Susanna's blog

Music for a lifetime… By Susanna Cassam.

imagesI’m often asked when is the best time for a child to start learning a musical instrument. It can depend on a variety of factors, but it’s easy once you’ve asked the question to find out if your bundle of joy is ready to ‘make some noise’. The most important thing is that children are given the opportunity to try it out, as from that point you can decide whether they’re ready to go ahead right away.

It can depend on the teaching style they are offered. Some teachers might insist on a certain level of concentration, knowledge of the alphabet, an ability to focus for 30 minutes… and persevere. Others would be perfectly happy for a child to discover the sounds and wonders of the instrument in their hands with no pressure to progress until they naturally pursue improvement. As long as no bad habits are formed and the teacher is actively accompanying the sounds with their own rhythm and melody, a good ear for music can evolve quite quickly… way before solo instrumental skills are ‘performance worthy’. Playing music together works wonders.

The relevant age to start can also depend on the technical difficulty of an instrument. Some need hands of a certain size, some require two hands learning entirely different skills. Others require big lungs or strong arms. Very young children have also not necessarily learned to persevere and thus assume skills come easily. Without necessary explanation beforehand, this can lead to frustration on instruments that take more time to grasp.

The piano, much like other keyboard instruments, gives itself over in a musical sense almost immediately, making it very appealing to very young children. Tunes that they know can be learned on one hand. It has a large, accessible keyboard and a loud familiar sound. They will often experiment with confidence where with other instruments they’d be too shy. This is because almost all children regularly see a piano played by friends, family members or by a teacher in the school hall. Perhaps this explains why they often turn to it first… 80% of our enquiries for lessons are from parents of children wishing to learn the piano.

If you’re not sure whether your child is too young to start, just ask a recommended teacher. Trial a lesson and make sure the teacher knows all about your child’s musical likes, dislikes, personality traits and other interests. You’d be amazed how important it is for a teacher to build a rapport from the first ‘hello’. If a child thinks they’ve found a friend in their teacher, someone they have things in common with, they’ll be more enthused, more confident, more eager to explore the sounds at their fingertips.

It’s very important to remember is that even when your child is too young to learn an instrument they can still listen, enjoy, tap a beat and sing along. Immerse them in music whenever you can, from the minute they react with a smile to the sounds. They’ll learn all about pitch, rhythm, what they like, how it makes them feel and probably which instruments they’d love to learn… before you even ask! You’ll have given them a thirst for music that will last them a lifetime.