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Music Practice Routines for Kids

How to Foster Good Habits and Develop Practice Strategies for Music Lessons

practice routinesAs a parent, it’s natural to want your child to learn good study habits and time management skills. Taking music lessons can be a great way to develop these skills, but they can look different when studying music rather than studying standard school subjects, such as math, science, or history. If you’ve never studied an instrument yourself, it can be hard to know how to help your child foster these unique skills. From the teachers at Philly Music Lessons, know that encouraging your kids to be good music students doesn’t have to take a lot of work, but it can go a long way.

Keep a Routine

When it comes to studying music, consistency is key. Some ways to maintain consistency in your child’s studies include:

  • Maintaining a regular lesson schedule with as few changes as possible.
  • Setting up a practice schedule that occurs at the same time for the same length every day (for example, a ½ hour of practice at 6 pm every weekday).
  • Keeping track of lessons, practice sessions, and progress in a notebook or journal.

Building these regular habits will allow your child to see the fruits of their labor much sooner. If their practice and lesson schedule is too sporadic, they won’t retain what they’ve learned as well, and musical concepts will need to be repeated more frequently than necessary. To build the ideal practice schedule for your child and their instrument, have a conversation with their teacher about what will work best.

Similarly, make the process of practice and lessons fun and welcoming. If possible, set up a space at home just for your child’s practice. Furthermore, you can incentivize practice and lessons with compounded rewards, such as small treats, tokens, or activities.

Be a Part of the Process

While your child’s study of music is unique and individual, you can have a healthy involvement in your child’s studies. Check in with their teacher after each lesson to understand what they’ve learned that week and what they should be practicing. Sit with your child while they practice if they’d like that, and encourage them to perform selections for your family once they’ve grasped a new concept. Celebrating small milestones will encourage them to work through the next step, which in turn will develop their work ethic and endurance.

Trust Their Teacher

We love our kids, and we think the world of them and their abilities. As a result, it can be all too tempting to push them into working on songs or auditioning for performance opportunities they’re not quite ready for. If your child’s teacher wants them to wait for certain songs or opportunities, discuss it with them. Their teacher is a trained professional who also wants the best for them, so the more you can be patient and encourage your child to do the same, the sooner they’ll be able to play that song or go for that competition.

It would be wonderful if all of our kids started music lessons by being focused, determined, and skilled. Studying music, however, is not solely about fostering talent; studying music works to develop these skills in kids, which will help them succeed later in life. Keep this in mind, and your child’s music lessons will go from a chore to a rewarding process that’ll last them a lifetime.

Kids Violin Class with Rentals & Other Fishtown Music Classes

violin philly

Beautiful Tone, Beautiful Heart!

Suzuki-Style Violin Class for Ages 3-5

“Teaching music is not my main purpose. I want to make good citizens. If children hear fine music from the day of their birth and learn to play it, they develop sensitivity, discipline and endurance. They get a beautiful heart.”

Shin’ichi Suzuki

Saturdays at 11 AM at Philly Music Lessons
October 1st – November 19th
$198 for 8 classes
(Includes a 3 month violin rental fitted for your child’s size at the first class)

Though many different curiosities are piqued when children come into our space and see instruments on the walls and in our practice rooms, violin seems to be of particular interest over and over again! Thus we’ve decided to offer a Suzuki-style violin class for kids ages 3-5. With a violin rental embedded into the cost, kids have the opportunity to experience the Suzuki method and other violin group work intended to introduce young bodies and minds to the violin. Read more about our kids violin class here!


 

Music Exploration Ages 3-5

Tuesdays at 4PM
October 4th – November 22nd
$128 for 8 classes

Our music exploration class is an intro to music beyond baby and toddler classes. Kids will explore ukuleles, their voices, piano techniques, and percussion patterns to gain experience with string instruments, solfege (ear training), and rhythm training. This class lays the groundwork for private lessons in a variety ofinstruments and is simply a fun way to explore music! Each class concludes with an art project that will reinforce a new concept each week.


newmoms

Baby and Toddler Music Classes Ages 0-3

Ongoing Weekly classes at 10 AM Wednesdays and Saturdays
First time FREE! $10 drop in all September

Mommas, daddies, nannies, grandparents, and caregivers can join other families in the Fishtown area for weekly music classes on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 10 AM. Babies just a few months old will enjoy classes as much as the toddlers. All classes are drop-in this September, with a special rate of $10 per class (normally $15). Come October, we’ll be moving to a monthly sign up (10 kids max, unlimited makeups) to encourage regular friends and faces, and to allow groups of babies to grow and learn together!

