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Which Music Lessons Would You Choose?


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Our homeschool partnership pays a certain amount for music lessons, and I would like to take advantage of that this upcoming year for my 5, 7 and 9 year olds.  My oldest wants to study guitar and the younger two piano.  I have narrowed it down to the teacher I want to use (he teaches both guitar and piano), but I am vacillating between his two options and I am looking for any music-lesson experiences or insights that might help me decide.

Option 1: Standard, weekly, 30 minute, one-on-one music lessons for each child.  This option costs more than the allotted funds, so we would be responsible for $20 per child per month - this would not be a huge hardship for us, but does factor into the decision.  Pros:  Outsourced teaching and accountability - I will, of course, supervise practice, but I wouldn't have to teach lessons, determine if they are mastering skills, decide when it is important to nit pick and when I should let things go, etc.  Also I wonder if this option would produce better results.  Cons:  Extra expense.  Logistics of lessons - do I schedule all three lessons back to back and try to keep the toddler entertained at the music teacher's home for 90 minutes?  Do we drive back and forth (20 minutes away) more than once a week?  Hard for me to sit in on the guitar lessons (since I will be supervising three other children), and with my complete lack of guitar experience I don't know how I will then gauge if he is practicing properly.

Option 2:  Online/in-person hybrid lessons...kind of a flipped classroom approach.  The teacher offers online lessons that teach various skills and songs (for both piano and guitar).  Students have in-person lessons every other week, and at the lessons the teacher assigns video lessons, homework and practice for the student to complete in the coming weeks.  During lessons the teacher focuses on form, rhythm, accessing the students skills and understanding, playing duets, etc.  Pros:  The logistics are slightly easier because I could schedule the 2 piano lessons back to back one week, and the guitar lesson on the opposite weeks.  The ability to re-watch the videos as often as necessary.  The ability to watch the videos with the kids so that I can follow along with their lessons and better facilitate practice.  No out of pocket cost for us.  Cons:  Much more of the music lesson burden rests on my shoulders.  More time between lessons for bad habits to develop (especially bad guitar habits that I don't have the experience to notice).

What would you choose and why?

Thanks.

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I would chose option 2, because that's what we're doing here in a way. ? DS and I use an online violin teacher for practice 4 days a week, usually focused on specific skills that make his playing better.  We can watch the videos first thing in the morning when he is fresh, the video component gets him in the mood to practice more than when it is just me, and we can repeat the videos to practice skills (and so I know how to help him better).  One day a week he goes to an in person teacher to work on music selections, have someone tweak his technique, and practice things like reading notes and learning rhythm.
It is absolutely perfect, especially for weeks where we have to miss a live lesson because we're out of town.  He still gets daily practice on skill and technique so he doesn't lose ground.

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In person lessons. It’s important to get the technique right from the beginning. Get the hands positioned correctly..... I can’t even imagine online lessons for music. Having said that I have seen so many kids pay for years of private lessons and they don’t even have the basics right. So in my book, if you want to do it right, get a quality teacher and pay for in person lessons. I can’t emphasizes enough quality. That’s the key. Most music teachers I see around have no business teaching. 

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I would choose option 1.  While video lessons alternating weeks might work well for older students, younger students need the personal touch.   The teacher probably wants you to stay for the 5 year old's lessons but may be okay with dropping off the older two.  If so, you could take the younger two to the park or the library or even sit in your car with a video during that hour.   Also consider how interested the 5 year old is in taking lessons.  It might be better to have him wait a year so there is not so much comparision between the progression of the 5 and 7 year old children.    

If your children will be doing Suzuki style lessons, hire a baby-sitter for the toddler.  You will need to be 100% focused on the lesson.

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2 hours ago, Roadrunner said:

In person lessons. It’s important to get the technique right from the beginning. Get the hands positions correctly..... I can’t even imagine online lessons for music. Having said that I have seen so many kids pay for years for private lessons and they don’t even have the basics rights. So in my book, if you want to do it right, get a quality teacher and pay for in person lessons. I can’t emphasizes enough quality. That’s the key. Most music teachers I see around have no business teaching. 

