After attending your child’s music lesson, you leave the studio and head to the car. You unlock the car and load child and violin into the back, thinking about what you are going to make for dinner that night. You then remember that you have an important meeting at work tomorrow and a dentist appointment the following day. The dog also needs to go on a walk this evening. You’re driving home and a thought crosses your mind – “what was it that the music teacher said my child needed to practice?”
Taking effective notes during your child’s music lesson can help overcome this common memory slip and make practice easier. Below are some tips to ensure good note taking technique in a music lesson:
HAVE A TEMPLATE
Bring a designated notebook to music lessons or a binder of templates that you can fill in. Music teachers appreciate it when parents take the initiative to take good notes in the lesson as it leaves their attention free to work with the student. You could also take notes on your phone but this has a downside – if your child is old enough to practice well on their own, they are going to need to see the notes you took during their lesson which would require giving them your phone for their practice session (download my templates here).
Key features include:
Sections: Divide your notes or template into sections such as technique/scales, working piece(s), review piece (s), polish piece(s), how to practice, how much to practice, specific struggles or focus points
Focus Point: Include the focus point or goal of the week. The music teacher may explicitly say the goal, “the goal this week is to ensure the violin is off to the side.” The goal may also be implied - listen to what the music teacher is telling your child multiple times. If they tell your child to keep their left wrist straight MANY times, focus on that during the weekly practice.
Practice is not going to be easy if you get home and have no notes to act as a reminder. Equally frustrating is getting home and not being able to understand your notes. If you are unsure about what the music teacher is talking about or would like further clarification, just ask. This will ensure that both yourself and your child understand the expectations and what must be practiced at home.
USE IMAGES AND VIDEO
Some things can be better understood through images or videos. Ask your music teacher if they are comfortable with you taking pictures or videos. This can be particularly helpful if you notice a teaching moment you’d like to capture. For example, if the music teacher praises the student for their amazing violin bow hold, take a picture! Pictures or videos can provide a clear reference.
LEARN WITH YOUR CHILD
It can be daunting for parents that have no musical background to take notes in a music lesson – “what should I write down? How do I write that? What does this musical notation mean?” View note taking as an opportunity to learn alongside your child. This could be your opportunity to learn to read music, to understand musical symbols, and to develop a shorthand for quick note taking. And once again, ask questions! Practice is difficult enough sometimes and life can get crazy busy – control what you can control and take effective notes so that practice becomes a little less stressful, a little less confusing, and hopefully, a little more fun!
Hayley Janes is a violin teacher and the Suzuki Coordinator at Upper Beaches Music School. She is passionate about finding fun and innovative ways to engage her students during their lessons. When she is not playing the violin, Hayley enjoys reading, being outside, and watching movies with family and friends.