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Getting the most out of a lesson

A lot of my students don’t have to foot the bill for flute lessons, their parents usually pay. Sometimes this can lead to kids getting into the routine of showing up for a lesson just to get through it. Another problem is that, at school, kids get accustomed to being force fed information and so they get in the habit of listening but maybe not truly paying attention. I believe flute lessons should, most importantly, be desired by the student taking the lesson. If the desire is there, then perhaps what I’m getting ready to say will be achievable by the student.

Think of every minute with your private instructor as valuable because when you consider the price per minute, it truly is valuable! Also consider how much time per week you spend with this instructor, (most of my students are on 1 hour per week lessons), so realistically you’re going to have to do most of your learning at home on your own. Here are my suggestions on how to get the most out of this precious time…

1. Never take your eyes or ears off your instructor!

I’m sure almost every flute instructor will have their own flute ready to go in order to demonstrate at times. As soon as your instructor picks up their instrument, you should be watching their every move. Pay attention to how they stand and hold the flute. Watch how close they keep their fingers to the keys (even when they are not pressing them). Watch their embouchure, see how it adjusts to every note. Pay attention to how there are only curves in their joints and no 90% angles.

There is so much detail to get used to that sometimes it’s quicker to learn by example and not to wait for your instructor to say anything to you.

2. Try not to make your instructor repeat themselves!

If I ask a student to fix a problem then I mean it, it needs to get fixed. Sometimes I can offer suggestions on how to fix it but ultimately, once the student is aware of the problem, they need to get it fixed ASAP….  No Excuses! It can be a hand position, a headjoint position, how they stand, etc.

Sometimes I find I have to repeat myself when it comes to how to practice. For instance, I have a 4 step method on how to learn a new piece. I teach rhythm and subdividing based on foot tapping and I require students to pencil in arrows below the notes to indicate the movement of the foot based on the length of the note. I find this method to be a solid way to teach sight reading. If my students trust my method then they should immediately have foot marks for all the music they are learning, whether or not I have asked them to.

3. Devote the same time everyday to preparing for your lesson as what the length of the lesson is.

In order to be able to get through all that you are working on in a lesson, you need to be able to zip through your warm ups, scales, etudes, solos and duets. Don’t allow the lesson to be the time you learn these. Once you have been taught how to learn a new piece, then you should be able to learn your music at home. The instructor needs to hear how well you improve on your own and then they can coach you as to what to work on next. They can  continue to assign more difficult scales and etudes and coach you on phrasing, they shouldn’t have to repeat what you work on in a lesson every week.

Finally…

4. Come to a lesson ready to learn.

This includes being properly nourished and well rested as well as keeping an open mind that you might actually learn something new. You should know ahead of time when your lesson is each week, including what day and time, take advantage of knowing this ahead of time so you can plan your meals, make sure you get plenty of water and do what you can to make sure you are well rested. Also, prepare your mind to learn. A lesson is not the time to show off everything you already know and also, if you have too many reasons to reject your instructor’s methods of teaching then you are wasting your time and money as well as your teachers time, in other words make sure you are taking lessons from someone you are willing to learn from!

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