I soooo agree with this. My sister paid for my niece to take violin for 2 yrs. It was a fairly inexpensive and inexperienced teacher. My Dd started taking violin in Feb from an experienced violinist (masters in violin performance and studied for 3 yrs with Dr. Suzuki). 

Oh my.  My niece came to visit and tried to "correct" my dd's bow hold and left hand position.  Everything she was telling my Dd was "the right way and my Dd was wrong" was exactly what he had taught Dd NOT to do. 

Correct form is worth the $$ bc bad habits will ultimately cost more bc it will be difficult to break them.

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In person lessons. With an online lesson, it is easy for a child to learn wrong technique without a teacher to catch it, and if that is not promptly corrected it will be much harder.  Video lessons may work for an advanced student, but I would want a beginner to have weekly in person lessons.

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In-person lessons, hands down, for all the reasons mentioned so far. I agree that it's crucial for beginners to have in-person, quality instruction, in order to firmly establish good technique. I cannot overestimate the importance of that when learning to play an instrument. For those who don't have a choice (and there are many people who don't), my advice might be different.

Also, I would consider only doing lessons for the older kids and wait on the 5yo unless the 5yo is begging for it and you want to spend the extra money and time on something that can easily wait a year or two (or more). I have a master's degree in music and was trained in piano pedagogy, and I waited until age 6, both for my own kids and for the students in my piano studio. 5yo's can certainly learn to play the piano, but if you have any issues with money and/or time, you might consider waiting. Older students learn at a faster pace, so there's nothing at all lost besides the pleasure of the experience in the present. 

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I would go for option 2, at least for the piano kids.  The logistics of option 1 would have me longing to quit by the second week-unless of course you happen to live in a warm climate and the teacher is near a park or library or has a playroom in his home or you want to lock your kids in the car with screens for an extended period of time.  I really don't think the one week between the video lesson and the in person lesson is going to cause technique damage, particularly since it sounds like you have some piano basics down yourself.

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I would opt for all in person lessons if you can manage it, but if that is too much travel / stress / toddler wrangling, then go the other option, as they’d still get some in person lessons. Major technique issues usually come from either an incompetent teacher, or a completely self taught student.

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16 hours ago, Roadrunner said:

In person lessons. It’s important to get the technique right from the beginning. Get the hands positioned correctly..... I can’t even imagine online lessons for music. Having said that I have seen so many kids pay for years of private lessons and they don’t even have the basics right. So in my book, if you want to do it right, get a quality teacher and pay for in person lessons. I can’t emphasizes enough quality. That’s the key. Most music teachers I see around have no business teaching. 

I think what's important is that the teacher knows how to teach.  We've had two in-person teachers for violin.  Because they only worked on trouble areas once a week, it was hard to get hand position and body just right. The one just wanted my son to love playing (he does) and the other works with him on technique, but it's too easy for him to say "but my teacher doesn't want me to do that!" when I try to correct him at home. By using an online teacher who is actually focusing on those things 4 days a week and breaking every single step down, he's starting to make real progress. 
Online lessons have changed quite a bit since they first started.  Now there's the option of having Skype-like classes or recorded + a live call when needed.  It's everything except having the teacher actually touch the student.

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11 minutes ago, HomeAgain said:

I think what's important is that the teacher knows how to teach.  We've had two in-person teachers for violin.  Because they only worked on trouble areas once a week, it was hard to get hand position and body just right. The one just wanted my son to love playing (he does) and the other works with him on technique, but it's too easy for him to say "but my teacher doesn't want me to do that!" when I try to correct him at home. By using an online teacher who is actually focusing on those things 4 days a week and breaking every single step down, he's starting to make real progress. 
Online lessons have changed quite a bit since they first started.  Now there's the option of having Skype-like classes or recorded + a live call when needed.  It's everything except having the teacher actually touch the student.

