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Starting a Musical Instrument: The 2-Minute Guide

Starting a Musical Instrument: The 2-Minute Guide

Wondering when to start your little one on piano lessons, or how to handle your 4th grader’s weekly requests to change instruments? Consider Circle of Moms members' recommendations on introducing school-aged children to musical instruments.

1. Time It Right

Before signing your child up for music lessons, it’s important to consider your child’s mental and physical readiness. As Clarissa R. shared, learning to read and play music generally requires an understanding of the alphabet and basic numbers: “The instructor suggested waiting until age 7 or 8, after children have the alphabet and basic math down pat, so as to avoid confusion with the mechanics of music.” And as Sylvia H. explains, a child’s physical size (specifially, his hands) is a factor for many instruments: “Wind instruments are tricky because you need bigger hands…One reason so many little kids start on string instruments is that they come in teensy sizes.”

Additionally, moms like mother-of-two Erin F. encourage honestly evaluating your child’s level of interest: “Ask your child if they’re even interested in learning…If it’s not fun, and they don't have an interest, it’s just not worth doing. If you’re really into it, try again at an older age...they will only thrive if they are enjoying it and not feeling pressure.”

2. Choose the Right Instrument

You say flute, your daughter says French horn? This time, she wins: it's best to let your child choose which instrument to play. Less straightforward is how to handle a child’s musical change of heart. If your child soon wants to switch instruments or stop altogether, first check whether she dislikes her teacher, or is simply frustrated by being a beginner. As Kelley W. shared: “I played clarinet for 4 years in school and at first I hated the sound, cuz let’s face it a beginner clarinet doesn’t sound so good. Then my Dad got me to listen to a little Benny Goodman and I decided the clarinet wasn’t so bad, I just needed to practice.” Others suggest allowing lots of experimentation at first, and then committing to one instrument for a year.

3. Rent the Instrument First

Many moms suggest renting an instrument for at least a few months, until you’re confident that your child is seriously interested. As Jane M. advised, you may also be able to have rental payments count towards the purchase price of an instrument: “Most music stores that work with the schools have lease to own programs.”

4. Choose the Right Teacher

Finding a good instructor can be critical to a positive music learning experience. “Make sure to find a teacher who makes it fun at first or it will seem like a chore,” cautions Sheryl M., and Sylvia H. agrees: “The personality of the teacher is paramount. You need someone really patient and kind who genuinely enjoys teaching little kids.”

5. Inspire Your Child to Practice

Is getting your child to practice her instrument a constant battle? For young children, Rebecca H. suggests setting up a tracking and reward system: “My students would accumulate points and then I would let them come to my ‘praise store’ and spend them…You could have coupons for special treats or activities.” For older children, moms suggest letting children pick out ‘fun’ music, duets to play with friends, or listening to professional recordings for inspiration.

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