My son starts piano lessons today. I am very excited about this because I enjoy music, and, especially, playing the piano. I began regular piano lessons with my mother when I was around six years old, and continued them with other instructors, even after outstripping my mother. I am quite excited that my seven year old is showing an interest in music and wants to learn the piano. (I suspect his real object is the drums, which he has seen my husband “play” during our Rock Band sessions. But he is also keenly interested in getting a good musical foundation by starting with the piano.)
Deciding that my son was ready for music lessons, though, wasn’t easy. My husband and I discussed it, and read up on the subject, to make sure that we agreed that he was ready to take the plunge. And I think he is.
Determining if your child is ready for music lessons
You want to make sure that your child is ready for music lessons. I may have been ready to begin learning the piano at the age of six, but I doubt my son would have been ready last year. Every child is different, so it is vital that you take these differences into account when determining whether or not to start your child on a musical instrument. The Music Conservatory of Westchester in White Plains, NY, as well as my son’s soon-to-be piano teacher, offer these indicators that your child might be ready for music lessons:
- Ability to focus on a task for 20 to 30 minutes. The attention span has to be there. Observe your child. Can s/he stick with a project or game for 20 to 30 minutes at a time? Remember that learning an instrument requires the attention span to handle lessons and to handle practice.
- Does your child show an interest in music? This seems like a no-brainer, but it is amazing how many parents push their children into music lessons just because they want to see their kids do music. My son has always been very interested in music because my husband and I both are. I play three instruments and am learning a fourth (the guitar), and my husband, while he doesn’t play, listens to a wide variety of music and shares his interest with my son.
- Does your child have some basic education? It helps, in music learning, for your child to understand the difference between left and right hand, as well as being able to quickly identify the letters A through G, which are used to correspond with musical notes. This is why it is often good to wait on starting music lessons until children are at least four (although musical appreciation can start well before that).
- Age. Studies have shown very little difference between starting really early (around the age of five) and starting a little bit later (around the age of eight) in the proficiency of children by the age of 10. It might be worth to wait until your child is seven or eight and can make faster progress.
- Can you handle your child’s music lessons? Finally, you need to honestly assess your ability. Do you have the resources to make sure that your child practices regularly, and makes it to regular lessons? We have an old piano, so my son can practice. However, keyboards can be had for relatively little expense, and other instruments can be rented from local shops if you cannot buy them.
Helping your child stick with music lessons
Of course, once your child starts with music lessons, it can be difficult to get them to stick with it. Practice starts to get monotonous, and they learn that doing a good job requires some time and effort. Here are some things you can do to help encourage your child to stick with music lessons:
- Consider the environment. Choose a teacher or a music class that caters to beginners. This will help your child excel by putting him or her with someone who understands how to work with beginners. Also, consider a class setting so that they can see other children learning music as well.
- Think about getting a teacher other than yourself. Technically, I could teach my son the piano. I taught other people’s children for a while. But I think that my son would enjoy it more if he learned from someone else. Taking lessons outside the home would introduce an aspect of accountability — and even fun.
- Be realistic. Help your child set realistic goals for musical attainment, and praise him or her when these are reached.
- Encourage recital participation. If your child enjoys performing for others, encourage participation in recitals. This can help him or her continue deriving enjoyment out of the music lessons, with a chance to display learned skills.
- Consistency. Have a regular practice time, and make sure that they do not miss regular lessons unless they are ill, or have an important school conflict. This can also help your child develop habits of discipline and hard work.
- Provide the right instrument. Petite guitars, cellos and violins may be very well for younger kids, but as your children grow, they will need access to properly sized instruments. Likewise, someone learning the piano will eventually need to move beyond the keyboard. If you do not provide the proper instrument, either as a purchase or rental, your child will eventually become too frustrated to continue.
Music lessons can be a great way to bring culture into your home, as well as help teach your child the benefits that can come from hard work and self-discipline. On top of that, you can provide the foundation for your child to develop a talent that s/he can enjoy for a lifetime.