Your Complete Survival Guide for Finals Week

No matter what subjects you’re studying, finals week is guaranteed to be the most hectic and stressful week of classes. However, you don’t have to let the stress get to you. Follow these smart study tips, overcome your procrastination tendencies, and start kicking butt on your final exams!

Make a Game Plan

Before you start studying for finals, make a list of the things you need to review, and prioritize your time so you’re able to study the most important things. Next, schedule time to study without interruptions. If you’ve been struggling with a subject, give yourself extra time to study for that class. Also, don’t spread your study time across subjects by breaking up an hour into 20 minutes of three different subjects. Spending more time with each subject will help you deepen your focus and get a better understanding of the topic.

Turn Off Your Phone

Our phones are basically tiny procrastination machines. Overcoming procrastination is way easier with your phone either turned off or set to do not disturb. And remember: your phone is not the only thing distracting you! Make sure you’re logged out of chat on your computer and stay off of social media. Find a place to study where you won’t be interrupted by others, like at the library or a quiet coffee shop. You can also minimize distractions by listening to instrumental music while you study.

Get Enough Sleep

It can be tempting to put off studying until the night before exams, but pulling an all-nighter will hurt you in the end. When you’re sleep deprived, your memory and concentration are impaired. If you’re sleepy while you’re studying, you’re way less likely to absorb information. Even worse, if you’re exhausted on test day your performance on your exams will suffer. Set yourself up for success by getting plenty of sleep during finals week.

Take Advantage of Help

Go to your professor’s office hours and ask any lingering questions you have about the material. If your professor or TA offer to host a review session prior to the final, be sure to attend, and use any practice tests or other materials that your professor provides to prepare you for the test. If you still need extra help, ask a classmate to help you study or look into tutoring. Remember, there’s no such thing as a stupid question! If something doesn’t make sense to you, others probably have the same question but might be afraid to speak up. There are so many different ways you can get help before exams, so take advantage of them.

Don’t Take on Extra Commitments

Remember that it’s okay to say no to other commitments so you’ll have the time you need to study. Sometimes in life things come up that you feel like you “have to” do.  Whether it’s your part-time job asking you to pick up an extra shift or friends asking you for help planning a party, you can kindly say no. Let them know that at another time you would be glad to help, but you need to focus on your studies this week. Most people will be very understanding when you let them know that at this point in your life, your education is the most important thing.

Go Back to the Beginning

Stuck on figuring out exactly what to study? Go back to your syllabus and course description for clues. The course description will outline the high-level ideas you should be taking away from the class, and the syllabus likely breaks down the material week by week. Oftentimes the introductory materials you got at the beginning of class can be used as an excellent study guide for the final.

Stay Positive

Don’t let the stressful finals week vibe get you down. Instead of dreading tests as a chance for you to fail, look at your finals as a time to show off how much you’ve learned. Additionally, if you do happen to struggle on a test, don’t let that negative feeling carry over to your other exams. You will perform much better on your finals if you’re happy and relaxed. Find little things to do to relax before a test, like taking a quick walk or checking in with a good friend.

Feed Your Brain

It’s easy to stress-eat a bunch of junk food, or get wrapped up in your studies and miss meals. Missing meals and poor nutrition can both negatively affect your focus and memory. Avoid overeating chips and cookies, and choose healthy foods instead. You will feel better and perform better on your tests too! To give your brain an extra push, try some of these brain-boosting super foods.

Celebrate Your Victories

Take pride in your achievements and celebrate your accomplishments! Savor that great feeling of walking out of an exam and knowing that you did well on your test. Even if you feel like a class was way outside your comfort zone and you barely made it through, be proud that you did. You’re in school to learn and grow, not because you’re already an expert in everything. When finals week is over, get yourself a treat and congratulate yourself on completing your classes. You did it!

How do you feel during finals week? What helps you study smarter and get the grades you want? What works for you for overcoming procrastination? Tell us all about it in the comments below!


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Top 9 Reasons TakeLessons Gift Certificates Make An Awesome Holiday Gift

Holiday adThe holiday season is in full swing, and if you’re looking for the perfect gift for that hard to please musician or music lover in your life, look no further.

Presenting….the Top 9 Reasons Why TakeLessons Gift Certificates Make an AWESOME Holiday Gift!

9.  Our gift certificates NEVER expire!

Whether the recipient wants to start lessons right away or a few months down the road, a TakeLessons gift certificate provides a flexible option that lets them start lessons when they’re ready.

8.  Gift certificates are good for any type of lesson we offer.

With more than 30 types of lessons to choose from, there’s something for everyone!  If you know what instrument the recipient is interested in learning, simply give us a call and one of our student counselors can check our database of teachers to confirm availability at the time of purchase, or you can do a search on our site and find a teacher yourself!


