What is the Right Age to Start Music?

Okay, so when is my child ready to learn an instrument?
The following 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 year.

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 60’s 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 lessons.

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 preschool environment.

At our school 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 – Acoustic, Electric and Bass
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.

Voice Lessons
10 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. However, singing lessons can still be worthwhile for students
as young as 6. For younger students, the lessons focus on singing enjoyment, working on
the basics of breathing and pronunciation, and developing a sense of musicality. In addition to private lessons, our popular Jammin’ Music Glee Club is great for aspiring singers and ends in a performance, complete with live music accompaniment.

The average age of our youngest drum student is 8, though we have taken kids as
young as 6. The minimum age range varies greatly depending on the size of the child.
They have to be able to reach both the pedals and the cymbals.

Flute, Clarinet & Saxophone
Due to lung capacity (and in the case of the saxophone the size of the instrument),
we recommend that most woodwind beginners are 9 and older.

We accept violin students from the age of 5. Some teachers will start children as
young as 3, but experience has shown us the most productive learning occurs when the
beginner is 5 or older.

2. Insist On Private Lessons When Learning a Specific Instrument
Group classes work well for preschool music programs, and theory lessons.
However, when actually learning how to play an instrument, private lessons are far
superior since in private lessons it is hard to miss anything, and each student can learn at
their own pace. This means the teacher does not have to teach a class at a middle of the
road level, but has the time and focus to work on the individual student’s strengths and
weaknesses. For that lesson period, the student is the primary focus of the teacher. The
teachers also enjoy this as they do not have to divide their attention between 5 – 10
students at a time and can help the student be the best they can be.

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 that 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 struggle between parents and students to practice every day. Here are some ways to make practicing easier:

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, and in that case, there is always next week.

5. Use Recognized Teaching Materials
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 off.

Most Importantly . . .HAVE FUN!!
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.

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