Music Teacher's Helper Blog

When is My Child Ready for Lessons?

About a month ago I was asked to write an article about music instruction for a local IMG_1097neighborhood website. They were requesting answers to common questions posed by parents considering lessons for their children. It just so happened I ran into some wonderful articles addressing this same topic so I’ve woven them in within my post below. -Leila

Is there ever a day that doesn’t include music? Think of the moments that would not be the same without music–in the car, at the fitness club, during Sunday worship, at the movies, on the TV, at the big game and on your smart device. Admit it, imagining life without music would be…unimaginable.

Although not everyone is destined to be a concert artist, every human being can be a music maker and enthusiast. Once one explores creating music on an instrument and invests in lessons, an appreciation grows which then instills an admiration for a lifetime.  Giving your child or yourself the gift of learning music on any instrument is something to treasure but finding the right teacher, the perfect fit to suit your interest level is not always easy. Below are answers to some of the most common questions posed by parents who want to know more about the process of learning music and finding the right teacher.

IMG_0343Note: these answers can be applicable to adults looking for a music teacher as well–you are always young enough to learn!

How can I tell when my child is ready for lessons?

You may be unaware of your child’s innate readiness for making music but there are some signs that should help you make that assessment. Here are specific suggestions that will assist you prior to embarking on a music teacher hunt:

  • Purchase a keyboard instrument (a portable digital keyboard may do the trick but plan
  • IMG_1039to upgrade when lessons begin) and let your child explore sound before enrolling in lessons.
  • Once this exploration begins, notice how your potential musician experiments at the keys.
  • If the keyboard receives regular visitation, this is strong evidence that your child is ready to engage in lessons.

 For more in-depth information about this process, read this post by fellow colleague, friend, composer and blogger Elissa Milne: 10 Things You Should Do BEFORE Your Child Begins Piano lessons.

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

Because it just takes a finger to lower a key to create a sound, the piano is the easiest instrument to begin exploring and eventually making music. Therefore enrolling your child in piano lessons may be a place to begin his/her music education. Once your budding musician is introduced to other instruments in school around 4th or 5th grade a shift in interest may occur. This may result in a change of preference for instruments. Don’t ever regret your investment  in piano lessons as this experience serves as an essential stepping stone to perfectly suit your music enthusiast.

How do I  choose the right teacher?

1) 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 as well.

2) Ask to arrange an interview with several teachers and you’ll discover that each owns a unique studio. It’s important for you to determine what your priorities are for your child’s music education. Here are some things to consider when shopping around:

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  • Some teachers may excel at preparing students to compete, while others may lean towards a more relaxed approach with fewer opportunities to compete or perform formally.
  • 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 are a popular social setting which may best suit those who are still on the fenceIMG_1255 about studying an instrument. Private lessons usually accommodate schedules more easily and meet your intentions of one-on-one instruction. Many teachers now offer both to add variety and opportunities to meet music-making peers, reinforce concepts with games, refine performance skills and more.
  • Music is meant to be shared so ask  if the teacher offers encouragement and opportunities to perform, even casually. Although difficult, performing instills discipline, motivation, confidence and good experience for public speaking and so much more.
  • Teachers usually use a method book or series to teach an instrument. Numerous parents have asked which one I use in the initial interview. Although it may be an appropriate question, I inform all my potential student families that I teach a human being and not a method. Perhaps a better question to ask during your chat with a teacher is: What methods and tools (books, styles of music, technological devices and more) will you use to help my child progress in his/her music skills?

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For more tips on interviewing and finding the right music teacher, click here.

 How do I balance being a supportive parent without becoming a “tiger mom”?

Always a good question, here’s 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 toIMG_1251

  • learn how to learn
  • read all assignments
  • take charge and ask the teacher questions themselves when they forget a concept
  • be responsible for collecting books prior to the lesson, etc.

3) Perhaps 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 just like brushing teeth.
  • 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 at 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 pick-up.
  • Show teachers the respect they deserve by following all studio policies and submitting timely payments.

Here’s one more article with excellent advice and a lovely perspective on the art of taking instrumental lessons, again, penned by Elissa Milne.

Music Lessons: a worthy investment towards a gift that lasts a lifetime.

 

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6 Comments

  1. Jean

    Great article!

  2. ki1418

    I know Music teacher when I read the book “The $100 Startup”. You are awesome!

  3. Dan

    Very sensible! I like your thoughts about kids being interested in their keyboard at home being an indicator of readiness for lessons.

    For young kids, being at a stage where they are happy to sit down and be engaged in an activity for more than 5 minutes is also important. If kids still find this difficult, early childhood group music lessons will suit better as an introduction to music. My really young students (3 or 4 years old) would typically have a 15 minute lesson consisting of 5 minutes of work at the piano, 5 minutes of musicianship exercises/games away from the piano (often Orff or Dalcroze inspired) and another 5 minutes at the piano.

    I love your comments about those questions about “which method” or “which exam system” (assuming exams are even appropriate at all!). How can a teacher know what method is appropriate for a student they have never met!? I’m sure devoted advocates of various methodologies will disagree with me, but I’m yet to come across any method that is appropriate for every student.

  4. Leila Viss

    Dan–you are absolutely right–off the bench group activities are perfect for youngsters. I held Exploring Music classes for my three boys and their friends. This was a great way to introduce kiddos to music and gain more students. Thanks for your comments!

  5. […] When Is My Child Ready For Lessons?  |  Music Teacher’s Helper […]

  6. Magnus Johansson

    “When is My Child Ready for Lessons?”

    I would say it depends on the instrument or instruments and the child itself. There is an old notion in the Swedish speaking part of the world not to begin keyboard instrument studies before the age of 8 years, mainly because of the physical demands on the player, and my experiences from 27 years of teaching say the same thing. General music tuition can begin earlier and like to use the Orff-Schulwerk approach as a very effective way of bringing the little ones into the world of music.

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