7.  More convenient than fighting the crowds at the mall…

Gift certificates can be printed and mailed to the recipient – or, if you’re a last minute shopper, email delivery is also an option.

6.  Lessons for any age or stage in life.

Old or young, beginner or advanced – everyone can benefit from music lessons.  Our instructors help their students set goals and create a customized curriculum to help them achieve those goals!

5.  A first class experience from start to finish.

Nothing is more important to us than keeping our customers happy.  When you purchase a TakeLessons gift certificate, you can be sure that you are making a risk-free investment.  Should the recipient not be satisfied with their lessons for any reason, we will gladly set them up with a new instructor to ensure that they have a wonderful lesson experience.

4.  A great addition to music instrument gifts.

Planning to buy Junior that guitar or drum set he’s been begging for?  A gift certificate for lessons with one of our TakeLessons Certified™ Music Teachers will make sure he starts his music career off on the right foot.

3.  A fun and unique gift option that will be remembered.

Chances are the recipients on your gift-giving list have all the neckties and kitchen appliances they need.  This year, why not give a gift that will make an impact and potentially change a life?  Which brings us to our next point…

2.  Forget Rockband and learn to play for real!

Sure, video games are fun – but learning to play an instrument provides many more physical and mental benefits, including improved memorization skills, increased self-confidence, and enhanced creativity.

And the number one reason to purchase a TakeLessons gift certificate this holiday season?

1.  It’s better than fruitcake.

Enough said.

Call us at 877-231-8505 or click here to purchase your TakeLessons gift certificate today!  Happy Holidays!

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How to Keep Your Kids Engaged in Music Lessons

PracticeMakesPerfectWhen booking new students for music lessons, we often hear, “How long will it take to see results?”  We tell our customers that it really depends on each student’s ability to learn and how much dedication and effort they choose to put into it. Meaning, if a student is enrolled in weekly lessons but fails to show up for lessons and/or practice regularly, they probably won’t see a drastic improvement. However, if they attend their scheduled lessons while continuing to practice and push themselves, they will be amazed at what they can accomplish.

When we explain this to parents, another concern usually arises – “How can I help encourage my child to practice and stay engaged in lessons?” The good news is that there are many ways parents can help keep their children excited about their lessons. We asked some of our talented TakeLessons music teachers to share how they encourage parents to get involved and got some really great feedback.  Check out this piece written by one of our Dallas guitar teachers, Jerry W. Jerry lists some interesting ideas for parents to make the musical learning process more enjoyable for their kids. Once the kids are engaged and practicing regularly, they are more likely to see their results faster!

Jerry writes:

Tips for Music Teachers: Young Guitar Students, Parents & Practice

Each year, I am approached by parents who request that I teach guitar lessons to their children.  I am always flattered that they would choose me to teach their child.  The child is usually enthusiastic as they begin their musical journey.  After about a month, the student’s attitude begins to shift from enthusiasm to the realization that they have undertaken a lifelong journey of learning.  Based on my experience, I have observed a number of ways parents can help keep their kids engaged in the process.

1. Stay informed about the lessons.  Parental involvement in the learning process is essential.  Students, oftentimes, get caught up in the details of the lesson that they are learning.  In this situation, they tend to lose sight of the long term goals.  Parents can lend a “big picture” perspective to the child.  Parental involvement can be anything from visiting with the teacher after each lesson to view the material that has been assigned to actually taking lessons with the student.  Taking lessons together is a great way for parent and child to foster a common interest.  Oftentimes, the parent can actually assist the student at home and can even practice together.

2.  The importance of the teacher’s attitude toward each student, and their progress, cannot be overstated.  The teacher must communicate with the parents each little “victory” in the learning process.  Honest communication to the parents of the areas which are going well, as well as areas which need improvement is very helpful in keeping the student engaged in the process.

3.  Parents, just like teachers, can develop creative ways to keep students practicing.  These strategies can include:  seeing that the student use play-a-long Cds, recording practice time, practicing with the student, and taking the student to performances of great artists.  Parental involvement in this way can be very effective in helping the student achieve both short term and long term goals.

Learning is, quite simply, not a “one size fits all” process.  A Harvard education professor once stated that “you cannot make some learn something.  You can only create circumstances under which they want to learn the subject.”  Therein lies the great challenge for any teacher.  Common sense parental involvement can go a long way toward creating such an environment.

-Jerry W.

TakeLessons Instructor Jerry W.

Looking to increase your brain power? Take music lessons!

