Your Leap Day Guide to Effective Music Practice

What would you do with an extra 24 hours?  Think about all you could accomplish, everything you could catch up on and the progress you could make on the solo you’ve been working on.  Well congratulations – here you go!  Seeing as how today is Leap Day, you technically are given that extra 24 hours.

Like any other goal, improving in music requires a keen ability to look back.  Most people do this at the end of the year (think New Year’s Resolutions), but why not take advantage of Leap Day as well?  Even if, in reality, you can’t spend the whole day goofing off or learning something new – you still have to go to school or work today, after all –  we suggest at least taking a few moments to reflect on your goals.  We’re two months into the year now – how have you done with your own resolutions so far?

As you work toward your goals, one important thing to take note of is how effective your practice habits are.  Are you making the best use of your time?  Are you slowing down and using a metronome to help with more difficult passages?  Or, conversely,  is a fear of making mistakes stopping you from progressing?

To help you determine – and correct – your practicing habits, here’s a great music practice evaluation tool from the Musician’s Way Blog that we love (as you go through the list, note whether the statement is “True” or “False”):

Assessing Your Practice Habits
by Gerald Klickstein

1. My practice is deeply meaningful to me; I seldom feel bored.
2. I  keep to a regular practice schedule.
3. My practice space is fully equipped with the tools I need.
4. I set detailed goals before beginning to practice.
5. I typically feel a sense of accomplishment after practicing.
6. I’m able to maintain mental focus as I practice.
7. I commonly record portions of my practice, and then I appraise my recordings.
8. I assess my practice objectively and rarely become upset by difficulties.
9. I use a metronome in practice.
10. I consistently warm up before practicing.
11. I intersperse practice sessions with regular breaks.
12. I can learn accessible music securely and efficiently.
13. I have plenty of accessible pieces in my repertoire.
14. At the outset of learning a piece, I develop a basic interpretation before making technical decisions.
15. I’m able to shape dramatic musical interpretations that move listeners.
16. When learning a new piece, I expressively vocalize rhythm.
17. I use specific strategies to solve musical and technical problems.
18. I manage repetition so that I neither repeat errors nor drill passages to the point of fatigue.
19. I use mental imaging to aid my learning and memorization of music.
20. I consciously look ahead as I play or sing.
21. I’m satisfied with the tactics that I use to increase the tempos of pieces.
22. I’m confident in my ability to memorize music and to perform from memory.
23. I have a broad-based plan to polish my technique, and I practice technique daily.
24. I routinely practice sight reading.
25. I can improvise melodies over straightforward chord progressions.
26. I review my favorite pieces in detail so that the expressive and technical components stay vibrant.
27. I listen to a range of recorded music, and I regularly attend live music performances.
28. I’m advancing my knowledge of music theory, ear training, and other general music topics.
29. I take deliberate steps to fuel my motivation to practice and counter procrastination.
30. When I make errors in practice, I view them as instructive and not as indicative of failure.
31. I understand how to practice such that I can perform confidently and artistically.
32. As I practice, I embody habits of excellence: easy, expressiveness, accuracy, rhythmic vitality, beautiful tone, focused attention and positive attitude.

What other ways do you evaluate your habits when practicing music?  Share your goals – and how you’ve progressed since setting them – below! Like these posts?  Sign up to receive daily updates right to your inbox!  Click here to subscribe.



You might also like…

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Assessment © 2012 Gerald Klickstein | Excerpted from The Musician’s Way: A Guide to Practice, Performance, and Wellness.

10 Tips to Amp Up Your Electric Guitar Tone

electric guitarBlink-182 announced last week that in honor of – um, what’s their age again? – oh yes, their 20 years together, they’ll be kicking off a 37-date world tour starting in May.  Will you be picking up tickets?

As one of the quintessential punk-pop bands of the 90s, Blink-182 has worked their way into the hearts of angsty teenagers for two decades, and now they’re promoting their first studio album in either years.  And if you’re ready to jump in and amp up your own volume, there’s no better feeling than playing the electric guitar.  To start you off right, here are 10 great tips for improving your electric guitar tone, as published on

1. Use fatter strings:
If you’re after fatter tone, try using heavier strings. It can add juice and weight to your tone, especially if you play with a higher action.

