These guidelines will
help you have a successful, rewarding experience learning an instrument.
These are practical tips that we have discovered from years of
teaching and our experiences with many students each year.
How Young is too young? -Starting at the right age
Adults can start any instrument at any age. 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.
starting at the right age is key to the success of their lessons.
Some people will tell you, "The sooner the better" but
this attitude can actually backfire and become negative. If a
child is placed in to lessons too soon, they may feel overwhelmed and
frustrated and want to stop taking 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
age usually do very well. The following guidelines were found
to be successful in determining how young a child can start taking
If a preschooler has a keen desire and wants to start music, a
group preschool music class will give them a good foundation in
music basics which will be helpful in later private lessons. At
this age, private lessons generally do not as the child has not
yet experienced the formal learning environment of kindergarten
or school and learns more effectively through game oriented
At our school, 5 years old is the youngest we start children in
private Piano lessons. At this age they have begun to develop
longer attention spans and can retain the material with ease.
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 old and older.
10 years old is recommended as the youngest age for private Vocal
lessons. Due to the physical nature of Voice lessons (proper breathing
technique, development of the vocal chords and lung capacity),
the younger body is generally not yet ready for the rigors of
The average age of our youngest Drum students 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.
Clarinet and Saxophone
Due to lung capacity (and in the case of Saxophone the size of
the instrument), we recommend that most Woodwind beginners are
9yrs. and older.
We accept Violin students from the age of 5. Some teachers start
children as young as 3, but experience has shown us that most
productive learning occurs when the child is 5 or older.
The Trumpet requires physical exertion and lung power. 9 years
and older is a good time to start.
Insist on Private lessons when learning a specific instrument:
Group classes work well for preschool music programs and theory
lessons. However, when actually learning how to play an instrument,
private lessons are far superior since in private lessons it is
hard to miss anything, and in each student can learn at their
own pace. This means the teacher does not have to teach a class
at the middle of the road level, but has the time and
focus to work on the individual student's strengths and weaknesses.
For that lesson period, the student is the primary focus of the
teacher. The teacher also enjoys this as they do not have to divide
attention between 5-10 students at a time and can help the student
be the best they can be.
Take Lessons in a Professional Teaching Environment:
Learning music is not
just a matter of having a qualified teacher, but also having an
environment that is focused on music education. In a professional
school environment, a student cannot be distracted by TV, pets,
ringing phones, siblings or anything else. With only 1/2 to one
hour of lesson per week, a professional school environment can
produce better result since the only focus at the time is learning
music. Students in a school environment are also motivated by
hearing peers who are at different levels and by being exposed
to a variety of musical instruments. In a music school, the lessons
are not just a hobby or a sideline for the teacher but a responsibility
that is taken seriously.
Making practice easier:
As with anything, improving
music takes practice. One of the main problems with music lessons
is the drudgery of practicing and the fight between parents and
students to practice everyday. Here are some ways to make practicing
A) Time- set the same time everyday 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.
B) Repetition- We use
this method quite often when setting practice schedules for beginners.
for a young child 20 to 30 minutes seems like an eternity. instead
of setting a time frame, we use repetition. For example, practice
this 4 times a day, and this scale 5 times a day. The child then
does not pay attention to the amount of time they are practicing
their instrument, but knows if they are on repetition 3 they are
C) Rewards- This works
well for both children and adult students. Parents also encourage their children to practice by granting
occasional awards 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 is no substitute for a pat on the back for
a job well done. Sometimes we have all had a week with little
practicing, in that case there is always next week.
Use Recognized Teaching Methods:
There are some excellent materials developed by professional music
educators that are made for students in a variety of situations.
for example, in piano, there are books for very young beginners,
and books for adult students that have never played before. These
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
there are no important parts of learning the instrument left out. If
you ever have to move from a different part of the country, qualified
teachers and institutions will recognize the materials and be
able to smoothly continue where the previous teacher left off.
Students should be given
an opportunity to play music with their peers. This gives them
a chance to use what they are learning in their private lesson
in a group situation. Creativity, music reading, following a beat,
interaction and a lot of fun are always the by products.