Private Music Tuition – Value For Money
by Annette Scott
Private music lessons are an incredible investment in your children. It doesn’t matter what instrument they wish to learn, the benefits are the same. Fees for private tutors vary across the country, and may also depend on the level of experience of the tutor. So, as a parent, getting value for money is super important. Here’s how you can do just that.
First, let’s look at the incredible benefits of music education and private music tuition.
Music education in many schools has vastly reduced over recent years. The National Curriculum has more focus on core subjects, like Science, Maths, English. Children just don’t have the same opportunities to explore music at any level in many schools. This is such a shame, when music has such positive effects on a child’s education and personal development. Many parents have to rely on private tuition because it’s simply not available in a normal educational setting.
Music is a creative expression of emotion, and that in itself has lots of benefits. I know from personal experience music has enabled a positive release of emotions at various times in my life, including when I was a young teenager. Without music, I’m not sure I would have coped well at all. Being able to connect with myself, my own emotions, gave me a positive frame of mind and a fully connected sense of self.
Belonging to choirs and orchestras can offer great opportunities to play and sing alongside many other talented young musicians. I know I loved being in choirs and orchestras in my youth. It was fun and exciting. I got to sing and play in some fabulous venues, including The Royal Albert Hall, and many other theatres. Belonging to such groups and organisations introduced me to people I wouldn’t have otherwise met, and I developed good social skills and independence. I’m thankful I had the opportunity to learn to play oboe, piano and to sing, and for the opportunities that led me to.
My partner, a professional trombone player, is convinced that learning to play changed his life. He admits being always in trouble at school as a young boy, but from the minute he picked up a trombone, he became obsessed with it, and with music. He had focus, motivation, discipline, and ambition to do well in order to get to music college, and succeed as a musician, which he did, by the way!
Music can help to build imagination and intellectual curiosity, and it can give a huge sense of achievement and accomplishment. Science has proven that music improves brain function, and can improve language skills. Furthermore, it overlaps with many other subjects and life skills, such as memory function, developing discipline, cognitive functions, and Mathematics. According to a study, children with a musical background achieved 22% higher marks in English and 44% higher marks in Maths than those without a musical background.
Private music lessons can therefore form a very important part of your child’s education that they simply don’t get in a school environment. Music has strong links to mathematics, and young children in particular will develop a better understanding of numbers, counting, division and multiplication from music lessons. Naturally, all instruments use fine motor skills and the development of muscle memory, which can help cognitive development. The earlier children start music lessons, the better they can develop these other skills.
Peripatetic tutors (visiting tutors) are still available in many schools. However, lessons are usually no more than 20 minutes. Furthermore, tutors may be expected to teach, for example, all wind instruments, or all brass instruments, but they are not necessarily an expert in all instruments. For example, an oboe player may also be expected to teach flute, clarinet or saxophone despite not being fully proficient in other wind instruments. With a private tutor, you can be certain that they are an expert in your child’s chosen instrument.
Of course, most private tuition is one on one, although many small group classes are now available too. Private one to one lessons are longer in duration, give 100% attention to your child with instant feedback. There are no distractions from other students, and, hopefully, the tutor, child and parent will develop a strong relationship because of this. The relationship between tutor:child is particularly important, built on trust, honesty, motivation and inspiration. A good tutor will find the right music to inspire your child, which in turn will encourage progressive development. They will motivate them by demonstrating what they could also achieve in their playing. I like to try different genres and styles of music with my students to help them discover what they prefer. Once we find something they enjoy we can build on that. It is important though to play different styles, as this will present new skill sets that will only add to their development.
A good tutor will also instil discipline by encouraging daily playing. And this is where you, the parent, is expected to assist with that. A weekly 30 minute lesson is not sufficient on its own to develop any real progress. The lesson is to consolidate skills and knowledge from the week before, and then develop that further. How quickly the student develops and progresses is up to them! If a child does absolutely no practice between lessons, then they will not progress. That’s the bottom line! They must put into practice what they have learnt in their lesson. This is where a good daily routine and a disciplined approach to practice is super important. A good tutor will explain carefully at each lesson what the student must do on a daily basis. Personally, I like to set small challenges and goals that are achievable and will see good developmental progression. I also like to set very specific targets to give the student a sense of achievement.
As a parent, it is important you see the progress your child is making, and by taking an interest in their playing, you will not only see and hear how well they are doing, but you’ll also motivate them to do it more. Daily playing is essential, and you can encourage your child to do just this by;
- Finding a good time for daily playing that fits with your family routine. It hasn’t got to be hours of practice, ten minutes could be enough to play through what the tutor has set. But definitely set time aside on a daily basis. Panic playing for half an hour before the next lesson is demotivating and limits any progress.
- Communicating with the tutor and ask what your child needs to do after each lesson. I like to email parents after each lesson with a concise list of things to work on. Make sure you know what is being asked of your child so you can encourage them to try it out at home.
- Encouraging your child to be involved with performance opportunities. These could be at school, outside of school, at home with the family or with the music studio your child attends. I offer regular showcases for my students to participate in. They are fun, and children are often inspired by their peers.
- Feeding back to the tutor if your child hasn’t played throughout the week. To be honest, it is always very evident when little playing has been done between lessons. But it’s often worth a quick chat with the tutor if you’re struggling to encourage your child to play daily. A good tutor will try to set different and more achievable goals.
Music is a thriving business. There are many well paid professional opportunities for musicians, including playing for orchestras and groups that travel around the world. It isn’t always about becoming famous, or playing guitar or drums in a pop band! I know several musicians who have travelled the world working on cruise ships, and had the privilege of working for famous artists in their bands.
I believe music brings so much to life. It’s joyful, it’s passionate, it’s emotive, it’s educational, it’s grounding, it’s developmentally stimulating, it offers employment opportunities. There is so much value to it.