Option 2 is online videos + in-person lessons, not really online lessons.  The videos cover things like musical notes and time signatures.  They also introduce each new song, let the student watch the teacher play it (obviously over and over if they want/need to), go through the music counting beats and discussing finger placement, etc.

I am still VERY conflicted.  I really do hear what everyone is saying about the importance of in-person lessons, but the logistics make me very, very nervous.  My kids are not neurotypical - at least none of the boys.  My 9 year old could go through a half hour guitar lesson and come out having heard absolutely nothing because he was fixating on a stray crease in the sheet music.  If I am not right there giving his lessons at least 75% of my attention, then I'm not sure it is even worth having him take them.  My 7 year old has oppositional defiant disorder - he really needs a full time aide to optimally function in a class, and I am the only qualified, available candidate.  Not that the hybrid lessons will completely solve those issues...

I have put a lot of thought into choosing a teacher.  This teacher is not just a musician who teaches in his spare time, but a very experienced, early childhood music educator.  He also comes highly recommended, both for his well rounded approach to music education, and for his rapport with the kids.  There is not much feedback on his online videos yet because he has just been rolling those out in the last 6 months.

In any case, I am still trying to figure things out.  I am also thinking more deeply about my motivation for getting the kids involved in music lessons.  In actuality, having them learn to play an instrument is very low on my priority list.  My main goal is exposing them to making music in a low-stress environment.  I want them to have a basic understanding of how to read music and how you can play written music with instruments.  I want them exposed to foundational musical concepts like pitch, rhythm and tempo.  I want to use instrument playing as another opportunity for small muscle exercise, something my older two very much need.  And I want to expose them to, and coach them through expected behavior, in a lesson setting.  The last might be the most important for us - social interactions are hard for my boys - which, obviously, would be an argument in favor of more in-person lessons, but only if I can arrange them in such a way that I can offer the boys adequate support.

Thanks for helping me think this through.

Wendy

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1 hour ago, wendyroo said:

My 9 year old could go through a half hour guitar lesson and come out having heard absolutely nothing because he was fixating on a stray crease in the sheet music.  If I am not right there giving his lessons at least 75% of my attention, then I'm not sure it is even worth having him take them.  My 7 year old has oppositional defiant disorder - he really needs a full time aide to optimally function in a class, and I am the only qualified, available candidate.  Not that the hybrid lessons will completely solve those issues...

I have put a lot of thought into choosing a teacher.  This teacher is not just a musician who teaches in his spare time, but a very experienced, early childhood music educator.  He also comes highly recommended, both for his well rounded approach to music education, and for his rapport with the kids.  There is not much feedback on his online videos yet because he has just been rolling those out in the last 6 months.

What's interesting here (being basically in the same boat with ds with ASD2 diagnosis needing significant support to participate) is that you're viewing yourself as the support person during the lessons. Have you done this with other things to know it works? When I take my ds places, he sort of pits the control between me and the other worker. It's like it's not clear, so one of us is going to get disrespected. For us, in general, it works better for it to be very clear who is in charge and for me only to be *observing* if I'm there. Like off in a corner. And honestly, for music, I wouldn't even do that. I can play piano just fine and can transfer those skills to other instruments with basic explanation just fine. So to me, I would get the dc who needs significant support: 1) on board, 2) with a person who's demeanor makes THEM able to pair well and give support, and 3) get out of the room.

To me, your idea with the videos sounds stressful. You might as well just go to guitar class yourself, learn, and come home and teach them. You're paying for weekly lessons with a human so they can have a RELATIONSHIP. If the dc is not ready to engage and have that relationship, then that's what you back up and work on. 

