Wednesday, September 7, 2011

DSM Celebrates 20 Years and Shares Some Learning Tips

As we begin the new school year (our 20th!) we thought we'd share with our readers a few words of wisdom from some of our staff. Hope you enjoy!

Eugene Cantera on new adult learners: Most adults starting music lessons come in with concerns about making 'practice time' and they are almost apologetic about it when they haven't had time to play during the week.  I try to allay those thoughts at the first few lessons.  Regardless of whether you practice or not, come to the lesson - believe me, we'll practice.

I also encourage adult students to leave their instrument out in a safe place at home, and when they have a moment, pick it up and play it - simple as that.  There's no need to 'schedule' the mystical half hour of practice each day (especially at the beginning stages when there's simply not enough material to practice anyway).

Lastly, the DLP method is concept based so there is musical 'progress' that can be made without the instrument in hand. I encourage adult students to re-read our lesson information and take the quizzes. It's better to always have more information in your head than you can get out on the instrument.

Norm Wick on expressing yourself:  When students start lessons they're usually interested in gaining the power to express themselves through their music, and they want that expression to just ooze with emotion and move people on a grand scale. But Tolstoy didn't write "War and Peace" on the first go around! 

So use those short, simple songs that beginners play (or sing), to develop that ability by making everything you do become a tool of expression.  Even warm-up exercises can be done with a beautiful sound, even tempo, and dynamic shaping to help sharpen those skills.  You'll quickly go from the realm of musical "babbling" into the world of musical eloquence.

Mike Finkel on being overly critical: Don't be afraid to "fail". Many music students (both adults and children) stop 'musicking' for fear of being "bad at it". We all have to start at the beginning when we learn something new, so stay focused on "why" you wanted to play an instrument (or sing) in the first place. 

Making music is something that is enjoyable and it can stay with you for the rest of your life.  It's an activity with no finish line. Stick with it and you will always continue to grow and get better. Remember, you can make music at every level, even right at the start and enjoy the music you are making.

Gary Feltner on having fun: In our efforts to become better musicians everyday, we often use words like "practice", "work", and "technique", but sometimes we let the word "enjoy" fall by the wayside. Dont' forget why you got into music in the first place - to have fun! Even when I'm working on technique, I'm still having fun just spending time with my instrument. 

We all have to work hard to get better, but it doesn't have to be a chore. If I think, "spending time working on this aspect of my playing now will allow me to enjoy playing at a higher level later", then no time spent playing music is drudgery.

Tamalyn Lawrence on practice time: With work and school schedules back in place for the fall, it can be difficult to find time to practice.  Families are loaded with activities; school, after school clubs, sports, homework, dinner, bath time etc... Where do we find the time?

For beginning music students, especially youngsters, sometimes less is indeed more. Remember, our goal as educators (and your goal as a parent) should always be to encourage a love for music. Every child is different (even within the same family!) and some children will do better with a very structured practice routine, maybe right after school or before dinner time.  Others do better with far less structure and succeed by grabbing just a few random minutes here and there.

Practicing does not need to be stressful (that goes for adults too!) . A few minutes can go a long way, especially at the beginning stages when notes and concepts are most basic. And don't make the mistake of confusing practicing with learning; learning can take place anywhere, even away from an instrument.
 Lesson material can be reviewed and quizzes can be taken on a handheld or pc. And spending a few minutes reviewing the material will pay big dividends when there's finally time to apply those concepts to the instrument. So don't sweat it, just try to add a few minutes several days a week and you'll begin to see loads of progress with very little stress!