Good Practices for In Home Music Lessons

In-home music lessons can be a wonderful thing for families. You are in the comfort of own home in a familiar surrounding, and able to use all your own instruments and equipment for the lesson.  It is convenient to not have to deal with traffic and parking or finding childcare.  In-home music lessons are perfect for families with a very busy schedule and/or young children in the household and also tend to create a closer bond between the teacher, parent and student.  Your home is naturally nurturing, and the teacher starts to feel like a family member after a while.  Also, lessons in the home can inspire siblings, friends or even parents to decide to sign up for music lessons.  However, with an in-home lesson, the environment must be chosen and set up carefully, and it is easy to fall into bad habits due to the relaxed nature of being in your own home.  Below are a few tips and practices for parents of in-home students to help create a focused and productive learning environment.










The Very Best in Piano and Keyboard Selection

Savage Classical Guitar
Classical Guitars – Accessories – Sheet Music – Repairs & Refinishing

Early Movement and Ballet Exercises for Toddlers

creative_movement1Dance schools normally start dance classes for young children at age 3, and from age 3-5 children are normally enrolled in a class called “Creative Movement”, which combines basic ballet positions and movements with periods of free expression and creative movement visualization exercises, and depending on the teacher, other styles of dance or activities to get the children started moving to music and working together.  Most toddler and preschool age children respond enthusiastically to music, so if your child is not yet 3 years old but you want her to get started with dance, or if you are still considering enrolling in a formal dance class, this will introduce you to some simple positions and moves to get her started that you can try in your own home.  The will help to develop motor skills and introduce basic ballet terminology.  You can work with any music that you and your child enjoy.

1. Stretching – Before any dance class, there will always be a short period of stretching to ensure that the dancers don’t  hurt themselves.  Toddlers are usually limber and will enjoy doing these simple stretches. It will help them maintain that limberness in their body as they grow older.  Don’t force any of these stretches, everything should feel comfortable for your toddler.Toe touches – Demonstrate how to sit on the floor with legs straight out in front.  Have your toddler try to touch her toes and encourage straight legs if possible.

 2. Creative Movements – Try some of the imaginative exercises below to help your child start moving creatively and challenging herself.

    1. Have your child imagine she is a frog by standing on all fours and hopping around the room.
    2. Have your child pretend she is popcorn kernels about to burst inside a popcorn machine. You can cont to three together and then jump like popcorn popping.
    1. Have her pretend she is a tree with branches swaying gently in the breeze
    2. Have her imagine she is a flower growing and opening in the sun. She can start on the floor and begin to stand up, slowly opening and raising her arms as the flower opens up. She can pretend her arms are the leaves and stretch up as high as she can, then open her arms wide as she imagines the sun opening the petals.

 3. Ballet Positions and Movements – For this portion, you will want to have a chair available that is sturdy enough for her to use as a ballet bar.  These activities will improve her balance and refine her motor skills and muscles.  You can also teach her the ballet terms as you do the activities.


Source –

Purchasing Your First Guitar

Beginner Guitarist When shopping for your first guitar, the choices can be overwhelming. With so many options, styles and sounds, beginners can get lost searching for a guitar that is right for them. This post offers advice to all inexperienced guitar players to help navigate their search for the best first guitar!

Deciding on a Budget

The first and most important step to take in choosing your first guitar is to decide on a budget. Your dedication to your guitar and lessons will help determine your price range. If you’re going to be dedicated, purchase a more high-end guitar that will stand the test of time. If you’re taking up the guitar as more of a hobby, consider purchasing a more affordable guitar.

Once you have decided on a budget, make the salesperson aware of how much you intend to spend. Leave space in your budget for accessories as well. Many brands have a range of guitars, from inexpensive starter guitars to pricy, professional styles. $200-$300 should will get you a beginner guitar. Stores often offer deals, so you may be able to find a starter guitar on sale.

Electric or Acoustic?