If you want something where the worker is more trained to carry the weight of autism and have realize when the dc is not engaged and know how to connect, you're wanting a music therapist who specializes in autism. We have them in our area and basically all the autism schools hire them. They will give lessons, yes, and they can also work on skills, do  blended sessions, anything you want. We did music therapy a few years ago and LOVED it. They had modified piano to work for my ds. If he went in and was perseverating and started saying something repeatedly, the MT would literally engage WITH him, roll WITH it, start making music that went with what HE was doing and where HE was! It was amazing. 

It's really hard to predict how things will go once you mix autism and services. What you really need to do is try it once or twice and see. You won't know till you try. For my ds, irregularity is bad. We would do better with live, in-person lessons, because it has continuity that he can get used to. I think the videos and you being forced to follow up and enforce sound like a big pain in the butt. But if he clicks with that teacher, then that's better. If he clicks with the video teacher, I'd still ask about doing in-person weekly and dumping the videos. 

Have you done any work with Zones of Regulation or other calming strategies? Do any of these dc have issues staying calm when frustrated? That's the kind of stuff a music therapist who specializes in autism is prepared to handle. An otherwise great music teacher who doesn't have that training might be overwhelmed by those behaviors. I don't see how you providing support in that setting is really practical, not if your dc has behaviors like mine. (and given the labels you're saying, I'm assuming some of the behaviors are similar) They need to be ready to regulate on the level the teacher needs OR they need a teacher able to meet them where they are. It's actually a really VALUABLE thing if they can form these relationships where they walk in, stay calm, and interact without Mom being their co-regulator. It will help with the ODD stuff by getting the number of people the dc is complying with up. But that might mean they need someone ready to handle autism.

Start small, try once. Like me, I'd take him to meet the various options, meet 'em all, see who clicks, have a short session with each one (15 minutes per kid, 30-45 minutes total) and just see how it rolls. It can involve instrument choice too. They might think they want an instrument and then try it and not like it! I like the idea of guitar, but reality is I didn't like how it felt on my fingertips. My dd really struggled to play piano because of midline issues. You're probably going to run into some curveballs you aren't expecting, so all you can do is try some things and see.

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I think I would go for 1, but not give lessons to the five year old.  I think kids that age need one on one time with a parent during the lesson, and in many cases they are better off at some sort of group music experience like Kindermusic,  or in dance.

I would try and see what you could do in terms of reducing the logistical burden.  You could for example do a lesson every two weeks for each child and alternate, so there was only one lesson a week - maybe not ideal, but I've found at that age a lot of kids end up practicing the same things that long in any case.  You could reassess next year.  It might be possible to get a sitter for just a guitar lesson every two weeks, though I'd also say at 9 students need to accept some level or responsibility for a good practice anyway.

I also might think about options for the lesson itself.  Do you really need to stay at the teacher's house - when my kids started piano, I really could not have done it if I had to sit around the teachers house with a toddler, it was full of interesting breakable stuff.  We went to the playground or I did some banking instead.  I chose dd's first guitar teacher because they had a good waiting area for kids at the school, though overall I wasn't crazy about their set-up.

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Oh, I'll also mention, my ds8 has a hard time with one on one lessons.  We started him with piano this year with a 15 min lesson, because I thought that was about his frustration level.  Sometimes I thought we could do more, but then I'd realize another week it was better that we didn't.

Interestingly, he often covered as much in the 15 min as he would have in the 30 min, as he was really focused.  Ultimately he got really stressed out about it after about six months,  and changed to a group drum lesson at the pipe and drum band, but he learned the basics of note reading so well worth it I think.

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If you need to be a support person during the lessons, could you see about hiring a sitter for your younger 2 during the lessons?  Or even a mother's helper who could come with you to the lessons?

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On 7/26/2018 at 9:54 AM, wendyroo said:

In actuality, having them learn to play an instrument is very low on my priority list.  My main goal is exposing them to making music in a low-stress environment.  I want them to have a basic understanding of how to read music and how you can play written music with instruments.  I want them exposed to foundational musical concepts like pitch, rhythm and tempo.  I want to use instrument playing as another opportunity for small muscle exercise, something my older two very much need.  And I want to expose them to, and coach them through expected behavior, in a lesson setting.  The last might be the most important for us - social interactions are hard for my boys - which, obviously, would be an argument in favor of more in-person lessons, but only if I can arrange them in such a way that I can offer the boys adequate support.

