The Parent’s Guide to Beginning Music Lessons
This guide is designed to help parents who are thinking about starting their children in music lessons. As a music teacher for twenty years, I have answered the most common questions I am typically asked about beginning children in music!
Question: “My child is almost four years old. Is this too young to begin lessons?”
Answer: This varies greatly depending on the child as well as the expectations for the lessons. A typical music lesson is thirty minutes in length and therefore requires an attention span that can last for the duration of this time. Some children near the age of four will have no difficulty focusing for an entire lesson while others cannot yet hold their attention and they are not ready. If you feel that your child is very focused for their age then perhaps a single lesson can be arranged to see if it is they are ready. It should also be mentioned that no matter how talented a child may be progress is typically slower at this age. The risks of beginning lessons too early are the learning of bad habits with the instrument as well as becoming frustrated and turned off to music. If, however, lessons are structured in a fun and exciting way and proper technique is being reinforced then the lessons are a success and it works wonderfully.
Question: “What is the best instrument to begin learning music with?”
Answer: Music educators will sometimes disagree with each other on the answer to this but typically the piano is the best choice followed by the violin. The way the piano is organized makes it easier for students to understand how music is structured and the learning curve is easier on the piano compared to many other instruments. Sometimes, however, children seem particularly drawn to the sound of a certain instrument and they should follow this inner guidance. For example, my parents first introduced me to the keyboard but I did not really enjoy it and had no interest in practicing. My parents probably figured I wasn’t destined to be a musician and I began focusing on other things. A year later I took a violin class at school and I loved the instrument which has become my passion ever since. If children are fascinated by a particular type of instrument and ask specifically for it then we should listen to this and choose the instrument they are longing to play. It should be mentioned that the piano and violin work well for students at the age of four but other instruments such as the flute or the guitar have physical demands that require waiting until about the age of six.
Question: “What is the best method to use when learning an instrument?”
Answer: This question can be answered by looking at the roadblocks that students can run into along their musical journey. The first example is when a student learns to decipher music purely by ear without any attention to note reading or music theory. If a student is kept in this method for too long they eventually reach a plateau where the music has become so complicated that they can no longer understand how to play these newer pieces. At this point students either quit due to the frustration or they begin a long and difficult path of heavy note reading and theory in an attempt to catch up to the demands of the music. Young children typically do not enjoy note reading assignments and if they are too long they become bored and frustrated. It is much easier to assign very short note reading assignments over a long period of time so this skill is developed easily and without struggle. The second example of a roadblock that students can run into is the complete opposite of the first. This is when the lessons begin with a heavy emphasis on note reading and theory while playing the instrument is extremely limited. I have heard stories of students who have attended lessons for two years but