“Long Drum ROOOLLLLLLL!”

DrumclassfinaleOur Spring drum class (Rhythm and Beats), our Ukulele Class, and our Music Exploration Class have sadly ended for the season. But its not quite over yet! Students of our drum class, along with those taking private music lessons, will perform for our Spring 2016 Recital, starting at 1:30 PM, this Saturday, May 14th. Come on out and see what we’ve been doing over here at Philly Music Lessons! Visit us at the Ethical Society on Rittenhouse Square for an afternoon of violin, voila, voice, piano, guitar, and more. This recital is open to the public and costs $5 per person above the age of 12 (students attend FREE).

Baby and Toddlers May Music, Fishtown

May MusicMay weekday music classes for babies and tots (ages 0-3) are on Wednesday mornings at 10 AM at our Philly Music Lessons studio. This month, we have some space for newbies! If you’ve been waiting to try out a class for FREE, come on by starting next week. We’re located down the street from the Soup Kitchen in Fishtown. We welcome Philly families from Fishtown, East Kensington, Northern Liberties, Port Richmond, and beyond to come make friends and music. If you can’t make our weekday classes, join us select Saturdays and Sundays this month (May 7th, 8th, 14th, 15th, 21st, and 22nd). Check our calendar to make sure classes aren’t full!

If you’re dropping in ($15 per class) or attending for your first time (FREE), you can just show up so long as classes are not labeled “FULL” on our calendar. However, if you have the time, we always appreciate the heads up! Email us here if you’re popping in. Package holders are always welcome!

5 Class Baby Music Lover Package – $10/class for regulars
If you plan to come to music classes regularly, it might make sense to get a package. You can buy a package in person, at class (cash, check, or credit card), or we can email you an invoice so you can pay in advance online. Please note: there are a limited number of packages issued per class, as we like to keep class sizes relatively small. Packages can be issued for either Wednesdays, Saturdays, or Sundays.

Expiration Dates for Packages/Punch Cards
5 class packages/punch cards expire within a time frame that allows you to miss roughly two scheduled classes on our calendar. For example, Saturday classes are usually scheduled 2-3 times per month. Your punch card will expire 3 months from your purchase date, allowing you around 7-9 class dates to choose from. You can check our calendar to get a feel for typical class schedules.

Thanks!

See you all soon,
Claire, “Coco”

Philly Music Babies
Philly Music Lessons


Life at Philly Music Lessons Post-Baby and Toddler Music?

Some of you have been with us for almost 2 years now! Its amazing how time has flown, how much everyone has grown, and how much we’ve all come to love our classes together. Please stay in touch with us through our school’s main newsletter, where we announce new classes for ages 3 and up. Here you’ll also find out more about private lessons, recitals, and other events going on at the studio. For instance, this Spring we’ve been holding classes where baby and tots alumni have gotten the chance to reconvene with old friends in a musical way – Keep an eye out for new Fall class offerings!

Suzuki Style Group Violin Class Ages 3 & 4
Feel free to get in touch with us now if you’d be interested in a group Suzuki-style violin class for ages 3-4 starting September 2016. Small-sized violin rentals will be included.

Private Lessons
We encourage holding off on private lessons until at least 4, but we also know every kid is different! If you’re thinking music lessons, you may consider setting up a trial run (suggested for no more the 30 minutes for young kids), so you can see how your child would do with music lessons at any age.

Developing a Practice Routine

“Doing is the essential of learning. The doer is the learner.” -Ray Josephs

It can be difficult in this busy world to find the time to practice your instrument. But, the fact of the matter is, practicing regularly is what develops your ability to express yourself easily on your instrument. There are 3 main questions to address surrounding practice routines:

  1. What should I practice?
  2. How often should I practice?
  3. What is the difference between “practicing” and just playing whatever I like for 90 minutes a day?

1. What to practice

Curiosity, Not Cramming
Students should practice areas of playing that need improvement as well as unexplored ideas. They should be strengthening skills and learning new ones. Try new ideas that are just out of reach, yet avoid practicing ideas that are too difficult (or the result may be disappointing). Your teacher can help you determine difficulty level if you aren’t sure.

