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 is built upon exposure and experience. Barb Tucker, an instructor at Hauer Music Co. in Centerville says, “The best time to introduce a child to music lessons is as soon as possible.” Early on, even at birth, parents can present music in an engaging way through singing or clapping beats with their hands.
Alekzandria Peugh, Studio Manager and Clarinet and Saxophone Instructor at Bella Musica in Dayton, is a proponent of beginning lessons at a young age. “There has been a lot of research done that suggests that children are especially influenced up to seven years of age, so these findings would encourage starting as early as possible.”
A child’s level of interest in learning to play an instrument should be considered as well as the parent’s assessment of when he or she is ready for this type of activity. Dr. Willie Morris, Associate Professor of Saxophone at the University of Dayton, says that parents should evaluate how well a child can focus, study and pay attention – all essential skills for being successful when learning to play an instrument.
Finding an instructor
Look for an instructor who is certified and has experience teaching your child’s age group, says Peugh. “You will know a specialist because they will have sought out additional certifications,” she says. Some buzzwords to look for when researching instructors or schools include: “Orff” which is a method of teaching that uses a lot of instruments, especially percussion and xylophones, and is very active, “Kodaly” which uses teaching methods that focus on singing folk songs and “Dalcroze” or “Eurythmics” which utilize methods that focus on movement.
Peugh also recommends researching curriculums that are available to preschool age students as well. According to Jim McCutcheon, Owner of McCutcheon Music, parents should choose an instructor or school that is committed to serious music teaching. He says, “Indicators of this would be regularly scheduled recitals at least twice a year so students can show off what they’ve learned.”
In addition, being able to socialize in a common setting is a dynamic aspect of any musical instruction. Dr. Morris advocates the benefits of young people getting together and chatting during group sessions or recitals.
Choosing an instrument
With so many potential instruments to try, is there a “right” one to begin with? Opinions vary. McCutcheon advises parents to allow their budding musician to choose his or her own instrument. He says, “They know the sound they like; they know what they want to play, so why not let them as long as the instrument comes in a size that can fit their bodies.”
Tucker says that in our culture, piano is the most widely used instrument for teaching music on an individual basis. Yet, she recommends introducing younger children to rhythm and timing using percussion instruments.
Peugh agrees that the piano is a common choice for novice students, but adds: “The violin is also a great instrument to start on because it comes in different sizes to accommodate young learners.” Her youngest student is just two years old and plays on a 1/16th size violin!
Still, the piano may be a practical choice for beginning students. Dr. Morris states that when a child is small, a large wind instrument may not be appropriate because hands aren’t big enough and air production isn’t large enough. The piano, on the other hand, is a great preliminary instrument because it teaches the basics of sound and melody. Piano experience also makes it easier for students to comprehend and appreciate other instruments.
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.