2. Understand your speakers:
You might not give them much thought, but speakers are where your sound comes from! And boy, do they sound different. The key points to understand are:

– Power rating in watts:  The higher rated your speakers are, the less they will distort under heavy volume. Too powerful and they can sound very squeaky clean; not powerful enough, and they can become a flabby mess, or fail entirely.
– Efficiency: This is measured in dB, at a distance of one meter. This has more to do with how loud a speaker sounds than its power rating.

3. Be clear:
Excess handling noise can spoil the clarity and tone of your playing. Here’s a general tip: if you’re getting unwanted string noise coming from a string lower in pitch than the one you’re playing, it’s the picking hand’s role to mute it with the palm.If it’s coming from a higher string, it’s the fretting hand’s role to mute it with the underside of one or more fingers. Using spare picking-hand fingers to mute strings can be particularly useful when sustaining a note with vibrato.

4. Go unplugged:
Buy a good acoustic and play it a lot. Not only do they sound fantastic, but it’ll promote sure, strong fingering when you switch back to electric, thus improving the clarity and sonority of your playing.

5. Play fewer notes:
In all seriousness, try it. The next time you go for a blues solo, instead of trying that fast run that you always fluff, try constructing a simple melody, one or two notes per bar. Be disciplined and concentrate on the feel and emphasis of each note as you play through chord changes. Watch how the audience responds better to that than a barrage of 32nd notes. Why? Because you sound better.

6. Play with dynamics:
You don’t have to play everything at full tilt. Try easing back the guitar volume during a solo and switching from pick to fingers to offer an extra tonal dimension to your performance. Variation is the key to keeping the audience interested and engaged.

7. Use two amps:
Ever wondered how somebody’s tone is distorted yet still clean and clear?  It might be that they’re using two amps; one set to be very distorted, the other much cleaner, or emphasizing a specific set of frequencies. Mixed together, the sound becomes massive. Try it.

8. Tune your guitar:
The single biggest improvement you can make to your sound comes from playing in tune. Buy a quality tuner and use it. No excuses!

9. Take electric guitar lessons:
It doesn’t matter how good you are, you can always improve.  A good teacher or mentor will help you see the things you can’t, in order to improve your articulation and fluency. They’ll help you work on tone – crucial techniques such as vibrato, string bending, phrasing and so on.

10. Be yourself:
Every single top guitarist in the world will tell you this. The slightly uncomfortable truth is that the very best tone comes from inside you, and it’s a complicated mash-up of physical and mental factors. Your gear can only get you so far  The best advice is to spend your practice time practicing, but when it comes to the gig or the recording, put all that to the back of your mind and commit yourself only to the music and the moment.

Guitarists, what other tips would you add to this list?  Leave a comment below! 

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7 Tips for Working as a Freelance Musician

Last night’s 84th Annual Oscars paid tribute to the best of the best of the past year’s big screen efforts – and, of course, the music involved.  Out of the two music categories, The Artist won for Best Original Score, and Bret McKenzie’s “Man or Muppet” won for Best Original Song.

So what can the Oscars, more prominently known for recognizing great films, actors and directors, teach the modern day musician?  Lucky for you, as a musician there are several different paths to take.  Whether you see yourself on lead guitar, behind the scenes in the recording studio, as concertmaster in the Philharmonic Orchestra, or penning an Oscar-winning film score, a passion for music can take you to many different careers.

For most, freelance work is part of the journey at some point.  It’s a great way to establish a network, get your name out there and earn some extra cash.  If you’re just getting started, check out these great tips from about surviving as a freelance musician:

1. At least in the beginning, you will need a day job: This is the part that nobody likes, but you will most likely not be able to support yourself by playing music alone. The thing about the music business is that it really is all about who you know. It’s such a tight-knit, close community, and a lot of your credibility will come from people you know and recommendations from your peers and other clients. When you’re first starting out, you have none of that credit, and may not be called about very many gigs. You may have to solicit yourself to play for things, not the other way around.

