When should children start music lessons?
by Julie, masters degree in Education
The number one question I always hear is, “when should my child start taking lessons?” to which I reply, when they are born, or maybe even before that. Am I suggesting that one year olds be propped up on a piano bench to start embracing the works of Beethoven? Of course not. Surrounding children with music from the time they are born is the best way to get the 100 billion neurons in their brain to start making these connections, called synapses. The first nine years of a child’s life are a critical window to learning because their young brains are highly adept at creating these synapses. These neural pathways become permanent if used over and over, but if not used, they start to eliminate around age 10. A systematic and repeated exposure to a wide variety of musical activities helps cement the rich neural connections of a musical mind.
Do we need to, as parents, worry if our kids even have a “natural talent” for it? I’d say no. Musical aptitude, or “talent”, is the child’s natural potential to become a musician. But the other factor in the equation is a child’s musical achievement, or what that child can do with music. So while “aptitude” is their natural talent, “achievement” is how far they take that talent. Around age 9, a child’s aptitude tends to stabilize and remain constant throughout the rest of childhood and adult life. The lesson here is this: The more musical experience you can provide for your children during the preschool years and early elementary years increases the enhancement of his or her aptitude, or natural talent. That’s the gift we as parents can give our children – enhanced aptitude.
There are two components to musical aptitude: 1. rhythmic and 2. melodic. Children with a natural aptitude for rhythm will be drawn to dance, drums, guitar, or piano. Those children with a high melodic aptitude will be drawn to violin, flute, or voice. Early enculturation of music will help parents see where their child’s natural draw is. This is simply surrounding your child with music, from the time they are born. Play classical music at night while they drift to sleep. Dance to some ragtime music together. Find some African drum music at the library CD collection and drum with your child. Take a music class, like Kindermusik.
While enculturation, like this, is intended to develop the child’s mental skills to process music, musical training is intended to develop specific skills, such as playing a specific instrument, singing, or composing. Recommended window to start focusing on a specific instrument is between 5 and 10. Good first instruments are piano, violin, or cellos. Somewhere between age 9 and 12 is where children shift from developing their aptitude to achievement on the instrument. Kids might switch to a different instrument that is more their lifetime instrument. It’s a great time to start instruments like the guitar, tuba, saxophone, and other more physically demanding instruments.
An easy way to try out this world of music before investing in private lessons may be to join some group classes and camps. Joyful Noise Music Studio will be holding beginning and intermediate level 5-day Guitar camps at the Redmond Music Supply Store Mid-April and again during the first week of summer break in June. These camps are for 9 year olds through adults. Call Cory for more information at 504-5371. For the younger child, ages 0 to 7, try a group music class from Miss Amy of KinderMusik held in Bend. Miss Amy can be reached at 389-6690.
Julie and Cory own a successful music studio teaching guitar and piano to students all over Central Oregon. They can be reached at 504-5371. Julie is currently touring nationally performing and they both monthly join their church’s band in corporate worship.