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How do we measure musical progress?

At Caroline Springs School of Music we are always ensuring our teachers are accurately monitoring each student’s progress.

Our teachers update progress reports on a weekly basis and brief our administration and school principal at least once a month on each student.

As a parent your best indicator of your child’s progress is their ANZCA exam scores. We never enter anyone for an exam that we are not confident will do well. If your child is practicing regularly (at least half an hour a day) you can be confident they are making good progress. If you do not hear from us you can assume all is well, as soon as student is struggling or making slow progress we will contact you with suggestions to help them. Remember it takes ten years to become a serious beginner, quite often people who know little about music and the patience it takes to become proficient at it, have unrealistic expectations of the level their child should be performing.

Never measure a student’s progress by how fast or far they are though their method books. If you have more than one child learning here; never compare the rate at which they complete their method books. A good case in point is piano as opposed to guitar. Typically a piano student may finish their method book in six months (quicker is not necessarily better). A guitar student may spend two to three years finishing their first book. The nature of the instrument and their respective method books make comparisons impossible.

One should not measure progress on how much new information is acquired but in how efficiently the material at hand is executed. Better to be playing the first page of a book musically and accurately than to be fumbling through latter stages of a book before you are really ready. So many times when a student comes to us from another school we have to go back close to the beginning of a book because a teacher has rushed them through or skipped important material.

Quite often I hear parents asking students after a lesson: “Did you learn anything new?” Whilst I understand everyone wants to see their students regularly picking up new material along the way, quite often the best thing to do at the time is to revise or consolidate material that has already been looked at. If we judge our progress by some arbitrary page in a book then you best make sure you have the right book! There are a countless thousands of music books you could be learning from, musicians all over the world are making good progress practicing different material. To a large extent the content of your practice is not as important as the quality of your work.

As a younger musician I was very rigid in my practice. “9 am - scales and technical work” “10 am – chords and harmony” and so forth. These days I am much more instinctive and practice whatever it is I feel most like working on at the time. I have a general list of repertoire and exercises but I mix it up every practice hour of the day. I make much better progress this way. I have learned that the subject is not as important as the level of my attention to whatever it is that I am playing at the time.

Don’t waste time trying to figure out what to practice, choose something and get to work or to put it better; choose something and play!

Brendan Hains

Principal Instructor at Caroline Springs School of Music

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