Tuesday, 29 May 2012

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Music Examinations?

The music exam.  Are they worth going for or can they put you off the whole experience of learning music?

It all depends on the individual.  If you are self motivated and can keep that motivation to learn and develop throughout your music career then music exams are just leading to a piece of paper.  This can be especially true for the adult learner.  An adult learner has usually already got all the qualifications that they need and a music qualification is not much use.  The chances are that learning to play a musical instrument is more of a hobby and something that they have always wanted to do.

Sometimes though, especially with an adult - life gets in the way.  Children, jobs and house moves can all get in the way and motivation is often difficult.  Sometimes as a result a music exam can help give the adult something to aim towards - a deadline.  The adult can see the progress they desire by simply moving up the grades every 6-12 months.  Again though, this does depend on the adult and whether motivation is needed over the medium to long term.

With children, music examinations can be seen as more important but for a very different reason.  Nobody knows where life will take you as a child and which job or career they will end up in.

Music examinations lead to an extra qualification to the usual ones they can obtain at school.  It gibes them something extra to put on their CV, personal statement and on their UCAS form when applying for university.  On the face of it, taking a music examination is a no brainer.

The trouble is that exam after exam for many years can also make children dislike or even hate music.  It is important as a teacher to not make exams the basis for a whole lesson if this is the route they decide to take.  This balance is hard and one that we aspire to in my music school, www.primavolta.co.uk.

Personally, I try to use games in lessons, then run through exam material and then add some fun pieces of music.  This can also double up as sight reading as well as showing the student that you really do want them to be able to play the music they feel is important.  Our student area allows this for all our students so that boredom does not sink in.

Scales, exam pieces, sight reading, composition work and theory can be hard work.  For some students the qualification is not worth the amount of work needed for each exam.  The structure of a music examination and the deadline does often move the student forward, combined with slick and innovative teaching.  The teacher should be abel to spot when the student needs a break.  This could just be a week or two off examination focus or even a complete break for a few months after a big examination.  Communication between teacher and pupil (and parent if appropriate) is key at all times.  If the student is feeling down, listen and adapt the lesson as appropriate. 

Music examinations have their place.  Make sure to discuss your feelings about them with your teacher and make sure you communicate these feelings if your opinion changes.  This will keep your desire top master your musical instrument from disappearing. 

Monday, 14 May 2012

How Long Does it take To Read Music?

Music is a language.  Like learning any language, the process can take a long time and seem almost impossible at first.  To truly learn and understand the language so that it is second nature to you have to throw yourself in to it and embrace it.

There are no short cuts!  You can make it fun, but the fact is it will take you time to learn and it will be slow and painful at first.  The music teachers at www.primavolta.co.uk use different methods to get you to read.  We often start by using simple games such as music snap to help you read slowly but gradually increase the speed.  This element of 'fun' and playing a game helps in the early stages.  It is also why we have spent time researching software on platforms such as the iPad.  This gives the variety to allow you to engage in this throughout the week.

Ultimately, learning to read music comes down to playing as much as you can.  Do not be tempted to write the notes on or try to learn by numbers.  Go for it.  Figure out each note using rhymes or other methods outlined by your teacher.  It will be slow.  It will take time.  In many cases it can take 18 months - 2 years to start to get any speed in your reading.  Once you have the skill though, your playing will really benefit and you will be able to truly master your chosen instrument.

Remember - there are NO shortcuts.  Be patient and embrace your new language by using it as often as you can!  For more support in learning to read music, feel free to speak to our music teachers via www.primavolta.co.uk

Friday, 4 May 2012

Music Lesson Pricing Choices

As the owner of the music school www.primavolta.co.uk, it can be frustrating when a phone call comes in and the bottom line is price.  Obviously you want to be able to compete and give the best possible price but you also have to balance this with a fair price for a fair service!

Music teaching quality and music schools can seriously vary.  When looking at the price of music tuition in your area, ask yourself.  Is the teacher qualified?  Is the teacher experienced?  Does the teacher travel to you?  What extras does the teacher offer that another may not?  How will the teacher and music school support you as your learning develops?  

It may well be that an extra few £s per week gives you much better value than the cheapest option.  Always ask questions about the actual tuition on offer!  My music school for instance provides tuition in the home of the student, a student area of our website with excellent remote resources and our own music books.  We also provide all our students with a reward scheme with a 'Pupil of the Month' and a 'Pupil of the Year'.  A huge amount of time is invested to make sure that the overall lesson and learning experience is the best that it can be.  

We are not the cheapest but believe that we offer an 'all round 'experience' for our students.  Comparing our prices currently we charge £14.50 per half hour for tuition in the home of the student.  A similar local business charges £16 for home visits.  The main local music schools with a physical building charge £12.50.  This is certainly cheaper but requires a drive each week, time waiting around and of course petrol costs.  Which is actually better for value?  There are of course the teachers who will charge £8-£10 for half an hour.  Question is, are they backed up with a manager?  Are they qualified?  Have they experience?

As is said often - 'you get what you pay for!'

Selecting Music For Long Term Lesson Interest

Keeping the interest in music tuition long term is hard.  To really master a musical instrument can take the best part of a decade and many things can get in the way during that time.  One such barrier to long term music is the music that an individual actually WANTS to play while still maintaining a structured music lesson.

One of the most difficult aspects of teaching is to keep this long term interest when students want to play songs they know.  In the early stages there are only so many notes that a student can play and this can also limit the songs that they can play.  Does an adult learner really want to play Mary Had A Little Lamb?

My opinion is very much that having access to a wide variety of sheet music is important.  As well as this it is important to ask the student what it is they would like to play.  This is exactly why we set up the student area on our own website at www.primavolta.co.uk.  We wanted our students to be able to select the songs they wanted to learn and have more of a say in their learning.  This in turn would allow them to play music they enjoy and thus keep that all important long term interest.  Time consuming, yes, but worth it to engage students in the long term.  Over a number of years we would also have a music library that future students would also be able to enjoy and select their own music from.

Although the above sounds good in theory, the hardest thing is to use music that the pupil will know while making it easy enough for them to access in the early stages.  As such we make sure within our music school that the songs are simple enough for students in their first few years.  After the initial stages it is often easier to find music to buy and therefore easier to use appropriate songs that encourage the long term interest of the student.

In future blogs we will look deeper at other issues that can stop the long term development in a musical instrument and ways in which these issues can be overcome from experience.