Music Lessons

Music Lessons For Children & Youth

By Nick Simmons, BA, © Copyright 2008.

Music Lessons Can Help Kids With

  • Addictions to video games
  • ADHD
  • Anger/aggression management
  • Anxiety
  • Autism
  • Communication difficulty
  • Conflict resolution
  • Cooperation
  • Coordination issues
  • Depression
  • Family problems
  • Lack of success
  • Learning disabilities
  • Listening
  • Loneliness
  • Prolonged stress
  • Relationships
  • Self-confidence issues
  • Shyness
  • Traumas of all kinds

Music Lessons Help In The Following Areas

Spirit: Music gives children freedom and space to explore their own creativity and uniqueness. Making music empowers their spirit.

Mind: Music lessons focus the mind through patterns of rhythm, melody, harmony, body movements and techniques. Music also develops the memory and recognition of patterns, necessary for logic, language, and mathematics.

Body: It relaxes, organizes coordination through repetition, and brings awareness. Music has the ability to give energy to the body by releasing tensions.

Emotions: It gives a tool for safe, creative, individual emotional release and expression. It helps children & youth explore their emotions, know their feelings, and express themselves.

Brief Description Of Music Lessons

  • I set the scene by greeting the student as they enter. I often mirror their behavior and try to adapt to them. One way to do this is to be playing music they like as they enter - from loud rock to a lullaby. Sometimes they have lots of energy so I mirror their excitement. Other students are quiet and mellow and I try follow in the same way.
  • The ‘initial check-in’ is very important. Sometimes a student will want to talk about something not related to music. This usually feels okay as it gives an output for releasing things that could be distracting them when we do begin to focus on music. It is important to see if there are any questions or challenges that arose during the week. I often give a review of the last week’s lesson.
  • I then ask questions to get a sense of what the student wants to work on. This helps create a flow to the time we have together. I make it clear that I work for them and that the lesson is their time. I also try to emphasize the value of not wasting our time together. Structure is important. Depending on age and maturity, redirection and focusing is sometimes needed.
  • Lessons revolve around the student’s musical preferences. They are empowered by making decisions about what they want to learn. This leads to the child or youth learning more because they are more relaxed. Students are more motivated to practice at home because they enjoy what they are playing.
  • Many pupils bring the songs they want to learn as recorded music (cd’s, iPods) or printed music they find on the Internet. I also have an extensive library of recorded music which I share. Often I learn the song on the spot and teach them until we play it together. Learning is made easier and more enjoyable when students choose songs to play that they like and are familiar with.
  • A major part of the lesson involves using what the student chooses to focus on as a launching point for basic music theory and techniques (rhythm, scales, chords, pattern recognition…). For example: the child or youth wants to learn a punk rock song; I point out that the song uses a particular scale. I then expand on that scale and show them how to connect that scale to the song we’re learning. This often leads the student to improvising and composing their own music. Many times I make CD’s for them to practice along with at home.
  • Another tool involves making music without an agenda. We create music together spontaneously, sometimes with only a few notes. We play together and I back them up so that they sound great to themselves. In these moments I point out their successes and courage at taking risks and expressing themselves. I often record and make CD’s of these songs for them to enjoy at home with family and friends. This can give them encouragement.
  • Many parents confuse leaning standard musical notation with learning music. For most children it is useful to learn a musical language which organizes their understanding of rhythm, melody, harmony, and ways of communicating these ideas. I frequently encourage students to learn to read music and write what they hear in many ways suited to their skill level. There are many different ways. Depending on the instrument and style being played, learning standard notation methods is often not the most efficient way to begin to read music. By teaching these effective tools for reading and writing music, the students learn to organize their ideas, express themselves and share their music with others.
  • Some children are very self-conscious and frightened by learning new things and by expressing themselves. The pleasure and relaxation that comes from music often creates an ideal atmosphere to work with these challenges. Many students go on to start their own groups and to create original music.
  • Lessons often end with clearing up any misunderstandings, and making sure that the home practice ideas are understood.
  • I always thank them for their time and effort. I honor their efforts and accomplishments.

Basic Concepts And Components Of Music Lessons

  • Training and practice listening, remembering, coordination, self control, and awareness – all with enjoyment and satisfaction are all very important.

