Music lessons can bring out the best in kids and adults, tugging at our sense of creative wonder and fantasy. And the benefits of music lessons can not be understated. It’s an exceptional way for kids and adults to sharpen their mental acuity and stay psychologically, emotionally, and physically engaged in an activity that promotes comprehensive well-being and personal development.
What Can I Do To Help Prepare My Child for Music Lessons?
Preparing for music lessons isn’t complicated. In order to take full advantage of what lessons have to offer, it’s important to follow some basic guidelines to ensure music lesson readiness.
What is a good age to begin music lessons?
All children develop at different rates, so there is no clear bar that defines when exactly a child is ready. Fine motor skill development, hand-eye coordination, patience, and listening skills are all extremely important factors when deciding whether or not a child is ready for lessons. For some, this may be in their preschool years, and for others it may not be until 1st or 2nd grade.
One really important factor that is often overlooked, is making sure the child has their interest and curiosity piqued. While it speaks little of their physical development, if the child is disinterested, the endeavor is virtually guaranteed to fall short of expectations. Early music exposure will undoubtedly help prepare a child for music lessons, but it’s not the sole factor. The more children are exposed to music, the more their interest will grow. The greater the desire, the more motivation to learn.
For parents interested in simply exposing their children to music, older adolescents tend to fare better. If the child is the one expressing interest and begging their parents for lessons, there is almost no age that is too young. Children as young as 3 years old and up can have tremendous success, but not without their own personal desire to create. The motivated kids will generally find the most success regardless of how well they can technically execute.
What can parents do before lessons start to help their child?
There are several ways to prepare ahead of time and ensure a good experience for children. The goal is to facilitate meaningful interaction and make sure kids come away with a positive relationship to music and motivation to continue their pursuit.
One of the best things parents can do for their children is to set expectations for the lessons. Most students do not set out to be professional musicians, nor do parents wish to burden children with unrealistic goals and rigorous performance expectations. However, music skills, like many other extracurricular activities, take time to develop and require repetition to make progress.
Setting practice goals and using incentive tactics can help keep kids motivated each week. Making sure kids understand that perfection is not the target, but enjoyment of artistic expression. That said, in order to express yourself through music, skills must be learned to achieve that end. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and no one became an expert musician overnight. If kids can learn to enjoy the process, the fruits of their labor will show up before they know it.
Pay attention to logistics
There are certainly quite a few logistics to keep in mind as well. For online lessons, there are hardware and software considerations, as well as internet connectivity concerns. Be mindful of the video platform and any operating system requirements ahead of time. Be sure the camera is working properly and you have necessary materials and equipment well in advance. Trying to figure out how to get connected at the time of your lesson will be wasted time spent and create frustration.
If you travel to a facility for lessons, make sure you have all the materials present and your instrument with you. Assemble the instrument or tune it before your lesson time, depending on which it is, if needed. Have your workbooks earmarked for easy reference.
Set up the right, dedicated space
Both for in-home lessons and for practice time, it’s important to have quie, private space that is well organized. The space you use can have a profound effect on your success. Be certain to keep the distractions to a minimum or out of sight, and make sure the space is free from clutter or unnecessary items that may distract from your lesson or practice time. Turn off cell phones and avoid reading or listening to messages.
Some instruments may require having replacement parts on hand in case something breaks or isn’t working properly. Guitar strings can break and woodwind reeds can splinter. If you take lessons on a stringed instrument, always have an extra pair of strings handy in case one breaks. If you play woodwinds that require using a reed, make sure to have others present in case you have to switch them out.
On occasion, you may need to clean the instrument or have proper tools and accouterments that may assist in the proper upkeep of the instrument. Any instrument can be susceptible to structural damage if not properly cared for. Music instrument maintenance is an important piece of learning. Brass instruments require valve oil and a mouthpiece brush for proper cleaning. Woodwind instruments use mouthpiece brushes, pad savers and cleaning rods. It’s important to have the necessary items in case your instrument requires some additional cleaning or care during, before, or after the lesson. Guitars and electric basses may need Allen wrenches to adjust the truss rod, in addition to polish, strings, and smaller wrenches to adjust bridge settings for intonation.
What can parents do to support their child after lessons have started?
An important part of the experience for kids is making sure there is sufficient music lesson support from parents. From establishing a routine and exploring learning styles, to incorporating technology, setting goals, and communicating with the teachers, parents have a big role in making sure kids get the most they can from the lessons.
Create a routine
Finding ways to incorporate music into a child’s daily or weekly activities is an important component to ensure the child has time to dedicate to this new endeavor. When parents help their children carve time for regular practice in their daily routine, kids will often find themselves even playing during school breaks and in their free time. The routine can help kids learn time management skills and build self-confidence, which, in turn, creates more motivation to practice.
Explore different ways to learn
Adults can help their kids find the learning style and process that works best for them. Some kids do well with endless repetition on the way to technical mastery. Other kids get bored easily and may need to jump from task to task. Since every student’s learning style is different and each student’s relationship with music is a winding path, children may find interest in different tasks, repertoire, exercises, and concepts.
Let students have a say
Part of exploring different ways to learn means letting students have a say in their own musical journey. Some kids may actually enjoy classical music and the intricate patterns and challenges that Baroque, Classical, and Romantic music may have. Others may really prefer more contemporary pop, rock and Disney songbook favorites. If a child is not interested, expect motivation to wane. So be certain to include plenty of repertoire that the child can get excited about learning.
Incorporating media is a great way to keep lessons interesting, and add a modern dimension to the learning process. Some children may learn more effectively through a technology medium. Often kids with special sensory needs may benefit from additional tools to help communicate concepts. Using apps and tablets can give kids an opportunity to play and explore beyond the music lessons and without their instrument in their hands.
Set goals and stick to them
Setting goals is often difficult as a child, and a great way for parents to help support their kids. Whether practice goals, consistency goals, performance goals, or repertoire goals, parents can help kids talk through what is important to them and find ways to inspire by setting fun, achievable goals. It can often fall on the parent to motivate their kids to practice, even when the child’s energy levels are low. The same goes for lessons as well. When committing to a new endeavor and prioritizing music in their lives, it’s important to treat the lessons with respect, which includes avoiding cancellations except in extreme circumstances.
Communicate with the teacher
Feedback is important. Communicating with the teacher is an important way to get a glimpse of their child’s progress and demeanor in their lessons. Conversely, with input from parents, teachers can better understand a child’s personality, learning style, or motivating factors that can assist in creating a good lesson experience.
Kids do not always readily share how their day was, what they learned, or most importantly, what struggles they may be experiencing. Teachers can share how the child has been behaving, where they struggle, what they enjoy and what aspirations they may have. This is a great way for parents to make sure the child is enjoying their lessons and what kind of benefits are being realized.
Kids can struggle keeping their materials organized or remembering what their practice assignments are. By sending notes and reminders to parents, or discussing the lessons directly, teachers can make sure parents understand what is expected of the children and what should be accomplished between lessons.
Forbes Music makes interactions like this easy! The technology systems Forbes uses give teachers the ability to customize feedback emails and reports for parents, as well as create lists of lesson and repertoire content to track progress.
So what can parents do to help?
In short, be present and mindful of making sure your child is well prepared and poised for a good experience. Forbes Music specializes in curating these experiences for kids and giving parents the tools they need for the best music lesson experience.
Parents who take an active role in assisting their kids will often find children who are better engaged and more successful. From expectations and preparation, to goals setting and communication, parents have a strong influence on the success of their children’s lessons and Forbes Music has the tools to help every step of the way.