Thinking about enrolling your child in music lessons? Great! Playing an instrument is such a wonderful creative expression, and teaches children so much more than just how to play a song or how to read sheet music. But before you book that 5:30 appointment, here are just a few things to consider and do so you and your child can be as prepared as possible!
1. Recognize that music lessons are not a once a week commitment, but a daily practice.
This is a big one. Many parents think that since they have 3:30-4pm on Tuesdays open each week that it is no big deal to add piano or violin lessons to the weekly rotation. However, it's important to remember that children who are enrolled in several after school activities will still need to practice their instrument each day for a minimum of 10-30 minutes, depending on their age and skill level. Given this fact, a half hour weekly lesson plus 30 minutes each day of practice is a nearly 4 hour a week commitment, with daily reminders needed until a routine is established.
If you are hoping to avoid extra curricular overload, it's a good policy to limit after school activities to 2 per week, ideally one athletic and one artistic or academic. This provides a good sense of balance between activity types and ensures that the child will have enough attention available for each.
2. Purchase the best instrument you can afford.
We encourage parents to consider buying an instrument that the child can grow into, rather than just the least expensive thing they can find. This instrument is where your child will spend countless hours growing as a young musician and perfecting his/her craft. A piano with dead keys or a guitar that won't stay in tune is just plain frustrating to play, and can deter proper practice habits. If you're interested in more guidance on purchasing a new or used instrument, ask your music instructor, or check out our other blog entry on this subject here.
3. Have a phone consultation with your music instructor.
This is very important! Before the first lesson, be sure to set up a phone call with the guitar or piano teacher. During this call, you'll have an opportunity to discuss goals, musical background, instrument selection and purchase, lesson fees, attendance policy, weekly lesson times, practice targets, and your child's temperament, learning style, and preferences. You'll also be able to get detailed directions to the studio, and ask any questions you might have. These things are all best discussed outside of the regular lesson time.
4. Plan age and skill appropriate goals.
Young 5's will progress at a different rate than 7 or 8 year olds or teenagers will. It's important that if your child is learning how to play an instrument at a very young age that you not expect them to master each skill quickly. Each task will be broken down to the very basic elements and rehearsed to mastery. This will require patience and repetition. As a coach, it is your duty to encourage your child to follow lesson instructions as closely as possible and foster patience and perseverance.
5. Have your child observe a lesson.
Often, children who begin lessons very young (up to age 7 or 8) simply don't know what is expected of them during their weekly class. Bringing your child in to observe a lesson in progress shows them what they'll get to learn, builds their excitement, and also demonstrates appropriate lesson behavior. Taking piano lessons or guitar lessons is a lot more like taking a class than it is like free playtime, and in order for children to hit the ground running, it's important that they understand this from the outset.
6. Determine whether your child would prefer the Suzuki Method to traditional classical lessons.
I may be biased toward teaching Suzuki piano, but for children younger than 9, I just don't know if there's really a better way to start out! There are many perks to learning an instrument using the mother tongue method, but the biggest one for young beginners is that learning this way allows them to focus on making a beautiful sound before they have to learn how to read notes on a page. If you're curious, we have a great blog post which talks about all the things parents need to know about the Suzuki Method here.
However, for some children, especially those who are visual learners, older beginners, or those taking lessons less than weekly, traditional classical lessons focusing on building sight reading skills might be the better option. It's a good idea to discuss this with your instructor during the initial phone call.
Once you've considered all of these things, you're ready to get started! Contact us today to find out more, and get your first free lesson.