Making Music

How to tell when your child is ready for lessons.

Although not every person is destined to be a concert musician, everyone can be a music maker, enthusiast, and supporter. Giving your child the gift of learning music on any instrument is something to treasure, but finding the answers on how to provide this gift is not always easy. You may be unaware of your youngster's readiness for making music, but there are some signs that should help you make that assessment. Here are some steps toward unlocking your child's innate musicality and readiness.

How can I tell when my child is ready?

Encourage Exploration

  • Purchase a keyboard instrument (a portable digital keyboard may do the trick, but plan to upgrade when lessons begin). Let your child explore sound before enrolling in lessons.
  • Once this exploration begins, notice how your potential musician experiments at the keys.
  • Download some music game apps such as Piano Dust Buster 2.0, The Most Addicting Sheep Game, or Magic Piano, and invite your child to explore them. It won't take long for a youngster to be drawn into these magical games that also teach music fundamentals.
  • If the keyboard and favorite apps receive regular visitation, this is strong evidence that your future maestro is ready to engage in lessons.

Prime the Potential

Some basic skills are involved in learning any instrument, and it's important that these fundamentals are developed before enrolling in lessons. Consider early music education groups, which are perfect for young learners.

An ideal candidate for instrumental lessons can:

  • Say and sing the alphabet
  • Count to at least 20
  • Match pitch and sing songs with ease
  • Identify the left from the right hand
  • Cut with scissors
  • Color and draw with markers, pencils, etc.
  • Dance and move freely to music
  • Clap and march with a steady beat

How do I know what instrument is right for my child?

The piano is the easiest instrument to begin exploring and eventually making music. Enrolling your child in piano lessons may be a place to begin his music education. Once your budding musician is introduced to other instruments in school around grade 4 or 5, a shift in interest may occur.

How do I choose the right teacher?

Referrals from friends and acquaintances are your best bet for a good teacher. If they are happy with a teacher, there's a good chance that you will be, too. Arrange interviews with several teachers, and you'll discover that each one of them has a unique studio. It's also important for you to determine what your priorities are for your child's music education. Here are some things to consider:

  • Some teachers may excel at preparing students to compete, while others may lean toward a more relaxed approach with fewer opportunities to compete or formally perform.
  • While some may remain set in a traditional approach with standard repertoire, others may emphasize lessons in creativity beyond the page and various styles other than classical.
  • Group lessons provide a social setting that may best suit kids who are still on the fence about studying an instrument. Private lessons usually accommodate schedules more easily and offer one-on-one instruction.
  • Music should be shared! Ask if the teacher offers encouragement and opportunities to perform, even casually. Although diffi cult, performing instills discipline, motivation, confi dence, and good experience for future public speaking.
  • Teachers often use a method book or series to teach an instrument. A good question to ask during your chat with a potential teacher is, "What methods and tools will you use to help my child progress in his music skills?"

How do I balance being a supportive parent without becoming overbearing?

Here are a couple of tips to help you maintain a healthy attitude:

  1. Some teachers may require you to be present at lessons to take notes, so consider this as a free lesson yourself and learn right along with your child. You will realize that building musical skills is a long-term process with peaks, valleys, and plateaus.
  2. Regardless if you attend lessons or not, it is important for you to remember that this is your child's endeavor and not yours. Allow your budding musician to:
    • Learn how to learn
    • Read all assignments
    • Take charge and ask the teacher questions
    • Be responsible for collecting books prior to the lesson, etc.
  3. The best support you can offer your child is providing and modeling structure.
    • Make daily practicing a priority so it becomes a habit by setting up a schedule.
    • Instead of setting the timer and demanding practice, ensure that the teacher's instructions are understood and completed during practice time by reviewing the assignment with your musician. The amount of daily time with the instrument may vary, as consistent practice will make the assignment easier to play by the end of the week.
    • Arrive promptly for each lesson and be on time for pickup.

Music lessons are a worthy investment toward a gift that lasts a lifetime. Happy music making!