guidelines will help you to have a successful, rewarding
experience learning an instrument. These are practical
tips that we have discovered from years of teaching and
our experiences with teaching hundreds of students each
1. How young is too
young - starting at the right age
Adults can start any instrument at any time. Their success
is based on how willing an adult is to commit to practicing.
We teach many beginner students in their 60s and
For children, starting at the right age is a key element
to the success of their lessons. Some people will tell
you the sooner the better but this attitude
can actually backfire and be a negative. If a child is
put into lessons too soon they may feel overwhelmed and
frustrated and want to stop lessons. The last thing you
want to do is turn a child off 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 starting age usually do very well.
The following are guidelines we have found to be successful
in determining how young a child can start taking music
3-4 Years Old
If a pre-schooler 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 work as the child has not yet experienced
the formal learning environment of kindergarten or school
and learns more effectively through the game oriented
Piano / Keyboard
At our studio 5 years old is the youngest age that we
start children in private piano lessons. At this age they
have begun to develop longer attention spans and can retain
material with ease.
Guitar - Accoustic, Electric and
7 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
7 generally have small hands and may find playing uncomfortable.
Bass guitar students generally are 9 years old and older.
8 years old is recommended as the youngest age for private
vocal lessons. Due to the physical nature of voice lessons
(proper breathing techniques, development of the vocal
chords and lung capacity), the younger body is generally
not yet ready for the rigors of vocal technique.
The average age of our youngest drum student is 8. This
varies greatly depending on the size of the child as they
need to be able to reach both the pedals and the cymbals.
2. Choose a studio which
offers a choice of group or individual lessons for beginners
Different students require different teaching approaches.
Some students progress best with the peer interaction
and class motivation of a group session. Other students
prefer the focused concentration of an individual one
on one lesson. Once a student is more advanced it will
be necessary to take private lessons to master the advanced
techniques of an instrument or voice with individual attention.
Make sure that your student has the option to select the
learning style that is best suited for them.
3. 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 t.v., pets, ringing
phones, siblings or anything else. With only 1/2 to one
hour of lesson time per week, a professional school environment
can produce better results since the only focus at that
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
sideline for the teacher but a responsibility which is
taken very seriously.
4. Make practicing easier
As with anything, improving in 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 every day. Here are some ways to make practicing
Set the same time every day 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.
We use this method quite often when setting practice schedules
for beginners. For a young child 20 or 30 minutes seems
like an eternity. Instead of setting a time frame, we
use repetition. For example, practice this piece 4 times
every 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 number 3 they are almost finished.
This works very well for both children and adult students.
Some adults reward themselves with a cappuccino after
a successful week of practicing. Parents can encourage
children to practice by granting them occasional rewards
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 just is no substitute for a pat
on the back for a job well done. Sometimes we all have
a week with little practicing, in that case there is always
5. Use recognized teaching
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. There 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 no important part of learning the instrument can
inadvertently be left out. If you ever have to move to
a different part of the country, qualified teachers and
institutions will recognize the materials and be able
to smoothly continue from where the previous teacher left
Music should be something that you enjoy for a lifetime.
So, try not to put unrealistic expectations on yourself
or your children to learn too quickly. Everyone learns
at a different pace and the key is to be able to enjoy