Marion Music Academy

How to get the most out of Music and Dance Lessons

These guidelines will help you have a successful, rewarding experience at Music and Dance Academy. These are practical tips that we have discovered from years of teaching .

Getting the Most out of Music Lessons

6 Ways To Get The Most Out Of Music Lessons

These guidelines will help you have a successful, rewarding experience learning an instrument. These are practical tips that we have discovered from years of teaching .

1. When is the best time to start?

Adults can start lessons at any time. Their success is based on how willing the adult is to commit to practicing. We teach many beginning adults who are in a variety of life stages.

Starting students at the right age is one key to success. If a child is put into lessons too soon, they can become frustrated and want to quit. 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 progress very well.

Piano/Keyboard: 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.

Guitar-Acoustic, Electric and Bass: 7 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 9 generally have small hands and may find playing on a junior-sized guitar more comfortable. Bass guitar students generally are 10 years old and older.

Voice: 11 years old is recommended as the youngest age for private vocal lessons. Due to physical nature of voice lessons (proper breathing techniques, development of the vocal chords and lung capacity), the younger body is generally not yet ready for the rigors of vocal techniques.

Violin/Viola/Cello: We accept violin students from the age of 5, but some children can start as young as 4 1/2. At this age, the student will progress well if the parent is willing to assist them in their practice at home. The teacher can tell you what to help them with even if you know nothing about music. Due to the size of the instrument, most cello lessons start at 10 years of age or older.

Saxophone, Clarinet, Flute, and Oboe Lessons: Our private saxophone, oboe, flute, and clarinet lessons start from age 10 onwards. Earlier than age 10, a student typically does not have the lung capacity and strength to handle these instruments. Saxophone lessons, clarinet lessons, flute lessons, and oboe lessons are offered in 30 minute, 45 minute and 1 hour lengths.

Trumpet/French Horn/Trombone/Tuba/ Euphonium: Brass instruments require physical exertion and lung power. Students who are starting 5th grade can begin French horn, trombone, tuba and euphonium lessons.

Drums: The average age of our youngest drum student is 9. Students are able to get started by practicing on practice pads before purchasing or renting a drum set.

2. Choose a school which offers a choice of group or individual lessons for beginners.

Different students require different teaching approaches. Some students progress best with the peer interaction and class motivation of a group session. Other students prefer the focused concentration of an individual one on one lesson. Once a student is more advanced it will be necessary to take private lessons to master the advanced techniques of an instrument or voice with individual attention. Make sure that your student has the option to select the learning style that is best suited for them.

3. Take lessons in a professional 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, the teacher and the student cannot be distracted by t. v., pets, phones, siblings, or anything else. A professional school environment can produce better results since the only focus of the instructor and the student during the lesson is learning music. In a music school, the lessons are not just a hobby or extra income for the teacher but a responsibility which is taken very seriously.

4. Make practicing easier.

Improving in music takes "bench time". 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 more enjoyable:

TIME: Schedule practice time into your daily routine just as you do for homework and other activities so it becomes a habit. Try to schedule a time when the student is alert and productive such as after school or as part of their homework rather than when they are exhausted. When practicing, please maintain an environment free of distractions such as the TV, siblings, phone calls, and negative comments. This will make practicing more productive and develop their concentration skills.

REPETITION: We use repetition rather than a set amount of time for young beginners since young children often do not have a good concept of time. For example, a student is assigned to practice this piece 4 times each day and this scale 3 times each day. The child will then know they are almost finished with the piece for the day when they finish the third repetition and will have finished a specific goal rather than trying to figure out how to fill up 20 minutes sitting with their instrument. By using repetition, most students will practice for a sufficient amount of time without realizing it.

REWARDS: This works well for both children and adults. Some adults reward themselves with a cappuccino after a successful week of practicing. For children, a small reward such as a day off from chores might be appropriate if the student accomplished a small goal such as having an excellent practice week. A larger reward could be reserved for a larger accomplishment such as the completion of a lesson book. Be creative! We reward students for their work with stickers and stars. Praise tends to be the most coveted award- there is just no substitute for a pat on the back for a job well done. Sometimes we all have a week where little gets accomplished, so there is always next week to get back on track.

5. Keep your instrument regulated and tuned.

TUNING: It is best if your piano is tuned once in the fall and once in the spring. Pianos are made of wood, felt, and metal. The wood shrinks and expands from seasonal changes which changes the length of the strings and causes it to go out of tune. Why is it beneficial to be tuned? You want your piano to sound like the teacher's piano so the student's ear will be trained to hear what is right and learn faster. Imagine sending your child to a soccer game with flip-flops. Yes, they can still run in them, but the children with the proper shoes will perform better because their equipment is more appropriate and in good condition.