Music BrainIt is never a dull day here at TakeLessons. Our phones ring throughout day with people looking to get started with music lessons. Many of the inquiries are parents looking to get their children started with lessons – guitar lessons, piano lessons, singing lessons – even accordion lessons! The reasons they us give range from “my 4-year-old daughter has a voice like Beyoncé” to “my 17-year-old son needs to start focusing on something other than football.”

We hear it all. Well almost…

One thing we don’t really hear is, “I want to increase my child’s mental ability and therefore, I would like to get him/her set up with guitar lessons.”

With all of the articles published that show the importance of music on brain development, it’s actually amazing that we don’t hear this kind of request more often. Is it because people focus on the entertainment value of music while the developmental component is secondary?  Are they even aware of the added benefits of musical education? Does the parent that hopes her daughter becomes the next big pop star realize that while this may not occur, her daughter’s singing lessons are actually helping to enhance her small motor skills, auditory senses and ability to communicate?

Regardless of the reasons our students start taking music lessons, we are happy to have them on board and encourage them throughout their journey. With our S.T.A.R. Program™ and our Lesson Success Journals™, we keep our students motivated and excited to take their next lesson. If one of our students actually becomes the next big pop star, we will be their #1 fan; but we’ll be just as supportive when another aces their upcoming algebra or language test. We are proud of them not only for their musical accomplishments, but for whatever else they set out to do and achieve.

If you are interested in learning more about the effects of music on brain development, you should check out the article below titled “Music Lessons Boost Brain Powerfound on Fox News last week. You can also read the full article located here –,2933,572551,00.html


Music Lessons Boost Brain Power


Researchers found a correlation between early-childhood musical training and improvements to nonverbal reasoning, verbal ability and motor skills

WASHINGTON — For those who seriously practiced a musical instrument when they were young, the experience was more than just entertainment. Recent research shows a strong correlation between musical training for children and certain mental abilities.

The research was discussed at a session at a recent gathering of acoustics experts in Austin, Texas.

Laurel Trainor, director of the Institute for Music and the Mind at McMaster University in West Hamilton, Ontario, and colleagues compared preschool children who had taken music lessons with those who did not. Those with some training showed larger brain responses on a number of sound recognition tests given to the children. Her research indicated that musical training appears to modify the brain’s auditory cortex.

Can larger claims be made for the influence on the brain of musical training? Does training change thinking or cognition in general?

Trainor again says yes. Even a year or two of music training leads to enhanced levels of memory and attention when measured by the same type of tests that monitor electrical and magnetic impulses in the brain.

We therefore hypothesize that musical training (but not necessarily passive listening to music) affects attention and memory, which provides a mechanism whereby musical training might lead to better learning across a number of domains,” Trainor said.

Trainor suggested that the reason for this is that the motor and listening skills needed to play an instrument in concert with other people appears to heavily involve attention, memory and the ability to inhibit actions. Merely listening passively to music to Mozart — or any other composer — does not produce the same changes in attention and memory.

Harvard University researcher Gottfried Schlaug has also studied the cognitive effects of musical training. Schlaug and his colleagues found a correlation between early-childhood training in music and enhanced motor and auditory skills as well as improvements in verbal ability and nonverbal reasoning.

The scientists also discovered that different instruments appear to cause a varying modification within the brain. Changes in the brains of singers occur in slightly different locations than those seen for keyboard or string players.

The correlation between music training and language development is even more striking for dyslexic children.

“[The findings] suggest that a music intervention that strengthens the basic auditory music perception skills of children with dyslexia may also remediate some of their language deficits.” Schlaug said.

Schlaug reports that tone-deaf individuals often have a reduced or absent arcuate fasciculus, a fiber tract connecting the frontal and temporal lobes in the brain. Reduced or damaged arcuate fasciculus has been associated with various acquired language problems like aphasia and also dyslexia in children.

Still more evidence that formal music training strengthens auditory cortex responses came in a study performed by Antoine Shahin, now at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. Shahin believes that musical training gives an individual the
acoustic responsiveness of a child some 2 – 3 years older. In talking about the affect of music on the brain, he said the studies do not necessarily show that musical training leads to enhanced IQ or creativity.

Shahin said that when a person listens to sounds over and over, especially for something as harmonic or meaningful as music and speech, the appropriate neurons get reinforced in responding preferentially to those sounds compared to other sounds. This neural behavior was examined in a study that looked at the degree of auditory cortex responsiveness to music and non-familiar sounds as a child ages.

Shahin’s main findings are that the changes triggered by listening to musical sound increases with age and the greatest increase occur between age 10 and 13. This most likely indicates this as being a sensitive period for music and speech acquisition.

Glenn Schellenberg from the University of Toronto directly addressed if musical ability makes a person smarter. Such assessments concerning children are always difficult because of the influence of other factors, such as parental income and education. Nevertheless, he found that passive listening to music seems to help a person perform certain cognitive tests, at least in the short run. Actual music lessons for kids, however, leads to a longer lasting cognitive success.

