Sunday Breakfast

A while ago, me and the family went out for breakfast. Sitting beside us was a family of 3. The first thing we noticed was that everyone at the table had their iPads out…… Everyone, including the parent, had their heads down. The children playing games and the parent just browsing, (couldn’t help but notice). When their food arrived, you would have thought everyone would have put the pads away…….Nope. The whole time we were there,  the family didn’t say one word to each other, not one, and we were there for about 45 min. or so. Not to mention, it was also distracting because the game noises.

It was fairly sad to see this. Maybe I’m old school, but I’ve never seen a family so disconnected before at a dinner table. Since then I can’t help be notice this sort of thing happening everywhere. At dinner tables, in vehicles, walking through the malls, in our waiting area…’s everywhere.

Maybe it’s not as bad as I’m seeing it, (I hope), But what happened to conversation?

Since the blog is on “music lessons tips for parents, if I may suggest sitting in on your children’s lessons, (ages 3-10). Take notes, talk to the instructor, listen in on your child as he/she practices during the week, and talk to them about music, lessons, and their teachers. It’s just one more way to keep more connected to what’s going on in your children’s music lessons/education. We’ve suggested this to a few of our clients, and it’s amazing to see the difference!! With one of our clients, they always come in laughing and joking now, and the parents know exactly what’s going on during lessons. The parents also know what they should be practicing during the week. Since then, their progress has sky rocketed!!

Of course some children seem a bit intimated or nervous when their parents are in the room watching. So I would ask the instructor first what they think. Sometimes the parents in the room actually hold back progress. But either way, stay connected with the instructor, and……stay connected.

Buying A Used Drum Set?

What To Look For When Buying A Used Drum Set

  • Are cymbals included? (Hi-hats, crash cymbal, ride cymbal)
  • Are the cymbal stands included?
  • Is the Hi-Hat stand included?
  • Is a snare drum stand included?
  • Is the bass drum pedal included?
  • Do all the drums match? Look at the lugs, hardware and company logo on the side of the drums.
  • Are the drum heads dented or pitted?
  • Are both bass drum spurs “there”?
  • Are the toms mounted on the bass drum? If so, does it come the tom hardware?
  • Look to see if there are any missing: wing-nuts, cymbal felts, washers, lugs, tension rods, hat-hat clutch, bottom drum heads……..
  • If the floor tom is not suspended……. Does the floor tom have all 3 legs? Try adjusting the floor tom to see if it’s easily adjustable.
  • Does is included a drum stool
  • Does it include a music stand

What may “look” like a great deal…………….

If hardware is not included, you might be looking at $300.00 – $400.00, at a minimum.
If cymbals are not included, you’re looking at $350.00 – $400.00+, at a minimum.

There’s nothing worse than buying an instrument, or anything else for that matter, thinking that it’s a great deal……only to find out latter that…….

1. Educate yourself

2. Take your time, look at each drum individually

3. Bring an experienced drummer along with you, ask your drum teacher!!

4. Don’t always believe the person that’s selling you the drums.


Acoustic Vs. Electric Guitar

My son/daughter wants to take guitar lessons.
Is it better to start on acoustic or electric? Which one is better?

From the feedback we receive from our instructors and the many guitarists I’ve had the opportunity to perform and record with over the years, it does matter.
Acoustic and electric guitars look similar, but they feel and play like two different instruments.  Electric, of course, having allot more power.
We tend to recommend acoustic guitars over electric for younger students. The stings seem to be a bit easier on their littler fingers, depending on their age.

Here are some questions we ask our students before lessons start:

  1. What style of music are you into?
  2. Name of few of your favorite guitarists?
  3. Do you wish to complete any RCM Exams?

Having these questions answered will give you a better idea of what to recommend. Is the student planning to take RCM exams, or study classical music? Then an acoustic guitar would be recommended. Is the student more into rock or metal? Then an electric guitar would be the way to go. We also tend to recommend acoustic guitars for singer songwriters, they generally won’t need a vocal mic, and they can sit and write anywhere without an hauling around an amp, or having to worry about the amp overpowering their voice. This may seem obvious to guitar players/teachers, but we’ve had students purchase and show up to class with a Fender Strat, who wanted to take RCM exams.

A saying that I picked up from a world class educator that I met attending a seminar years ago, (and it always stuck)………..”Never assume anything”.  Don’t assume that parents will know what to get.  Don’t assume the musical instrument store you recommended will ask them the right questions before selling them or recommending what they should go with.

Happy Teachings!!

Piano vs Keyboard

I often get this question from parents before they enroll their child in piano lessons.

“Should we purchase a piano or keyboard, which on is better”.

Keyboard – Pros/Cons
(+) If you live in an apartment, a keyboard would be a better idea due to noise restrictions/limitations
(+) It’s easily transportable, you don’t need movers
(+) Weighted keys add to the realism of playing a real piano

(-) A keyboard can be more expensive to start off with.  On top of purchasing the keyboard itself, you will more than likely have to purchase a: bench, sustain pedal, amplifier (if there is no built-in speaker), a keyboard stand and a music stand.
(-) Nothing beats a real piano, especially if you’re planning on doing RCM examinations past grade 5 level

Piano – Pros/Cons
(+) No need to worry about sustain pedals
(+) A bench usually always comes with a piano
(+) Don’t need a keyboard stand or music stand
(+) People give pianos away on a regular basis, (buyer beware)

(-) Pianos are heavy
(-) You will need to hire movers
(-) They can be expensive to fix
(-) They need to be tuned 1-2 times a year

We ended up adding another apartment sized piano to our studio recently.  We found it on Kijiji for FREE.  We ended up being very lucky.  The piano, originally came from a hospital, and was hardly played on. It only cost $230.00 to move it.




