Everything you ever wanted to know about music lessons

Tuesday March 10, 2015
The Music Factory OC

If you are thinking about starting to learn music or are getting your kids into music, you probably have lots of questions. This article is here to help get some of your questions answered and direct you to even more resources. Learning to
play music is one of the best choices you can make for yourself or your kids. Music is a great pursuit that can be enjoyed from a very young age to the, shall we say, advanced. In this article I will address the most common questions and issues that arise when people are starting to learn music. This article is broken down into a few key sections.

Types of music lessons and their costs

What age is good for kids to start taking lessons

What instrument to choose for yourself or your kids

What equipment you need to purchase

How to choose a good teacher
How to set yourself or your kids up to succeed

Types of Music lessons:

There are five main types of ways to learn music or to take music lessons. The 5 ways are videos/DVDs online, live online lessons, group lessons, private lessons, and music universities.

*Videos/DVD’s on line

There are no shortage on DVD’s and video courses available to purchase or to and watch online. This is your cheapest entry point into music instruction. It is also the least effective. Aside from the low cost there are some other advantages like convenience and the ability to study at your own pace. The information contained in these classes is usually pretty good but there’s no one available if you need to ask questions and no one to help with technique. These types of lessons are not good for kids for obvious reasons. I think videos are better for more advanced students who understand the basics of good technique and music theory. Videos can be, and this is thebestuseofthem,usedinadditiontoyourotherlessons. YoucanbuymostDVD’s for $29.00 to $49.00 and you can join a website with video lessons for a monthly fee

ranging from $20.00 to $40.00.
Here is a good example of a video music theory lesson click HERE *Live online lessons:

Live, On Line lessons are another option for learning to play music. This is a good option for people with very busy schedules or who live in an area where they don’t have access to a private instructor. To do live on line lessons you just need a computer webcam with a microphone. The teacher will be using the same type of

set up. You will also need to have a good quality, high speed internet connection. You need to decide on a platform to “host” the lesson on. Most on line teachers use a platform called “Skype”. Skype is a computer program that you can download for free. You can also get a Mozilla add-on called, “Call Recorder” that will record your Skype lesson, which is really cool! I have put links to Skype and Call Recorder below this section.Therearesomegreatbenefitstodoingonlinelivelessonslike easeof scheduling and convenience to the student. Being able to record the lesson is another great benefit because you can re watch things being explained by the teacher as often as necessary. Lastly, being able to choose any teacher, from any geographical area is a really cool benefit that is now available due to advances in technology. The downside to on line lessons is that the teacher is not in the same room with you and can’t really see what mistakes you might be making in technique. It is very hard to replace the powerofbeinginthesameroomwithaqualifiedinstructor. Therearealsolivelessons thatareviewingonly.Intheselessonstheteachermaybe broadcastingliveoverthe internetandyoumightpayamonthlyfeetobeabletowatch thelessonliveorwatcha rebroadcastoftherecording.Ofcourseinthistypeoflesson theteachercan’tseeyou playing.Youcanusuallyaskquestionsto theteacherduringthelessonsimilarto instant messaging. At the Music Factory we o f f e r a really cool On Line hybrid lesson program that allows you to do 3 30-minute on line lessons per month and also come to the school to do one 30-minute live, one on one private lesson with your teacher. This makes it easier for some students to be involved by giving them the online option andstillreceivethebenefitsofprivatelessons.For moreinformationfollowthelinkbelow

link to hybrid lessons

*Group Lessons

Group lessons are usually only done for guitar and piano and it’s a stretch for piano. Occasionally, someone will try to do drum lessons as a group, but it is very difficult. The positives of group lessons are the low cost and the fun of a group dynamic. You can usually find an 8-week group class for $99.00 to $129.00. Because of the relatively low start up costs, group lessons are a good way to see if you enjoy the instrument you’ve picked before making the commitment to full time private lessons. The downside is that even with the full 8-week lessons, you won’t learn as much in a group setting. Everyone learns at a different pace so you are either waiting for

everyone to catch up or they are waiting for you. You’ll learn roughly the same amount in an 8-week group class as you will learn in two or three 30 minute private lessons. In the past, we have done group guitar classes at the Music Factory and almost none of the students continue into private lessons. I believe that many of those students would have continued on their instruments had they started with private lessons. It seems, the group learning environment doesn’t inspire potential musicians to continue their journey of learning and ultimately reaping the benefits of their talent.

