You've decided you want to get better at your instrument and signed up for music lessons. Now what?
Motivation to improve can take you a long way toward your musical goals. But, to get the most out of your music lessons, follow these 5 steps.
- Make sure your instructor has a clear understanding of what you want to accomplish through your lessons. It doesn't matter if you are an absolute beginner or a seasoned Pro, if your instructor doesn't have a clear understanding of your goals, you're taking a gamble that they'll get you there. When you meet your instructor, tell them in as much detail as possible what you want. For example, if you want to solo in the style of Wes Montgomery, give the instructor specific songs, lines, licks, etc. that catch your ear. Two-handed tapping ala Eddie Van Halen? Tell the instructor that one day, you want to be able to play "Eruption".
- Be ready to do what your instructor asks. Assuming step 1 is in the books, step 2 is all about trust and work. Trust that your instructor understands what you will need to learn to get to where you want to go and the put the work in every week between lessons to learn the material and prepare to take the next step. Too often, once the "newness" of the lesson experience wears off, students will revert to old habits, playing a little of this, a little of that. Doing everything but what they need to do to get ready for the next lesson. This is usually because the excitement of potentially playing "Eruption" is tampered with "Why does my instructor keep pushing Triads on me?" Once the work kicks in, it is up to you and you only to do it.
- Consistent practice is the key to improving. Strive to practice every day of the week, even if some days, you can only manage a few minutes of practice. Practicing should not be looked at like a chore. If practicing is the same to you as mowing the lawn or cleaning the house, you'll never get to where you want to be. Practice is a time of work and discovery. Even if you can only manage ten minutes today, make those minutes count. Try not to take days off in between practice sessions. That's too much time off and your mind and fingers will forget what they learned from the last practice session.
- Learn to love your Metronome! Beginners often blame the metronome for mistakes. "I can play this perfectly without the metronome" or "It's too slow. Speed it up and I can play it just fine" are commonly heard in lesson rooms across America. But the truth is, a metronome will keep you honest as to how well you know, or don't know, the material. There is no reason not to have a metronome today as apps are free or extremely cheap. Even Google has an online metronome available. As in step 2, trust your instructor when they ask that you practice with a metronome.
- Plan your practice time. So your instructor has given you 8 measures of music and a new scale to memorize for the next lesson. Great! But now what? Well, give some thought each day to what you need to do. Preferably, right after your practice session. For example. You memorized four measures of the music but the new scale fingering is tricky. Tomorrow, you'll have about 30 minutes to practice. Plan on 5 minutes or so to warm up with scales, improvising, stretches, etc. to get your mind ready for the work. The next five minutes will review the four measure from the day before to make sure they are correct and under your fingers. Take the next ten minutes to work on the last half of the music assignment. Finally, take the last ten minutes of practice to work on the scale. At the end of the practice, write down your notes for tomorrow, "review 8 measures for a few minutes, play scale using eighth and sixteenth notes at 80 bpm".
If you're interest in learning how to play, Little Rock Jams offers group and private instruction for Guitar, Drums, Piano, Voice, Bass, Banjo, and Ukulele. Call or email and we'll get you started!