- February 20, 2012, 2:51pm
As a music instructor, I find myself being frequently asked the same question by many parents with aspiring young musicians; "What age is the right age for my child to begin learning an instrument?" In my opinion the correct age is the day your child shows interest in playing an instrument. For some kids this is the moment they see their favorite musician perform in concert. For others it's seeing a parent or older sibling playing an instrument. For me it was watching an Eric Clapton concert on PBS with my dad. It is important to notice this interest and cultivate it into a hobby, a head start on the higher learning of music, or a life long love your child can share with others.
"How do I get my child started?" The first step is finding an instructor that excels at teaching children. It is difficult to teach music to young children. They usually do not have strong reading skills yet or an attention span to sit for an entire lesson. With the correct instructor this is not a problem. The correct instructor will have infinite patience and a positive attitude. For children that are younger than six, constant positive reinforcement is required from both the parents and the instructor. One bad experience with an instructor at a young age can discourage them for weeks, and enough negativity will even cause your child to dislike the instrument that they just recently showed so much interest in. Look for enthusiasm and the ability to communicate with your child, keeping them engaged in the task at hand.
Selecting the proper instrument can prevent your child from struggling with the physical difficulties of playing an instrument. Using guitar as an example. A guitar with bad action (It is hard to push the strings into the fret) can make it impossible for a child to play the simplest songs. Acknowledging this problem can prevent a child from having weeks of frustration just trying to get a single note to ring from the guitar. Before buying an instrument for your child, consult your instructor or go to salesperson that is familiar with the needs of children.
Having taught many children, I have noticed there is one factor that cannot be substituted that contributes to success: Parental involvement. My students who excel most have parents that sit in on the lessons and pay attention to not only what is being assigned, but finer points of the lesson. This translates into a good, better, best scenario. Good is taking interest in your child lesson and helping them keep the practice schedule assigned. Better is sitting with your child while they practice and asking them to play the songs they have learned for you on a regular basis. The children who excel the fastest and do the best have parents who take lessons with there child. Be it taking group lessons, or lessons from the same teacher this will have a lasting positive effect. Not only does it give the knowledge you need to help your child practice, It's also an extra reason to spend twenty minutes a day with one another doing something productive. You will gain perspective and respect for the work it will take your child to become a master of the instrument. You will also have the motivation (and an excuse) to learn to play an instrument that you never had the opportunity to learn as a child.