The effects of musical training on cognition for adults, Schellenberg said, are harder to pin down.

This article was provided by Inside Science News Service, which is supported by the American Institute of Physics, a not-for-profit publisher of scientific journals.


Why You Should Never Underestimate the Power of Music

MusicThere are many different articles on the benefits of music education out there but we recently found one that had such a strong impact on us, we had to share it with all of you. Here at TakeLessons, we always speak about the power of music and have our own personal accounts on how music has helped us individually, but we found this story truly amazing. Thanks to Michael Shasberger, Adams Professor of Music and Worship, for producing this article with an inspiring story about the medical miracles of music therapy and the importance of music education on the development and socialization of human beings.

The following excerpt was taken from Westmont Magazine in an article titled “Better Minds Through Music” by Michael Shasberger.  You can read the entire article by clicking on the links following this excerpt.

In 2007, one of our violin students nearly died in a car accident and lay in a coma for several weeks. Doctors told the family there was little hope of recovery. He did regain consciousness, however, and while he had limited speech, he couldn’t form cogent thoughts or recognize simple objects. Case workers predicted months or years of therapy and doubted he’d recover his intellectual capabilities.

His violin professor visited him in the midst of these assessments. At the time, the student was doing tests that determined he couldn’t recognize or name simple objects such as a spoon. Then Dr. Phil Ficsor took out his violin and put it in the student’s hand. Perplexed, the student was unable to name the instrument and said he didn’t know what to do with it. Dr. Ficsor put the bow in his other hand and encouraged him to try. Moments later he was playing music from memory that he’d studied a few months earlier. Two months later he was back in school playing drums in the Chapel Band and violin in the orchestra and taking a full academic load. Music played a seemingly miraculous role in a recovery that exceeded the doctor’s wildest imagination. But it wasn’t miraculous. It was the result of violin studies this young man began at the age of 6. The musical resources of both his brain hemispheres were so strongly developed and linked that they could pull together when linguistic skills, which operate in only one lobe, couldn’t. His parents’ investment in musical studies —and the resources committed to his high school orchestra —made the difference. What happened to this student vividly illustrates the value of music education.

Wow! To read the entire article, visit

Jason Mraz Writes About the Power of Music

Jason Mraz at Foxwood's, May 17 2006

We at TakeLessons are huge Jason Mraz fans. We love his music and his philosophy of endorsing the value of music education for all. Here is a recent “Journal” entry he posted on July 9, 2009 on his own site about the gratitude he feels towards all the people who have given him the gift of music in his life:

I am grateful to have music in my life. My mom was the first person to turn me on to it. She sat me at the piano, shaped my fingers to help me make sense of chords, and we would play chopsticks over and over again. My step-dad, an incredible drummer, gave me a drum kit for my 10th birthday. That gift taught me the essential rock/rap beat, a cross-stick over the hi-hat and snare while the foot slams the kick on the 1 and 3. Even if I never pursued music as a career, those few musical moments introduced me to an organized and expressive way of being that would carry over into friendships and academics, improving my attitude and overall performance at school.

I am so grateful for the many, many amazing music teachers in the public schools who kept me enrolled in the power of self-expression and group participation. I am thankful for that extraordinary study of sound and the opportunity to play when the age was most appropriate for playing.

Please support arts programs in your community, especially in the schools. At the very least, it’ll give the graffiti on the overpass some depth.

Jason Mraz’s enthusiasm and passion for music education for all echoes our own sentiments and our desire to inspire a generation through the power of music.

Campbell Soup and the Grammy Foundation Help Music Education

We found this really compelling article about Campbell Soup collaborating with the GRAMMY Foundation to ensure that children can receive music education. Here is the article:

Campbell Soup Company (NYSE: CPB) and the GRAMMY Foundation today announced plans to make music education more accessible in tens of TeacherKidsPianothousands of schools across America. Research has shown that when students have access to arts, they tend to also perform better in the classroom.1 Unfortunately, music programs are being eliminated at many elementary and secondary schools due to the budget pressures impacting schools across the country.

To help address this disturbing trend, Campbell is partnering with the GRAMMY Foundation to provide schools access to the sort of innovative resources needed to offer students a well-rounded music education. Through the partnership, the GRAMMY Foundation’s proprietary Discovery Through Music™ curriculum will be made available to nearly 60,000 schools nationwide that are registered in this year’s Labels for Education™ program. Customized for children in kindergarten through 6th grade, the new curriculum will help young students understand the basic elements of music, including beat, tempo, rhythm and pitch, and apply these fundamentals as part of lesson plans for language arts, math, science and technology.

