How can I get the most out of music lessons?

Congratulations! You have chosen music lessons for your child because you want the best for them. Now that you have made this important first step, we would like to assist you in defining and understanding your involvement. Here are a few of the basics to assist you in supporting your child's continuing musical education.

  • Sit with them for the first few months of lessons, as often as possible. For younger children, call it "Play Time" and not "Practice." Children need help in developing the discipline to practice on their own.
  • If possible, choose the same time and duration each day. For example, practice each day immediately after school for a minimum of 20 - 30 minutes. (Especially before everyone is too tired to practice.) If you miss a day here and there, don't be concerned. You could also try splitting the practice time into 2 equal sessions of 15 minutes - in the morning and afternoon.
  • Positive feedback is very important. Help your child through the ups and downs. Be cheerful and encouraging always. At the end of your practice session, make sure the last thing you do is fun. Do not withhold lessons as a punishment especially for not practicing. Find an alternative if you must (withholding TV, video games, computer time, etc.)
  • Years of Study. We know through years of experience that if a child stays with lessons for at least three years, he or she will have a foundation and appreciation of music that will last a lifetime. It is a priceless gift. The first year is fun. The second is more challenging. In the third year, interesting music is ready to be mastered, and your child will be considered a "musician."

What should I do when my child wants to quit?

Your child may want to quit from time to time. This is normal. Music lessons can go through difficult stages at times. It is at these times, discontinuing lessons may seem to be the obvious solution. Children who are allowed to quit rarely return to lessons. Adults who quit too early as children often wish their parents had made them "stick with it." We have never heard an adult say, "I'm glad my parents let me quit." It is often those children who take lessons with us as adults. If the subject of quitting comes up, we recommend that you be the "decision maker." A child is not capable of seeing ahead and realizing the value of a music education. We make all kinds of decisions that we know are best for our children.


How can I help my child at home?

  • Be enthusiastic yourself about practice time.
  • Be generous with encouraging remarks, even though a good effort may not have produced successful results. Treat "praise" with caution, avoid verbalizing irritation, and reward your child with love and appreciation.
  • Play the artist's recording of the music being learned. Do this casually, several times a day, without concern for whether the children are listening attentively.
  • The age of your child will be a major factor in you approach to practice. If your child is a pre-schooler, keep the elements of a game in high priority since learning takes place best when an activity is fun.
  • Find an interesting practice routine that will cover the tasks to be done.
  • Precious moments between parent and child for making music and working together should not have to be shared with a younger sibling. Make special arrangements if necessary.
  • Know (ask your teacher) what is reasonable to expect. Children learn at different rates, but excessive demands (or leniency) as a regular diet will create tensions and disinterest.
  • Actively involve your child in determining specifically what is to be learned and how to go about it. Do not tell him what the teacher said-ask him.
  • Learn how to work in very small steps-one note, two notes, a measure. Connect one small step to another and rejoice in the progress.
  • Record his practice sessions and watch together. The child is sure to get some objective feedback by seeing himself.
  • Learning the notes, fingering and other technicalities is the beginning of study for a musical piece. Only through mastery will it contribute to the building of permanent skills.
  • Once or twice a week, give a home concert for the parent who does not usually supervise the practice sessions. Include bowing and applause.
  • Sense when a practice session is over. It is more important to return to the instrument with joy and enthusiasm tomorrow than to force a few extra minutes today.

What is MSC's lesson etiquette?

The most important thing to maintain in lessons is an atmosphere in which focus is possible and encouraged. We thought it might helpful to acknowledge a few basic guidelines that will allow such an atmosphere to exist and make each lesson much more beneficial.

  • Student behavior. The relationship between the student and teacher should be that of mutual respect. While many (especially young) students develop a sense of how to act in lessons, ideally we hope that students stay physically and mentally engaged in the lesson activities. Running around the room (yikes!) and playing loudly while the teacher is speaking or demonstrating isn't suggested. Instead, we ask that students stay positive and polite and try to do what is asked of them. If a student doesn't understand what is asked of them, they are very, very welcome to ask questions!
  • Parental involvement. Parental involvement is a great way to stay up to date on your child's musical development. Please make sure that if sitting in on a lesson, there are as few additional noise distractions to the student as possible. Sometimes the presence of a parent, siblings, or other family members can take part of a student's attention away from the task at hand. If we all focus on creating a learning environment, there won't be any conflicts of interest.
  • Cell phones. All cell phones should be turned off or set to silent or vibrate during lessons. Students are not allowed to take phone calls during lessons unless it is an emergency. Visitors to the lesson are asked to take all calls outside of the room. 

What is MSC's recital etiquette?

Before the Recital

  • Performers deserve an attentive audience. When choosing to perform in a recital, one makes the commitment to remain for the entire program. Choose a time when you and your guests will be able to remain for the entire program.
  • Appropriate Attire: Wear your dress-up clothes! Girls wear dresses, skirts, or dressy pants; boys wear dress pants with a nice shirt or sweater. Please do not feel obligated to spend money for new clothes; however, proper attire shows respect to the audience as well as your own accomplishments.
  • Inappropriate attire includes: Old tennis shoes, t-shirts, jeans with holes, clogs, glitzy jewelry, and large watches. Pay particular attention to your hands! Clean hands and well groomed nails are a must.
  • Be on time. Do not come late as this makes it difficult for those performing. Try to arrive 10 minutes early to prepare yourself mentally for the performance and have an opportunity to go to the bathroom.
  • Pagers and cell phones should be turned off. Watches set to beep on the hour should also be turned off. These high-pitched beeps are distracting to everyone.

