Starting Young: Early Music Lessons

Sep 17, 2014

It’s never too late to reap the many benefits that comes from an education in music. Many people don’t start playing an instrument until much later in life, and come to learn the joy of making music both alone and with a group. However, as this blog has discussed on a few occasions, there are many more benefits that come from beginning a musical education at a much younger age. Certain brain scans have even been shown that children that start playing and making music before seven years of age have distinct changes in behaviour and brain structure. With that in mind, this week we’re going to take a brief look at how you can go about introducing your young ones to music instruction.

Just as it’s never too late to start playing music, it’s almost never too early as well. Early childhood music classes come in a wide range of age groups. These classes can accommodate students in every age group from six months to ten years old. These lessons usually begin their focus on introducing children to the various aspects of music, many of which coincide with life skills that are important for children to learn at an early stage of development. Beginning with the most basic aspects of music, children learn singing, basic percussion instruments, and in some age groups, reading music. Some of the social skills that go hand in hand with music that are taught are movement and listening skills, and there is also a social interaction component to most of the classes.

As your little one grows you may begin to consider private lessons. Generally speaking, private lessons are best suited for children aged six or older, but sometimes students as young as four can take part, provided they are able to sit still and concentrate for the span of a 30 minute lesson. Not always an easy task for young children. These ages are, of course, simply a general rule of thumb, but certain instruments require a slightly older student. For larger instruments, like the guitar for instance, seven is usually the youngest appropriate age to begin lessons, while with brass and woodwinds, like the trumpet and clarinet, it is best if students begin around the age of ten.

Aside from finding lessons for your child, one of the biggest hurdles facing a young music student is which instrument to play. There are dozens of things to choose from, each with their own unique feel and sound, making the choice all that more difficult. If there is some difficulty in choosing an instrument, a good way to go is to find out which ones your child likes the sound of. If your son or daughter is like so many other young people in western culture, they may choose the guitar to begin with. This brings its own challenges and difficulties. Some larger instruments, like the guitar, or even the violin, need to be properly sized for the student. This ensures that they are comfortable holding it which will make it easier to learn, and much more enjoyable to play. Guitars are available in 1/2, 3/4, and full-size, while violins are usually available in 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 and full size. The best way to make sure you have the right size for your child is to bring them to the store to be properly sized.

Another instrument popular in Western culture that comes with an issue of size is the piano. Most homes in today’s day in age do not have a piano in them as they may once have had. Playing and practicing on an actual piano is great, but a keyboard is also a fantastic tool for learning and practicing at home. That being said, if a keyboard is the route you choose to take, there are a a few things you should be aware of when looking to purchase or rent an instrument. The most important thing to consider is a keyboard with touch sensitivity or weighted keys. These terms describe an electronic keyboard’s ability to imitate the sound a real piano makes depending on the amount of force exerted on the keys. Basically a light touch produces a softer sound, with a more forceful touch producing a louder sound.

Despite the difficulty associated with finding a piano or keyboard to practice on, the piano is an excellent instrument to begin with. It can provide an extremely well rounded introduction to the various aspects of music that other instrument may not afford a student. Along with learning melody, harmony, and rhythm, as most instruments can teach, the piano also offers students a chance to learn both treble and bass clef note reading, and can help teach and build a strong coordination between the right and left hand.

Regardless of the choice of instrument your young student decides on, there is yet one more hurdle to overcome: cost. Playing an instrument, any instrument, is not only a commitment of time, but a financial commitment as well. Instruments come in as wide a range of prices as they come in shapes and sizes, so renting is often the better option, especially when you consider how children’s interests can fluctuate wildly. Some music schools can offer renting opportunities, but the most ideal option is usually through a music store. If the interest becomes more long-term, many music stores have rent-to-own plans.

Like I said, music lessons, especially for children, can be a huge commitment of time and attention, and many children’s interests have a tendency to wax and wane as they grow and develop. However, if this is something you are interested in trying out, there are a few ways to go about introducing your child to the world of music with less financial risk. Perhaps try arranging an initial, trial lesson, and if that goes well, you and your child might progress to a month of lessons. After a month or so you can re-asses the situation. Progressing slowly, and building to a routine is a great way to see how the lessons go, as well as to see how much the child enjoys playing and keeping up with practicing at home.