REGULATION: Pianos are like cars. They need maintenance and repairs. A regulation is like getting a good tune-up for your piano. After so many miles, your car needs new tires, new antifreeze, new transmission fluid, new spark plugs, new distributor cap, the belts checked, new brake pads, among other things to put your car back into optimal running condition so it will function more efficiently. After so many years of seasonal changes and use, the felt in the piano gets compressed, the wood can get distorted from the seasonal changes, and small parts occasionally get broken from use. A regulation will put your piano back into optimal playing condition and your student will be more satisfied with practicing because their piano functions properly. Imagine having your child practice soccer at home with a flat soccer ball. The ball will not function properly so the child quickly becomes discourages and no longer wants to practice at home. The child may love playing in soccer games but hates to practice at home. With properly maintained equipment, your child will succeed better and faster with less discouragement.

6. 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. There are also excellent supplemental materials developed to correspond to the lesson book materials that can be quite motivating for students.


Music can be enjoyed for a lifetime! An instrument takes time to develop proficient skills, so try not to put unrealistic expectations on yourself or your children. Everyone learns at their own pace and should enjoy the musical journey.

Getting the Most out of Dance Classes

4 Ways to Get the Most out of Dance Classes

If most dance studios seem to have qualified, friendly teachers, experience teaching children and a big show at the end of the year, aren't they all pretty much the same? Does it really matter which place you decide to enroll at? Yes. There are 4 main things that can make a huge difference in the quality of instruction your child receives, the amount of extra work and hassles the parents must deal with and the overall enjoyment and satisfaction of being involved with a dance program. Here are 4 things that every parent should consider before deciding on a dance studio for their child.

1. What Type Of Floor Is Used?

Dance is a very physical activity that requires a lot of jumping, which can put stress on bones and joints. Most dance footwear does not provide any cushioning or support, so the shock of dance movement can place a lot of pressure on the knees and back of a dancer. The best way to prevent against potential injury is by choosing a studio with a professional "floating floor". A floating floor is a dance floor that rests on a system of high-density foam, to absorb the shock of jumping. A high-density foam base is superior to a "sprung" floor, which usually consists of a wood structure built on the regular floor. The top layer of the dance floor is also an important factor. A vinyl composite "marley" floor is accepted worldwide as the best surface layer for recreational to professional dance. Facilities such as the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, the Royal Academy of Dance in London, England, and Riverdance - The Touring Show, all use marley floors as their dance surface. A marley floor allows dancers to slide, with a degree of "controlled slip", but is not slippery so there is less risk of slips and falls. Very few studios use professional marley floors because of the expense involved, and usually opt for a regular floor tile for a studio floor. Our floating floor has over 600 high density foam blocks under the floor surface and a marley top surface. Our special floors help reduce the risk of injuries and allow students to dance longer without getting tired.

2. What Is The Size Of The Class?

If the dance class has fewer students in it each child will receive more personalized attention, learn more and have more fun. With younger students it is easier for a teacher to maintain control over the class and make sure each student understands the concepts and instructions. Our smaller class sizes make sure that no fundamental concepts are being missed. A smaller class size also allows our teachers to ensure that students are not developing bad habits or improper technique. Our studio limits all of our classes (ages 7 and up) to a maximum of just 12 students per class. With our kindergarten dance classes (ages 3 - 6) we limit all of our classes to a maximum of just 8 students per class.

3. What Are The Extras Required For The Year End Show?

Most studios put on a year end show in a professional theatre. Most studios also require parents to purchase tickets for the recital performance night and purchase their own dvd. Our studio also gives each parent 2 free tickets and one dvd for our year-end show. This way you as a parent will not be faced with any extra work or expenses.

4. Can I Get Immediate Assistance And Customer Service?

In many studios the teacher or the studio owner conducts dance classes and does the administration. By trying to do two jobs at once, the dance class may suffer as the teacher has to use class time for customer service issues, or the studio may have no customer service available if the teacher is in a class. To have a good experience it is important to choose a studio that can assist you with details like costumes or schedules, even if a teacher is occupied in a class. Our studios have office staff on hand during all regular class times, so you can get immediate assistance.

Ask any dance school, dance studio or ballet academy in the Cedar Rapids area these questions and you will see why more families choose our studio. Please call us with any questions you may have about getting the most out of your dance experience.

Try Out Music Or Dance Today!