2. Make yourself marketable: As odd as it sounds, you are a product that your clients have to buy. Just like an advertising campaign makes a certain product stick in the minds of consumers, you have to work to stick in the minds of your potential clients. And the best way to do that is not through crazy costumes and ridiculous stage antics. Make business cards (you can do this at home with Microsoft Office and other programs) and hand them out any time you have a gig. That way, your name will always be available when people ask for a guitarist. Make sure people know that you’re available and willing to play gigs. Be polite, be reliable and work hard.

3. Professionalism, professionalism, professionalism!: This may be the most important aspect that will help your career. Just like with any other job, you will not be hired again if you make the experience an unpleasant one for your employer, nor will you be recommended for any other job. But make it a happy, comfortable experience, and you have a shot at more gigs. Always be on time, always have everything you’ll need for that day of playing, and always have your parts learned. If for some reason there is a part you can’t play at the first rehearsal, make sure that it’s flawless by the next rehearsal. Take criticism, don’t ever lose your temper, and always be the kind of person that people want to work with.

4. Never, ever complain about the check: This isn’t the marketplace. You don’t get to haggle. What you get paid is what you get paid. If you don’t think it’s fair, then just don’t take gigs from that person anymore. Making a scene burns a bridge, and someday, you might need that bridge to get jobs. Of course, if somebody says they’re going to pay you a certain amount, and then the check comes and you get shorted or not paid at all, then you have every right to (politely) discuss the discrepancy – just be careful not to lose your temper.

5. Be versatile: You might love to play metal, but if you can play rock, country and jazz, too, you’ve got a much better shot at getting gigs.  The more things you can do, the more jobs you’re going to get. And never turn down a gig just because it isn’t your kind of style. When you’re making the big bucks, then you can be as picky as you want.

6. Be proactive: If you hear about a gig, pursue it. It is perfectly acceptable to call somebody and say “Hey, I heard you might need a musician on such and such a date. Well, my name is such and such, I’m very capable, and if you need somebody, here’s my number.” It can’t hurt, as long as you’re polite and professional.

7. Don’t give up: Even if you can’t make a full-time job out of being a musician, continue to take gigs and put yourself out there. You never know which gig could be the break you’ve been looking for!

What have you learned from your own experiences freelancing?  Leave a comment below and share your tips and expertise with the community! Like these posts?  Sign up to receive daily updates right to your inbox!  Click here to subscribe.



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How to Use a Metronome for Efficient Practice

metronomeThis Sunday, February 26th, marks what would have been the 80th birthday of Johnny Cash.  To commemorate, several projects and events are scheduled throughout the year to remember the country legend’s contribution to music.  A project to preserve Cash’s childhood home in Arkansas, for example, will officially begin on Sunday, and later this year a new Cash museum will open in Nashville.

His legend still lives on, and his raw talent is beneficial for any musician to study.  But what if you can’t exactly “Get Rhythm” like the American icon?  To improve your rhythm, timing and tempo, using a a metronome is indispensable.  Moreover, it can help you keep track of your progress.  Tackling a tricky section?  Turn on that metronome and you can really measure how much you progress each week.  It may seem boring, but practicing – slowly – with the aid of a metronome will sharpen your muscle memory and help you see results.

Here are more great tips from Brass Musician magazine about how to use a metronome while you practice:

Practice at a Tempo Out of your Comfort Zone
Good listening skills are something musicians strive for their whole careers. Adapting to others’ tempo is an important part of ear training. Playing faster or slower than you normally do will teach you to listen and adapt to what others are doing. In this case, it’s a machine you are adapting to, but these skills translate well to ensemble playing, and especially following section leaders.

Set the Metronome to NOT Play on Every Beat
Get bored quickly with metronome practice? This is an easy way to mix things up, and test that you are maintaining your tempo without having to rely on a machine to keep the beat.

Jazz musicians, try to practice with the beat on 2 and 4, which is where the hi-hats would be in a swing beat. Do this for your scales and etudes, not just when practicing a tune. Classical musicians can try the metronome only on beat 1. Practice the same thing over and over with the metronome on random beat settings to keep you on your toes.

Use the Metronome to Help you Gain Speed
Musicians can especially benefit from metronome use when doing tonguing and lip slurring exercises. Try to go through your normal etude books, one exercise or page at a time, gradually increasing the tempo. It takes some serious practice time, but the result is well worth the effort. Tech savvy musicians can keep a spreadsheet of the exercise and tempo as they go along.