Practice should be engaging and fun. It should not feel like a chore or a cram session for a final exam. After you and your teacher discuss goals, your teacher can prescribe appropriate exercises. Once you reach a certain level of comfort playing these exercises, your curiosity may kick in. You may wonder what other possibilities exist – Now is the time to feed that curiosity with some fun challenges. A curious mind is an open mind, and an open mind is always learning.

Theme and Variation
An exciting way to get more mileage from an exercise is through “theme and variation”. Theme and variation works by disguising a main idea in new and clever ways. For example, say the theme is C harmonic Minor. Students can try changing the way they practice this scale by varying the rhythm. Play the scale as 8th notes, triplets, 16th notes, 32nd notes, etc. Try shuffling or swinging the rhythm for a different feel. Try changing the time signature or adding interesting rests or moments of silence. Perhaps instead of playing the scale in a step-wise motion, vary the pattern of intervals in 3rds, 4ths etc. Let’s say you are learning a 6 stroke roll on drums – write the idea out in a dozen variations. This way, you can achieve the fundamental goal of repetition while exploring how each example has a unique sound and feel. Theme and variation is exciting and can make practicing something students look forward to. It is a great way to ensure natural progress, since variation is still related to a single theme or idea. Be sure to ask your teacher about incorporating “theme and variation” at your next lesson.

2. How often should I practice?

Students (adults and teens) should reserve at least an hour each day for music (5-15 minutes for very young kids)This is the minimum if you would like to see noticeable improvement. If you don’t have that time, a little bit every day is still better than one or two big chunks once or twice a week. If you’re dedicated, and have 2-4 hours, even better!

3. How to Practice and Progress: Play, Focus, & Self Discovery

To begin practicing, students should start by playing freely – but don’t get carried away! I recommend playing freely for the first 5-10 minutes. Try to manage your allotted time by dividing your practice routine into different segments or areas of study. For example:

  1. Free Play
  2. Technique
  3. Scales
  4. A New Song
  5. Etc.

The Value of Self-Teaching Through Free Play
I have studied  music from grade school through college, but also consider myself to be self taught in many ways. I recall playing freely when I was younger and noticing an interesting rhythm. No one had taught this rhythm to me – I had stumbled upon it. I knew immediately that I liked how it sounded, yet I also knew there was room for improvement. As there was still a disconnect between what I imagined in my mind head and what I heard from my drums, I played it over and over again. I played it slow to make sure my muscle memory was learning the correct motions. I played it fast to make sure I had control of speed and direction. Practicing an idea found through one’s own explorations, and then improving upon it through repetition, is another useful practice technique.

Another way to play/practice with self-guidance is to listen to your favorite songs. Try to figure out your part. This is a great way to develop your ear and also the layout of your instrument. Be sure to share with your teacher what you have figured out. Perhaps you missed a couple notes or the chord voicing was wrong. They will be glad to help you.

Finding a Balance Between Fun and Progress During Practice
Students need influence and guidance from others, but also need to develop their own truths, opinions, and curiosities about music. The key difference between playing whatever you want for 90 minutes and playing during a practice session is the focus on progress. Practice requires you to be aware of your shortcomings and to take a moment to figure out solutions. These moments can be discussed with your teacher. They want to know what you’ve been working on. Explain to them what you’ve been doing on your instrument – whether it’s an assignment or your own pursuit, your teacher wants to help you improve your skills.

Music is scientific in many ways, but it is still an art. No matter what it is you are trying to convey, it is all made possible when you are comfortable on your instrument.  There are two solid paths to developing an understanding of your instrument (I find that it is a healthy balance of these two paths that will help you become well rounded). Remember to practice exercises assigned by your teacher on a regular basis (focused progress), and also save time to just play, experiment and enjoy yourself (curiosity and exploration).

Spring Class! Drums Ages 4-6

Julius_Rivera_DrumsKids with an interest in drums can get a taste of what its like to take drum lessons in group classes starting April 2nd (Saturdays at 4 PM, 6 weeks). With Julius Rivera as our instructor, children ages 4-6 will explore basic drum concepts through group exercises, revolving around tub and tube drumming. Tonal tubes and tubs are a great way to convey rhythm to beginners through feel and play (think Blue Man Group). In addition to tubs and tubes, the real drum kit will be used as a basis for teaching drum terms and techniques applicable to beginner drum lessons. Julius’s style includes high-energy games that reinforce rhythm, tempo, and time. This a hands-on, collaborative approach to experimenting with drums that will tap into creativity, physicality, and imagination.

Check out this and other class offerings for Spring 2016

A Word on Drums for Kids

Drums for KidsWhy should you encourage your child to drum?

