Start at the Right Age - How Young is too Young? 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 40's, 50's, 60's and 70's. 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. 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 by starting too young. 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-school child has a keen desire and wants to start music, a group pre-school music class will give them a good foundation in music basics and will be helpful in later private lessons. At this age, private lessons generally do not work as well as the game oriented pre-school environment.
Piano/Keyboard At Allegra, 5 years-old is the youngest age that we recommend starting 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 8 years-old is the earliest we recommend for guitar lessons. Guitar playing requires a fair amount of pressure on the fingertips from pressing the strings. Children under 8 generally have small hands and may find playing uncomfortable. Bass guitar students generally are 10 years-old and older.
Voice Lessons 10 years-old is the recommended 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 ready for the rigors of vocal technique. There are exceptions; in some cases the voice and/or the body matures a faster pace. At Allegra our professional instructors will help you make the right choice for your child.
Drums/Percussion The average of our drum students is 8 years-old. This varies greatly depending on the size of the child. They have to be able to reach both the pedals and the cymbals and maintain proper balance.
Flute, Clarinet, Trumpet, Trombone, and Saxophone Due to lung capacity (and in the case of the saxophone the size of the instrument), we recommend that most woodwind and brass beginners are 9 and older.
Violin, Viola We accept violin and viola students starting at 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 years of age or older.
Insist on Private lessons when Learning a Specific Instrument Group classes work well for pre-school 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 an instrument at their own pace. This means the teacher does not have to teach a class at 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.
Take lessons in a Professionals 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 cannon be distracted by outside influences.
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 easier:
• Time- Set the same 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.
ª Repetition- 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, consider using repetition. For example, practice this piece four times a day, and this scale five 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.
ª Rewards- This works very well for both children and adult students. Some adults reward themselves with a cappuccino after 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 next week.
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 be inadvertently left out. If you ever have to move to a different part of the country, qualified instructors and institutions will recognize the materials and be able to smoothly continue from where the previous instructor left off.
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 to quickly. Everyone learns at a different pace and the key is to be able to enjoy the journey!