This weekend I was asked by a parent, “what’s the best thing parents can do to help their children learn to play music?” The answer to this question is surprisingly simple:
Create an environment that automatically fosters musical development.
Okay.. but what does this environment look like? Here are 7 ways that you can create this kind of an environment:
1. Enjoy music yourself. Of course you already enjoy listening to music, but turn it up a notch. When you’re with your kids, talk about your favorite music and why you like it. Ask them about their opinions about the music. For instance, “Hey, listen to this part! I love what the guitar is doing! Can you believe that someone can play the guitar that well?” or “I love the way this song starts. What do you think?” or “Doesn’t she have a beautiful voice? I wonder if she took voice lessons?”
Passion breeds passion and your kids will mirror you, whether you know it or not.
2. Learn an instrument yourself. Speaking of kids mirroring behavior… If your child sees you playing an instrument she’ll probably want to join you. This may seem like a tall order since we all have such busy schedules, but believe it or not, you can learn to play pretty well in about 20 hours worth of work. That’s only 20 minutes a day for two months.
Watch what this guy learned to do in 20 hours. You can do it too!
3. Start Up Family Music Time! Chances are your kids have learned some songs in pre-school, kindergarten, or from somewhere else. Let them sing for you! Sing along with them! Pull out some pots and pans. Strum the ukulele or the guitar. Sing favorite songs church. If your kids are taking lessons, listen to recordings of professionals playing the pieces they are learning or have learned.
Are your kids older? Listen to their terrible music with them! Ask questions about what they like in the music. Make them listen to the terrible music you liked in high school.
It doesn’t matter what you do, just as long as music is the focus!
4. Actively Listen To Music In The Car. Most people have their car radios tuned into “Top 40 Radio” but most people don’t really listen. “Top 40 Radio” turns into background noise for a lot of folks. Next time you get in your car with your kids, turn up the volume a bit and actively listen to the songs. Why does the music make you feel excited, nostalgic, or relaxed? Is it the cool guitar hook, the group chant, or the impossibly high vocal notes?
5. Take away distractions. Many cars today are sold with built in DVD players. Our phones are treasure troves of distraction tools. All this to say, replace screens with conversation, art, and music. We’ve all heard about studies that show how musical training increases attention in children. If children have a choice between TV and music, most will choose TV. Make the choice music or art “because we only watch TV on Friday and Saturday nights” (or whatever limit you see fit).
The following video shows a pediatrician talking about how overstimulation can inhibit a child’s ability to hold their attention.
6. Get involved in group music classes. These classes are springing up all over the country. Group music classes are designed so that children can enjoy music with their parents in a fun, zero-pressure environment. There’s lots of singing, dancing, and the kind of cognitive stimulation that enhances children’s ability to learn music and perform better in all areas of life.
If you live in Asheville NC check out this excellent source for kids group classes.
7. Find a great teacher! A good teacher will help you to enhance the environment of music in your home. He or she will give clear reasonable goals which build upon one another. A good teacher will find a fluid way that speaks to your child’s individual learning style. Things to look for in a great teacher: several years of professional experience as a musician; a degree in music performance or music education; an ability to explain musical terminology in a way that is easy to understand; passion for playing, teaching, and learning.
At the Summit Academy of Music we specialize in teaching Suzuki Guitar to children as young as 3. If you want to find out more about how to enhance the musical environment in your home, give us a call or send us an e-mail anytime. Steve@summitmusicasheville.com 828-674-3081