Music Lessons for Kids

There have been so many requests recently and so much discussion about music lessons for children, it seemed a good idea to summarize what the experts say. Please remember every child is different and every familys approach to learning is unique. You cannot always fit the proposed average.

We’ve all heard the stories of famous musical prodigies, from Mozart writing his first symphony at the age of eight to Stevie Wonder signing with Motown at 11. Today it is likely that your family will have seen talented children in school playing instruments.

Music is not a natural affinity for many children and as a twin who was exposed early I can say while my sister embraced the whole experience and excelled with a natural fluency in a variety of instruments I absolutely hated the whole experience which put me off learning and enjoying music for most of my life. I simply did not get it.

I guess it all hinges on how you define music lessons and why a parent might want their child to take music lessons in the first place.

Families who are “musical” believe that there is a “window of opportunity” from birth to age nine for developing a musical sensibility within children. During this time, the mental structures and mechanisms associated with processing and understanding music are in the prime stages of development, making it of utmost importance to expose children in this age range to music. If you watch these families you will see there is no formal teaching but much more a love of music, a natural enjoyment where a child is encouraged to experiment with sound in a variety of forms including instrumental and vocal. We have all seen these examples where a toddler sits on a parents knee at a piano and selects keys to join in a tune with a certain degree of accuracy that we marvel at.

It would see that it is not about when, but what is the goal of music lessons for young children. I would suggest that at this age it is sensible for a young child to be exposed to sounds instruments make, not in order to master them, but to gain experience and learn to develop meaningful relationships with music at a young age. If this is your goal, then the “lessons” can and should start soon after birth and certainly within the child’s first year and it would seem sensible that these experiences are managed in groups for fun and stimulation, they should not be formal and there will be no obvious learning outcome.

By the time a child exposed to music is three or four then it may be time for more formalized “lessons.” Again, the goal is not to learn to play an instrument but to further develop skills like identifying a beat in music, identifying melody, or identifying instruments. These parent-child lessons might be any number of preschool classes run by private individuals, or training centres. To decide whether or not a class is suitable for your child, make sure your goals and expectations coincide with the teacher’s.

By age five, some children have built a foundation that has prepared them for formalized music lessons. Even now, the goal of the lessons is not to become a great performer on the instrument but to further the understanding of music. Piano and violin are the two most common instruments played at this age, but may also include the recorder, guitar, or ukulele with success.

By age 10, the child will have a variety of skills associated with their instrument of choice. They’ll also have the physical strength to try a different, bigger instrument, such as a brass or large string instrument that requires a higher level of strength and stamina. Around this time, the goal of lessons appropriately transitions from gaining experience with music to improving performance ability.

Keep in mind that these are only guidelines; exceptions will undoubtedly occur based on the child and/or teacher. Musical experience at an early age is extremely important in a child’s developmental process. Like riding a bike or learning a language, these skills can be learned later in life, but they will never be “natural” in the way that is so important for fluid musical performance.

The key must be to find a music programme and or tutor that your child can enjoy. It does get harder to learn an instrument as you get older but you are probably more determined to succeed as you get older and as for any hobby you have the rest of your life to do it. You certainly do not have to cram every experience into a childs first few years as this can be overwhelming while they are trying to learn basic day to day life skills as well.

A very rough guide to the best ages to start learning an instrument is:

Piano and Violin (4-5 yrs) ; Guitar (7-9yrs) Drums (7 yrs plus ) Saxophone, Clarinet, Flute (7-8 yrs) Trumpet, Trombone and Bass Guitar (9-10 yrs)