If you have a young child at home who loves singing or who is always banging on a drum or tinkering on Daddy’s piano, you might be asking yourself, “Is my child ready for instrumental lessons?” Children develop at different rates, and the age at which children are developmentally ready to learn an instrument varies. Over my years of teaching, I have noticed specific skills that impact a child’s ability to succeed in learning to play a musical instrument. When children begin lessons before they have mastered these skills, they often struggle with lessons and home practice. Their confidence is affected and they make slow progress, which can lead to a belief that they are not musical; the reality is that they were just not quite ready for lessons.
Below is an outline of some of the skills children need to demonstrate before commencing instrumental lessons with confidence and enthusiasm.
Children do best in instrumental lessons if they have developed some essential musical skills before beginning lessons. These include: clapping to the beat, clapping patterns that include sounds and silences, aurally recognising and vocally producing high, low, and mid pitches, and the ability to connect sounds with symbols.
One of the most often overlooked areas in instrumental readiness is a child’s physical development. Being physically ready to learn an instrument makes a significant impact on how quickly children progress and how much they enjoy playing. Physical skills include: a child’s ability to balance and hold weight, an awareness of their bodies and how they move, and the development of fine motor skills, particularly finger independence. All these skills are essential to being able to hold and physically produce sounds on an instrument.
Learning a musical instrument requires specific thinking skills. A child who has mastered the following thinking skills will find it much easier to learn to read music, which is essential to becoming a good musician. These skills include: the ability to track left to right (being able to read words left to right), recognising patterns, competence with relating symbols to action.
One of the most critical factors for success on an instrument is the home environment. Instrumental lessons for children under the age of 8 require commitment from the parents because children at this age are usually not ready to tackle practice tasks on their own. It could mean that a parent learns alongside their child to help them practice at home.
It is also essential that children have an appropriate instrument to practice on at home once lessons begin. We recommend that the musical instrument that your child will be learning on is purchased at least three months before they start learning so they can explore how the instrument works.
We have created a handy checklist for parents who are considering instrumental lessons for their children it can be downloaded below.Get the checklist here