It is important to determine whether you are going to play an electric or an acoustic guitar. The acoustic guitar is the most common for beginners, as it is more difficult to make a sound with an acoustic guitar, forcing you to strengthen their fingers and hands. If your  ultimate aim is to play an electric guitar, starting with an acoustic guitar helps to build strength and dexterity so that you can switch to an electric guitar with ease. Another benefit of an acoustic guitar is that they are portable and less expensive, as they are a self-contained unit.

Conversely, you can also start with an electric guitar. It is easier to make a pleasing sound on the electric guitar, which may inspire you to stay committed to lessons. The electric guitar can be played with or without the amp, but are often more of an expense than acoustic guitars.

There is also the choice of an electric-acoustic guitar – an acoustic guitar that can also be amplified. This is a good choice if you plan on doing stage performances of any kind.

The most important consideration when choosing between an acoustic or electric guitar is your musical and stylistic interests. If the ultimate goal is to back up vocals as a singer-songwriter, to play folk, jazz, or classical guitar, the acoustic guitar is the best starting choice. If you’re more into rock, punk or metal, or enjoy soloing and learning riffs, the electric guitar is the best choice. As you progress in your lessons, you will learn more about what type of guitar best suits your needs.

Choosing A Brand & Store

It is best to choose a well-known and respected guitar brand like Fender, Ibanez, Martin, Taylor or Gibson. These brands have been trusted in the industry for years. The Fender Squier or the Fender Standard Stratocaster are some of the top rated electric guitars for beginners.  Epiphone also make excellent starter guitars, modeled after the famous Gibson Les Paul. Yamaha is another well-rated brand, and offer lower-priced beginner electric and acoustic guitars.

For acoustic guitars, the Martin and Taylor Brands are highly recommended, along with Yamaha and Epiphone. The Seagull S6, in a slightly higher price bracket, is often top-rated in online listings of beginner acoustic guitars. Sam Ash and Guitar Center are two of the best places to go to buy a beginning guitar. They have a wide selection, helpful and knowledgeable staff who are also trained musicians, as well as deals and discounts.  Visit their websites to find the most convenient location for you.

You can also purchase a beginner guitar from local music shops, pawn shops or individuals looking to sell a used instrument. You may find a better price from a pawn shop or an individual selling their guitar, but remember to inspect and play the guitar before purchase. If possible, bring someone experienced who can confirm the instrument is not damaged.


Sizing Guitars

For younger children, half-size and ¾ size guitars are available. The child should be present, and the staff will be able to tell you which size is most appropriate.  For very young children, some teachers recommend starting on a ukulele, which is similar to a guitar.

If you are a young teen or adult, ask the salesperson to show you a few different sized models within your budget. Keep in mind the look of the guitar as well. Hold the guitar standing up and sitting down. Make sure your arms and fingers can comfortably reach along the neck and in between the frets, that your other hand feels comfortable strumming, and that the body of the guitar doesn’t feel to heavy or unwieldy.

After finding a guitar that is comfortable, consult with the sales staff about the guitar’s tuning. Test the strings and listen for buzzes, pops or other noises that seem strange. Repeat this process for each string, and listen for any sounds that seem “non-musical”. With electric guitars, there are different pickups, effects, and pedals included with the guitar. Consult with a sales representative about how what type of amplifier will work best with the electric guitar of your choice.


Leave some room in your budget to purchase accessories for your guitar. Guitar picks, an extra set of strings, a tuner, a strap and a case are the most important accessories for beginners.

Follow these tips when purchasing your first guitar to get the most out of the instrument and your lessons.

