The benefits of music lessons at a young age can extend throughout your child’s life. Music training improves the brain’s ability to discern the components of sounds—the pitch, the timing and the timbre. Music can also open a child’s mind to be more independent, creative and it gives children the opportunity to express themselves.
According to the Children’s Music Workshop, the effect of musical education on language development can be seen in the brain. Recent studies clearly indicate that musical training develops the part of the brain known to be involved with processing language. Playing an instrument also challenges a child’s attention and memory skills. Another study revealed that students in elementary schools with superior music education programs scored approximately 22% higher in English and 20% higher in math on standardized tests, compared to schools without music programs.
Children are curious and imaginative by nature, and many will be able to pick up music very quickly, and develop a love for it. The ability to play an instrument and read music will be infinitely helpful later in your child’s life, and studies have shown that music can help make a child smarter, more mature, and more confident.
If you have musical talent, play your instrument in front of your children and let them experiment with it. Answer their questions and take note if they show interest. Ask if there’s a particular instrument that they’d like to learn.
When your child is very young, play quiet music for them and let them fall asleep to CDs of classical music. Once they’re older, take them to school and professional concerts, and point out certain instruments. You can also listen to music or watch videos of concerts together. Try to teach them to feel the music, and take note of the many things going on at once.
Forcing your child to learn an instrument, or signing them up for lessons without telling them first, is not going to help foster the love and commitment to music that you want your child to develop.
You’ll want to take several things into consideration, among them, your child’s maturity, attention span, and interest. If he/she is going to lose interest quickly, buying an instrument may not make sense. Also, take their size into consideration. Little children may have trouble playing big instruments.
Many parents believe a recorder is a good first instrument. However, wooden recorders can cost hundreds of dollars. Basic plastic recorders are fairly inexpensive, and should be purchased for beginners.
Clarinets are bigger and somewhat heavier, but fairly easy to operate. From the clarinet, many students switch to the bass clarinet, oboe, or bassoon. There are specially designed children’s clarinets that are considerably lighter and easier for small hands to work.
The flute is another instrument that is fairly easy to learn. Keep in mind, however, it can be difficult to get the first tone out of a flute and your child may be discouraged if it takes days or weeks to get it right. If you start a very young child on the flute, they may need a curved head joint. A flute with a straight head joint is about two feet long, and can hurt small children’s shoulders if they hold it up for a long time. A J-shaped head joint takes about 6 inches off the length of the flute.
The trumpet and cornet are popular with beginners and experienced players alike. The trombone is another common brass instrument.
The violin is a popular instrument among younger children. Many children dream of learning the guitar, although it may not be ideal for little fingers. The drum is also very popular. Some instruments come in more “child-friendly” versions, or have close family members that are more easily played by children.
Many people believe that the piano offers the best overall music education.
Seven is the ideal age for a child to begin formal music training. A child of seven is able to sit, focus and do desk work, so it makes sense that this would be the ideal time to focus on music lessons, and practice. Children are more likely to be motivated when there is a genuine interest. For most children, this rarely occurs before the age of seven.
Children under seven need to be moving, playing and engaging their imaginations without the pressure of practicing, performing and feeling the need to please others. Of course, there are some children who are musically gifted, and if your younger child is insistent on learning a particular instrument, take advantage of his/her interest!
Once your child starts taking lessons, the best way for them to excel at playing is to practice for at least half an hour every day. Make sure they understand how important it is to practice. Encourage and motivate them, and be sure to congratulate them when they do something exceptionally well.