Ready for instrumental lessons?

Ready for instrumental lessons?

Parents often ask me...

When should my child start learning an instrument?

It's a tricky question to answer because, just like in other areas of development, every child is different. But here are five questions to consider:

1. Are they tuneful, beatful and artful?
This one is not negotiable. Learning an instrument will not teach your child to be musical, but it will enable them to express their musicality. Your child should be able to sing in tune, keep a steady beat and feel and express the artfulness of music through their singing, dancing and playing. If they have not mastered these foundational skills then they are not ready to learn an instrument.

A child who plays an instrument before he sings may remain unmusical for a lifetime. That is why we encounter so many skilful pianists who have no idea of the essence of music.
— Zoltan Kodaly

2. Can they stay focused on a task for 20 minutes?
Most beginner instrumental lessons go for half an hour. If your child flits around from one activity to the next every few minutes then they are probably not ready. If your child gets very frustrated that they can't do something on the first attempt, then they are probably not ready. If they are unwilling to try new things with an adult who is not part of their family then they are probably not ready.

3. Have they expressed a persistent interest in a particular instrument?
Learning to play a musical instrument is a long-term pursuit. It takes many years of lessons and practise to become proficient. If they have a genuine appreciation for and interest in an instrument they will be far more likely to stick with it!

10710827_888004317876973_8490814379706504301_n.jpg

You can help them figure out which instrument they like by exposing them to lots of live music being played by real musicians. If you're in the Melbourne region the MSO hosts 'Jams for Juniors' just for 0-5 yr olds. And most music festivals these days have areas especially for kids. 

But of course, some instruments are better suited to young beginners than others. Instruments to consider for children under 8 years include piano, violin and recorder. 

4. Is the right teacher available?
Not every instrumental teacher is skilled at teaching very young children. Look for someone who will develop your child's whole musicality. They should foster a love of music through singing, moving and finally playing their chosen instrument. A negative experience with an instrumental teacher who is better suited to teaching older kids or adults could put your child off music lessons for life!

Ask around for personal recommendations and be prepared to go on a waiting list - good teachers are often busy!

 Violins come in small sizes especially for little hands

Violins come in small sizes especially for little hands

5. Are YOU ready?
Practising is an important part of learning an instrument. Young beginners do not need to spend hours playing their instrument at home but they DO need to practise regularly to see any mastery (which will motivate them to keep going). Ideally they'll spend 5-10 minutes a day at their instrument (their teacher will tell them what to work on). In fact, 5 minutes of practice a day will be far more helpful than a whole hour the night before their lesson. But it is a rare child that will be able to self-direct and practise alone. In the early days, YOU will need to remind them and support them and guide them.

This can be tricky if you have a new baby, or have just returned to work or can't actually bear the sound of a beginner playing the violin. Make sure YOU are ready and willing to support your child to practise!

CHECKLIST:
1. Are they tuneful, beatful and artful?
2. 
Can they stay focused on a task for 20 minutes?
3. Have they expressed a persistent interest in a particular instrument?
4. 
Is the right teacher available?
5. Are YOU ready?

IF you can say YES to these five questions, then go for it! You could be giving your child the gift of a lifelong passion.

Peek-a-boo

Peek-a-boo

Creating in the kitchen

Creating in the kitchen