New Student Guide: Early Starter Program

Modified on Wed, 28 Sep 2022 at 11:09 AM

Thank you for choosing Octopus Music School for your or your child’s musical education! Learning to play music can be a fulfilling lifelong journey and we couldn’t be happier that you have chosen us to be your guide!


What to expect

The Early Starter Program (ESP) has been developed to prepare a young student to study a specific instrument after they have learned the basics of music, rhythm reading, singing and practicing; think of it as a thorough primer course. Fine motor coordination, listening and focusing skills, and critical thinking are a large part of the ESP and crucial in preparing students to begin formal instrument instruction.

Getting started

Most students under the age of five will spend their first handful of lessons adjusting to their teacher and classroom expectations with games, singing and basics of music. Their fluency in reading letters and numbers will be assessed and supported as needed. You will see light homework at first, varying from identifying rhythm notes, finding certain keys on a piano, playing basic songs, and also finger numbers for the piano.

OPUS curriculum

Students studying at OMS will benefit from our proprietary curriculum and assessment system, OPUS (Octopus Poly-instrumental Units of Study). OPUS comprises ten grade levels, each with an accompanying assessment. Our voice curriculum emphasizes key skills that are crucial to students’ proper development. From the beginning, we emphasize safe vocal practices, sight-singing, aural training, proper breath control techniques, and overall musicianship to ensure vocal students are not just learning to use their voices, but developing skills that will translate to other musical ventures.


Ensembles at OMS are an integral part of our OPUS curriculum and are designed to provide students with a collaborative environment to experience the joys of making music in an intimate group with their peers. Students may begin signing up for ensembles the moment they begin studying at OMS! Barnacle Band (OPUS grade 1) is designed for complete beginners  with absolutely no experience whatsoever! Tentacle Band (OPUS grades 2-4) is for students who have completed grade 1 and have more experience than complete beginners, while OctoRock (OPUS grades 5+) is for advancing students who are very proficient at their instruments.

Graduating from ESP

After a teacher feels that a student is ready, they will administer an Instrument Readiness Assessment which is an informal test to determine a student’s proficiency in various skills that they will need to begin focused instrument instruction. After the student has passed this assessment, they will begin learning one of the three instruments mentioned above (this is determined by the student’s interest as well as input from parents, so have a conversation early on about your expectations so that everyone is on the same page).

Practice, practice, practice!

The absolute most important aspect of learning any musical instrument is consistent daily practice. For young students, the most important habit to develop first is simply spending a little while at their piano or rhythm instruments and reviewing their homework. Simply attempting their best and adjusting to the concept of having to work at something new is critical to developing a patient and persistent musician. We recommend that a student spend at least 15 minutes a day with their homework or assigned practice, and another 15 minutes listening to music, singing or dancing.

Tips for practice success

Try to help facilitate success by setting a time each day that the student should practice. In the beginning, it can be just a few minutes, with the intention of eventually building up to the full daily goal. It helps to set a timer and have a “practice space” where all their materials and instrument are easily accessible.

It is important to keep practice associated with positivity rather than negativity to encourage the right habits. For example, instead of an ultimatum (“Practice, or no screen time), try to make it a reward (“Every 20 minutes of practice earns you 20 minutes of screen time”). Talk to your child’s private instructor to form a plan if you have ongoing concerns. The amount of adult attention a student needs when practicing varies by age; very young starters may need 15-30 minutes of parents’ daily, hands-on attention in order to succeed in forming good practice habits and absorbing the material. Students should become increasingly independent in their practice over their months and years of study.

If your child has trouble making practice part of their daily routine, we recommend starting small and making goals to increase time as your child’s attention span and interest is cultivated.

How can I help my child?

The amount of adult help students need varies by age; very young students may need 15-30 minutes of parents’ daily, hands-on attention. Students should become increasingly independent in their practice over their months and years of study. If your child has trouble making practice part of their daily routine, we recommend starting small and making goals to increase time as your child’s attention span and interest is cultivated.

Listen, watch, repeat

Encourage your child to listen to music that prominently features the instrument they are learning. This can be done by simply listening to music in the car or at home, or, taking your child to live music events so they can see first-hand where all of the hard work they are putting in can lead.

Instrument selection & care

We recommend a small keyboard and a variety of Orff instruments including shakers, xylophones, rhythm sticks, and hand bells. Visit our RECOMMEND INSTRUMENT PAGE (LINK) for a comprehensive list of the digital pianos we recommend.

For the Orff instruments, there are a variety of these available; it is best to look at what is available on Amazon and choose one based on your child’s instructor’s recommendation.

Tools of the trade

Tuner & metronome

Tuners and metronomes are on our required materials list for enrollment at OMS. That is because they are absolutely vital tools for progress! Tuner apps, such as the recommended InsTuner, are available for free on your smart device. Our recommended metronome app is called Pro Metronome. It requires a one-time fee of $2.99 and is available on Android and iOS. A physical tuner/metronome device can be generally between $15-$30.

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