Music Lessons: The Importance of Music Education for Children
The Importance of a Musical Education
Learning music has many benefits for children. Music has the ability to:
- Increase self confidence.
- Provide opportunities as an adult to participate in community bands or to play for pleasure.
- Teaching the virtues of delayed gratification, perseverance, and patience.
- Refine fine motor skills and improve eye-hand coordination.
- Teach abstract thought, spatial awareness, rhythm, patterns, and other mathematical skills.
Children who learn music learn that continued practice and hard work lead to great rewards - the drudgery of practicing the same song over and over again leads to the elation of mastering it, and then performing it for others. Learning to stick with a difficult task is a vital life skill, and translates to other areas in life.
Learning music also gives children increased opportunities in adult life. Playing an instrument for sheer pleasure is rewarding enough, but learning music also opens the door to community bands, orchestras, and other creative outlets.
Nearly all instruments refine hand movements, and kids will benefit from better coordination and fine motor skills. Music also requires a lot of abstract thinking and spatial awareness, which leads to better math skills. Reading notes on a staff and correlating the written music to the keys or strings on an instrument develops brain pathways, particularly if an instrument is learned prior to the age of seven. Counting music beats for whole, half, quarter, and eighth notes develops a sense of rhythm, and children will begin to find patterns in the music.
All children should be given the opportunity to learn music at some level, though music education should be a positive experience, led by an encouraging music teacher and parents.
Music Education: Finding the Right Fit for Your Child
Music lessons of any type are beneficial to children in many ways. Singing, learning an instrument, and developing appreciation for different types of music are wonderful for helping children develop.
In all cases, music should be presented in a positive manner, and adults conducting the lessons should remain encouraging and set an appropriate course of instruction. A five year old child will not learn an instrument at the same rate as a ten year old child, and will not be able to spend as much time in practice.
Before embarking on a musical education, it is important to consider many factors:
- The age of the child.
- The individual preferences of the child.
- The child's abilities and developmental level.
- Access to an instrument in the home.
- The amount of time available to practice the chosen musical art.
Starting Piano at Age Six
Music Lessons for All Ages
Music education can begin very early in a child's life. A mother who sings to her infant has begun the process of teaching her child music at a very early age. Programs such as MusikGarten have classes that provide a developmentally appropriate music curriculum for very young children, introducing concepts such as rhythm, body movement, and singing to toddlers and preschoolers.
Instruments are generally introduced to children in elementary school, though some methodologies allow instruments to be introduced at a very young age. The Suzuki method, for example, teaches children to play by ear and allows preschoolers to learn music as if they were learning a language. Children as young as three years of age have learned to play violin or piano via the Suzuki method.
Formal music lessons which require the ability to read music and require daily practice times are generally reserved for children ages six and above. My own young son began piano lessons in Kindergarten. He has well-developed math skills, but we consulted with our local piano teacher before starting lessons. We needed to determine if he was developmentally ready to begin learning to read music - we went in for a half hour "lesson" to evaluate whether or not he could sit for the duration of a lesson and follow along with the children's piano course. He did very well, and we started lessons the following week.
If a parent is unsure of whether or not a child is old enough for a particular type of music instruction, book a "test" session with the teacher to observe the child before committing to a series of lessons.
Music Education: A Poll
What Type of Music Education Does Your Child Have?
Finding the Right Instrument: Individual Preferences
For many young children, singing is a fun and appropriate way to learn music. Many children want to learn an instrument - follow the child's lead and allow them to learn the instrument that appeals to them. Upper elementary school aged children often have access to a school band, and will have a wide array of instruments available with lessons through the public school.
Finding the right instrument can be more difficult for younger children. My six year old son was desperate to learn an instrument, but simply couldn't decide what he would like to play. We read many books about different instruments, and he would simply declare, "I love ALL of them!" After some discussion, we decided to pursue the piano for several reasons: it can be played by a young child, it teaches the child to play from both music clefs (bass and treble), and it helps children coordinate both hands. My son was extremely excited to learn to play!
Determining the right methodology is important, too. A three year old child would be better suited to a Suzuki methodology than the traditional "John Thompson Piano Course" my son is taking. Find a teacher and method that fits your child's personality, developmental level, and temperament.
Ready to Learn?
Take A Child's Ability and Developmental Level Into Consideration
It is highly important to consider a child's ability and developmental level when deciding on music lessons. Children with fine motor difficulties may get frustrated while trying to learn an instrument that requires finesse, and some children may simply be unable to learn to read music at the age of five. Before starting instrument lessons, ask the following questions about your child:
- Can my child sit for a thirty minute stretch of time?
- Does my child have the coordination and hand strength to be successful at this instrument?
- Does my child have the necessary math skills to learn this instrument?
- Does my child want to learn this instrument?
The question about math skills does not apply to children learning via the Suzuki method, but we did have to assess our son's math skills before embarking upon more traditional piano lessons. He had to understand the concepts of whole, half, and quarter notes. He needed to have the spatial awareness to understand where the "C" notes were on the piano keyboard, and required abstract thinking abilities to understand how the written notes related to the physical keyboard.
Instruments in the Home
Before signing your child up for music lessons, ensure you have access to an instrument in the home. Kids who take band lessons at school often have the option to rent instruments. This can be an affordable option, particularly if parents are unsure whether the child will continue with the instrument for a prolonged period of time. It is unwise to purchase an expensive instrument if the child is going to stop playing it a few months later! Renting instruments allows a child to try playing the flute (or saxophone, or clarinet) without having to invest a lot of money in an instrument.
The child must have access to the instrument in the home, as nearly every method of music instruction requires daily practice. Having an instrument in the home also allows the child to play music in a free-form method - learning to gain enjoyment from making music outside the confines of the lesson.
Since our son was learning piano, it was vital to have a piano in the home. We briefly considered renting a piano, but ran across some incredibly good luck when our neighbors mentioned they wanted to get rid of their piano. We jumped on the opportunity and ended up with an upright Baldwin in our living room... for free! Our son practices his lessons on the piano, plays memorized songs, and sometimes simply makes up his own "compositions."
Make Time to Practice
Making Time for Practice
Learning a musical instrument is not only a financial investment. Time, and a lot of it, is required to learn any instrument. Ensure there is a sufficient amount of time in each day to allow for practices.
In our house, we have a rule that the television cannot be turned on until the piano is practiced and any homework is done. Our son also plays ice hockey and various other sports throughout the year, so our schedule is fairly full. To keep the number of activities from getting out of hand, we have allow each of our children to have "one sport and one art" at any one time. Our little boy has a lot of initiative and often wants to sign up for every sport or class available, but we limit him to one sport in addition to his piano. He still needs time for free play, and any additional activities would simply be overwhelming.