Main Line Music Teachers Discuss the Value of Student Recitals

Main Line School always holds a music recital December before the holidays, and this year the recital took place last weekend at Eastern University.  Music students of all ages, levels, instruments and styles are encouraged to take part in the recitals.  Students get to choose the pieces they would like to perform, how they perform and how they choose to present themselves.   While some students may dress comfortably in jeans, sneakers and t-shirts, or guitar and drum students may wear their coolest rock and roll gear, other students are dressed in their holiday best: full 3-piece suits for the boys, elaborate dresses for the girls. The ages range from barely out of toddler-hood to school-age children, teens, adults and seniors, and the styles performed are everything from heavy metal to Beatles to classical compositions to original songs written by students.  You may see teenagers (male and female) shredding on the guitar or pounding the drums to a punk rock backing track, or young, serious, impeccably dressed children playing classical pieces on the piano and violin, and young singers performing show tunes. There will be preschool-aged children just starting out on their musical path.   The variety of the style, level, age and appearance is fascinating to watch, and gives the audience a sense of the individuality and unique identity of each student.  It also creates an atmosphere of openness and acceptance. Says teacher Andrew Behringer, “it is a very loose, care-free environment, no one’s judging you, no one is winning or losing, it’s just people getting together to show where they are at. And it’s interesting because there are all different instruments, all different skill levels, and you get to hear where everyone else is at.”

guitar_2We spoke with some of the Main Line music teachers to get their feedback on why they think live performance and participation in the music recitals are important.  Teacher Anna Sgambato acts as MC for the music recitals, offering a special compliment for each participant after their performance. Anna teaches multiple instruments from piano to strings and woodwinds, and truly believes that music can change the world. She is a proponent of recital participation for quite a few reasons. “A recital performance can help you to come out of your shell, especially for a shy child.  It will help you learn to keep your cool in a stressful situation and this will build self-confidence.  Students will also develop self-control and the understanding of how to handle themselves with poise and grace.”  Anna believes that attire and stage etiquette is important. She teaches her students to own their stage performance, to take a bow afterwards, and appropriate outfits to wear on stage.  Goal-setting and practice are other benefits of the recital, according to Anna, “having that deadline that you know you will need your piece ready for teaches you to set goals and deadlines, something that has been lost a bit in today’s society.  It also inspires you to practice more than normal, since you have to have your piece ready for the recital.”

voice_4Jamie Wunder, a piano and voice teacher at the school as well as music director for a local church, works very hard every year to not only put together a well-prepared group of students for the recital, but to ensure their performances run smoothly. Jamie is onstage with most of her students, helping with accompaniments, moral support and page turning. “There are many reasons why recitals are good for students.” Jamie says, “First and foremost it gives the student a sense of responsibility, accomplishment, and importance.” She believes that feeling of importance inspires many students to want to continue working with their instruments. She continues, “It is important for parents to see their children succeed and understand the value of music lessons. Recitals also help parents see what their child has been working on and has accomplished so far.”  Jamie explains that recitals are also good for teachers, “to keep ourselves up to date and ‘in tune’ with our students, and to continue to give them a purpose to keep coming back to their lessons.”  She sums up her point of view with this statement, “These moments make someone face their fears, have courage, and feel important even if only for a few minutes. They help shape us as musicians and performers.”

Andrew Behringer teaches guitar and piano, but he specializes in bringing out the creative spirit in his students. He encourages his students to write their own songs and experiment with improvisation. He makes a point of being on stage with every one of his students, accompanying them on guitar, setting up microphones and amps, tuning them up and adjusting volume. He often records accompaniment tracks to help his students feel more comfortable performing and, if his students enjoy singing, he suggests that they sing along with their guitar or piano playing.  “The recitals are always a lot of fun,” says Andrew, “and I never had a student who didn’t enjoy doing them.”  He encourages his students with these inspirational words, “I always say if you have any inclination to perform in the future or if this is something you are looking to get into, take this opportunity.  It’s not a competition; it’s about you personally showing off what you’ve accomplished. You’ll have plenty of time to prepare for it and get something that you’re really confident with, and it’s up to you how serious you want to take it.”  Andrew discusses the preparation that goes into learning a song for live performance, “I consider it a different level of learning”, he says, “you may have a song that is just in your repertoire, but you’ll have to get the song to what I call ‘performance level’, which entails spending the extra time on a song to get it as close to flawless as possible. It’s not something we do with every piece.”  Furthermore, he believes that performing teaches the important lesson ‘the show must go on’, “Once you start playing you have to keep going. It is very different from practicing alone. If you want to play with a band, or with anyone else at all, you know that once the song starts, there is no stopping or re-starting.”

