Maryland Music Academy FAQs

My kid is interested in lessons, but I’m not a music person and don’t know what to expect. How do lessons work?

Please read these excellent articles available at Some Common Misconceptions about Piano Lessons, and Learning to Play the Piano

What age can my child begin lessons?

For piano or guitar, most of our teachers are happy to work with any child of age 7 or above. For children 5 or 6 years old, we can arrange an assessment lesson with a prospective instructor for a $40.00 fee. This will allow the instructor to determine if the child is ready for private lessons. Read more about the assessment here: Trial Lesson For children 4 or younger (or children 5 or 6 who the teacher feels aren’t ready to begin private music lessons) we suggest Early Childhood group classes to help prepare for private music lessons. Students studying wind instruments (flute, clarinet, trumpet, sax, etc.) or orchestral string instruments (violin, viola, cello) usually do fine starting as early as age 8 or 9. For private voice lessons an audition is required, and our instructors will work with students age 12 or older. The basic cognitive and motor skills we feel are necessary for private music lessons include all of the following:

  • Count confidently at least to 10
  • Recite the alphabet confidently
  • Recognize and write letters and numbers
  • Able to focus on 1 activity of interest for 30 minutes
  • Able to do simple addition of sums up to 10 in their head
  • Ties own shoelaces and buttons, zips, and snaps own clothes
  • Draw recognizable pictures, especially of people
  • Able to cut in a straight line with scissors
  • Stand and balance on tiptoes for short periods
  • Able to clap in (or at least along with) an even and consistent beat

If your child is able to demonstrate all of these early development skills, then feel free to complete an online registration form and please specify “assessment lesson” in the special needs section.

What if my child has special needs?

For a $40.00 fee we can arrange a 30 minute assessment meeting between the prospective student and one of our instructors. Read more about it here: Trial Lesson Please see the question above about student age for our list of necessary basic skills as reference for the special needs student.

How do I get my child to practice?

or younger beginning students, a parent must realize that they will have to practice WITH them EVERY DAY in order to achieve progress and develop their own self-motivation, at least for the first month or so. You don’t need to be a musician yourself, nor even understand the material. You also shouldn’t need to budget more than 10-15 minutes of your own time and energy each day. Simply sit with your child and ask them to play and demonstrate what their teacher has shown them that week. Usually this will be a specific page in a lesson book, perhaps a handout with an exercise or a particular musical scale. Get them to teach YOU what they have learned. If something they play or demonstrate seems insecure, then ask them to play it several times (“I like that one… play it again!”). Acknowledge and be supportive of what you see and hear as improvement from day to day.

A specific music assignment book, or a simple spiral notebook devoted exclusively to music lessons is a great way to keep informed of a teacher’s assignments, record notes on daily progress and challenges, and even communicate with the teacher if something wasn’t understood or needs clarification.

Since many kids will just want to play what they know and like, you may try letting them play whatever they want at the beginning and especially at the end of every daily practice session. Be consistent with the amount of time on practice for the assigned material each day (15 minutes is usually fine at first), but then try to allow unlimited free time at the end to play whatever they wish for as long as they wish. Eventually (and perhaps slowly), you will find that the amount of time and energy for your own involvement in the practice process will diminish.

A general family-wide respect for practice and music time is essential for keeping practice less like a chore and more like a fun and desired activity. Sometimes inspiration may strike and lead to a spontaneous practice or playing session. Obviously 3am is not always the best time for a kid to pull out and play their trumpet. Avoid creating too many cases where the idea of practice or playing has negative consequences. Even if somebody has a headache, or one of the siblings is studying for an exam, always try to find a way to make regular practice time work. If you have a digital piano or keyboard as well as a piano, then headphones can be used for practice. If it is a wind instrument, perhaps there is a room in the house that can be isolated for practice sessions. Maybe a friend in the neighborhood also plays and they can practice and play together and take turns hosting. Do what can be done to make music time work, and try to allow the practice and play time to proceed uninterrupted.

How long of a lesson should I (or my child) have?

