Are Private Lessons Necessary?

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If you have been singing or playing a musical instrument for quite some time, you might have asked this question. The short answer is: it depends. On your goals, your current experience, your budget, and a whole lot more.

Killer Harmony | Are Private Lessons Necessary? |Are private music lessons necessary? It depends on what you want out of them. They can be helpful but also expensive. Here's what you should consider.

If you are interested in private lessons and can afford them, they are definitely a worthy investment. This is especially true if you want to make music a career.

For some students, private lessons might be out of the question due to location, lack of funds, or a number of other reasons. Here are my thoughts on who should or should not take private lessons.

Another disclaimer: Everyone is different, and we all have different needs. While you may fit one of the categories below, your opinion on lessons may be different. This post is merely meant to be a guide for those unsure of the pros and cons of private music study.

For College/Career-bound Musicians

If you are in college or otherwise preparing for a career in music, private lessons are a worthwhile investment. Private lessons give you one-on-one time with a professional.

You can learn a lot from a private teacher, from how to practice effectively to the most important works for your instrument. A private instructor will know more about your instrument than your school band director. Unless, of course, your director plays your own instrument.

Starting with a thirty minute lesson once per week is a good way to get going. If you have not started college yet, you will have to take lessons as a music major. It is good to get a jump on private study if possible.

If you are out of college or will not be attending college for a music degree, lessons are still important. If you see music as a career option at all, you should study privately to improve your craft.

For Hobbyists and Amateurs

If a music career is not in your future and you want to play for fun, the choice is up to you. I am not going to tell you that you should or should not take private lessons.

Taking regular lessons can be a good motivator to keep up with your practice, but lessons can cost a lot of money. If you can’t afford weekly lessons, you could take lessons once or twice a month, so that you get good instruction but can save money, too.

You can also join community music groups to play music and learn for free. Networking with other musicians and learning about free or cheap resources is a great way to save money on something that is a hobby.

Each instrument also has its own standard method books that you can invest in. If you are a flutist, I suggest purchasing Trevor Wye’s Practice Books for the Flute. For pianists, the Hanon exercises are the best. If you play another instrument, you can ask around for what books you should use.

For Musicians on a Budget

If you are serious about music, taking lessons is not something to consider lightly. Investing in private study of your instrument can lead to great rewards down the line.

However, if you are on a very tight budget, there are some things you can do to still reap the benefits of lessons without making a huge dent in your bank account.

One option would be taking lessons less frequently. This might not be the best option for college bound musicians, but it can work when you don’t have the means to study privately every week.

Another option is finding a student who is willing to give lessons. Especially if you are only pursuing music for fun, you don’t need to study with the most well known professional. Ask around to see if a college music major would be able to give you lessons.

The third option is finding a teacher who could do a service exchange. Is there something you could offer them, like organizing their music or finding them new students? See if a private teacher is willing to work with you to adjust their rates.

For Beginners (Young and Old)

If you are starting an instrument for the first time, lessons are a great idea. Unless you have access to a top notch school music program, you won’t learn much in a group setting.

Private lessons will help you learn how to hold your instrument correctly to avoid injuries. Specialist teachers will also know the struggles facing a beginner.

As you start your musical journey, it is wise to take lessons for a while to get a grip on the instrument. Once you have mastered the basics, you can start to learn more on your own.

However, having a teacher at the beginning will make the learning process go much faster and easier.

For those in the Country

If you do not live close to a good private teacher, it can be hard to justify taking lessons. The long commute can drain you of energy before you even get to the lesson.

There are options out there, such as online lessons. While these lessons, done over video chat, are not as ideal as in person lessons, they are a great way to learn if you cannot get to an in person teacher.

This is also an option for anyone who wants to study with a teacher out of state. You can use programs like Skype or FaceTime to connect with a teacher without leaving your house.

If you live in a rural area, far from a decent private teacher, look online to see if you can find a teacher that works for you.


Have you taken private music lessons before? Were they worth it? Let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to download a copy of my goal planning sheet so you can plan your music goals more effectively!

Thanks for reading!

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Senior Year Goals

So here’s something crazy: I’m a senior in college. How that happened, I do not know, but it did. This is my last year in my undergraduate program. I have a lot to do in the next 9 months, so I thought I would break it down here for you for anyone else who might be a senior and in need of some inspiration.

Killer Harmony | Senior Year Goals | The last year of college is a big one. Here are some of my goals for this year. I hope they inspire your or give you ideas for your own goals!

