Monday, November 7, 2016

"How Can I Help My Kid Get Better?" - 1.0 - Private Lessons

This entry goes into the category of "other information that may be helpful."  I decided to write it when I bought a new trumpet last month at the ripe old age of 52...

I am asked by several parents each year about two things: "what is the best way to make my child a better player?" and "I'd like to buy my child a new instrument; what should I get?"  I will answer these questions, but the details will end up in two different posts due to length and subject matter...

The number one answer to the first question is "PRIVATE LESSONS."  There is seriously nothing better than one-on-one sessions with an expert on the instrument the student plays; the experience and knowledge gained from this is unmatched in band. 

It is often somewhat frustrating to hear a student say that he or she has quit taking piano lessons since "I'm in band now and I don't need them any more."  Piano lessons can be a huge supplement to what we do in band and can indeed form a foundation that is vitally important to a musician's overall success.  I often tell people that of all of the things in my life that I would change if given the chance, going back to 8th grade I would change my mind on quitting piano.  Almost daily in my job here at school I could put piano skills to good use.  So if you are paying for piano lessons and it's still in the budget, keep going!  And consider adding lessons on your child's main instrument as well.

A private, one-on-one lesson situation with an expert on that instrument will really help a student to excel, or even catch up if he or she is behind for some reason.  As a musician I can teach your children musical elements and various ways to improve as a member of a band or orchestra.  As a trumpet player I can teach your child very specific techniques on my major instrument that will help him or her become a better trumpet player.  I cannot do the same thing, really, for any other instrument.  Yes, I "know how to play all the instruments;" I am an expert at one of them.

And that is why you should consider private lessons.  There are several teachers in the area on most instruments; we are still trying to find a consistent tuba teacher, though!  

So how do you start?  The easiest, though not necessarily the very best, option is to get in touch with Meyer Music.  They operate a studio right in the store and will take care of scheduling, payment, etc.  They have some fine teachers there, but there are others I'd recommend as well, especially depending on the instrument and/or level of student achievement.

I can put you in touch with some very qualified instructors for flute, oboe, bassoon, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet (not just me), French horn, trombone, and percussion.  Baritone and tuba, as mentioned above, are a little more of a challenge, yet those instruments have some very specific needs and lessons would be great!  A trip out of the Holland/Zeeland area might be necessary for this to happen, though.

What will private lessons accomplish?  As I mentioned, the single most important thing is instrument -specific technique.  The things a private teacher can catch and correct in an individual setting are numerous.  Hand position (imagine, if you will, trying to teach 57 beginning clarinet players how to properly hold a clarinet; yet that is exactly what Mr. Good had to do when this year's sophomores were in 6th grade), embouchure, articulation, etc. are all very unique to each instrument.  Even across the brass section things are not exactly the same: what makes a person a good trumpet player can definitely make that same person a terrible French horn player, for instance.  The embouchure and power for one can have a very negative effect on the other.  

Private teachers will also teach musicianship, but more through solo playing than the large ensemble setting like we do in band.  The cool thing is that the ideas they learn and work with in private lessons then also transfer to band, and the band as a whole will improve.  Bonus!  

If you are interested in getting some names of teachers in the area, please let me know.  I do some lessons on an irregular basis, mostly at no charge, but based on my schedule they are very inconsistent.  (In other words, I might not be the trumpet teacher I'd recommend for your kid...)  Send me an email at and we can discuss what you're looking for and see what we can do.