drums_1Julie Susi teaches voice and piano lessons at Main Line School, and when she is not teaching she is working as a professional opera singer. Julie takes what she has learned in her experience auditioning and working with stage directors to assist her students in developing their own stage skills.  “It’s a good way to get experience performing in a safe environment, because everyone wants you to succeed; to show off all of the hard work you put into your instrument, to show people how talented you are, and to share an expression of yourself with others.  Stage performance helps my students develop their self-esteem and a build a higher sense of self-worth.  They did something they didn’t think they could do, and they want to do it again. I feel like it also helps them to cope with anxiety and nerves.”

If you, or a child of yours, is a music student, we hope this blog will help you understand the value of live performance,  as well as the unique setting that Main Line School provides for students to express themselves and share what they’ve learned in a low-pressure environment.  The hard work of our music teachers and students pays off for years to come in a multitude of ways.

To watch videos from past Main Line School Music Recitals click here

More information about the diverse and unique team of dedicated music teachers: click here

The Benefits of Learning a Musical Instrument

New research shows that musicians’ brains are highly developed in a way that makes the musicians alert, interested in learning, disposed to see the whole picture, calm, and playful. The same traits have previously been found among world-class athletes, top-level managers, and individuals who practice transcendental meditation. – Science Daily

As the new year approaches, it is time again to make decisions about which extracurricular program to enroll your children in.  To assist you in considering a musical instrument or musical program for your child, we did some research into the benefits of playing musical instruments, and the results were quite surprising.  Apparently, a musical education, especially one starting in childhood, literally changes the pattern of the electrical activity in the brain.   It contributes to everything from confidence and social skills, improving learning capacity and motor skills, to promoting relaxation, peace of mind, and a sense of happiness and harmony. It can help with academic achievements, time management, focus and concentration, and has proven benefits for children with learning disabilities such as autism and dyslexia, as well as people with emotional disorders such as depression and anxiety. Because playing music combines physical practice with academic/analytical study and intuitive/creative communication and emotional expression, the benefits of playing music connect with almost every aspect of the life of the student. Below are just a few of the amazing benefits of learning and playing a musical instrument.

People who play music or have studied music are shown to have more coordinated frontal lobes, which are used for higher brain functions such as logical thinking and organizational skills. Their EEGs showed an increase in alpha wave activity, which occur when connections are made between the details and the whole, aiding in creative thought processes.   It has been suggested that musicians tend to be economical when using their brain resources, which makes them more alert and focused; ready to act when necessary but calmer in everyday situations.

For beginning musicians, developing a quality practice routine can be challenging.  They must set aside the time and mental space, and for the practice to be successful, they also need to set goals and manage tasks.  They may need to adjust their routine as they discover what works and what does not, and tweak the routine as their playing level increases.  Once they begin to see progress, they will be motivated to continue their practice. Understanding the value of self-motivation can be applied to other areas of life such as education, employment and personal transformation.

Due to the hectic pace of modern life and the influence of television, the internet and other media, the ability to concentrate is becoming increasingly difficult.  It is easy to lose one’s sense of focus and hence be unable to live up to one’s full potential.   Music practice can help with the ability to concentrate for longer periods of time and develop a deeper sense of focus.

It has often been stated that the smartest and most successful people are also the most creative.  As musicians become proficient in their craft, a whole new level of creativity opens up to them.  They may start to be more playful and experimental.  They can write their own melodies using their personal words, thoughts and feelings. They can also begin to relate emotionally to the pieces they are learning. Music can be a safe way to express emotions and communicate thoughts and feelings, which may lead to an elevated sense of inner peace and well-being.