Violin and Singing/Vocal Lessons Winnipeg, MB

Schools that I would recommend taking violin and or vocal lessons from in Winnipeg, MB are:

Manitoba Registered Music Teachers Association
Groove Academy – School of Music
Tauber Music
University of Manitoba

I would also recommend, for violin, trying to get into contact with some of the players in the WSO, (Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra).
It’s always helpful to know that whoever you take lessons with, that the instructor/school is involving their students in regular recitals/festivals, and that they are actively involved in the music business as teachers and performers.


When should my child start music lessons?

Programs like “Music for Young Children”, or similar, are great!! These types of programs usually starts accepting children from the ages of 2 ½ -3 year old. Starting off with music lessons that involve hand clapping, singing, call & response and group activities, will help to establish social skills, listening, and learning skills that the child will carry with them into grade school.
Children who has gone through some sort of program like this, are less likely to experience social fears/anxiety when entering kindergarten, because the feeling of being around allot of people, seems familiar. Parents who sit in on the lessons at first, usually leave the child alone with the instructor/group after the first year or so, which also helps with feeling of them being left alone, (some kids don’t even notice you’re gone).
Over the 15 years that I’ve been instructing privately, there is a noticeable different between students who start early, and those who don’t, (there are always exceptions of course).

Preparing Your Children for University/College

Scholarship and examination opportunities are something I try to promote to all my students as much as possible. It’s important that a student builds up a “resume”, if you will, before attending a university or college.

Here some recommendations”

  • RCM Examinations
  • Local music festival networks, (for students)
  • Local symphonies and woodwind ensembles, (some offer performance and scholarship opportunities)
  • Ask your music school teacher, and or band/jazz band teacher
  • Local universities and or colleges, sometimes will allow younger performers to join, and of course offer scholarship opportunities
  • Take lessons from a music school, or private instructor, that offers their own scholarships, or that can connect you to those opportunities.

Practice Tips for Moms & Dads

Practice tips for parents
I know all too well how hard it can be for some parents to maintain or implement a practice routine, without feeling like you’re forcing your young ones to practice.

Here’s how to make it happen!!

  1. Pick a time with your child, and stick to it. In my experience right after school or after dinner works best. A few of our parents have had luck scheduling practice time in the morning before school, but that depends if your little one(s) are morning people. It’s important that practicing is consistent. Once it’s a routine, it becomes really easy……for everyone.


  1. Set practice length. Start off with 10 min-15 min per day, then increase as you go along. For many young players, starting off with 10min. per day would be advised. Intermediate players, 30min to 1 hour, and advanced 2-4 hours per day. The amount of time spent would also depend on level and goals student wishes to reach. Ask your instructor for their advice.


  1. Have a routine. Many students, and players, often just practice whatever comes to mind. And although that might be OK and fun to try once in a while, best results are proven to have an actual routine. Example: Scales, studies, etudes. Or for drummers: rudiments, groove exercises, song analysis. As musicians develop and focuses change, so will what is practiced during practice time.

Good luck moms and dads!!

Music Lessons, and Parents – 2015

Unlike kids in my generation, which wasn’t that long ago, 80’s 90’s….. Us kids were lucky to be in one thing, and really lucky if it was two.

Nowadays, over 90% of our students are in 4 different activities, or more.

Taking music lessons is fun, a lot of fun. But just like any other academic course, it takes work, discipline and effort, which is why it has been proven that taking music lessons improves grades, intelligence, social skills, builds confidence….etc.

But would we pull our kids out of school if they weren’t doing their homework?

That may seems absurd, but during the last few years we’ve increasingly had parents pull their children out of lessons, not because they weren’t having fun, or enjoying coming to lessons, but because parents had to remind them to practice at home, and it was becoming a chore….. for them.

I find that students taking lessons after a few years, or less, require that extra push in order to get to that next level, which may include increasing practice time.  Assignments, and songs that came easy, now require a bit more work in order to complete.

We all have to remind our children to do their homework, of course they would rather play outside, play video games, visit friends…etc. But…unfortunately, kids are not born with discipline, they are taught discipline. Just like we have be present to help our kids during homework time, we need to be present during practice time as well. The best idea is to set up a “practice time” every day. It could be before school, after school, before dinner…… After a short while, it becomes a habit. Even Mozart had to have his dad hovering over his shoulder……he didn’t want to practice every day, and he was a child prodigy.

Generally speaking, up until the age of 13, some children need to be pushed to practice/do their homework more than others. For example, I had to be pushed to practice until I was eleven years old. Thank god my parents did. Otherwise, I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today. Music taught me discipline, and work ethic. You get what you put into learning how to play an instrument. Music doesn’t lie, and it can make you very humble.

Just like academics, taking music lessons is a lifelong skill and asset that children will carry with them for the rest of their life. I’d be very wealthy if I got paid a dollar every time I heard an adult say they wish they would have stuck with music lessons, or wish their parents would have made them stay in music lessons, (there are exceptions of course).

The key to having a successful musical education and experience, is finding a great music teacher. Finding a good music teacher starts off with finding a qualified music school that hires qualified music instructors. A qualified music teacher is a lot more than hiring someone with a degree. Having a degree is just one part of the puzzle. Other important factors: Are the instructors currently involved the musical community, do they have stage, studio and tour experience, if so, to what extent? Are they personable? Sometimes, a specific teacher gets along great with one student but not another, so it is important to find a music school that teams you up with the right instructor.

Finding the right music teacher, ensures your child will be enjoying music lessons, and the benefits that they will carry with them forever.