How can parents help the beginner music student?

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Entering into the world of music education can be a little daunting for parents, particularly for those parents who did not have any music opportunities when they were children themselves.

Knowing when and how to start lessons can be confusing, so here are a few tips to help you get started.

  1. When to start lessons?

Before starting weekly music lessons it is really important to honestly review your weekly schedule. Having worked in schools for a long time, parents sign their child up for lessons without giving consideration to the need to find time to practice weekly. If your child goes to after school clubs and child care and has little time at home in the week, then waiting another year to start learning is better than starting lessons too soon without the time to practice.

Without the time to practice outside of the weekly lesson, progress will be very slow. This means that lessons will become quite boring for the student and the teacher due to the sheer amount of repetition of the same content that will be needed. Again, waiting to have more free time in the week for your child to be able to learn independently means you will have better success and faster music development.

2. What age should my child start?

This is very dependent on the child and the instrument. Children can learn piano, strings, and recorders at an earlier age. For woodwind and brass it is best to start lessons around grade 5 or 6 (10 or 11 years old) due to the weight and size of the instrument. If you child starts too soon and can’t reach the holes to cover the clarinet fingerings for instance then the instrument will squeak a lot! Children will think that they can’t play it and quit rather than understand that they are quite big enough for the instrument yet. In reality, waiting that extra 6 months will guarantee much better success.

3. What costs do I expect to have?

The first cost to consider is for music classes. You might find that your local music school runs a group beginner class which is worth considering to see if your child is interested or even free band lessons through the school. There is of course a wealth of resources that are on Youtube and online.

Once your child is serious about learning, investing in weekly lessons with a teacher is a great investment. Not only will the teacher be a specialist in that instrument, they will help your child play with musicality, read music, have good technique and posture and play music that is appropriate for their age and ability. The teacher will also be able to recommend the right instrument, books, accessories and have links with the local community music shops and bands.

Other costs you will have are buying instruments, accessories and books. if your child is learning an expensive instrument such as trombone or tenor saxophone it might be worth considering doing a hire to buy scheme with the local music shop, especially if you are not sure your child is going to stick with the instrument. Buying any of the ‘cheap and colourful’ instruments on the internet may look a great investment but in reality these instruments are poorly made and will hinder your child’s progress. If money is a consideration, then a good second hand instrument would be a better investment.

If you do buy an instrument then there is some upkeep needed and you will need to budget to service the instrument each year. If you have an acoustic piano then it should be tuned 1 or 2 times a year to keep it in the best working conditions and make sure you have a good piano stool and not just a kitchen chair. Posture is everything!

4. Practising

In terms of practice there are lots of varying advice but this is my opinion. Do not make practising a chore or a punishment – this is the quickest way to have weekly battles at home. Instead, try to encourage weekly practice at a regular time slot each week that creates consistency in your child’s week.

Children practice more efficiently when they are not tired, hungry or thirsty. Also, they need a calm space where they can practice without distraction and interruption. Often the shy student doesn’t want everyone to hear them practice so creating a quiet, calm space will help them be more successful and grow in confidence. Also, try to remove distractions such as mobile phones and other technology so that the practice doesn’t constantly get interrupted.

5. Other ways you can help

Listen to your child play regularly and if your instrumental teacher writes in a weekly note book, then take time to ensure your child knows what they should be practising, particularly if they are an elementary aged child. The note book is a great communication tool between the teacher and the home.

Listen to music together, particularly anyone who plays the same instrument as your child. It really is amazing how few students know what the instrument they are learning sounds like being played by a professional. If you have time, take your child to see live concerts.

Buy your child music books, reeds and accessories so that they don’t go for weeks without the right materials in lessons. This will definitely hinder your child’s progress.

When your child is ready try to encourage them to be involved in community music making – whether that is the school community or out in your local area. I find students who play music with others tend to have the most success and don’t quit. They also generally make like life-time friends this way too.

If you are interested in learning more about starting music lessons then why not reach out to us. We are always happy to answer your questions:

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