Try A Different Metronome
Lastly, find a metronome that works well for you. There are countless free apps for cell phones, computers and other devices that give you great features and a variety of sounds to choose from. There are also many sites online that have free metronomes or drum loops at any tempo.

How do YOU practice with a metronome?  If you have helpful tips for the community, don’t be shy!  Stop by our Facebook page and leave a comment! Like these posts?  Sign up to receive daily updates right to your inbox!  Click here to subscribe.

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Fine-Tune the Way You Learn Music

Earlier this week, in honor of Presidents Day, we mentioned a few of our nation’s past leaders who had musical chops – and now, President Obama caught the media’s attention after singing a verse from “Sweet Home Chicago” at a White House event to celebrate blues and Black History Month.  PBS will air the event on Monday, February 27th, but you can also check out a video of the performance here. Not bad for a spur of the moment spotlight!

As most musicians know, truly learning a piece of music requires more than just recognizing the notes and lyrics on the page.  As a singer, your job is to know the phrasing and structure of the song inside and out, and also communicate the emotions to the audience using your attitude, expressions and movements.  This may be easy for a well-versed singer, but if you’re a beginner still learning proper breathing and posture, it can seem a bit overwhelming.  Don’t worry – here’s a great list of the 6 steps to learning a song, as originally posted on

1) Learning lyrics, melody, phrasing and structure
This means just knowing “when to sing” and “what to sing” to get through the song start to finish successfully, even if you have to think about it.

2) Internalizing lyrics, melody, phrasing and structure
Know how it all goes without even thinking about it.

3) Fine-tuning:  pitch, when to take a breath, enunciation, etc.
Most songs offer some kind of new challenge.  Even when you know how it goes, depending on where you are as a singer you may still need to fine-tune pitch entrances, runs, fast passages, enunciation, or where to take a breath.

4) Interpretation
Dynamics.  Attitude.  Vocal texture.  Emotional expression.  What are you going to do to make this song interesting and expressive?

5) Performance
Does the song merit movement?  Interaction with band members?  Emphasis of hits or breaks?  Is there a solo where you’ll step back as lead singer and let the focus be elsewhere?

6) Ownership
After you’ve performed a song live for a certain amount of time, it finally “gels.”  You figure out how to sing all of it in your style, you get inside of it, you relax into it, it becomes “yours.”  That takes time, and also requires the previous steps.

What other tips can you think of that have helped you master a song?  Leave a comment below and share with the community! Like these posts?  Sign up to receive daily updates right to your inbox!  Click here to subscribe.

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How to Bounce Back from a Bad Audition

Last night at the 2012 BRIT Awards, Coldplay earned the award for Best British Band, despite being under fire lately for their Grammy performance earlier this month.  What can musicians learn from that?  Being a performer takes guts. Music, like all art, can be very subjective – and these days, everyone is a critic.

Negative feedback, less-than-stellar performances, and rejection from auditions can hurt – for anyone!  But if there’s one thing to remember, it’s this: having a bad audition or performance does not make you a bad musician!  Mistakes are just as essential as successes.  As long as you’re learning from them, those mistakes will mold you along the way as you improve.

Still feeling the sting?  Check out these fantastic tips for dealing with critiques from Brass Musician Magazine:

1. Just Breathe.
In most situations, getting angry is not going to help. There’s nothing wrong with being upset at the situation — that’s healthy! But yelling, sulking, hitting the walls or taking your anger out on friends or strangers isn’t healthy. Take a deep breath or three. Take a step back. Understand that in all likelihood your career isn’t over, things could be worse, and you have a valuable — if painful — opportunity to grow as a musician.

2. Unwind.
If you’re still really ticked off, upset, or in shock about what happened, you need to find a way to relieve your stress in a healthy way. Do something that engages your body and your mind — try yoga, meditation, jogging, martial arts, or hiking.

3. Analyze The Problem.
Once you’re calm, try to look at the experience objectively without obsessing or beating yourself up. Go step-by-step and figure out where things went wrong. Did you get nervous and fail to breathe properly? Did you overwork yourself the day before? Did you spend too little or too much time on your warm-up? Were you under-prepared? Did you oversleep? Did you let a small mistake rattle you so much you continued to make bigger mistakes? Were you unprepared for the physical conditions of the recital or concert? Did you have equipment problems?