*Private Lessons

Private lessons are the number one choice for most people who want to learn to play music. Most students will meet with a private teacher for 30-minutes once a week. Longer lesson times, around 45-minute or 60-minutes, are also available from most lesson providers.Averagepricesvarydependingonwherethelessonistaught(professional teaching studio, a music school, or in the student’s home), the quality and experience of the teacher, and the part of the country you live in. Lessons are more expensive in major metro areas like L.A. or Chicago compared to prices in an area like Des Moines. You can expect to pay anywhere from $20.00 to $40 for a 30 minute session.

How much do music lessons cost link

The biggest advantage to private lessons is the teacher is able to tailor the lesson to meet the student’s needs. The style of music you want to learn, your level of ability, and your natural learning pace are all important aspects of lessons that your teacher can address to ensure you get the most from your lessons. A good teacher will start with a basic curriculum that enables you to learn proper technique and theory and will then weave your interests and desires into the lessons to make sure you’re enjoying yourself as well. Whenever possible, I recommend you take lessons at a teaching studio or school. The environment allows you to be more focused, the teaching room is set up better, and you will be around other musicians of all levels who will inspire you. In- home lessons can work, but there are a lot of distractions that make it difficult for the student and teacher. The in-home lesson is a different environment and may not have all the tools needed for instruction that a professional teaching studio would.

Another advantage to doing your lessons with a professional music school is the ability to play with other musicians. Most music schools will offer some type of band program and will provide performance opportunities through recitals and concerts.
Link to band performance

Music Universities.

Music universities like Berkley School of Music or Musicians Institute are built around college age students who are pursuing music as a full time career. After you have spent many years doing private lessons you may want to consider this. This is theultimateinmusiceducation.
Links to schools

What is a good age for kids to start playing music

In most cases, 5 or 6 years old is a good age to start music lessons. Some kids do get started as early as 3 but it really depends on the child. At that age children have different levels of aptitude and each situation will need to be treated individually. Most reputable music lesson providers will offer some type of free trial lesson so you can see how a younger student handles the lesson. At the Music Factory we offer a program called The Thirty-Day Lesson Pass. It is a great opportunity for parents to determine if the time is right for their child to begin lessons. You can read more about that program HERE.

Link to video on what age

What instrument should I start Learning

There are some key things to think about when choosing what instrument to start

playingmusicon.Asanadult,youprobablyalreadyhaveyourmindprettywell made up on which instrument you want to play. If you have always wanted to be a drummer andjustnevergotaroundtodoingit,therereallyisn’tmuchIcouldsayto makeyou change your mind and I wouldn’t want to anyway. One of the most important elements in your pursuit of music is your desire to learn. If your interest has always been the guitar but you’re forced to play piano instead, you’ll probably quit after just a few lessons.Soifyou alreadyknowwhatyouwhatinstrumentyouwanttolearn,stickto it. With that said, if you’re not sure, here is something to think about: Piano is a great foundation instrument. You learn music theory, rhythm, and independence between your limbs. It is a fantastic instrument to write songs with and you’ll find many music producers play piano. A lot of guitar players start on piano and it can be a very good transition instrument. Of course, it isn’t mobile, so you can get stuck playing only at your house or rehearsal room where your piano or keyboard is set up. Real pianos can be quite expensive as well.

Playing drums has its own set of factors. Drums are a bit more specific than other instruments because you primarily learn rhythmic music theory. Most good drum programs will teach a bit of standard music theory but you won’t learn theory like you will with other instruments. Drums are their own beast. The other things to consider are the space needed, the noise and the cost. Drums are a bit more expensive to get started on. However, drums may be the most out and out fun you can have playing music. Drumming is very physical so if that suites you, maybe consider playing drums.

Guitar is probably the easiest to get started playing because you can spend as little as $99 for a decent starter acoustic. They’re also portable and you can play almost anywhere.

