If you are like most adults considering taking private music lessons, you are probably thinking, "Am I the only one that wants to do this at my age?" You may be surprised to learn that adults normally comprise 10-20% of my student load, with all kinds of ages represented. I still remember my first two students at Menchey Music – one was 6 years old and the other was 82! So it's never too late to take lessons and discover (or rediscover) the joy of making music.
You may also be wondering what private lessons are like, particularly lessons with me. Because I base my instruction on the individual personality, learning style and musical interests of each of my adult students, I cannot really describe what a “typical" lesson is like. However, I can tell you what a typical first lesson is like. It usually involves a lot of questions asked by myself about the student's musical interests, goals, and learning preferences. Here is a sample list:
What made you decide to start lessons?
What are your overall musical goals?
Do you have any specific goals like playing in a band, playing in church, performing for friends/family, or do you want to play simply for your own enjoyment?
Have you had lessons before? If not, have you ever tried playing on your own?
Have you ever studied any other instruments?
Do any of your family members or friends play piano?
What kinds of music do you like to listen to?
Who are some of your favorite musicians/composers/songwriters/singers/bands?
Are there any particular songs or pieces that you would like to learn?
Do you have a preference to learn by reading music, by ear, or both (recommended)?
Do you have any interest in creative musical activities (composing, arranging, improvising)?
What kind of piano/keyboard do you have at home?
Do you own any method books or music that you would like to use?
Do you have a perceived timetable for lessons?
Do you have any questions or concerns about anything related to lessons?
After going through these or similar questions, I try to formulate a plan, together with the student, to help us to get started. I like to make it clear to students that we can always change things up at any point, especially if they become unsatisfied with anything about what we're doing, discover a new interest, or just want to focus on a particular concept or piece of music. Since I do not endorse a “one-size-fits-all” approach to lessons or have any kind of set “program,” I very much like to get feedback about how our plan is working out and make any necessary adjustments along the way.
Although I mentioned previously that there is no such thing as a “typical” adult lesson with me, there often is a general format that I follow. If you're interested in the details about that, please see my article titled “My Tasks as a Music Instructor,” keeping in mind that there is much more flexibility in my routine for adults than there generally is for children, particularly regarding the idea of assignments...which is quite an interesting topic in and of itself. Some adult students do not want to be told what to do at all (which is fine), while others thrive under a system of accountability. Although my personal “default mode” is to give very loose guidelines in terms of weekly assignments, I'm happy to cater to the exact preferences of any individual, whether that makes me a cheerleader, coach, supervisor or even a dictator! As I always say during first lessons...I am your musical servant; whatever you want from lessons, you shall receive!
The only other thing I like to make sure adults understand up front about lessons is that the entire process of learning an instrument requires a lot of patience. In case you're wondering, I have an unlimited, inexhaustible amount of patience with all my students. Because I still practice myself on a daily basis, I am always right there with you in what it's like to constantly try to improve musically. One of the biggest surprises to adults about learning an instrument is just how much repetition is required for success. Hopefully, you will learn to enjoy the process as much as the results, as I certainly do.
Regarding practice time, I never ask adult students about how many minutes/hours they're putting in each week. However, I do occasionally remind students that daily practice, regardless of the amount of time involved, is important to build skills and establish continuity of learning. Although every student has a different musical aptitude, his/her ability level is based solely on effort. At the risk of stating the obvious, here is something for all prospective adult music students to consider: The more you learn, the more you want to practice; the more you practice, the better you get; the better you get, the more you enjoy yourself; the more you enjoy yourself, the more you want to learn; the more you learn, the more you want to practice...