills, and the opportunity for creative expression. However, even the most dedicated young music students may reach a point where their interest in the subject wanes and they want to quit their lessons.
While parents should not force an unhappy child to pursue musicianship, the following seven tips may help parents when their child expresses disinterest in an instrument they previously enjoyed playing.
1. Review your level of involvement.
While it’s important for parents to provide children with encouragement as they pursue music, too much involvement can have a negative effect on a child’s commitment to music lessons. If parents find that they constantly need to remind their child to practice or if discussions about lessons often result in arguments, it may be time to consider taking a step back and giving the child more personal autonomy. While it’s important to remember that this advice is more relevant to older children, allowing young music students to decide when and how long they practice may help them feel empowered and renew their interest in music overall.
2. Show more support.
Alternatively, kids may begin to lose interest in music because they don’t feel enough encouragement. Parents should make sure that they are taking the time to occasionally listen to their child practice and give positive remarks about performances. Parents can also show support by routinely asking thoughtful questions about their child’s lessons and acknowledging signs of major progress. Additionally, try making a celebration out of even small accomplishments in order to bolster your music student’s confidence in his or her abilities. When kids feel proud of themselves and realize the progress they’ve made on their instrument, they are more likely to stick with their lessons.
3. Make sure that peer pressure is not involved.
In some cases, children may lose interest in lessons because their friends discourage them or make negative comments about playing an instrument. Peer pressure can be especially difficult for students in the pre-teen and early teenage years to navigate, and parents should make sure their child’s sudden disinterest in music is not rooted in negativity from their friends and classmates. Having a candid conversation about peer pressure can help prevent a promising music student from quitting an activity that he or she genuinely enjoys.
4. Play similar music in the home.
No matter which instrument a child is learning to play, parents should make a point of introducing children to recordings of professional musicians who play a similar style of music. By playing music that is similar to the style the child is learning, parents can show that the family as a group has an interest in the subject. This, in turn, may bolster the child’s interest. Greater familiarity with a certain style of music may also help a child to enjoy it more, and thus feel more enthusiasm about learning to play an instrument.
5. Set up more performances.
An endless cycle of only lessons and practice with few opportunities for performance can bore children and make them wonder what the purpose of learning to play the instrument is. Parents can help children stay motivated to make progress on an instrument by finding more opportunities for performance. While recitals organized by the child’s music teacher may be infrequent, parents can seek out local competitions and explore local music groups to allow their child to demonstrate his or her playing skills more often. It can also be fun to invite friends and family over for an event and ask the child to play for guests. By giving the child something to practice for, more performance opportunities may encourage a bored music student to continue lessons.
6. Suggest a new instrument.
Growing disinterest in music can also stem from a child’s indifference toward his or her instrument. Children who enjoy music but aren’t excited about the specific instrument they are learning to play may find a renewed passion for the subject if their parents let them take lessons on something else. Parents should arrange for children to take lessons on an instrument that makes them enthusiastic about learning. In addition, don’t be discouraged if a child’s first choice doesn’t turn out to be right for him or her.
7. Find a new teacher.
Some children’s learning styles simply do not match up with their music teacher’s instructional methods. A teacher may have a great talent, but a teacher-student pair with the wrong chemistry can easily result in an unhappy and unmotivated child. After making sure the child’s distaste for music lessons isn’t caused by something else, parents should consider arranging for a few weeks of lessons with another instructor. Opt for one who employs a different style of teaching to see if the child’s interest in music returns.
No matter whether you’re a long-time musician, a new music student, or somewhere in between, people who are passionate about music often consider practice or performance an important part of daily life. However, travel can make practicing some traditional instruments difficult, leaving a musician on a trip without an outlet for creativity.
If you are a musician who is planning to travel soon, but don’t want to sacrifice your ability to make music while away from home, the following six instruments are easy to take with you no matter where in the world you go.
A lightweight, hollow-body instrument commonly associated with the Hawaiian Islands, the ukulele has an appearance similar to that of a miniature acoustic guitar. It features four nylon strings and is usually made out of wood, though plastic models are also available. The ukulele comes in four sizes, with the 30-inch baritone being the largest and the traditional soprano being the smallest at just 20 inches long. The instrument is notable for being fun, inexpensive, and relatively easy to learn how to play.