P.S. As of a few weeks ago, I was leaning against going to graduate school, but I have decided to keep it in the cards at least as an option. Also, since it is almost the end of August, I am skipping over that month.


Pass recital preview and schedule date for the real thing: At my university, any student looking to perform a solo recital must perform the recital program for appropriate area faculty. I will have to perform my program in front of the three woodwind faculty members. I also have to pass all of the pieces before I can schedule the recital.

Apply to graduate school: I have been looking at a few graduate school options, as close to me as an hour away and as far as on another continent. I would love to live abroad at some point in my life, and I feel like it could easily become a now or never situation. It also would mean an easy way out if November doesn’t go well *insert political rant* but that is for another day.

Look at funding options for graduate school: Since I might be continuing my education, I want to make sure I can do it with money like scholarships and grants or possibly help from family. I would be willing to take out a loan but only for a part of my education. Student debt is real, and I don’t want to get sucked too far in.


Be done with junior recital: By the middle of the month, I would like to have completed my junior recital so that I can start working on my senior recital.

Plan senior recital program: I will need to choose pieces of different eras, styles, and instrumentation. For my first recital, I had to choose at least one concerto, one sonata (sonata style), one unaccompanied, one with piano, and one chamber piece. I assume the requirements will be the same.

Find music for senior recital: Once I decide the music for my next recital, I will have to get that music and start working on it.


Write more content for my blog: It looks like November will be a pretty slow month in terms of school, so I would love to write more posts for the blog, if possible.

Find paid writing jobs: In order to start getting some more of my own money, I would like to take on some paid writing jobs. I still will write for my blog, but money is nice, and I want to get some experience working with other people.

Apply for graduate school scholarships/grants/funding: Since I know that loans terrify me, I want to apply for as many scholarships and grants that I can. If I go abroad for grad school, there are some international student scholarships I could get. I need to look into it more. Maybe a post will be in order?


File my intent to graduate form: If for whatever reason I haven’t already completed this form, now’s the time. I want to make sure I have a full semester to get all of the weird remaining requirements filled. I also want my university to know to fill those ASAP since I plan to graduate in May.

Read more (blogs, books, etc): With winter break coming up, I will have a lot of time on my hands. I would love to read more blogs and more books. I’m considering a grad program in Spain and my minor is in Spanish, so I would love to read some stuff in Spanish.

Enjoy the holidays: I think this goal speaks for itself.


Work on senior recital music: In the second half of winter break, I want to make sure I have the music polished for my senior recital. That way, I can go back for my last semester feeling fully prepared for my last recital and everything else that I will have to do.

Finalize plans to graduate in May: I will want to make sure that the offices receive my intent to graduate form. I also want to schedule a final meeting or two with my advisor to check that all necessary substitutions have been finalized. Since I transferred schools, not everything transferred as they should have, but my advisor has been super helpful with getting substitutions approved. I’d it weren’t for those subs, I would have had another semester or two.

Start looking for a summer job: Whether it is a writing or social media job or a job in retail, I will want to have some income. That way, I can save some for when I am in graduate school. Also, if I do go abroad, I will need travel money.


Pass recital preview and schedule date for the real thing: I want to pass my recital preview early so that I am not scrambling to do it last minute. Last year, there was not a single day in the last two weeks of the semester without someone performing a junior or senior recital.

Decide on grad school/job: In case you couldn’t tell, my dream school is in Madrid, at the IE School of Human Sciences and Technology. At this point, I I’ll have to make my decision on the school I will be attending, accepted to IE or not.

File the necessary paperwork for that decision: If I do go to school abroad, in Spain or to a school I have looked at in Canada, I will have to get a visa, figure out funding and housing, and everything that comes with going to another country.


Perform senior recital: As I stated before, I want to get my recital done early. If I don’t get it in by the end of March, it will be hard to do it any other time. April is a busy month for music activities, so I don’t want to put off my recital.

Work on blog content: During spring break, unless I end up on a trip, I will want to work on the blog, for sure.

Find writing jobs: I want to find some jobs to get some extra funds to get me to graduation.


Keep up with school and music events: Since April can be a really busy month, I don’t want to get behind. Especially since I will be a month from graduating, I don’t want to mess anything up or have any set backs.

Get Cap & Gown: I don’t exactly know what my university does for cap & gown, but I will need to get my set around April so that I have it ready for graduation.

Start moving dorm stuff home: Last year, I used the last few weeks and last couple of visits home to take some stuff that I could live without. For instance, I sent home one of the two folding cloth chairs I had. I also brought home some of my nicer clothes that I wouldn’t wear. This will be more important next year since the day I move out of the dorm officially will also be the day I graduate.


