Once you’ve determined that your child is ready to begin playing an instrument, here are some additional tips to consider to ensure that you’ll be setting him up for a lifetime of positive musical memories! If you are looking to determine whether your child is old enough to begin learning an instrument, click here for some guidelines.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Repetition is critical when learning an instrument. It’s much more beneficial for a child to practice for 10 minutes, four times per week, than to practice for 40 minutes one day per week.
An effective strategy for maintaining a practice routine is for you and your child to agree on a practice schedule before his first lesson. Post the schedule on the refrigerator or another visible spot, and then check the schedule together when it’s time to practice. This way the practice reminder is coming from the schedule and not from you!
Private or group lessons?
The benefit of private music lessons is they provide ample guidance for the student. The downside is that private lessons typically do not include social interaction with peers or musical interaction with a larger group. Even if a private teacher is talented and engaging, many children lose motivation and stop practicing. If your child is taking private lessons, you may want to consider also enrolling him in a music ensemble that meets regularly.
Having your child solely participate in group lessons is also a great way to get started! Group instruction for keyboard, violin and other instruments is available in many communities. The biggest benefits of group lessons are they offer a fun experience of learning with friends and often motivate children to practice to keep up with their peers in the group.
Which instrument is best?
Not all instruments are well suited for young children.Trombones require long arms; guitars need strong, coordinated hands and fingers; and saxophones are just plain heavy! If your child wants to play a wind instrument, most teachers recommend waiting until age 9 when most children are physically ready. Of course, there are instruments that are appropriate for children as young as 4. Here are a few popular options:
- Piano is a great instrument for musicians of all ages. The layout of the keys is useful in understanding concepts in music theory. Children who learn piano are typically able to transfer their musical knowledge to other band and orchestra instruments later on. If it’s hard for your child to press the keys on a piano, it’s fine to start on an electric keyboard and switch to piano after your child’s hands have grown stronger.
- Violin is another popular choice for young children. An advantage is that they come in all sizes, so children can be matched to an appropriately-sized violin and can change instruments as they grow. Suzuki violin classes, which emphasize learning to play by ear before learning to read music, are a popular option for group instruction.
- Drums are fun, and have a universal appeal to children and adults! The challenge is finding age-appropriate instruction. Drum circles that welcome children are an excellent option. A less common drumming experience for children can be found in Scottish pipe and drum bands, which provide a very supportive learning environment. Not every town has a pipe band and not every band welcomes beginners, but for those that do, it’s worth checking out!
- Voice is also an instrument, but one that needs to be treated with special care when children are young. Participating in a children’s choir led by a knowledgeable director is a wonderful way to experience music. The caution here is that children’s voices should not be pushed to sing in a loud “Broadway” style; doing so can damage young vocal chords. Be sure to take the time to learn about the director’s vocal expectations beforehand.