During the Recital

  • During a performance, there should be no talking or any distracting activities such as gum chewing, giggling, or whispering. If necessary, a discreet whisper to your companion may be acceptable if it occurs infrequently, but the general rule is to keep your attention focused upon the performance in front of you.
  • If it is absolutely necessary to enter or exit during the performance, it should be done discreetly, during applause, so as to avoid distractions.
  • Small children should be taken outside if they are disturbing the performance. Infants should not be brought to the recital, if at all possible.
  • Handle the recital programs quietly. It is not only distracting to the performer, but to every person in the audience.
  • We understand that this is an exciting event in your students' life that you may want to record or photograph but please do this in the least disruptive way possible. If you would like to record the performance set yourself up in a proper place before the program begins or be ready to move to the back of the room for their playing.
  • Please do not take any flash photography during the performance as this can be very distracting for the performers. Save flash photography for either before or after the recital.
  • Remember this is an opportunity to share with others your special abilities. This should not, however, be construed to be an extremely stressful time in a young musicians life. The atmosphere should be relaxed as possible and a positive experience. Have a good time making music!

Rule of thumb
Don't do anything that makes people notice you instead of the performer.


How to properly maintain your piano

Regarding Piano Tuning

All pianos -- regardless of manufacturer -- need regular maintenance and tuning to maintain quality sound and touch.

The average cost of a piano tuning visit is $120.00. The tuning includes things like adjusting the pedals, minor adjustments in the action -- also called regulation, voicing or toning the piano hammers, and minor repairs without any additional charge.

Cy Welch is a renowned piano technician. He is a member of The Piano Technicians Guild. For more information, please call Cy at 916-205-4487.

Arthur Lin has tuned pianos for many years in USA and China. For more information, please call Arthur at 530-304-7666 or email him (arthurlin77@hotmail.com).

If you mention that you are a Music Stream Center student, you will get a discount.

The more information you can also ask the technician:

Replacement of broken strings or action parts
Repairing sticking keys
Cleaning pianos
Replacing missing key tops
Repairing or replacing action parts
Miscellaneous repairs such as broken pedals, cracked sound boards, etc.

A pamphlet titled "Care of your Piano" is available at Music Stream Center and will answer many of your piano care questions.


Helpful tips on buying a used piano

If you are considering buying a used piano from a private individual rather than a store, keep in mind that stores usually perform necessary repairs and tunings before the sale and in most cases, provide a limited warranty.

When purchasing a piano from an individual, it would be helpful to follow these guidelines to avoid making a costly mistake. You may consider printing the following text for reference.

  • Identify the dollar range of your investment (i.e. $500-$750).
  • If you are using a resource such as the local newspaper, Craigslist or PennySaver, make a list of all pianos $300 above your initial range (i.e. $800-$1050) to allow for possible repairs.
  • Contact each of the individual sellers and ask for the brand name, (if not included in the ad), the serial number, and the last time the piano was serviced. The serial number is often on a brass plate mounted inside the piano. When you share this information with a technician later, he or she will be able to give you the following information: the exact year the piano was manufactured; background on the manufacturer; and the 'blue book' value of the piano based on its current condition.
  • At this point, contact a piano technician and discuss the results of your search. If the technician advises you to not consider a certain piano, take their word for it.
  • With the information given by the technician, contact each remaining seller again (those not ruled out) to arrange for an appointment to see the prospective pianos.
  • You are looking at the piano - As you walk up to the piano, and if the keys are visible as you walk up, note if the height of the keys resemble a roller coaster from one side to the other. If they do, politely thank the seller and move on to the next. If the keys are covered, uncover them, step back, and check them.
  • If the keys are O.K., check the keys for looseness - left to right - by placing your finger on the front of a key and moving left and right. If it moves more than 1/16" in either direction, note it for the technician. Check mostly those keys in the middle, the ones played most often.
  • Starting at one end, play every single key (black and white) noting any unusual things such as keys sticking, odd sounds, no sound, etc.
  • Open the piano lid. Check the felt railing inside where the hammers come to rest after striking the strings for deep indentation. Note condition of this railing as well.
  • Check the hammers of the middle keys, and the ones at each end, for split, chipped, cracked or missing heads that strike the wire. Note this also.
  • Examine the entire piano cabinet for scratches, gouges, chips, etc. to determine how the piano had been treated. Note these.
  • Check the bench to ensure it was made by the same manufacturer. It should have the same wood tone.
  • If the overall piano seems to be in fairly good condition and the price seems fair, call the technician from the seller's home and discuss the findings with him. He may ask you to put the phone near the piano and play a certain note to check the condition of the tune.

At that time, the technician will probably tell you the approximate value of the piano in its present condition and the estimated cost of repairs if any. You may then choose to offer the seller a price based on your knowledge.

Instrument rental and repair information
If you need to rent an instrument or repair your violin or cello, we recommend the following places:
Pete's Music Center in Yuba City
If you need to rent an oboe, we recommend Kline Music in Sacramento.
Contact your teacher if you need further assistance in obtaining your instrument.