4. Look For Solutions.
Once you’ve figured out what went wrong, see if you can fix the problem. If you had problems with nerves, perhaps you can start putting on mini-performances for friends or peers to get used to playing with an audience, or develop a warm-up routine that involves some calming and focusing mental exercises. If you were rattled by a mistake, practice making mistakes! Have a friend bump your elbow or move your music while you’re playing and try to keep going. Practice playing in a wide variety of conditions — hot, cold, too dark, too bright, poor acoustics, audience practically in your lap — so when it comes up for real, you’ll be ready.

5. Let Go.
Eventually, you have to accept that the best you can do is the best you can do. At the end of the day, if you have done everything in your power to be successful, then you’ve done your part. You can’t control everything else. If you’ve cleaned and oiled and maintained your valves, but one sticks in the performance, it’s beyond your control. If you’re solidly prepared and play the audition the best you can, but someone else plays it a little better, that’s beyond your control. If you’ve done your very best, you’ve succeeded. Even if the outcome isn’t what you had hoped, the process you went through to be prepared will make you a better musician.

Readers, what do you think of these tips?  What has helped YOU bounce back from a bad audition or a negative critique? Leave a comment below! Like these posts?  Sign up to receive daily updates right to your inbox!  Click here to subscribe.


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Stand Out From the Crowd: Improvising, Solos and More

improvisationToday is Fat Tuesday, a day dedicated to celebrations, costumes, pancakes and, well, going a little bit crazy.  And just like Mardi Gras is all about standing out from the crowd, many musicians can get that same rush when they have the opportunity to solo – anything from an awesome riff on the lead guitar to a flashy improvised solo in your jazz band.  All eyes are on you, and it’s your chance to really express yourself as a musician  – not to mention show off a little!

Before you put on that metaphorical feather-adorned headpiece, as you could say, you’ll need to take a few steps to prepare.  Although it may seem like improvising is just about freedom and “feeling the moment,” there are specific things you need to know before trying your hand at it.  Here, has some great tips for improvisation that are helpful for any instrument:

1. Be Fluent in your Scales
Since improvised solos are based heavily around scales, it is obviously a good idea to know your scales inside and out. The scales that you need to know are largely based on what style of music you’re improvising. But it is a good idea to know the basic major and minor scales, as well as the major and minor pentatonic, no matter what your genre is, as those four scales are universal in music.

When improvising, you shouldn’t have to be thinking about what note comes next. This is probably the main cause of “improvisation freeze-up,” or when instrumentalists don’t know their scales fluently enough, causing them to blank  in the middle of their solo.

2. Understand Scale Modes
This is kind of the same thing as being fluent in scales. It’s a good skill to understand scales modes and be able to utilize different modes in one solo.  Practice switching between modes, and find combinations that you like. Scale modes aren’t extremely crucial to improvising a good solo, but being able to utilize modes is what can separate the “good” soloists from the “great” soloists.

3. Know Your Key!
This one is probably the most obvious, and very little needs to be explained. You’d be surprised how many people just start ripping a solo in any key they choose! Also, be sure that if there is a key change, you know it’s coming.

4. Know your Genre and Mood
As far as genre goes, you should use a scale that is often used in that genre.  Examine solos by other artists of your genre to get an idea of what kind of scales are used (but don’t steal their solos!). Pay attention to the techniques used in that genre, as well. If you’re doing a heavy metal improvisation, feel free to throw some sweeps in. If you’re doing a blues solo, add some bends and double-stops. Just listening to music can help you improve in this category, as it will give you an idea of how “this genre” differs from “that genre” in playing.

You should also understand the mood that is set. If the band is playing a slow and sad accompaniment, you will probably match it with a minor scales. If the band is playing fast and joyously, you would probably match it with a major scale. It also helps if you put yourself in that mindset. Whatever mood it is, just get into it!