The partnership was announced at the GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles, Calif., by three-time GRAMMY® Award-winning singer, Trisha Yearwood, who Trisha Yearwood pledged her support for the initiative. Yearwood talked about the importance of music education in her life and gave recognition to the music teachers that always encouraged her to explore an interest in music. “Learning about music not only fueled my career, but it also helped me to become a stronger student by thinking creatively about how to learn and explore new ideas,” said Yearwood. The singer is also a bestselling cookbook author, having secured a spot on The New York Times best-seller list for her cookbook, Georgia Cooking in an Oklahoman Kitchen.

Several GRAMMY Foundation Artist Ambassadors, including Carolina Liar members Chad Wolf and Rickard Göransson, Crosby Loggins, Dave Koz and Mindi Abair, also were in attendance to endorse the new partnership. These artists will participate in and help promote the program during the upcoming school year.

Enhanced Campbell’s Labels for Education Program

For more than 30 years Campbell’s Labels for Education program has been committed to providing educational resources to schools across the country. Since the program’s inception in 1973, billions of labels have been redeemed and more than $110 million in educational resources and equipment, including computers, athletic gear, and even vans, have been provided to participating schools.

“Today, there is a disturbing lack of support for arts in far too many elementary and middle schools,” said Mike Salzberg, President, Campbell Sales Company. “As we reinvigorate our Labels for Education program this year to support arts, athletics and academics, we are confident that with the support of the GRAMMY Foundation, we will begin to achieve our shared goal of nourishing the potential of our kids by improving access to music education in our schools and communities.”

Participation in Labels for Education continues to be easy, because Campbell products are consumed in nearly every home in America. Leading products for redemption include Campbell’s two most popular soups, Chicken Noodle and Tomato, as well as Pepperidge Farm Goldfish and 12 varieties that comprise the Campbell’s Kids soup line-up. These soups, which include Double Noodle and Chicken with Stars, are offered at healthy sodium levels and are made with whole grain pasta.

“Discovery Through Music” Curriculum

Students with a passion for music will be excited to experience the proprietary six-week Discovery Through Music curriculum designed by the GRAMMY Foundation in partnership with Labels for Education. “The GRAMMY Foundation is committed to music education in schools because it benefits students and fundamentally contributes to our culture by inspiring future generations of music makers,” said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of The Recording Academy® and the GRAMMY Foundation. “The Discovery Through Music curriculum is designed to teach children to explore and discover music within the context of other subject areas like math and science, which will help students to think more creatively throughout their lives.”

GRAMMY Artist Ambassadors Support Partnership

A number of rising young artists currently represent the GRAMMY Foundation through its Artist Ambassador program. As part of the partnership with Campbell, these ambassadors will be visiting selected schools nationwide to discuss their experiences in the music industry and inspire young students to pursue their potential through music.
To further recognize and celebrate the partnership with the Labels for Education program, GRAMMY Foundation Artist Ambassador and singer/songwriter Crosby Loggins is offering a free download of his song, “Time to Move,” at until December 31, 2009.

TakeLessons Music Lessons Guide – download a free copy for a limited time

Guide to Getting Started with Music Lessons.