There are many options for the percussionist who wants to take an instrument on the go. While they do not produce the same sound as the standard drum kit, hand drums like the West African djembe are a practical option for travel. Although traditional djembes are made from a goatskin stretched over a wooden body, a hardier, more functional option for the traveling drummer is a djembe made from fiberglass and equipped with a metal tuning key. Another ideal hand drum for the traveling musician is the mini cajon (Spanish for “box”), like those designed by the instrument company Meinl. While standard cajons are large enough for a drummer to sit on when playing, the miniature version from Meinl is just under 9 inches tall and almost 6 inches wide. These birch wood instruments have a warm tone and produce a crisp sound that make them ideal for accompanying other musicians on the road.
Guitarists of all ages can bring their craft with them wherever they go thanks to a modified version of the instrument designed specifically with the traveler in mind. One of the best acoustic options is the Backpacker guitar, made by C.F. Martin & Co. Available in both classical and steel string form, the instrument has a slimmed-down body design that makes it perfect for storing in a packed car or in the overhead compartment of a plane. Although the skinny body of the wooden guitar prevents it from producing the louder, fuller sound of a standard size acoustic, it has the benefit of weighing only two pounds, making it extremely portable and the perfect option to bring along on outdoor excursions.
Alternatively, electric guitarists may be interested in the Ultra-Light Electric made by the company aptly named Traveler Guitar. At 3 pounds and just 28 inches long, the compact Ultra-Light produces a sound identical to a full-scale electric guitar and comes with a removable leg rest frame for functional lap playing. Musicians can pair the Ultra-Light with a mini amplifier and have the freedom to shred on the guitar anytime, anywhere.
For its size, the harmonica has a lot to offer the traveling musician as it spans three octaves and can play both single notes and chords. The typical beginner’s harmonica is the 10-hole diatonic type in the key of C—the version most often played in music genres like folk, blues, and pop. Though a harmonica needs to be in the right key in order to most effectively accompany other instruments during a song, these metal mouth organs are small enough to stuff in your pocket, making it easy to fit a set of them with a wide range of keys into a travel bag.
While many standard wind instruments like the flute and clarinet are already small enough to take on trips, they can be expensive to replace or repair if they are lost or damaged. For this reason, the ocarina is an excellent, economical option for a wind instrument player who wants to make music while traveling. Ocarinas are small, rounded vessel flutes with a total of 10 holes—two for the thumbs and eight for the fingers. They are made from plastic, terracotta, or even metal, and produce pure notes in a limited range. Some versions are highly decorative, and musicians may choose to wear them around the neck on a string for convenient carry.
Arguably the simplest and most often-forgotten instrument that musicians can take wherever they go is their voice. Through singing lessons and practice, musicians can learn to develop a controlled, melodic vocal tone welcome in any musical setting. Singing can also lead to a variety of emotional, social, and health benefits for the singer. Studies show that singing can strengthen the immune system, improve the body’s blood circulation, reduce stress, and even boost self-confidence. Additionally, singing in a group is a great way to make friends and enjoy the wonderful social aspect of music while on the road.
Of all the extracurricular activities that children participate in, music lessons offer kids the ability to hone a unique set of skills and gain useful advantages, including the ability to express themselves creatively, improve their academic skills, learn discipline, and familiarize themselves with other cultures. If you’re considering enrolling your child in music lessons for the first time, read through the answers to the following frequently asked questions that parents often have about children’s music lessons.
Q: At what age should my child begin music lessons?
A: In general, there is no universally applicable age at which your son or daughter should begin taking music lessons. Readiness for lessons depends largely on a child’s physical size, hand dexterity, attention span, and interest in learning to play music. Each of these factors will vary widely from child to child, and parents must decide whether their son or daughter is prepared to excel in music lessons on a case-by-case basis. Experts suggest that children around the age of five or six can successfully begin to take lessons on instruments like the piano, but even much younger children can enroll in more relaxed general music classes to encourage their interest in the subject as a whole.
Q: What is the average cost of music lessons?
A: There are many different types of music lessons for parents to choose from, with some coming at a greater expense than others. Rates for private lessons in your local area will vary based on the teacher’s experience, and will likely be much more costly than group lessons. Additionally, some instrument lessons can be taken as part of a school curriculum in band or orchestra class, though even these lessons are likely to cost families around $300 between instrument rentals and other related activity costs.
Q: What should I look for in a music teacher?
A: If you choose to enroll your child in lessons with a private music teacher, there are certain qualities that all parents should look for in potential instructors. Apart from having a reasonable amount of experience in the subject, a children’s music teacher should be engaging, patient, communicative, and goal-oriented. He or she should have an obvious love for music. In addition, it’s extremely important that he or she also have a teaching style that suits your child’s personality. A child who does not respond well to an instructor’s methods may come to resent the teacher, and ultimately it may negatively affect your child’s interest in music.