Singing lessons are great for almost everyone and I would recommend that studentswhoarelearninganyinstrumenttakevocallessons.Itisavery different experience because it is all done with your physical body and no external instruments. If you are shy or would excel in your personal life by having more confidence speaking in public, then singing lessons will benefit you greatly.

What about the kids?

With kids there are different factors to think about when choosing an instrument. If the child has not started to gravitate towards an instrument on his own,

thenpianoisprobablythebestchoicetostart.Itprovidesasolidmusic foundationand the kids are not limited by their smaller hands, limited dexterity, and fine motor skills. However,ifthechildisshowinginterestinguitarordrums,byallmeansstart themon that instrument. We want them to stick with music regardless of what instrument they choose. Guitar can be tougher for young kids depending on their hand strength. You can get youth sized guitars to make it easier for a child to press down the guitar strings to form chords but that is something to take into consideration. Kids can start singing lessons at 5 or 6 years old as well.

What equipment do we need to start? Guitar:

If you are starting, or your child is starting on guitar, you will just need a few basic pieces of equipment. If you’re starting on an acoustic guitar, that’s the only thing you need. If you are starting on an electric guitar you’ll need at least a small practice amp and cable. It’s not mandatory for beginning lessons, but an electronic tuner is recommended. You’ll need guitar picks for both as well. If you’re purchasing a guitar for your child, you’ll want to look at student sized guitars. Any reputable music store can help you with different sizes and styles of guitars. You don’t necessarily need to spend a ton of money on a guitar, but you’ll want to stay away from toy guitars and super cheap guitars. It is easier to get a better sound, and easier to learn in general, on a guitar that’s a little higher quality. You can get a great starting acoustic for around $100 and a decent starting electric package (that comes with everything you need) for around $200.


You do not need a full size acoustic, upright piano to get started on keyboards. Even if you can easily afford a high end piano, I wouldn’t recommend getting one at the beginning. What is important is to get a weighted key keyboard. These are electronic keyboardsthatcanbepluggedintospeakersorwillhavespeakersbuilt rightin.They areveryportableandaffordable.Youwillwantonethatisatleast64 keys as well. You will also need a keyboard bench and a sustain pedal.


There are several ways you can go with drums. The first is to go with a full acoustic drum kit. You can get a full size starter kit with cymbals for $500.00 to $600.00 if you search hard enough. Don’t be afraid to purchase used drums, cymbals, or stands to get started. You can also get runner pads that go over the drum heads to help control sound. Another way to go is with an electronic kit. This is great for sound control and space saving. The only drawback is that they don’t feel like real drums but theyaregreattolearnonandwhenyoutransitiontoanacoustic kititwillcome togetherveryfast.Electronickitshavereallycomedowninpricesand nowthereare electronic kits from $400.00 up to $4000.00. Another, very inexpensive option is to get what is called a practice pad drum set. It is essentially several rubber practice pads positioned to simulate the drum set. The pads will all sound slightly different so you still get tonal differences as you develop the physical skills needed to play drums. These can be purchased for a under $200.00. Many experienced drummers have one of these kits in their apartments or homes so they have something to practice on when they can’t get to a full acoustic kit. The minimum stuff needed to get started on drums isasinglepracticepadandapairofsticks.Thesetwoproductscanbeobtained for about $30.00.

No matter what instrument you choose, there are a few other items I would recommend you purchase. A metronome to keep time is an invaluable tool that all music students should use. Lastly, get yourself a music stand to help round out your practice space.

Link to gear guide
How to Choose a good teacher

Choosing the right teacher is the single most important decision you will make on your quest to learn music. One of the biggest mistakes people make is thinking that since they are a beginner, or their child is a beginner, it doesn’t matter that much how good the teacher is. When I talk about a good teacher, I am not just talking about their skill level as a musician. Teaching in and of itself is a skill that not everyone has. Your teacher could be the most incredible player you’ve ever heard, but not have the ability to teach the skills, techniques, or share their passion in a way that works with the students. I often encounter teachers that should be taking lessons from us, not teaching you or your child. It can be quite frustrating for professional teachers and teaching facilities to be in competition with people that have no business teaching others how to do something they are not competent with. Below is a list of some things to pay attention when looking for a good, quality teacher.

