It’s a wonderful thing that so many children are exposed to music at a young age. We sing to them, play lullabies at night, buy music made especially for children and play with xylophones. But at what age can children begin learning how to play a real musical instrument? After all, it’s one thing to listen to music, and another to actually create it. There are many things to consider when it comes to choosing the right music lessons at the right time.
When a child is a preschooler, around age 3 or 4, they are typically ready to begin informal lessons. Many community groups, recreational organizations or private institutions such as Kindermusik offer such lessons that are tailored for very young children. Typically, these lessons involve the parents and are a great way to bond and spend time together.
The point of these classes is not to learn how to play particular instruments, but rather to develop skills in identifying rhythm and beat, melody or even specific instruments. Children may clap in time or perform simple rhythmic moves. At this point in their lives, it’s all about exposure to music and making it fun.
By the time a child is around 5 or 6 years old, they are typically ready for more formal music lessons. This is what the Music Teachers National Association recommends. Children have received lots of exposure to music by this time and have built a solid foundation that can help them learn how to play an instrument. In basic lessons, they will be learning more about their instrument and about music. It’s helpful if they can read, because when the teacher feels they are ready they will begin reading music.
The most popular instruments for young children to learn are the piano or the violin. The piano is easy for children to play; simply press a key and create sound! Early lessons will typically include scales and learning note values. In this regard, music lessons help children develop math skills in addition to fostering creativity.
Age 10 and Up
By this age the child has a firm foundation and has developed skills related to their instrument of choice. Now lessons will shift from mastering the basics to fine-tuning their performance. They have learned about notes, time signatures, how to read music and how to play their instrument. At this point, they will be playing with more confidence and learn techniques, such as playing louder or softer when the music calls for it. Instead of simply playing notes, the music they create should be injected with feeling.
In addition, older children now have the coordination and muscle strength to try larger instruments if they would like, such as brass or a large stringed instrument like a cello.
This does not mean that your child will never be a master musician if he or she does not pick up an instrument by kindergarten. All children learn and mature at different rates, and if your child does not have interest in playing music until second or third grade, that does not mean all is lost! Even adults can start learning how to play an instrument. Learning to play music is a skill that can last a lifetime. Instruments are not cheap, it’s not a risky as an unsecured business loan, but they can run pretty high. Make sure you take the right steps to ensure your child’s success!