These guidelines will help you to have a successful, rewarding experience learning an instrument. These are practical tips that we have discovered from years of teaching and our experiences with teaching hundreds of students each year.
1. How Young is too young – Starting at the right age
Adults can start any instrument at any time. Their success is based on how willing an adult is to commit to practicing. You are never too old to learn something new!
For children, starting at the right age is a key element to the success of their lessons. Some people will tell you “the sooner the better” but this attitude can actually backfire and be a negative. If a child is put into lessons too soon they may feel overwhelmed and frustrated and want to stop lessons. The last thing you want to do is turn a child off music just because they had one unpleasant experience which could have been prevented. Sometimes if the child waits a year to start lessons their progress can be much faster. Children who are older than the suggested earliest starting age usually do very well. The following are guidelines we have found to be successful in determining how young a child can start taking music lessons.
For children 3 to 5 years old The latest brain research has confirmed: purposeful musical activities stimulate the cognitive & language, social & emotional, as well as physical developments that all begin in the very first days of your child's life. Depending on the child, Ukulele or vocal classes are recommended.
By the age of 5 children have longer attention spans, can retain information and have the hand size and finger strength needed for playing. Piano, vocal, keyboard, ukulele or guitar may be possible.
Guitar, Acoustic, Electric and Bass
7 years old is the earliest we recommend for guitar lessons. Guitar playing requires being able to generate a fair amount of pressure on the fingertips for pressing on the strings. Children under 7 generally have small hands and may find playing uncomfortable unless they choose a smaller sized instrument. Bass guitar students generally are 10 years old and older.
7 years old is a good general age to start drum lessons. This varies greatly depending on the size of the child. They have to be able to reach both the pedals and the cymbals Of course, hand drums is also an option and may fit a smaller body better.
Flute, Clarinet and Saxophone
Due to lung capacity (and in the case of the saxophone the size of the instrument), we recommend that most woodwind beginners are 9 and older.
Teachers will start children as young as 3, but experience has shown us the most productive learning occurs when the beginner is 5 or older.
2. Insist on private lessons when learning a specific instrument
When actually learning how to play an instrument, private lessons are the best way to learn since it makes it easier to focus, and each student can learn at their own pace and with personalized attention. The teacher has the ability to work on the individual student’s strengths and weaknesses. For that lesson period, the student is the primary focus of the teacher.BACK TO TOP
3. Take lessons in a professional teaching environment
Learning music is not just a matter of having a qualified teacher, but also having an environment that is focused on music education. In a professional school environment a student cannot be distracted by t.v., pets, ringing phones, siblings or anything else. With only 1/2 to one hour of lesson time per week, a professional school environment can produce better results since the only focus at that time is learning music. Students in a school environment are also motivated by hearing peers who are at different levels and by being exposed to a variety of musical instruments. In a music school, the lessons are not just a hobby or sideline for the teacher but a responsibility which is taken very seriously.BACK TO TOP
4. Make practicing easier
As with anything, improving in music takes practice. One of the main problems with music lessons is the drudgery of practicing and the fight between parents and students to practice every day. Here are some ways to make practicing easier:
Set the same time every day to practice so it becomes part of a routine or habit. This works particularly well for children. Generally the earlier in the day the practicing can occur, the less reminding is required by parents to get the child to practice.
We use this method quite often when setting practice schedules for beginners. For a young child 20 or 30 minutes seems like an eternity. Instead of setting a time frame, we use repetition. For example, practice this piece 4 times every day, and this scale 5 times a day. The child then does not pay attention to the amount of time they are practicing their instrument, but knows if they are on repetition number 3 they are almost finished.
This works very well for both children and adult students. Some adults reward themselves with a cappuccino after a successful week of practicing. Parents can encourage children to practice by granting them occasional rewards for successful practicing. In our school we reward young children for a successful week of practicing with stars and stickers on their work. Praise tends to be the most coveted award - there just is no substitute for a pat on the back for a job well done. Sometimes we all have a week with little practicing, in that case there is always next week.
5. Use recognized teaching materials
There are some excellent materials developed by professional music educators that are made for students in a variety of situations. For example in piano, there are books for very young beginners, and books for adult students that have never played before. There are books that can start you at a level you are comfortable with. These materials have been researched and are continually upgraded and improved to make learning easier. These materials ensure that no important part of learning the instrument can inadvertently be left out. If you ever have to move to a different part of the country, qualified teachers and institutions will recognize the materials and be able to smoothly continue from where the previous teacher left off.
In some cases, the teacher may change the style of teaching to best reflect the needs and concerns of the individual student.
We don’t all learn the same way – therefore we don’t all teach the same way.
Our teachers are versatile and flexible in their methods – they teach the way that will work for YOU.
Most Importantly . . .
Music should be something that you enjoy for a lifetime. So, try not to put unrealistic expectations on yourself or your children to learn too quickly. Everyone learns at a different pace and the key is to be able to enjoy the journey.BACK TO TOP