History Of Music Lessons

  • Music, playing instruments and singing have been taught since the beginning of civilization, and perhaps before.
  • One hundred years ago most people could sing or play an instrument, as sharing live music was a major foundation of entertainment.
  • Today most people do not play instruments or sing. The advent of recorded music and the development of a market-driven popular culture has been a possible reason for this decline of lots of people playing music.
  • Many people today have a fear of musical expression, and worry because they don’t sound “professional.”
  • Many modes of musical instruction in the past have put an emphasis on striving for perfection, instead of simply enjoying the process. I think this is a reason why many people have not had a positive experience with taking music lessons.
  • I am amazed at the amount of information available in this day and age. With the advancements in communication, a music lover can now experience sounds from almost any part of the world with the push of a button.
  • I am very curious about how the evolution of music on the planet will unfold.
  • It is truly an exciting time to be exploring music.

Is Appropriate For Ages:

  • Music is appropriate for all ages, young children to adults.

Estimated Length of Time Before Improvements Can Be Expected

  • It depends on each child.
  • Some children struggle due to their challenges.
  • Most children enjoy the lessons from the start.

Children & Youth’s Reactions To Music Lessons

  • After the first lesson, most children want to continue because the lessons are fun.

Fees/Costs In 2007 (In California)

  • $25 to $100.
  • Depends on the instrument, level, and teaching style

Average Time Per Session

  • Usually 30 minutes to an hour - sometimes longer

Suggestions To Make Music Lessons More Effective

  • Make sure the child is well rested.
  • Keep the teacher up-to-date on what is happening with the child.
  • Don’t over-schedule the child.
  • Give enough time to practice.
  • Be encouraging, however encourage but don’t force practice sessions.
  • Ask to listen to the music.
  • Be with the child while they practice if they enjoy the company and attention.
  • Let the child be alone to practice if they ask.
  • Help them get the instrument and supplies they need.

Other Methods That Are Similar To Music Lessons

  • Learning anything: Sports, martial arts, expressive arts, dance, drama, school, and other disciplines

Other Methods That Complement Music Lessons

  • Sports, martial arts, artistic expression, dance, learning foreign languages, communication training, mathematics and science

Major Differences Of Opinion Between Music Teachers

  • To teach a set curriculum vs. adapt what is learned to the student’s preferences
  • Forced practice vs. enjoyable practice
  • Learning patterns of music towards perfection vs. a student being perfectly connected to what they are feeling, intending and playing

What To Look For When Choosing The Best Teacher

  • The child or youth should get along with the teacher.
  • The teacher should get along with the child.
  • The teacher should be happy, relaxed, patient, and have a good sense of humor.
  • The teacher should be very curious and non-judgmental.
  • Sit in on a few lessons and watch the process.

Training And Education To Be A Music Teacher Working With Children & Youth

  • The teacher should be experienced in working with children– summer camps, classrooms, or sports.
  • The teacher should be skilled in music.
  • The teacher should have studied with many good teachers who teach individuality.
  • The teacher should have the ability to play many different types of music.

Professional Associations To Contact For Names Of Local Teachers

  • I advise asking friends, neighbors, other parents.
  • Contact local music stores, local schools, colleges, or university music departments.
  • There are many national and state organizations of music teachers and musical education.
  • These certifications and/or degrees in music may be useful, but don’t necessarily guarantee effective teaching skills.


  • Mathieu, W.A. The Listening Book: Discovering Your Own Music. Boston and London: Shambhala, 1991.
  • Nachmanovitch, Stephen. Free Play: The Power of Improvisation in Life and the Arts. Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc, 1990.

Biography Of Nick Simmons, Author

  • Began studying music (flute) in school at age nine
  • Had private lessons in guitar at age 12
  • Worked at summer camps from age 13 to 21
  • Toured with his high school choir
  • Built music program for summer camp
  • Studied music at Santa Rosa Junior College
  • Holds a BA in music from Sonoma State 2003
  • Worked with emotionally disturbed children
  • Worked in a home for men with autism
  • Taught music to students with autism
  • Plays guitar, (electric, acoustic, bass) drums, piano, flutes, and more
  • Has performed with various bands – rock, jazz, pop, etc
  • Presently has more than 40 students
  • Has taught many students who have gone on to be successful musicians

Nick Simmons’ Personal Statement

Bringing awareness through music is an amazing adventure with limitless possibilities. How wonderful it is to be able to share something that I care for so deeply and see it create the same joy in the students that it gives me. I give thanks to my many teachers, mentors and students.

To Contact Nick Simmons, Who Contributed This Chapter

Nick Simmons: P.O. Box 4474, Santa Rosa, CA 95402; Ph: 707-303-6482; Website: www.nicksimmons.org; Email: nrs200@hotmail.com

Marie Mulligan’s Comment About Music Lessons: My sons are thriving on Nick Simmons’ music lessons. So am I!

Rick Geggie’s Comment About Music Lessons: Where was Nick Simmons when I was told to move my lips and not let any sound come out as well as told “that’s not music”– it has taken over 60 years to recover my music.

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