One of the stars of the Muppets is a character named Animal. Animal is a drummer, who many would argue, embodies the general perception of a drummer in the U.S. He is wild, impulsive, and intense. This perception is not always based on how the world’s best drummers actually are, but more on the energy that they bring to musical groups and events. I hope to present a picture of some of the skills needed in order to become a great drummer / musician / person and how learning these skills can create rich learning experiences for children.

Drumming is not really wild – it just feels that way…

The world’s best drummers do not hit the drums randomly or haphazardly – they are very calculated and deliberate. In order to play their instruments well and to find new ways to be expressive during performances, they have to practice and train. Great drummers don’t tend to be like sprinters in a race, they tend to be more like marathon runners who take their training and preparation seriously. Like runners, drummers have to learn how to relax while moving, to learn how to breathe well while remaining active, how to use healthy postures, and how to get lost in their activity so that they are not “thinking” about it – but instead doing it with an automaticity that enables them to reflect on other things while they are being active. Drumming like many other physical activities can be very intensive at times – however, great drummers learn to be aware of their bodies and avoid becoming injured in spite of an increase in the intensiveness.

Drumming is natural…

There are many individuals who see a person playing a drum set and immediately think to themselves, “I would never be able to do that! It requires too much coordination – and I can barely clap on rhythm!”  I would argue that when discussing who can drum, we enter a Nature vs. Nurture discussion. I firmly believe that more people in the U.S. do not feel comfortable drumming or using rhythm because of our cultural experiences related to rhythm. Throughout the world, there are toddlers and small children playing syncopated rhythms with ease. Is it because their genes predispose them to rhythmic intelligence or is it because they were exposed to seeing adults exhibiting behaviors and began to learn how to do what the adults around them were doing? What were some of the things that your child was exposed to and how has this exposure affected what they can do – the skills that they have?

Clearly, any art form requires an investment of time and benefits from guidance from experienced professionals; however, most children are naturally drawn to hitting a cylinder with their hands or with sticks. I would argue that it is as natural for people to drum as it is for us to run, but that our cultural experiences affect our exposure and comfort with drumming. It seems to move away from being an activity that you can engage at your own level into a skill that you either can or cannot do. It is similar to a person who enjoys drawing (and has a natural impulse for it) being discouraged from drawing because they don’t draw well enough to meet another’s standards or a person being discouraged from dancing because they cannot execute the dance move as expected – we often prioritize a person’s ability to perform over their desire to do something that they enjoy and that makes their lives richer (and could become something that they would be better at with time and work).

Great drummers listen well and express themselves appropriately…

Drums are very powerful instruments – an average person can create deafening sounds without the need for electricity.  So, drums should be treated like other powerful things – tools, money, the stove, etc. You can hurt and offend people with loud erratic drumming. Most professional drummers tend to have a low tolerance for loud erratic drumming. They understand that it is possible to create something beautiful and enjoyable with a little bit of effort. The experience could be compared to watching a child color outside of the lines in a coloring book.  Most adults will (at some point) draw attention to the lines of the picture and encourage children to use the lines to guide their coloring rather than disregarding them. Great drummers learn to be considerate to listeners by adjusting the volume of their drumming to a level that is appropriate to the occasion. A person who knows how to control their volume, but chooses not to, is being immature and inconsiderate of the listeners and musicians that they may be performing with. Showing off at the expense of the success of the group is seen in most social situations. Learning to be considerate to listeners and other musicians is a skill that demonstrates and fosters maturity in individuals of all ages.

When a drummer becomes aware of ways to channel these powerful instruments, then they can begin to dance musically.  They can learn basic steps / movements and then they can add expressive touches and / or improvise something that is complimentary to the song. The great drummer dances with the other musicians – this sometimes leads the musicians to perform things that go beyond what was rehearsed. As a drummer, I have often been inspired to do something that was not rehearsed during a performance and responded to other musicians who began to do something that went beyond what was rehearsed.

Is drumming on buckets the same as playing Guitar Hero?

Although it may seem as though drumming on a bucket is similar to playing a musical video game, the skills introduced and reinforced are dramatically different. A video game introduces and reinforces the skill of pushing the appropriate buttons when prompted by the game. When a person is actually playing an instrument, they learn to repeat particular movements in a specific order in order to produce the musical sound. The sound produced is consistent when the movement / behavior is exhibited (muscle memory). For example, if you play a C note on an acoustic piano, it will create a sound – that sound will not change. However, it is possible to produce different types of sounds using devices that can be connected to instruments. Guitarists often use foot-switch pedals in order to change sounds. There are skills required to use them effectively – a video game does not introduce or reinforce these skills.