1

Have you talked to the actual teacher about these goals? So far, I think in person with only the older two sounds good. 

Also, being able to watch the videos over and over for the hybrid option would mean that one of my two wouldn't learn any actual reading of music...he would be playing entirely by ear. Even before the advent of hybrid video lessons, my DH played accordion by ear for several years before his teacher or parents caught on. Just a thought in case you have one that could be inclined that way!

I think that if these are your goals, the good news is that if these music lessons don't work out, you probably can find something that would fit these parameters without being strictly a music lesson, including Music Therapy stuff as Peter Pan is suggesting. I would not take that as a "don't try" lessons--just that you shouldn't feel boxed in to more traditional lessons if those are your (very worthwhile) goals.

On 7/26/2018 at 11:59 AM, PeterPan said:

What's interesting here (being basically in the same boat with ds with ASD2 diagnosis needing significant support to participate) is that you're viewing yourself as the support person during the lessons. Have you done this with other things to know it works? When I take my ds places, he sort of pits the control between me and the other worker. It's like it's not clear, so one of us is going to get disrespected. For us, in general, it works better for it to be very clear who is in charge and for me only to be *observing* if I'm there. 

To me, your idea with the videos sounds stressful. You might as well just go to guitar class yourself, learn, and come home and teach them. You're paying for weekly lessons with a human so they can have a RELATIONSHIP. If the dc is not ready to engage and have that relationship, then that's what you back up and work on. 

If you want something where the worker is more trained to carry the weight of autism and have realize when the dc is not engaged and know how to connect, you're wanting a music therapist who specializes in autism. We have them in our area and basically all the autism schools hire them. They will give lessons, yes, and they can also work on skills, do  blended sessions, anything you want. We did music therapy a few years ago and LOVED it. They had modified piano to work for my ds. If he went in and was perseverating and started saying something repeatedly, the MT would literally engage WITH him, roll WITH it, start making music that went with what HE was doing and where HE was! It was amazing. 

It's actually a really VALUABLE thing if they can form these relationships where they walk in, stay calm, and interact without Mom being their co-regulator. It will help with the ODD stuff by getting the number of people the dc is complying with up. But that might mean they need someone ready to handle autism.

Start small, try once. Like me, I'd take him to meet the various options, meet 'em all, see who clicks, have a short session with each one (15 minutes per kid, 30-45 minutes total) and just see how it rolls. It can involve instrument choice too. They might think they want an instrument and then try it and not like it! I like the idea of guitar, but reality is I didn't like how it felt on my fingertips. My dd really struggled to play piano because of midline issues. You're probably going to run into some curveballs you aren't expecting, so all you can do is try some things and see.

6

I agree with this pretty strongly, though I will say that there are some teachers who are not autism-trained that can do this as well. It really depends. That's one reason I wondered if you talked to the teacher.

I am fortunate to have my kids doing music lessons plus band/choir with two friends who are REALLY good with SN kids. Very out of the box. One is rather no-nonsense and would not strike you as someone who is particularly go with the flow, but she's great at adapting and making a good experience for the student.

Also, if you find a teacher that is honest about what they can handle as far as your children's behavior and attention, then that is worth a lot as well. I don't mean in a snarky way where they would opt out of teaching, but in a way where they say, "We should cut this back to 15 minutes and do thus and such the rest of the session" or "I am trying to build little rewards into this session, but I am not sure what your kid likes--what am I missing?" Considering that you wouldn't have to pay out of pocket for the 1:1 lessons, maybe lessons could even become slower paced on skills and spend some time on music appreciation that is not focused on just that instrument for the time slot. Maybe they do more hands-on broad music stuff for part of the time to keep it less intense. 

 

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