Apply to some jobs for the summer: I would love some time off, but I do want to work a little during the summer. For both experience and money, a (good) part time job is necessary. This might change if I find some good writing jobs or other money making options online.

Move out of dorm/graduate: This is kind of a requirement, but I want to make my graduation day go as smoothly as it can.

Prepare for my next steps: Whether this is packing for my own apartment and looking for a full time job or preparing for graduate school, I don’t want to end up forgetting anything.


I hope these goals were interesting. Maybe they gave you a look into my life or helped you figure out what you need to do if you are a senior this year. Do you have any goals for this school year? Leave them in the comments!


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Adding a Minor: AKA Putting the Odds in Your Favor

In college, we have to pick a major: the field that our degree will be in, the field that you will probably pursue a career in. But see, no one really ever talks about minors or even double majors and when adding a secondary field (or two) is the right choice. I was talking with some friends a while ago, and one of them said that unless a minor will set you back considerably (i.e. more than a year), do it. There are very few circumstances where adding a minor or second major is not a good idea.

Killer Harmony | Adding a Minor | Thinking about adding a minor to your major? Here's why you should!
When are those times that adding a minor isn’t right? When you are a semester away from graduation. When your major keeps you busy enough and you have to work a job. I can’t really think of anything else. And even if you do have a job that keeps you super busy, that is good experience to have. In that case, you might not need a minor.

Now onto cases where you can pretty easily get away without a minor. First, if you are an education major. In these cases, a minor can definitely help. I know of a few elementary education majors who have minors or are pursuing some sort of second field of certification. But, the education program will keep you really busy.

If you can barely handle the stress of your major classes, it might not be a good idea to add a minor onto all of it. If you are a secondary education major, odds are you probably have to pick a field of study, like English education. That field of study could be considered to be like a minor. If you end up not wanting to teach, your degree will show that you are experienced in English and thus, you might be able to get other sorts of jobs.
At my university, if you are in a Bachelor of Arts (BA) program, you are encouraged to earn a minor. The BA programs allow for enough extra electives that it would be pointless to not pursue a minor. I am currently in the Bachelor of Music (BM) in performance program, so it is not necessary for me to earn a minor, but I am still planning on it. Why? I want a minor so that I can get a competitive edge over other applicants for jobs or graduate school. Also, I have the time…and I will still be able to graduate after four years.
If you are in a major that doesn’t lead to any specific career, having a minor can help establish a focus and help you figure out what you want to do with your life. Even though I am in a career preparatory program, I want to be prepared to enter a career that is not specifically music performance. As an example, I am adding a Spanish minor which would allow me to work in Spanish speaking areas, get certified in translation and interpretation, or even go on to graduate school for something like musicology.
I have heard that you are supposed to major in something that will get you a job and minor in something that you love. I would say that while that is a good thing to keep in mind, know that pursuing a major in what you love will probably get you a job that you will be more interested in. Yes, you need to think practically, but I believe that is where a minor comes into play.
I plan on writing more about my experience of adding more to my program than just my major and how I am working it out in my last year of undergrad. If you have any questions, lease let me know by commenting below or tweeting me @HannahHaefele.
Thanks for reading!


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Have a Safe (and Productive) Spring Break

Yes, it is still only February, and yes, it probably does seem crazy that I am posting this now, but it is important. Spring break is a week of no classes (in case you weren’t aware), and there are many ways that one can spend that week. I am not here to tell you what to do for that week of time, especially because it is almost too late to be planning something super extravagant. If you have already made plans, that’s great! If you are stuck and are needing last minute inspiration, that’s okay, too! Either way, I’ve got you covered.

Killer Harmony | Have a Safe (and Productive) Spring Break | A college junior's tips on making the most of your week off from school. What to do if you are travelling or staying at home. Be safe and have fun!

I don’t have any concrete plans for spring break, but I am pretty sure that I will be spending that week at home. I plan on using the extra time to work on my blog and Etsy shop (which you can access by clicking “Shop My Stuff”). I will of course keep up with a good practice schedule, because #musicmajorprobs, amiright? I hope to get together with some people who are in town, but I want my spring break to be safe and productive (and fun).

To Anyone Travelling:
If you are going anywhere with friends or family or school, and you will be spending some of that time alone (what?), you need to know how to stay safe. Especially if you are going to one of the typical spring break places (think: Panama City Beach), you need to always be aware of your surroundings. Use the buddy system, don’t do anything or go anywhere that gives you the heebie jeebies. I’ve heard the stories, you’ve heard the stories. You don’t want to have your supposed week of fun to be ruined by a bad decision. Just make good choices.

