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Is my child ready for formal music instrument lessons?

So, what is the right age to start a formal lesson program on a musical instrument?

Every child is different. But generally speaking, private lessons on a music instrument are best started no younger than age 7 for piano, violin, drums, and ukulele, and guitar, and at age 9 or 10 for brass, woodwinds and voice. If your child is showing an interest in music and under 7, you might consider a group class that includes lots singing, movement, and listening. These classes are a great way to set a solid foundation of musical concepts (high/low, loud/soft, timbre, steady beat) for when they are ready to begin formal private lessons.  A formal private music lesson program requires dedication, patience, and consistency.   

Here are some points to consider to help you decide if the time is right.

  • Playing musical instruments makes physical demands on kids. Does your child have the appropriate physical development and fine motor control to play an instrument or sing?
  • Does your child regularly engage in musical games, in school or another group setting?  
  • Can your child focus on one thing for at least 20 minutes?
  • Does he or she understand and comprehend letters and numbers?
  • Has your child had adequate musical exposure? Can he or she keep a steady beat, identify wrong notes in a familiar song, and repeat basic rhythm and pitch patterns? (If not, we suggest working on these concepts before beginning formal lessons.)
  • Are you able to commit to taking your child to lessons on a regular basis?
  • Practice time is essential in order to make progress on your instrument.  Will your child willingly fit in regular practice time outside of their lessons? (Minimum of 15 minutes x 4 days a week).  If you think your child may struggle with this, it may require you sitting with them during their home practice sessions for encouragement and support.    

Instrument Specific Considerations:

String, and guitar students can rent instruments appropriate for their size until they reach a full size instrument. They will also need to be able to press down individual strings with single fingers and will develop calluses on their finger tips.

Drum students will start using a practice pad to learn basic right and left stick patterns. Often some bell set (xylophone) work is included so students develop a basic understanding of pitch and melody, in addition to their rhythm studies.

Woodwind and brass instruments are only made in full size, so it's important that the student can handle the physical demands the instrument will require to produce sound. Developing a solid embouchure (formation of the mouth) and breath control are important from the very start.

Piano students will want to be able to reach a stretch of at least 5 white keys from thumb to pinky - reaching the foot pedal will come later. They will start reading both treble and bass clefs at the same time and get used to their left and right hands operating independently of one another.

Voice students are encouraged to study an instrument first (such as piano) to aid in music literacy and develop relative pitch memory.
 
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