When first picking up an instrument, it is difficult to make even one note that sounds pleasing to the ear, let alone an entire melody.  In a world where instant gratification is often expected and where confidence is easily shattered by the influence of the media, the satisfaction of having taken time and worked hard to learn something will build a deeper sense of confidence and self-esteem.  This is a confidence that runs deeper and lasts longer than confidence in one’s physical attributes or innate abilities. Furthermore, music lessons provide a safe space where students learn to accept constructive criticism and to make a positive change from seemingly negative feedback.  Understanding that no one is perfect and all human beings follow the same process towards self-improvement can lead to overcoming confidence issues.

Playing music has been proven to relieve stress and is used in therapy to treat children and teens with depression, anxiety and other disorders.  Expressing yourself through music is an emotional release and can lead to a feeling of well-being in all aspects of your life. The sense of self-esteem gained from successes in musical achievement and performances can counter-act depression. Furthermore, the intrinsic rhythms that accompany melodies have a soothing quality for children.

Since ensemble playing is an important part of musical education, music students will have the opportunity to build social skills and make friends by being part of group lessons, orchestras, and jazz, rock or marching bands.  Some children who are drawn to music can be shy or introverted, and their musical education may offer them a whole new language to be able to communicate with others and make friends with similar interests.  Ensemble playing can also teach collaboration and teamwork skills that will be useful in future educational and professional situations.

Playing most musical instruments require strong, quick movements of the hands, arms, and/or feet, which helps to develop hand/eye coordination and motor skills.  They often require different types of movements simultaneously with both hands or hands and feet, which help to develop coordination in the small and large muscle groups of the body. This can assist with other physical pursuits such as sports or dance, and may be helpful to a student who seeks a career that requires a high level of coordination between the mind and the body.

Often the most interesting and direct way to learn something is through an actual activity, as opposed to just reading about it or hearing someone talk about it. Music in the United States is a rich cultural melting pot, and music education can be an excellent tool to learn about other historical periods and other cultures.   Different musical styles, such as the various traditions of classical, jazz, folk, rock, etc., generally reflect the cultural environment of the time and place of their creation.  There may be fascinating back stories that will inspire the student on how to best play the piece. Songs from other cultures, or inspired by other cultures, use different types of rhythms or chord structures. Students can learn about instruments from other cultures such as bongos or mandolins, as well as the history and cultural significance of commonly used instruments.

Most people, at some point in their educational, professional or artistic career, will need to speak in public or perform onstage.  Almost everyone gets stage fright. Even professional performing artists will get stage fright before a performance.  It never completely goes away, but with practice it can be dealt with and managed.  Since music study tends to be goal-oriented, and the goal is ordinarily a live performance, music students will have many chances to practice their stage presence and hone their performance skills throughout their lives.


Science Daily – Science News- Musician’s Brains Highly Developed

Effective Music Teaching : 18 benefits of playing a musical Instrument – 6 Benefits of Music Lessons

5 Ways to Get the Most Out of Music Lessons

These guidelines will help you to have a successful, rewarding experience learning an instrument. These are practical tips that we have discovered from years of teaching and our experiences with teaching hundreds of students each year.

1. How Young is too Young- Starting at the Right Age Adults can start any instrument at any time. Their success is based on how willing an adult is to commit to practicing. We teach many beginner students in their 60’s and 70’s.

For children, starting at the right age is a key element to the success of their lessons. Some people will tell you “the sooner the better”, but this attitude can actually backfire and have  negative effect. If a child is put into lessons too soon, they may feel overwhelmed and frustrated and want to stop lessons. The last thing you want to do is turn a child off music just because they had one unpleasant experience which could have been prevented. Sometimes if the child waits a year to start lessons their progress can be much faster. Children who are older than the suggested earliest starting age usually do very well. The following are guidelines we have found to be successful in determining how young a child can start taking music lessons.


At our school, 5 years old is the youngest age that we start children in private piano lessons. At this age, they have begun to develop longer attention spans and can retain material with ease. In some cases, we have started exceptionally bright 3 and 4 year olds that have good attention spans..

Guitar – Acoustic, Electric and Bass

6 years old is the earliest we recommend for guitar lessons. Guitar playing requires a fair amount of pressure on the fingertips from pressing on the strings. Children under 6 generally have small hands and may find playing uncomfortable. Bass guitar students generally are 9 years old and older.