The Stay-cation-ers:
Now, if your spring break will consist of a “stay-cation” either at your college or back in your hometown, you still need to stay safe. But if you are lacking in the ideas department, I have some things to get you brainstorming and get you excited for a week of no class. I hope to spend most of that week practicing music, working on my blog and brand, and working on my online store. If you are interested in starting your own blog, please check out my series and eBook #BlogLife. Once March hits, the eBook will be released on my shop.

Aspiring Bloggers:
If you want to start a blog, there is no better time to do it than when you have free time. If you don’t have a part time job, you probably won’t be able to get one for the single week unless you know someone looking for help for the week. This means that spring break options are more limited than summer break. Now is the time to at least get a plan completed for your blog or business.

Other Hobbyists:
If you are not interested in blogging, try and find another hobby that you could pick up over the week. Whether you want to learn to knit, sew, or read a new book, you can find something. Or, if you know of a family who will be out of town for the week, ask and see if they need someone to house sit or pet sit. It can put a lot of people at ease if they know someone trustworthy will be at their house while they are gone.

With this lovely place called the internet, you have access to so much. Odds are you will find something to keep you busy. Even if all that is is binge-watching your favorite shows on Netflix! So don’t feel bad if you don’t have the most extravagant plans for spring break. Just make sure you are safe and have fun (My mom says in that order)!
Thanks for reading!

Single Dorm Life *UPDATED* +Tips

So, last fall, I posted a little something about my experience living in a single dorm. I went a little bit like this:
“This post may be better for spring, but at this point, I will be talking about living in a single dorm. This post will be mostly about my experience so far, and I plan on doing a follow up to this in January regarding the process of requesting housing-single or other.
I requested a single room for many reasons. First, I have never had to share a room with anyone except on vacations. I also have a very specific way of living. I don’t like clutter. I realize that I may not be getting the normal roommate experience, but I am completely fine with that.
One of the benefits of a single room, at least at my college, is that I didn’t have to write a roommate agreement. I don’t have to live with another person and worry about their schedule or having to deal with sharing such close quarters with someone. One thing that makes my single dorm experience different from others is that my entire floor is single dorms. There are about 15 of us who all have our own rooms. Going into it, I was a little worried that everyone would keep to themselves. As someone who wanted their own room, I understand not wanting to spend their free time with strangers. That didn’t happen, however. I have made great friends with a couple of the people on my floor. We are all new to the university, even though we are not freshman. That definitely made things easier. If everyone had their own friend groups, I would have probably just been a loner.
I understand that a single room is not for everyone. Some people like the comfort of having someone else around to talk to. For others, the added cost of a single room (it does cost more than a double) is not worth it. Overall, I have had a great first month living in a single dorm, and I am looking forward to the rest of the year.”

Now, I am back, we are nearing the end of the school year, and I want to compare my thoughts within the first month and my thoughts now, many months later. Clearly, it is not January, but I digress…
If you want a single dorm, it is important to apply and fill out all of the paperwork sooner rather than later. Like any other dorms, singles are given out as they are available on a first come first serve basis. So get those babies in NOW. You might be able to wait, but don’t push it. Also, your grade level might be considered. Upperclassmen will usually get priority.
If you happen to live on a floor that is made up of all single rooms, as I said in the original post, it can be hard to make friends. It’s possible, but you will have to work a little harder. My biggest tip for anyone in a single room who wants to meet other people in the dorm is to go to floor events: floor programs, floor dinner (if that’s a thing at your school), or ask your RA for tips. They’re there to help you.
From talking to people about dorm life, I learned that if you are a freshman, depending on your university, it may not be an option for you to have a single room. If your school requires all freshmen to live on campus, odds are against anyone getting their own room. There is one exception that is made to comply with the ADA. At a large university or one that doesn’t require you to live on campus, you may have a chance at a single room. Just know that if you don’t get a single room, it won’t be the end of the world. Your roommate could become a lifelong friend or, at the very least, someone to talk to when you are bored.
I am still very happy with my decision to live in a single room, and I plan on staying in a single room (hopefully) again next year. I know that the added expense of a single room is not worth it for everyone. That is okay, and I don’t want anyone to think that wanting a single room makes them weird. Some people believe that the dues for Greek life are worth it. Others think that a private school is worth it. I, personally, believe that the expense of a single room is worth it, for both my sanity and that of others.
Thanks for reading!