5. Don’t Think Too Hard!
Yes, when you are improvising a solo it is possible to think too hard. Another major cause of “improvisation freeze-up” is when the musician starts to think, “What note would sound the best next?” A main part of improvisation is just going for it. You need to realize you probably won’t have the most melodic solo, especially during your early attempts at improvisation. But if you know your scales well enough, you can guarantee yourself that you won’t go out of key, and you can just let your fingers do all the thinking. Be bold, and trust yourself! If you mess up, keep going!  If you stop when you mess up, it will just make your mistake a million times more obvious. 

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Photo by Loren Javier.

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5 Key Advantages of Taking Music Lessons as an Adult

This Presidents Day, we’ve been thinking about the influence of music on many of our greatest presidents. Abraham Lincoln, in particular, was known for his love for music of all kinds, hosting performances by the Marine Band and weekly concerts on the White House grounds.  (If you’re wondering what Honest Abe would have had on his iPod, NPR can tell you here!) And according to Minor Music, many have been listed as having played instruments, including Thomas Jefferson (violin and cello), Franklin Roosevelt (piano) and Bill Clinton (saxophone).

We can only imagine how busy these presidents were, and yet they still made time to stay involved with music.  So what’s holding you back?  If you’ve ever felt like you’re too old to take music lessons, or it’s too late, you’re not alone.  However, learning a new instrument at a later age can be extremely rewarding – and it can keep your mind sharp!  Here are 5 fantastic advantages to learning music as an adult, as originally published on

1. You’ll be learning of your own volition. Children often have to be persuaded to practice and attend music lessons. Adults, on the other hand, don’t need to be dragged, kicking and screaming, to their teacher. Adult music lessons are thus almost invariably a pleasure for both student and teacher.

2. You can learn complex concepts much more easily and understand technical explanations. This makes it possible for adults to learn music theory far more easily than children may be able to. The importance of being able to analyze and understand a piece of music from the beginning of study cannot be overstated. Nothing is more common than students who attain skill on an instrument but who have only a rudimentary understanding of the music, which severely limits their playing in ways they cannot imagine. Most adults are able to grasp the elements of music and musical structures quite readily, like a scientist who understands how the world works.

3. You have a developed attention span. Children’s attention spans, by contrast, are often limited to only a few minutes at a time. It takes careful concentration to learn an instrument, and adults have a considerable advantage in this regard. Progress on a musical instrument is a matter of accumulating many hours of concentrated, careful practice.

4. You are emotionally developed. Music, after all, is the most directly emotional of the arts, and its wide spectrum of emotions can only be expressed and comprehended by those who have experienced those emotions themselves. Emotion in music has very much to do with musical vocabulary (harmony, or how tones combine) and how they extend in time and create musical forms. The former is music’s vertical dimension (notes in relation to one another at any given moment), and the latter its horizontal (how notes relate to one another in the listener’s aural memory).

5. You can read fluently. Very young children can’t yet read letters or numbers, which necessitates more basic teaching methods. Note names, musical instructions and fingering numbers are not the only things that require the ability to read letters and numbers: the fascinating areas of music history and theory, so critical to playing music competently, do as well.

Readers, what do you think?  What advice can you give other adults thinking about starting music lessons?  Leave a comment below! Like these posts?  Sign up to receive daily updates right to your inbox!  Click here to subscribe.



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Are You a Good Music Teacher, or a Great Music Teacher?

As a music teacher, you’ve got big shoes to fill, whether your student wants to someday play at Carnegie Hall or headline a music festival like Bonnaroo.

We’ve discussed the integral characteristics of successful musicians, but to be learning how to be a great music teacher is taking it a step further.  It’s your job to inspire, motivate and perhaps provide a little tough love every now and then.  You know the power and benefits of playing music – but how can you translate that in order to keep your busy adult student motivated, or to keep your fidgety 5-year-old student focused?  It takes a special kind of person, and several specific personality traits.  So what makes a great music teacher? Here are 5 qualities that will help you learn how to be a great music teacher, as originally published on

