I think I should have no other mortal wants, if I could always have plenty of music. It seems to infuse strength into my limbs and ideas into my brain. Life seems to go on without effort, when I am filled with music.George Eliot
Most people enjoy music; we find it both exhilarating and relaxing. From young to old, the one thing that many of us have in common is a love of good music.
Even babies seem to enjoy it — many mothers have found that the best way to calm a fussy baby is to sing or play soft music.
The enjoyment of music leads many of us to wish that we could play an instrument.
Parents often want to provide music lessons for their children but wonder about the best age to start, the easiest instruments for beginners, and how to find a caring and patient teacher.
Although there are no one-size-fits-all answers, there are a few things to keep in mind.
When to Start…
Introduce music to your children when they are infants. Sing to them (whether you can carry a tune or not!) and rock them in rhythm to music.
As they get to be toddlers, enrol them in classes that introduce basic musical concepts.
Be sure that the focus is on fun. At an early age, they are learning to enjoy and appreciate music, so they don’t need a formal environment. Keep it casual.
If you want your child to learn a musical instrument before the age of six, you will likely choose the Suzuki method for the piano, violin, viola, or cello.
Suzuki learners do not need to read music, which can be difficult to master at such a young age.
The Suzuki method focuses on proper technique in playing an instrument and on ear training — learning to really listen to music.
Between the ages of six and ten, children are more able to understand the concepts of reading music, so although the Suzuki method may still be employed, it is no longer the only available option.
What to Play…
Choosing an instrument depends on several factors. As mentioned above, very young children typically begin with the piano, violin, viola, or cello.
The size of the child, as well as they size of the instrument must be taken into consideration. A small child would certainly have an easier time handling a violin than a tuba!
Even when a child is large enough to manage a sizable instrument, you must consider the size of your home.
If you don’t have room to house a piano or a harp, encourage your young musician to choose a smaller instrument.
If your child has her heart set on a certain instrument, try to accommodate her wishes, if possible.
A child who is forced to play a less than desirable instrument is not going to be as willing to put in the necessary hours of practice.
Also, consider the musical preferences of your child. Certain types of music lend themselves naturally to specific instruments.
One of the main goals to starting lessons is to foster a love of music; you do not want to make it more pain than pleasure.
Locating a Great Teacher…
If you have friends who have enrolled their children in music lessons, ask for recommendations.
There is no better reference than a first hand account of the teacher’s ability to not only teach the instrument, but also to form a warm and caring bond with young students. If you do not know of anyone personally, inquire at your local elementary or secondary school for a recommendation.
Sometimes, music teachers will post ads at stores selling instruments.
You can check there and maybe get a few ideas from the shop owner about appropriate instruments, as well.
How You Can Help…
Once you have located a teacher and either rented or purchased an instrument for your child, there are steps that you can take to help your child with his lessons.
Provide both time and space for practicing, and always have an encouraging attitude. Mastering an instrument, like leaning any new skill, takes time and effort, and your child will likely feel discouraged at times.
Assure them that if they continue to practice faithfully, they will improve. Be sure to keep an eye on your own expectations, and try not to pressure your child to settle for nothing short of excellence.
Music is one of life’s purest joys; as long as playing an instrument continues to bring them pleasure, they are doing just fine.