TakeLessons Guide to Music Lessons


TakeLessons Discover Your Music. TakeLessons™ lorem ipsum dolor sit amet  Music Lesson Guide                                                           TakeLessons they learn much more than just how to perform! Benefits of Music & Voice Lessons Older adults find that music lessons are a great way to stay mentally active. Many will resume lessons for an instrument they played in the past to polish up their skills while others are interested in learning something brand new and acquiring a special talent. Music is known to be therapeutic and a great way to keep one's mind young! Did you know that music… When people of all ages take music and voice lessons, Parents find that music and voice lessons for kids not only improve their children's memorization and small motor skills, but strongly contribute to the building of their child's self-confidence. This in turn helps children succeed not only in music, but in school and other outside activities. Both children and their parents find it truly rewarding when a child reaches a pre-set goal or milestone; whether that is learning a new song, performing in front of others or just finding enjoyment in music. Adults in their 20's and 30's see lessons as a creative outlet and something to help them de-stress after a long day. For many, music and voice lessons are the beginning steps of a career in live performance or recorded music. For others, music lessons are a way to express emotion or impress others with their new-found talents through a birthday, wedding, or special event performance. • Helps develop skills needed in today's workforce: critical thinking, creative problem solving, effective communication, teamwork, and confidence • Keeps kids engaged in school and less likely to drop out while helping them achieve in other academic subjects like math, science, and reading • Helps communities share ideas and values among cultures and generations   Finding the right instructor The Instructor It's About Chemistry     For most students, music is about having fun, living your dream, and discovering your music. You'll want to be paired with an instructor that understands where you currently are and can relate to where you want to go. When you begin, you may not even know where you want to go – and that's ok. Your instructor should be able to help you take small steps that help guide you and help you see the picture of what you want to accomplish. The chemistry between the student and the instructor is really important. There should be a natural respect and friendliness between the two. There are many styles of instruction, so find someone that fits your personal style. Some people learn better with a more disciplined instructor that pushes them. Others learn better with a more laid-back, assertive style. Be honest with what works for you. When speaking to your lessons company, express the style of instructor that you think will work better for you. Chris Waldron, Director of Recruiting for TakeLessons Learning Centers, has hired thousands of instructors and says a key to good instructors is not only their musical aptitude, but their attitude as well. "A good instructor will share in your success and help you through the rough patches. He or she will challenge you to get better while giving you insight, tools, and training on the best way to improve. They are there to help you achieve higher skill levels and maximize your potential while providing constructive feedback that leads to continuous improvement.", Waldron says. Remember, however, that private lessons are a two-way street and the relationship should be mutually beneficial. Instructors are not baby-sitters or therapists and they will expect you to uphold your end of the bargain by practicing, trying hard, coming to the lessons prepared. They cannot make you great. YOU make yourself great. They are there to encourage and challenge you, but ultimately, your success is going to depend on your own motivation levels and how much you decide to apply yourself. Here's a checklist of what to look for in an instructor. Your instructor should: • Have passed a criminal background check • Have positive feedback from other students • Have a degree in music, working on a degree, or several years of experience • Enjoy the style and genre of music you wish to learn • Be a good listener • Focus more on you, and less about themselves • Helps you discover your strengths • Help you set high, yet attainable milestones • Be clear on what is expected of you each week • Hold you accountable for practicing and continued growth • Provide you with timely and specific feedback • Use technology to help keep track of lessons and monitor your growth • Offer the option for you to perform at a local concert or recital • Help you get excited about learning and staying involved with lessons • Be constantly growing themselves—musically and as a teacher                                                           Picking the Right Program & Instructor     When moving forward with lessons, it's best to work with an established music learning company. When you call and speak with them, they should be friendly, excited to help you, and focused on what YOU want to learn instead of what they want to teach. Beware of instructors or programs that have an air of arrogance about them. Normally, these
instructors are focused more on what you can do for them instead of what they can do for you. Also, beware of programs that are so strict that the lessons no longer are fun. Your lessons company should also have a documented, thorough application procedure for their instructors. This includes interviews, reference checks, background checks and ongoing quality certifications. They should also require liability insurance for their instructors. Feel free to ask them to see their liability insurance paperwork. If they cannot provide documentation, you are risking a higher liability with the instructor. Finally, working with a lessons company helps ensure your money is safe. There have been many stories from unsuspecting students who write a check or pay cash to an instructor they found online or in a classifieds ad, and that instructor never showing up after the first lesson. Others have paid for a semester or year's worth of lessons, only to find their instructor has left town or shut down their studio.     A Reputable Learning Company   A Reputable Learning Company  • The company should offer several instructors in your area. This way, if the first one doesn't fit your style, you can switch to another at no cost to you. pellentesque:  Checklist • The lessons programs should be focused and tailored around what you want to learn, and the company should provide an instructor that is suited for your style of music and your skill level. Nam vestibulum dolor quis libero.  • The company should always protect your money. If their instructor does not show up, their policy should be to issue you a quick and full refund. • The company should allow you to obtain a refund if, after your first lesson, you do not wish to continue. • Never pay for more than a quarter's worth of lessons upfront (three months). • Always pay by credit card or debit card. This way, if there are billing issues, you have recourse through your bank or card company. • Check the Better Business Bureau to ensure the company treats its customers well. • Check the company's web site for the owners and employees. They should be transparent about who runs the company. Also check for press releases, financial backing, advisory boards, and partners. All of these items help you see if they are an established, reputable company. • Look to see if they have partnered with community organizations such as the YMCA or PTA and if they run programs for private schools after-school programs, or corporate wellness. If they have proven themselves by working with these partners, there is a good probability they are reputable. • Look for a company that has instructor certification processes which includes criminal background checks and ongoing quality ratings. Ask the percentage of instructor applicants that get hired. If it's more than 40%, the company may be accepting anyone who applies and may have a quality problem. • The pricing should reflect your skill level. If you are a beginner, chances are you don't need the instructor with a PhD and 30 years of experience. You'll overpay. Find a company that has a selection of instructors with differing levels of experience and reasonable rates. • Make sure the company has an established online lessons tracking system. This allows you to access your lesson notes from anywhere on the web and creates accountability between you and the instructor. If you are a parent, this allows you to see what your children are working on during the lessons, thus ensuring you are getting your money's worth.     Why Take Lessons? Tak eL essons Discover Your Music. Why Not Learn on your Own? There are a myriad of music self-study courses, books, CD's, and DVD's. Add in the hours of video on YouTube and across the Internet, and you've got an endless supply of information. But information alone isn't the key to having fun and learning. It's the application of the information that makes the difference. When you take lessons with a live instructor, you get added benefits that simply cannot be attained through all the do-it-yourself media. Speed Up Your Learning Curve, Slow Down Your Frustration When you first start with music, it will most likely be a bit odd to you. That's ok. Its normal. It takes some time to understand the fundamentals and mentally digest why notes, chords, and songs sound good together. Working with a private instructor helps you quickly understand the fundamentals while making learning fun. You will learn faster, which helps build your confidence and increases the likelihood of you continuing with your lessons. The First Step is the Hardest With music, there's a phenomenon called the "First Month Hump". During the first month, you're at an important stage that determines whether you keep going or whether you call it quits. Everything is new. Some things make sense—other things do not. And inside, you're trying to decide whether the dream of making music is worth the fear of failing at it. It's at this stage where private instruction really starts to make a difference. With the help of a good program and instruction, you see more improvement, which helps build your confidence and increases the likelihood of continuing. Your lessons are customized around you, so you get to learn the things you're most interested in. This naturally speeds up your learning curve as well. You also have personalized attention that helps you fast-track through the First Month Hump and into the next phase of learning. Staying Motivated Without a doubt, there will be times during the first few months when you feel disappointed with your playing. Perhaps you didn't find time to practice, or you can't quite figure out how to work your left and right hand with the proper timing. Again, that's ok! It's normal. The benefit of working with a private lessons company is that you have the support of your music counselor, your instructor, and a community of other people learning at your level. A good lessons program will help you A.I.M. High! A — Accountability I — Inspiration M — Milestones Accountability Private or group lessons help you become accountable to yourself, to your instructor, and others. As a general rule, we always work harder when we know someone else is counting on us. By telling others what our goals are, we trigger something inside the mind that helps us give a little extra effort. A good program will help you set your first goal and then help you share that goal with others. Inspiration A good lessons program helps inspire you by having people that believe in you. You get to hear stories of how other people are living their dream and can then apply their learning to your own situation. By taking lessons, you'll tap into the wisdom of instructors that have been through your situation before, and are willing to help you get to where you want to be. Milestones Part of the job of private instruction is to help you see yourself living your dream and discovering the music inside you. A good lessons company will understand your current skill level and help you set reasonable milestones for your growth. Using online tools, your music program should be able to help you keep track of your progress with lesson notes and practice pages that can be accessed via the web. They should provide you with candid feedback after each lesson to help you see where you're doing great, and where you need help. “Nobody's a natural. You work hard to get good and then work hard to get better. “ -Paul Coffey With music, you'll never hit your target if you don't know what you're shooting for. With a solid lessons program, you'll always know where you're heading. TakeLessons Discover Your Music.   For questions or to find a certified instructor in your area, please contact TakeLessons 1-877-231-8505 TakeLessons 624 Broadway Suite 504 San Diego, CA 92101