1. Approachable.  A happy person who demonstrates a sense of humor along with an empathetic sense of humanity is capable of putting people at ease, and, in return, can create an atmosphere where mutual communication can flow.
2. Organized.  This projects a sense of professionalism and helps create confidence in your service. Your answering machine message should also reflect a person ‘in control’ of their business.  Remember to include the name of your studio on your message, even if you use the same line for personal calls. Keep your teaching tools in the same place all the time, so you know where they are.  Work closely with a calendar so you can plan events in a calm manner.
3. Motivating.  Psychology is useful in any profession when dealing so directly with people.  Understanding the different ways people learn, reason and communicate is vital when helping them reach their fullest potential. Positive reinforcement is a much stronger motivator than negative condemnation. A diligent teacher will have an array of strategies for motivating their students to practice, listen, express and create.
4. Inventive.  Games, illustrations, analogies, exercises and demonstrations all need some consideration for individual students. An active mind not only learns better, but information is stored in the brain systematically, which makes retrieval easier!  Emotion impacts much more strongly than cold facts.  An inventive teacher is able to evoke an emotional response from a cold fact, which will then impact greatly on the student and can add to their growing knowledge.
5. Knowledgeable.  It is unreasonable to expect any human being to know everything about a subject – even if they make a living out of it.  However, a great teacher will know how to access and find information, as well as communicate it.

Looking for a music teaching job?  We’re hiring! Like these posts?  Sign up to receive daily updates right to your inbox!  Click here to subscribe.


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How to Save Money on Music Lessons

Dreaming of being the next big chart-topper on Billboard? Thinking about where you’ll display your Grammy Award? Today’s big music stars may make it look easy, but keep in mind, they didn’t just wake up one day to record deals and Grammy-nominated songs.  The glitz and glamour is usually preceded by strict training regimens, private music lessons, and a dedication to improving.

From the beginner looking for guidance to the professional seeking a second ear, the benefits of private lessons are indispensable.  The one-on-one direction will set you up for success, provide accountability, build your confidence, and most of all, it can inspire you and motivate you!

Of course, on the other end of the spectrum, it’s very easy to think of a thousand excuses to avoid or delay music lessons.  For many, the cost is a strong deterrent.  But if music is a hobby you’re passionate about, or especially if you’re considering it as a career path, think about the cost of not taking private lessons.  For one, without the added accountability, it’s easy to slowly drop off the charts and stop playing altogether.  Second, proper training will help you avoid music-related injuries, such as strained vocal cords or tendinitis.  College-bound?  Proficient players can earn scholarships, whether you plan on majoring in music or not.

Still need to cut costs?  Here are 4 ways to save money on music lessons:

1.  Shop around
Run a search on and you can filter your results by price, location, availability, and more. We let our teachers set their own prices, so you can find the one that best suits your needs. Plus, most instructors offer several lesson lengths at different prices – for example, a 30-minute lesson will cost less than an hour-long lesson. Think about your needs and goals, but above all, find the teacher who is right for you. Sacrificing the guidance you’ll receive from a top-notch teacher to save a few dollars may not be worth it in the long run, if you’re aiming for high goals.

2. Buy used instruments
As a beginner student, it’s not necessary to buy a brand new top-of-the-line instrument.  Used instruments can be just as good as new ones, depending on how well the previous owner cared for it.  Ask your friends or family if they have extra instruments that aren’t being used, or look on eBay, Craigslist, or Amazon for used instruments at heavily discounted prices.  Your teacher can be a great resource for this and can provide great recommendations.

3. Consider in-home or online lessons
In today’s society, time is money. Even though the initial cost may be higher for in-home lessons, think about the time (and gas!) you’ll save by taking lessons with a teacher who can travel to you.  In addition, students who take in-home lessons are typically less stressed – think about the times you’ve packed up your bag to head to your teacher’s studio, only to forget an important book or piece. Online lessons, typically taught via Skype, also provide the same benefits, and are often priced even lower. (Learn more about online lessons here!

4. Practice!
The best way to save money on music lessons is to avoid wasting your money.  The more you practice, the faster you’ll progress and improve, making the most of your cash.  If you don’t practice, you may end up stuck on one song longer than necessary.  Also consider the quality of your lessons – are your lessons scheduled for the evening, when you’re typically exhausted from a hard day at work?  Maybe it’s time to think about switching to a weekend morning, when you’re more alert and relaxed.  Make the most of your lesson time, and you’ll start seeing improvements.

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You might also like…

How to Tune Into the Perfect Music Teacher for You
5 Excuses for Not Practicing – And How to Overcome Them
Ten Minutes to Musical Mastery

Photo by Todd Kravos.