Parents Guide to Music Lessons



Your own talents

There is an illusion surrounding music that some people 'have it' and others do not. This is not the case. The most successful people in music are those who simply don't give up. This is the case with any major music artist you may be familiar with. People who are determined in music always get the most significant recognition from their closest friends and family even if their dreams lie further afield. We all know that it is the opinions of those closest to us that count the most, anyway.

 Expectations of children

 It is fair to have high expectations of children. This will not discourage them in any way. A positive parent can always set the goals high and easily achieve them over time. If you are a person who is easily put off then don't pass it on! A student under 8 years old often has good focus and concentration but will soon begin to establish more independent thoughts and may not always dedicate enough time to practice when left to do so on their own. I will provide you with plenty of helpful advice here on the website.

 Recognizing Ability

 Ability is usually spotted through enthusiasm. Young musicians are often keen to participate by singing or clapping rhythms. Many of the most successful musicians, however, are unassuming in character and become successful through a quiet and careful approach to reading music. This will eventually help them to become more successful as musicians. Occasionally students display an ability to recognize a perfectly pitched note. If a student shows this very rare talent ,it should be worked upon.

 Musical pathways and choosing instruments

 This can be an instinctive decision and often a sound will draw a person's attention to a particular instrument or family of instruments. The piano is always the first thing recommended in higher levels of music education as it provides an overview of the structures found in music harmony. Many top musicians also play the piano as a second instrument. Learning to read on the piano, even to grade 1, will at least provide a basis for further learning if you are keen to take up a second instrument. Be clear about the family of instruments you choose. Be clear that you have the space at home to allow a student to practice freely without feeling ashamed of wrong notes or the strange noises which  may occur when trying to develop a new skill.

Instruments are often a reflection of character in a person. It is not good to generalize, but many of the same types of people are attracted to similar instruments. There are of course many people who do not fit into these stereotypes. Here are some examples: The flamboyant nature of the saxophone is often an attractive prospect to those who love to perform, this is common in popular music. The violin may appeal to those who are inclined to react deeply to feelings of romance and poetic expression. The drums require incredible energy, bounds of enthusiasm and also space to practice. Alternatively the flute or recorder may appeal to those who enjoy its warm tone. 

 Instruments like the flute are also suitable for making music in smaller spaces. Vocalists have the ability to practise or perform anywhere, but certain styles of singing, like opera, do require a substantial practice space, with adequate sound proofing. The guitar is the most common instrument in popular music throughout the last  century. It is very portable and ideal for practising quietly until you plug it in....... All instruments require patience and all can either be loud or quiet depending on the type of music, the atmosphere in the room and the amount of space available to play in.

 Piano or Keyboard 'What's the difference?'

 The technique used to play the piano is also suitable for the keyboard. A student who has only been taught to find the notes on a keyboard however, may find classical piano grades difficult without proper advice on technique. Generally speaking, a piano has heavier keys which are weighted to provide the musician with a suitable amount of resistance and more control over expression. A keyboard may be touch sensitive but will not be as expressive because the plastic keys are lighter and all feel the same. Keyboards are fine until a student passes Grade 2, then a fully weighted instrument is required.

 Working with the teacher

 The student will progress well if the parents and the teacher are both involved. Both must provide inspiration and encouragement! Parents provide the drive, teachers control the direction. It is not possible to progress on any instrument by playing in lessons only. Music is a very gradual process which must develop through daily practise. The enthusiasm of younger teachers is often preferred to the experience of older teachers, but both will provide the same level of expertise. The ideas are just packaged differently. It is good to experience both.

 Your role in practise at home

Simple methods are always the best; and music is open to all who try and continue to try. The effort you put in must always be the same, if you start off well then you will progress quickly and be rewarded sooner. When you receive that rewarding feeling it will encourage you more. Never think anything is impossible. Music is an illusion to the audience -  they don't know how much work you put in, they only see the show at the end. The trick is to make it look easy and pretend it was!

 The art of note reading in music

 The notes are actually the easiest part of music reading. It is the rhythms which require attention. Any student who quickly grasps the procedure of counting will be more independent and more confident to make progress on their own. Rhythmic reading can always be taken to higher levels throughout a person's musical career, so taking time to approach the subject on its own is always time well spent. Note reading quickly develops through familiarity, but the most important thing to remember is fingering. A wise student will always check which finger goes on which note throughout a new piece of music. The human brain can only take in so much. Music reading is an ancient and traditional art form and there will always be new hand positions for a student to adapt to. These tried and tested old methods are the key to music reading. Without this form of discipline the mind will never settle on any definite way of performing a piece of music.

 Patience and Determination

 The rewards far outweigh the work. Music is the only profession where there is a perfect balance between what you put in and what you get out. It is like a bank where you save your money. The best thing being, that even when you spend heavily you never run out. Music is for life and is something you carry with you wherever you go, something to share with everyone, something that brings people together. It is a personal reflection of all your strongest feelings, without words. When you meet with other musicians it is a joy to share these experiences.

Music is a recommended career path to any person with a clear vision of their potential future. It requires dedication like everything in life but can be exciting and rewarding on a higher level than anything else. Remember these things when you have moments of frustration or doubt.


 Confident parents are always the key to unlock a child's musical potential. Many musicians have achieved great success from their parents' dreams. A parent may see that their child is curious about music and this is a good sign. If you are a person who has good ideas and you are dedicated to seeing them through ,please remember that it is your vision of their future which will eventually help your child achieve the first few steps.

When your child is able to play their instrument then your job will become easier. A child will improve if they approach the instrument gradually over the first few months without too much pressure to perform in front of other people. The exercises are simple and this will allow them to be comfortable with the instrument. The most important thing for every musical parent to remember is patience. The most determined and patient parents always get the most  value out of their child's music lessons.

 The illusion of sound

 The wealth of traditional music means that any student should be creating popular melodies after a few months of lessons. It is always good to encourage but not to expect too much too soon. Given time, any popular melody can be played on any instrument. For a quick fix of creating music for special occasions the guitar is a great way of involving large numbers of people into group singing and is ideal for parents wishing to reflect on the music of their era. The structure of popular music is very simple and open to those with an interest in it. Guitarists often approach this at an earlier stage than other instrumentalists as the guitar played an intrinsic part in the creation of popular music. The open strings on a guitar and strumming technique provide a pad of ringing sound. This provides a rhythmic accompaniment as the player strums. Melodies are usually sung when playing popular music with beginner guitarists. This is why the guitar is so popular as an instrument for groups of singers. As the guitar is portable, the music can be created anywhere at all. Many popular tunes can be performed using as few as three chords.

Play it again Sam

 To ensure strength in a musician's playing it is always beneficial to keep track of all the music which they have played. This creates consistency in music reading and confidence when asked to perform. An aspiring musician always has a 'party piece' which they can play without reading music dots and this is what establishes your reputation as a performer. Even a shy person can get immense satisfaction and sense of achievement through performing to others. It is an incredible boost to a person's confidence when performing in front of people of their own age. It also provides a reason to learn more as many enjoy the feeling of being an individual. Many musicians look forward to their next performance and work towards it. Keeping the favorite pieces to perform at a later date is called establishing a repertoire.

When performing in public as a professional it is still not uncommon to hear...'Play it again Sam', the famous phrase from the old American movie 'Casablanca' before playing 'As Time Goes By'.

 Good Luck

 I wish you all the very best in your musical pathways and careers, I know I have immensely enjoyed all aspects of being a professional musician.

Best Wishes

Alexander Cockle

 Musical Director