Educational background

Does the teacher have a degree in music from a reputable university? This is a good place to start, although not necessary. Many really good music teachers studied privately for many years and have a professional background in music. The important thing to look at is their understanding of theory and technique. For whatever reason, drum teachers seem to violate that “rule” the most. People play drums for a few years and decidetheycanteachanyone,andthatisjustnotthecase.Be extrastudiousinyour research of drum teachers. There are some good independent teachers out there but they are few and far between. The majority have no business teaching.

Aside from educational and professional performance background, you want to make sure the teacher has a curriculum to get you or your child from Point A to Point

B. Be wary of the “Dude” who comes out of the backroom of a music store and just kind of hangs out and teaches you a few songs. Those teachers may be great players but are lack any formal plan. While every student is different, and the teacher will need to make adjustments to meet the individual’s needs, they should still have a basic formulized plan to start. The other part of this equation is to make sure the teacher is Able to work around their curriculum to ensure you are learning the style of music that you want to learn at the pace that works for you. If they don’t spend at least a few minutes asking about your goals and musical tastes during your first lesson, you probably have the wrong teacher.

Finding a good personality fit is also extremely important. You may find a great teacher who has all the attributes you’re looking for but just isn’t gelling with you or your child. Age differences, gender, and style, for example, all have a major impact on how well you will learn from that teacher. Just like in school, you will have teachers you really like and some that you don’t like. Another student may have the exactoppositefeelingaboutthosesame teachers.Yourpotentialnewteacherormusic school should offer some type of program to allow you to “try out” a teacher before committing. Do not sign any type of long term contract without a test period or grace period.

Link to 30 day lesson pass here

You will also want to ensure that your teacher is organized and professional when it comes to scheduling and billing. One of the biggest complaints I hear from people coming on board with us after leaving another teacher is how often the teacher cancelled at the last minute or forgot about a scheduled time change. Don’t be afraid toaskthemquestionsaboutsoftwaretheyuseforschedulingandbilling.Ifthey are just winging it then be wary.

How to set yourself up to succeed

Now that you are embarking on your musical experience, let’s go over a few things you can do to ensure that you get the most from your music education.

Set up a practice schedule. Something simple is the best way to start so you don’t become overwhelmed. Try 20 minutes for three days a week. If you do more, it’s icing on the cake. But those 20 minutes will help you improve. A few months into your lessons, bump it up to 30 minutes. A good teacher may even outline a practice schedule for you: 10 minutes for warm up, 10 minutes for scales, 10 minutes to jam to songs. If your teacher doesn’t do this

automatically, ask if they’ll put together a schedule for you. A short, structured, practice session is better than a long one where you just tinker around.

Set up a practice space or room at your home. You want to feel inspired when you play. Help the inspiration by creating a cool place to play. Some nice artwork, a good seat, and no distractions will be very helpful. You also want to make sure you have the tools you need that were outlined above like a metronome and music stand. You mayalsowanttousealaptopwithheadphonessoyoucanplayalongtomusic. There are some amazing apps available for the I-pad that help you to play along with music by isolating and slowing down individual tracks.
Link to apps
Participate in any recitals and take advantage of any opportunities to play with other musicians. One of the big advantages to doing lessons at a music school is they will often dorecitalsandcan putyouinbandswithothermusicians.Thisissomethingthat independent music teachers struggle with. Do not under estimate how much fun you will have and how much you will improve when you play with other musicians in front of an audience. We have found this to be one of the key factors in getting our students to stay involved in music.

Links to recital videos

The most important this: HAVE FUN! Be supportive of your child. The kids that do the best at our school are the ones who parents take an active role in the process. Some parents hang out and talk to the teachers to see how things are going and ask questions. Others will just drop their child off and pick them up. I have teachers going out to the parking lot so they can tell t h e parents what the student needs to work on. Be involved, it makes a huge difference!

Best of luck to you on your musical adventure!!!
for more information go to www.themusicfactoryoc.com

30 Day Music Lesson Pass

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