Drumming on buckets is not equivalent to playing instruments, but it does offer transferrable skills. One skill that is introduced and reinforced with bucket drumming is awareness of hitting versus not hitting. In visual art, artists learn to become aware of negative space. In drumming, not hitting the drum can be seen as a musical negative space. You don’t hit the drum in order to create the quiet portions of a rhythm – instead, you resist hitting. This silence / break in the rhythm is as important as the hits. In fact, intentional breaks are what separate an intentional rhythm from haphazard noise. This awareness is necessary for playing any instrument – to play or not to play… SELF CONTROL

Another skill that can be learned from bucket drumming is the skill of experiencing a repeated pattern becoming the foundation for song. Many popular songs have 4 or more chords that are repeated.  The melody of the song is performed on top of this repeated pattern. After a child / person learns to perform a rhythm, it is important for them to learn how to relax into the rhythm so that they can continue to repeat the pattern while other performers do something different that is complimenting the rhythm. RELAXING

Finally, bucket drumming offers opportunities for creativity. Once a child has learned how to relax into a rhythm/ song, then they can begin to explore being creative. They can try to develop their own “new” rhythms and they can begin exploring ways of complimenting rhythms with other patterns or with improvisational breaks. CREATIVITY

In summary, Drumming teaches countless invaluable skills. A child who learns how to drum, doesn’t make noise, they make art!

Upcoming Baby and Tots Schedule

December Music Class Schedule

Philly Music BabiesThis month, classes will be held on Wednesdays at 10 AM and select Saturdays at 10 AM. Please note that there will be no Wednesday class on the 30th, but all other Wednesdays will be held. If you ever want to check in on the schedule (especially as winter weather approaches), bookmark our calendar. It will display up-to-date class schedules and canceled classes. Here are the dates currently listed in December for Philly Music Babies:
Wednesday the 2nd, 9th, 16th, 23rd
Saturday the 5th, 12th, and 19th
You can also find Philly Music Babies updates on Facebook and Twitter. Check out what we’ve been up to!

To attend our baby music program, just stop by during scheduled times. Music classes are $10 each with a package, or $15 to drop-in (first time free). Packages start at 5 classes ($50), or 12 classes ($100). You can purchase a package/punch card at class with credit card, cash, or check. You can also email to have an invoice sent, and pay online using Paypal.

Regular weekday goers, you get a FREE CLASS when you attend all of the Wednesdays in a month! Same goes for Saturday folks with weekend dates (indicate your preferred day when you purchase a punch card to get those freebies!)

Baby Music, Lessons for Parents – Ukulele Lullabies

music class packages PhillyJust a reminder that you can get packages for our baby and toddler music classes. Your punch card will keep track of weekly classes and will introduce your babes to some new musical buddies. Age range for this music series is mixed, and classes tend to be made up of babies and kids between about 4 months and 3 years old. A music class is $10 with a package (5 classes). You can also become a Mega-Fan if you think you’ll be sticking around – you’ll get 12 classes for $100 (2 free classes!).  Drop ins are also welcome for $15 (first time free). Keep an eye out for upcoming deals in the Fishtown neighborhood when you visit other local business catering to families.

Oh, hey! Did you just have a baby and live in Philly?

If you have a newborn in Fishtown or surrounding areas in Philly, you might be interested in this Spring 2016 music class (baby should be between 0 and 5 months come the Spring):

After the cold winter months, we’ll be kicking off a new group baby music class for Philly parents. This is a unique, 8 week program (8 weekly classes), where you can come learn ukulele in the mornings with your little one. Taught by one of our instructors, Donnie Felton, (dad of two and clarinet, piano, guitar, and ukulele extraordinaire), these group ukulele lessons will be geared towards moms and dads with new babies. Parents are encouraged to bring their little ones along to classes (fussy babies, nursing moms, and anyone else who gets the whole newborn thing are warmly welcomed!). Classes will feature teacher performance and foundation level instruction on ukulele for moms and dads. All of this will revolve around learning traditional kids songs and lullabies that you can play with and for your child as they grow. What you will learn will enable you to learn other songs on the ukulele too.

Coming this Spring! Ukulele rentals included. Please get in touch if you’d like to take the whole music thing a bit further and learn some songs yourself!