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Finding the Right Teacher for Piano Lessons for Kids

As someone who has taught in public schools, private schools, and has been teaching private individual sessions, I have learned that the vast majority of the public is musically challenged.  There are many reasons we could consider as to why, but that’s for another time and another article.

What I would like to do, is perhaps provide some insight and a few tips for those who feel they are under qualified when searching for an instructor for themselves or for their child.  Some of the search process is a “learn as you go” sort of thing, however, if you do your best to make yourself aware of these four areas, it should prove helpful in finding the perfect instructor for you or your child.

Environment and Chemistry

We are all uniquely and wonderfully made.  That being said, we don’t always click with each other.  It’s important that you take the time to scope out the environment that you will be studying in and the person you will be studying under.  Credentials aren’t always the “be all, to end all” but they do help.

When looking for the environment, make sure you or your child feel safe, that it’s an inviting and creative place to be.  If they don’t invest in their space, home, or studio, what sort of investment will they make in you and your learning?  Is it comfortable?  Personalities are just as important.  Is the instructor excited about what they do and what they can teach you?  Are they honest about their abilities and limitations?  For children with learning disabilities, behavioral disabilities, are they flexible, patient and creative in their teaching styles? After the first lesson, meet with your child at home where they are comfortable so they can speak freely of their thoughts of the teacher. If your child doesn’t click with them, that’s ok. Just ask to be placed with another instructor.