Q: How long should the average music lesson be?
A: The length of the average music lesson will depend on a child’s age, but for most children under 12, half-hour lessons are a good start. Though this estimate is not applicable in all circumstances, 30-minute lessons will help keep your child’s attention span on the task at hand. Young kids can become restless and tune out when lessons stretch beyond the 30-minute mark, though every child is different. Ultimately, the right lesson length will be one in which your child feels engaged and reasonably focused the entire time. In addition, keep in mind that your child should also spend time practicing his or her instrument in addition to attending lessons.
Q: How can I help my child as he or she learns to play an instrument?
A: There are many simple yet effective ways that you, as a parent, can help you child excel as he or she learns to play. For example, creating a special space in your home for your child’s musical pursuits may help him or her stay focused and avoid distractions when it comes time to practice. Additionally, it can be extremely supportive for parents to show interest in their child’s music—especially if the parent acts more as an audience member rather than a critic. It’s also helpful to ask children open-ended questions so they can demonstrate their knowledge and commit concepts to memory.
Q: How long will it take for my child to learn to play an instrument?
A: Like so many aspects of learning to play an instrument, the time it takes to reach a reasonable level of proficiency will differ with each child, and there is no straightforward answer. However, the one thing that all children can do to improve their abilities on any given instrument is to practice regularly. Routine, focused practice is the key to developing the skills necessary to play with proficiency, and no child can reach his or her music goals without it. It’s also important to note that children who begin several years of lessons at an older age (like nine) are likely to see significantly more progress in that multi-year period than a child who takes several years of lessons beginning at a younger age.
Q: Should I allow my child to change instruments if he or she asks?
A: In some cases, you may find that your child begins lessons on one instrument only to tell you that he or she wishes to switch over to another. Experts suggest that allowing your child to switch over to a new instrument is reasonable if the child has dedicated several months of practice to the instrument before deciding to cast it aside. However, make sure that your child is not simply frustrated with his or her inability to play well after very little time. As a general rule, encourage your child to give an instrument several months of practice before he or she decides to try something new.
Although there is a common misconception that only children benefit from learning to play an instrument, research shows that starting music practice later in life can provide many advantages for adults as well. Read on to learn seven reasons why picking up an instrument later in life is an excellent idea for adults over 50.
1. Playing music gives the brain much-needed mental exercise.
As we grow older, studies show that the brain becomes less alert, but learning to play an instrument can help strengthen cognitive function and keep the mind sharp. This is due, in part, to the fact that playing a musical instrument requires many different areas of both the left and right sides of the brain to work together at once. Of course, the longer a person has played an instrument, the more positive effects he or she is likely to experience. Still, studies show that seniors who took just six months of lessons on an instrument like the piano showed improvement in skills like planning, verbal fluency, memory, and information processing.
2. You may have more time to dedicate to hobbies.
Many people who are over the age of 50 are in a much better position to learn how to play music than they were in their younger years. Older adults may be less busy than people who are still attempting to raise a young family, for instance, and retirees likely have more personal time to focus on hobbies. In addition, older music students may be more financially settled and have the funds to invest in a higher quality instrument and a better music teacher than they would have in the past.
3. You are more aware of what kind of music you enjoy.
Older adults learning how to play an instrument for the first time go into the practice with many years of exposure to music, and they tend to be surer of their tastes and preferences. Younger individuals may struggle with which instrument they should learn to play out of uncertainty about what they enjoy, and often vacillate between different instruments while trying to find one that suits them best. Older first-time musicians are less likely to encounter this problem because they have a more well-developed sense of who they are and what they like. Additionally, years of life experience can also bring with it a stronger sense of self-discipline and time management skills, both of which are important when it comes to practicing a new instrument.
4. Playing music can broaden your social life.
After the age of 50, many people find themselves feeling isolated as their children have moved away from home, they have gone through a divorce, or their partner has passed on. Learning to play a musical instrument is an excellent way for older adults to meet friends and make new social connections in a fun, organic way, whether through group music lessons or local music meetups. Broadening one’s social life through music can enhance feelings of belonging, provide a sense of purpose, and result in a boost of confidence and self-esteem.
5. Playing music can help you let go of stress.
Higher levels of stress often accompany the aging process for a variety of reasons, including illness, major physical changes, and lack of companionship. Learning to play an instrument can be an excellent way for older individuals to relieve stress by triggering a release of the stress-relieving chemical dopamine in the brain. Additionally, playing an instrument provides older musicians with an outlet for creative self-expression, which can elevate their mood and help them work through any emotional difficulties they’re struggling with.
