Introducing children to the pleasure of making music gives them a gift they can enjoy for the rest of their lives. Parents seeking to begin music lessons often have many questions. Is there a right time to begin music lessons? What instrument should a child start with? How do we find a good instructor? Before you tickle those ivories into a twist, read the advice of local experts on how to hit a high note when starting your child off on their path to creating music.
When to begin music lessons
It’s never too soon and it’s never too late — a love of music can be developed at any age. Eileen Papesh, manager of Gymboree Play & Music of Carmel, says, “Humans are never too young or too old to appreciate and understand music.”
Is there a guideline to help parents decide the best time to begin music lessons with their child? Most instructors agree that a readiness truly depends on the particular child and his or her interest in learning an instrument.
Elyse Causey, general manager of the School of Rock in Carmel explains, “Anytime your child begins to show interest in music, instruments or singing, take advantage of it!” Most music teachers and facilities typically will not start private lessons until a child is between five and eight years old, but Causey says it’s never too early to start developing a child’s appreciation for music. Introductory classes can teach little ones about music basics, including song structure and rhythm.
Laura Perry, with Nurture the Child Kindermusik, offers a few thoughts for parents new to musical instruction. First, she says that a child should ask for lessons. He or she also needs to be excited about working through the rudimentary aspects of these lessons.
Learning an instrument takes disciplined practice. Perry suggests that every child should have enough will to sit down with his or her instrument 20 to 30 minutes every day. And the right time for a child to begin music lessons needs to be the right time for mom and dad, too. Perry says, “The parent of the child must be committed to the child’s lessons and daily practice.”
Finding an instructor
Enjoyment is a crucial component when it comes to engaging a child in a music lesson. As Causey says, “If your child doesn’t enjoy going to lessons, there’s no way they’ll want to practice or even go in from week to week.”
An instructor’s personality and their professional credentials can make all the difference. Joyce Buchholz, an instructor at Meridian Music, suggests parents choose a school with seasoned teachers that will help match your child with the best instructor, given his or her personality and age.
Premier Music Studios co-owner and piano instructor John Dick says, “You want to look for an instructor who not only likes children, but interacts well with them.” In terms of teaching credentials, most instructors will give references.
It is also helpful to ask an instructor the average time it takes for a student to get through a method book, says Daniel Patterson of the Daniel Patterson Music Studio. “A good teacher will average about four to six months per student.” Next, consider asking for a trial or introductory lesson. “It’s a big financial commitment and the student-teacher relationship is so critical.”
Choosing an instrument
Many parents wonder if piano is the best instrument for their child to begin music lessons with. Perry says, “Piano is not for every child. It is true that children can learn music basics on piano but the piano is a difficult instrument to play.” She suggests the violin, trumpet or flute as introductory instruments, since they are all linear and require a single line to follow. Although she is quick to say that the best instrument for your child is the one that he or she wants to play.
Causey maintains a similar perspective. She believes the piano is a great place to begin music lessons, but it’s not always for everyone. “If it’s something your child is interested in, definitely get them started on it. Some instructors will start piano lessons fairly young, some around five years old, so it can be a good way to get going on lessons early.” Causey adds that the piano can be a wonderful foundation for learning other instruments in the future.
In Papesh’s Gymboree Play & Music program, students start with percussion instruments. According to Papesh, “This allows children to start working on simple musical techniques, like steady beats and easy rhythms.”
Still, others feel the piano is a great way to begin musical instruction. “The piano is always a good option to begin music lessons with,” says Joyce Buchholz from Meridian Music. “University Music Schools recognize the power of the piano as a teaching and reference tool for all musicians.”
However you decide to begin music lessons with your child, know that the benefits he or she gains will go well beyond just learning an instrument. Studies consistently show that kids who participate in musical education often enhance their academic and social skills as well as their creativity and discipline – and that’s music to any parent’s ears.