My name is Lucy. I’m the owner of Lucy Sparkles & Friends and I teach music and dance classes for 0-6s at Punk Me Up Ceramics Cafe. One of my qualifications is in teaching music specifically to children in their early years. The most common question I am asked by parents is ‘When should my child start to learn an instrument?’ So I thought I would share my answer with you here.
In my opinion, the best time to start to learn an instrument is at around age seven. Many parents think that earlier is better however there is evidence to show that this is not the case and, in fact, for some instruments it is actually preferable to start even later! There are two main reasons. The first is that starting too early can actually put a child off music for life (and not just the instrument they study but all music) and the second is that there is a lot of musical learning that should be done before a child learns to play an instrument.
Just because your child may not be ready for one on one music lessons does not mean they cannot begin to develop musically. In fact, the best thing you can do for your child’s musical development is to teach them musicality (which they can begin to learn from birth) and then musicianship (from about five years old) through SINGING!
Musicality involves internal and subconscious understanding of musical concepts including: pitch, pulse, rhythm, phrasing, tempo and dynamics etc.
Musicianship is the conscious understanding of these concepts through symbols including: written notation, note names and hand signals. Once your child has made these concepts conscious they can translate them into instrumental sounds. Just because you can train a child to press a middle c on a piano does not mean they understand what they are doing. They just know where the c note is (because you told them) and are pressing it. The voice is a part of our own bodies and so by learning to sing, we are learning to feel and understand music from within. Instruments are eternal objects that we train our bodies to play almost mechanically.
I run musicianship classes (which include developing musicality) for children aged 4-6 at Punk Me Up on Wednesday and Friday afternoons. These classes are Kodály based and teach musicianship through singing and games. The children develop a good sense of pulse and rhythm, pitch awareness, the ability to sing in tune and they are introduced to the basics of reading musical notation. The classes are designed for children who would like to prepare for learning an instrument or for those children who just love singing! Maximum class size is 12.
If your child has a good attention span and is really keen to learn an instrument before age seven, I recommend finding a group piano musicianship class. As a part of our joint ‘South East Musicianship’ school, Margaret Ominiyi teaches a class like this at her house in Peckham on Thursday afternoons for children aged 5-7. Her class carries on from mine and introduces the children to the keyboard. The children become familiar with the keyboard, learn beginner piano technique, play familiar tunes by ear, further develop their sense of pulse and rhythm and their singing skills, read rhythm notation, further develop pitch notation and learn composition skills. Maximum class size is 6.
When your child is ready to learn an instrument (either group classes or one one one) you need to make sure they are informed about the choices available and their own preferences. It is therefore important that your child is exposed to a variety of instruments from a young age. The best way to do this is by taking them to lots of concerts and live performances of a wide variety of musical styles. If your child is not ready to make a choice I recommend starting on piano or keyboard as these instruments lend themselves to musicianship (including reading music) and many of the skills they will learn can be translated to learning another instrument later on.
To book a free taster class please visit www.lucysparkles.com
If you have any questions about this blog please don’t hesitate to email [email protected]