Back-to-school Readiness For Music Students

By Olesya MacNeil


Lexi Vaughan practices piano. PHOTO COURTESY MUSIC TEACHER LA

As a piano teacher and the founder of Music Teacher LA, I am often asked how to help young music students get ready for back-to-school time.

For families whose children are taking private music lessons, such readiness is essential to ensure that children have a smooth transition from a summer of laid-back music study or vacation to motivational weekly music lessons.

Additionally, feeling confident and prepared helps kids to begin the school year well organized and focused.

Your back-to-school shopping list should include the following items:

A metronome: This little device helps students keep the beat, play music pieces smoothly and perform at an exact tempo in recitals.

A tuning service or instrument-care kit: If your child is learning to play the piano, scheduling a piano tuning before the school year starts will ensure that your child is hearing the right tones when learning new songs. If your child is learning to play a violin or a guitar, then cleaning the instrument, replacing the strings, re-positioning pegs and inspecting the bridge (for violin) is essential.

Method books, plus supplementary material: In a new school year, your child is likely to begin learning from the new method books. Your music teacher might also ask your child to pick two or three favorite genres such as Classical, Jazz or Rock-N-Roll, and purchase supplementary books in the chosen genres.

A music stand: Every violinist and guitarist – from beginner to advanced – needs a music stand. Not having one will lead to all kinds of health issues, from carpal tunnel syndrome due to improper hand position to more serious neck and back problems due to incorrect posture. The music stand will enable your child to practice at home in a sitting or standing position, as well as to perform in recitals. Choose the standard solid stand if your child is using bigger and heavier music books in lessons and does not need to move the stand around. If you are looking for a music stand that can be easily moved, yet sturdy, consider purchasing a folding stand with a folding base and a single-piece top. If your child is practicing using sheet music or light-weight method books for beginners, then choose lightweight folding music stands that have both folding base and folding top.

Olesya MacNeil is the founder and CEO of Music Teacher LA, provider of quality piano, voice, violin, guitar and drum lessons for ages 4 and up, and piano tuning services.

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  1. I like this so much 🙂 🙂 🙂 I’m currently working on the f# minor nocturne! they’re beautiful pieces.Don’t get me wrong, you have to be strong and confident to be successful in just about anything you do – but with music, there’s a deeper emotional component to your failures and successes. If you fail a chemistry test, it’s because you either didn’t study enough, or just aren’t that good at chemistry (the latter of which is totally understandable). But if you fail at music, it can say something about your character. It could be because you didn’t practice enough – but, more terrifyingly, it could be because you aren’t resilient enough. Mastering chemistry requires diligence and smarts, but mastering a piano piece requires diligence and smarts, plus creativity, plus the immense capacity to both overcome emotional hurdles, and, simultaneously, to use that emotional component to bring the music alive.
    Before I started taking piano, I had always imagined the Conservatory students to have it so good – I mean, for their homework, they get to play guitar, or jam on their saxophone, or sing songs! What fun! Compared to sitting in lab for four hours studying the optical properties of minerals, or discussing Lucretian theories of democracy and politics, I would play piano any day.

    But after almost three years of piano at Orpheus Academy, I understand just how naïve this is. Playing music for credit is not “easy” or “fun” or “magical” or “lucky.” Mostly, it’s really freakin’ hard. It requires you to pick apart your piece, play every little segment over and over, dissect it, tinker with it, cry over it, feel completely lame about it, then get over yourself and start practicing again. You have to be precise and diligent, creative and robotic. And then – after all of this – you have to re-discover the emotional beauty in the piece, and use it in your performance.

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