In general we highly recommend full 1-hour lessons for all students age 13 or older; 45-minute lessons for all students younger than 13 studying band or orchestral instruments as well as students of ages 9-12 studying piano or guitar; and 30-minute lessons only for piano and guitar students age 8 and younger. It is usually better to start with a longer lesson and then cut back if there are schedule or budget considerations. This will give instructors time in the early lessons to make sure a technique is mastered and understood in the lesson so that the at-home practice between lessons will be correct.

Do you teach the Suzuki Piano Method?

Several of our teachers have used the Suzuki method. We do also feel that no one method is the best for all students, and all methods have their benefits and disadvantages. If you are looking for a Suzuki piano teacher (or a teacher for any other specific method), then we will be happy to talk to you about the benefits and disadvantages of any particular method and do our best to match you with an available teacher familiar with that method.

How long will it take me to learn _insert name of favorite song here_?

Everyone has a unique set of skills, talents, and time to devote to learning an instrument or piece of music. The more you practice, the faster your advancement will be. It will take your teacher at least a few weeks to examine your progress enough to be able to guide your instruction to achieve your specific musical goals.

What if I don’t have an instrument?

Don’t let that stand in your way! Piano students have complimentary use of our studios for practice. Guitar students can take advantage of our fantastic ‘Buy 6 Hours of Lessons and get a FREE guitar!’ promotion. We also have guitars and all band and orchestra instruments for sale or rent-to-own. We’ll do everything we can to get you an instrument so you can get started working on your dream of learning to play!

Is an electronic keyboard good enough for learning piano?

A keyboard can be a decent and reasonable way to get started and establish interest. It should have at least 61 “full-size” keys and be a “touch-sensitive” keyboard. Basically, as close to how a piano behaves the better it will be for developing proper technique. Keep in mind that any starter keyboard (short of a full digital piano) will need to be replaced with a better instrument after about 6 to 12 months of study. If you use an electronic keyboard for most at-home practice, we strongly suggest you supplement that with at least 1 practice session per week on our pianos here at the academy. Practice on our pianos is complimentary for all current and active students and can be easily scheduled with the director at 410-997-3321.

What kind of guitar should a beginner use?

Most guitar students start with a nylon string acoustic guitar (also commonly referred to as a Classical Guitar). This type of guitar works better for beginners as the strings are easier to press down and easier on the fingertips. Also, the neck and spacing of the strings are usually wider which makes it easier for students to finger strings without interfering with other strings. Although this type of guitar is usually associated with a style of playing where the strings are plucked with the fingers, students can also play using a pick and learn chord playing as well. Because this is the most common type of starter guitar, we created a special “Free Guitar with Lessons” offer for new students that features a very good student grade nylon string guitar. Please call or e-mail for details.

Do you have recitals so I (or my child) can perform?

Absolutely! We have regular performance workshops throughout the year as well as a yearly recital. These performance opportunities are almost always a completely free value-added service of studying at The Maryland Academy of Music. Learning to play for others is just as important as learning the actual instrument, and is even more important for the player’s development, confidence, self-esteem, and enjoyment!

What is your cancellation policy?

For lesson cancellations we require at least 48-hours notice (for any reason) to avoid being charged for a lesson. Establishing consistent lesson attendance and practice habits is absolutely essential in having success with music. Teachers always do their best to be understanding and accommodate situations involving sickness or emergencies and will handle these on a case-by-case basis.

Why is an audition required for voice lessons?

We have found that potential voice students have a better understanding of what our instructors can provide when we start with a vocal audition prior to making the commitment to voice lessons. We do charge a fee for the instructor’s time, as this audition is essentially a trial lesson. Even if the decision is made not to pursue voice lessons, a singer will still walk away from one of our voice auditions with a greater understanding of their vocal instrument. In the case of new or inexperienced singers, we will also provide you with suggestions and a plan for what should be accomplished or experienced prior to formal private instruction.

I have two (or more) family members who want to take lessons. Can I schedule everyone at the same time?

Scheduling options are frequently available for students to have lessons at similar times or back-to-back with the same instructor. The more flexible a family can be with their availability for lessons, the better chance we have to schedule lessons together.

Didn’t find the answer to your question here?

Please give us a call: (410) 997-3321

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