Voice Lessons

We have voice students that are as young as 5 years of age. Some will argue that this a bit too young, but we have had terrific results with our younger voice students (as well as our teenage and adult voice students).


The average age of our youngest drum student is 7. This varies greatly depending on the size of the child. They have to be able to reach both the pedals and the cymbals.

Flute, Clarinet & Saxophone

Due to lung capacity (and in the case of the saxophone the size of the instrument), we recommend that most woodwind beginners are 9 and older.


We accept violin students from the age of 5. Some teachers will start children as young as 3, but experience has shown us the most productive learning occurs when the beginner is 5 or older.


The trumpet requires physical exertion and lung power. 8 years and older is a good time to start the trumpet.

2. Insist on Private Lessons When Learning a Specific Instrument

Group classes work well for preschool music programs, and theory lessons. However, when actually learning how to play an instrument, private lessons are far superior since in private lessons it is hard to miss anything, and each student can learn at their own pace. This means the teacher does not have to teach a class at a middle of the road level, but has the time and focus to work on the individual student’s strengths and weaknesses. For that lesson period, the student is the primary focus of the teacher. The teachers also enjoy this as they do not have to divide their attention between 5 – 10 students at a time and can help the student be the best they can be.

3. Take Lessons in a Professional Teaching Environment

Learning music is not just a matter of having a qualified teacher, but also having an environment that is focused on music education. In a professional school environment a student cannot be distracted by t.v., pets, ringing phones, siblings or anything else. With only 1/2 to one hour of lesson time per week, a professional school environment can produce better results since the only focus at that time is learning music. Students in a school environment are also motivated by hearing peers who are at different levels and by being exposed to a variety of musical instruments. In a music school, the lessons are not just a hobby or sideline for the teacher but a responsibility which is taken very seriously.

4. Make Practicing Easier

As with anything, improving in music takes practice. One of the main problems with music lessons is the drudgery of practicing and the fight between parents and students to practice every day. Here are some ways to make practicing easier:


Set the same time every day to practice so it becomes part of a routine or habit. This works particularly well for children. Generally the earlier in the day the practicing can occur, the less reminding is required by parents to get the child to practice.


We use this method quite often when setting practice schedules for beginners. For a young child 20 or 30 minutes seems like an eternity. Instead of setting a time frame, we use repetition. For example, practice this piece 4 times every day, and this scale 5 times a day. The child then does not pay attention to the amount of time they are practicing their instrument, but knows if they are on repetition number 3 they are almost finished.


This works very well for both children and adult students. Some adults reward themselves with a cappuccino after a successful week of practicing. Parents can encourage children to practice by granting them occasional rewards for successful practicing. In our school we reward young children for a successful week of practicing with stars and stickers on their work. Praise tends to be the most coveted award – there just is no substitute for a pat on the back for a job well done. Sometimes we all have a week with little practicing, in that case there is always next week.

5. Use Recognized Teaching Materials

There are some excellent materials developed by professional music educators that are made for students in a variety of situations. For example in piano, there are books for very young beginners, and books for adult students that have never played before. There are books that can start you at a level you are comfortable with. These materials have been researched and are continually upgraded and improved to make learning easier. These materials ensure that no important part of learning the instrument can inadvertently be left out. If you ever have to move to a different part of the country, qualified teachers and institutions will recognize the materials and be able to smoothly continue from where the previous teacher left off.

Most Importantly . . HAVE FUN!!

Music should be something that you enjoy for a lifetime. So, try not to put unrealistic expectations on yourself or your children to learn too quickly. Everyone learns at a different pace and the key is to be able to enjoy the journey.

Music Recital – Saturday

The June Music Recital will take place at Rosemont College (1400 Montgomery Ave., Rosemont, PA 19010) on Saturday, June 23rd, 2013 in the McShain/Brown Hall.

Set 1 – 10:30am

Set 2 – 1:00pm

Ticket Info – TBA

Click here for map and directions to Rosemont College

Click here for campus map