We have been talking a lot about the importance of introducing music into children’s lives from a young age. Most of those posts, however, refer to group music classes or early childhood music classes. But when is it time to start playing an instrument, or in the case of singers, start taking private lessons? As is the case with most of those questions, the answer is: it depends.
Some children (and adults) might not be interested in playing a particular instrument or taking private lessons yet and for those students there are options such as choirs, group classes and small ensembles. But for those interested in learning an instrument, we’ve made a list of three aspects to take into consideration when deciding if it is time to start that journey.
First, consider is your child’s level of interest in a certain instrument. Playing an instrument is not only a financial investment, but also a time consuming one. Besides going to lessons, children will need time to practice at home and that practice will most often than not be assisted by an adult. That means both you and your child will need to have some extra time in your hands for weekly practice. Younger children have more availability for practice, but they will also need more parent support when doing so.
Second, consider is the school’s or the teacher’s philosophy. Certain teaching philosophies are more suitable for younger learners than others. When deciding whether it is time to start learning an instrument, talk to your prospective teacher about their philosophy, a typical lesson structure as well as what type of commitment it will require from the student. If possible, schedule a trial lesson so both the student and teacher can have a better understanding of how they work together. This will help the student to decide if that is something they are interested in as well as the teacher to assess and plan how to work with a particular student. Learning is, after all, personal.
And the finally, consider the instrument itself. Certain instruments like the piano and the violin can be taught to children 5 years of age (or even younger depending on the teacher’s philosophy), but other instruments, will require children to be older so that their body is ready both in development and structure. Some instruments that were previously prohibitive for younger learners such as the flute, clarinet, or saxophone are now being made in smaller sizes (that are also lighter) making it possible for a 7 year old for example, to start learning the flute. But certain instruments that can also be costume ordered in smaller sizes such as the guitar would also be better suited for older learners (7 and up). The older children get, the better their fine motor skills are and the smoother the learning will be.
We want to make sure children (and adults) enjoy the learning process rather than struggle with it. Choosing to start an instrument later might give students the time to develop their musicality in other ways while their bodies grown and their motor skills are ready for this new adventure.