1. How young is too young? Starting at the right age.
Adults can start any instrument at any time. Their success is based on how willing an adult is to commit to practicing. We teach many beginner students in their 60’s and 70’s.
For children, starting at the right age is a key element to the success of their lessons. Some people will tell you “ the sooner the better” but this attitude can actually backfire and be negative. If a child is put into lessons too soon they may feel overwhelmed and frustrated and want to stop lessons. The last thing you want to do is turn a child off to music just because they had one unpleasant experience, which could have been prevented. Sometimes if the child waits a year to start lessons their progress can be much faster. Children who are older than the suggested earliest starting age usually do very well. The following are guidelines we have found to be successful in determining how young a child can start taking music lessons.
Piano / Keyboard
At our school, 5 years old is the youngest age that we start children in private piano lessons. At this age they have begun to develop longer attention spans and can retain material with ease.
10 years old is recommended as the youngest age for private vocal lessons. Due to the physical nature of voice lessons (proper breathing techniques, development of vocal chords and lung capacity), the younger body is generally not yet ready for the rigors of vocal technique. For children younger than 10, we have a children’s choir (ages 6-9) and an Introduction to Music program (ages 4-6) that teaches them how to use their voices properly, in a fun, relaxed environment.
Guitar – Acoustic, Electric, Bass & Ukelele
8 years old is the earliest we recommend for guitar lessons. Guitar playing requires a fair amount of pressure on the fingertips from pressing on the strings. Children under 8 generally have small hands and may find playing uncomfortable. Bass guitar students generally are 10 years and older.
The average age of our youngest drum student is 8. This varies greatly depending on the size of the child. They have to be able to reach both the pedals and the cymbals.
Flute, Clarinet, & Saxophone
Due to lung capacity (and in the case of the saxophone the size of the instrument), we recommend that most woodwind beginners are 9 and older.
We accept violin students from the age of 5. Some teachers will start children as young as 3, but experience has shown us the most productive learning occurs when the beginner is 5 or older.
Trumpet & Trumbone
The trumpet requires physical exertion and lung power. 9 years and older is a good time to start the trumpet.
2. Make Practice Easier.
As with anything, improving in music takes practice. One of the main problems with music lessons is the drudgery of practicing and the fight between parents to practice every day. Here are some ways to make practicing easier:
Time Set the same time every day to practice so it becomes part of a routine or habit. This works particularly well for children. Generally the earlier in the day the practicing can occur, the less reminding is required by parents to get the child to practice.
Repetition We use this method quite often when setting practice schedules for beginners. For a young child, 20 or 30 minutes seems like an eternity. Instead of setting a time frame, we use repetition. For example, practice this piece 4 times every day, and this scale 5 times a day. The child then does not pay attention to the amount of time they are practicing their instruments, but knows if they are on repetition number 3 they are almost finished.
Rewards This works very well for both children and adult students. Some adults reward themselves with a cappuccino after a successful week of practicing. Parents can encourage children to practice by granting them occasional rewards for successful practicing. In our school we reward young children for a successful week of practicing with stars and stickers on their work. Praise tends to be the most coveted award – there just is no substitute for a pat on the back for a job well done. Sometimes we all have a week with little practicing; in this case there is always next week.
3. Use Recognized Teaching Materials.
There are some excellent materials developed by professional music educators that are made for students in a variety of situations. For example on the piano, there are books for very young beginners, and books for adult students that have never played before. There are books that can start you at a level you are comfortable with. These materials have been researched and are continually upgraded and improved to make learning easier. These materials ensure that no important part of learning the instrument can inadvertently be left out. If you ever have to move to a different part of the country, qualified teachers and institutions will recognize the materials and be able to smoothly continue from where the previous teacher left off.
4. Have Fun!!!
Music should be something that you enjoy for a lifetime. So, try not to put unrealistic expectations on yourself or your children to learn too quickly. Everyone learns at a different pace and the key is to be ale to enjoy the journey.