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The benefits of using is that the company works very hard to hire responsible, patient, and knowledgeable instructors. Each month, over 1,000 instructors apply to be TakeLessons certified, and less than 5% make it. TakeLessons FirstClass Guarantee allows you to switch out instructors until you find the right match for you or your child.

Methods and Expectations

It’s great to start learning something new!  It’s exciting and it’s fun!  Then comes the practice time and the schedule demands and you’re finding you didn’t have the time to put into your music as you had hoped.  Nowadays, children are just as busy as their parent’s. 100% of my students are involved in at least one or two outside activities, some even more.  This affects practice time, which in turn will affect the rate at which you or your child will learn.

Here are a few questions to ask:

What are the practice demands?  Are you expected to advance at a certain rate?  Are there recitals involved?  Again, how flexible is this teacher in regards to students who may have disabilities?  Does your teacher stay mainly with one method, one book series?  Do they teach only out of the book?  Good, comprehensive piano instructors will incorporate the necessary drills, exercises and theory required to achieve those learning platforms outlined for each skill level.  I have been told by actual instructors that I shouldn’t attempt to teach rhythm, scales, sight-reading, and ear training, because the students cannot grasp the information and apply it.  However, my kindergarten students are very able to do so, with all of the information given, in their time and with consistency, they are able to develop a sense of musicality with these concepts.  A poor teacher will merely assign a page from the book; send the student home to learn it.  The next week the teacher will expect the student to know how to play it.  This is not teaching.

Creativity, Flexibility and Motivation

What will the teacher do to inspire you or your child to learn, to catch the excitement, to encourage practice time?  Other than a demand for practice time, are they willing or able to motivate their students to get all they can from them in their session times?  Do they offer incentives, are they creative?  Are they willing to step outside of the lesson book to play piano games using fingering exercises, using flash cards, using the music that’s written, in an adventurous way for the student?  These are very important issues to inquire about when interviewing a teacher.  Also, ask yourself what you are willing to do to inspire you or your child to practice and learn, to continue with sessions when you or they hit a dry patch.

TakeLessons has developed the S.T.A.R. Program that helps a student stay motivated. The company requires all instructors in their program to complete a Lesson Success Journal after each lesson. This is an online tool that helps parents keep track of how their child is doing with their lessons. After a lesson is complete, your TakeLessons teacher will sign in online and enter (a) what was worked on that day; (b) what the student did well at; (c) what the student needs help on; (d) and what the student should prepare for the next lesson.

Your TakeLessons account also provides you with online Practice Pages where you can train your child to record their practice time. This information is shared with your instructor so they can better prepare for subsequent lessons.

Private vs. Group Lessons

Every single child that I have received over the past ten years, that has taken from a class or group setting has had so many gaps in their music education, or knew nothing at all and merely learned by mimicking the fingerings.  Not ONE has been able to demonstrate a comprehensive understanding and mastering of one unit in thei
r lesson books.  This being said, I don’t fault any one person, rather I fault the misunderstanding of what’s required to be successful with this type of instruction.  In this sort of environment, you have to have worked consistently on your own and practiced diligently and have done everything to keep up with the class.  Thus, it is easy to see the disadvantages.  It’s not uncommon for a student to get home and their mind goes completely blank in regards to the new information.  Once you’re behind in a class setting, it’s your responsibility to get caught up and often it isn’t easy, it becomes overwhelming and students drop out.  I recommend class or group settings for adults who are diligent and disciplined.  This is perfect and more cost effective for the student who needs little guidance.

Private lessons are more costly, but the benefits are comparable.  One on one instruction is great for the student who needs special care and attention, or even just the extra assurance.  Private lessons should cater to the student and the student’s needs when learning.  That’s where the costs are incurred.  Time is valuable—and it all about time and care.  The time spent with individual attention can be priceless.  The progress is usually noticeably quicker and retention is noticeably better–especially in the younger students.

If you take the time to consider these factors when searching for an instructor, you are bound to find one that not only will be qualified, but one that will suit you or your child’s personality, one that will inspire learning and will be sure to comprehensively educate and help you or your child to master the wonderful art of music.

– Contributor, Mendy. Edited by editor.

Today is Music Teacher Appreciation Day at

Today is a very special day here at the office. As a part of Teacher Appreciation Week, we’d like to take a few moments to recognize our incredibly AWESOME TakeLessons music teachers.

Each month, we get thousands of people looking for music jobs that apply for a teaching position with us, and after rigorous interviewing, background reviews, and reference checking, we hire just the top 3-5% of candidates.

To all our music instructors and singing teachers, we’re very proud of you and all you do to bring music into the world. We believe the world is a better place because of you.

…And we’ve made a little video for you to say thanks!  🙂