6. Playing an instrument can help you bond with younger generations.
An older adult who learns to play an instrument has a hobby that is both easy and enjoyable to share with younger people, like their grandchildren. Music is an incredible unifier that allows people from different generations and with different life experiences to share a common interest. Older adults can use their skills on an instrument and their love of music as a tool to bond with the young people in their lives.
7. Taking lessons on an instrument is easier than ever.
Of all the reasons that adults over 50 should consider learning to play an instrument for the first time, perhaps the most basic is that taking music lessons is simpler and more convenient than ever before. While traditional music lessons are still available to those who wish to take them, there are also countless smartphone apps, websites, DVDs, YouTube videos, and books that can help any beginner learn basic skills on the instrument of his or her choice. With all the benefits that music has to offer, and the ease with which a beginner can learn through modern tools, older adults have every reason to take advantage of music lessons.
Being a professional vocalist is the dream of many amateur musicians around the world. While many people who are interested in this pursuit have a natural talent for singing, it takes more than a lovely voice to turn this dream into a reality. Listed below are 10 qualities and characteristics that every aspiring vocalist should have to reach the professional level.
Enthusiasm for learning
Aspiring vocalists who aren’t willing to learn and develop their singing abilities are unlikely to find success in the music industry. While a singer may get lucky and earn a job by relying on his or her natural talents, vocalists tend to benefit more from an education in proper vocal technique and music theory. It’s recommended that people who are committed to forging a career as a professional singer take lessons from a vocal coach or study music at an institution of higher education.
A great ear for pitch
You can’t be a great singer if you lack the ability to sing in tune. Accomplished vocalists have an excellent ear for pitch, meaning that they can perfectly match the pitch of a tone that they hear—singing a note that is neither flat nor sharp. Though some singers are naturally gifted with an ear for music, others who wish to be professional vocalists can enlist the help of voice teachers to develop the ability to consistently sing notes in the correct pitch.
Excellent breath control
Singing well requires more than the ability to sing in the right pitch. A professional vocalist must also work to develop excellent breath support to sustain strong, clear notes without faltering. Breath control can be developed when a vocalist trains in breathing techniques and correct singing posture, as well as through extensive practice.
An ambitious attitude
Professional singing is not for those who are afraid to take risks or ask for what they want. Vocalists who find success tend to be “go-getter” types who seek out opportunities to perform, rather than waiting around for gig offers to find them. Most singers will not find success without an ambitious attitude and the courage to ask for chances to sing.
Receptive to new ideas
Even when aspiring vocalists train extensively in their craft, it’s still important that they stay open to learning new things and entertaining new ideas while working in the industry. When performing, singers need to work with other musicians, and having a narrow-minded view of the genres and styles that you will perform can severely limit professional opportunities. Vocalists at the professional level should experiment with different styles of music to be more versatile and have the capacity to work with musicians from all areas of the industry. This will increase their chances of finding success.
Open to criticism
No matter how much natural talent you have, you should always remain open to feedback. The opinions of professionals and other well-intentioned people who take the time to listen to your demos can help you gain new insights on the strengths and weaknesses in your performance. Though not all criticism is warranted or worth paying attention to, professional vocalists must learn to recognize constructive criticism and apply it in order to make themselves even better performers than before.
While the ability to take constructive criticism as a vocalist is important, so too is an innate self-assurance and belief in your singing abilities. Confidence about your talents will not only help you more readily accept criticism, but will also reduce pre-show anxiety and help you project self-assuredness during performances, leading to better reception from audiences. Overall, professional vocalists must learn to love their own voice through self-acceptance and extensive singing practice.
People who become professional singers have self-discipline. A vocalist must be strongly committed to regular practice and maintain a strict voice care regimen to ensure that they keep their vocal cords in good condition. A standard voice care regimen should include warm-ups before every singing practice and performance, keeping the vocal cords hydrated, getting enough sleep, and avoiding harmful substances that irritate the throat tissue, like cigarettes.
The ability to work in a team
Vocalists do not work alone. Being a singer requires collaboration with a wide range of music industry professionals, including instrumentalists, songwriters, technicians, and producers. To function effectively in their role, vocalists must value teamwork and be respectful to the people who help them give great performances.
No matter how much talent vocalists have, they should not expect to find success without hard work and time. Patience is a necessity for anyone who wants to sing professionally, as progress often goes slowly. The important things for all aspiring singers to remember are to keep the vocal cords healthy, continually look for ways to improve, and to enjoy themselves along the path to success.