How to support your child in learning an instrument

Boy having piano lesson
Fewer children than ever are taking up a musical instrument. However, learning music is a fantastic skill. How do we get our children to take it up and which instrument should you pick? Emily Organ reports.

What instrument should my child learn?

The recorder is an easy one to start with because it can be played by young children and it’s cheap at just a few pounds. Although it’s not always pleasant on the ear, a recorder gives your child a great introduction in learning to read and follow music. They can then progress to another instrument.

Traditionally the piano, violin, clarinet and flute have been popular instruments to learn but you don’t have to choose one of these. Drums, electric guitar or keyboard are all becoming more popular. When deciding which to learn see if your child can borrow an instrument from friends, or try one at school before you spend a lot of money on something they might change their mind about. Families on low incomes can sometimes apply for council funding for lessons and instruments.

How do we pick a teacher?

A good teacher will be able to keep your child’s attention during the lesson and instil them with confidence and the enthusiasm to practise and improve. Recommendation from friends is common or you could also speak to the music teacher at school and find out who they suggest.

When you find a teacher you’re interested in take your child to meet them and have a chat about their teaching methods. Ask about the length and structure of the lessons and how much practice your child will be expected to do at home. Most importantly get a feel for how the teacher interacts with your child and how they respond to each other. You could also ask for a trial lesson.

What’s the right age to start?

Children are never too young to learn about music. Rose Cam has taught the piano to children for twenty years and nine years ago began offering music lessons for under-fives. The lessons involve listening to music and learning to clap a rhythm and sing in time, which is all preparation for later playing an instrument.

Formal lessons can start between the ages of five and seven, depending on when your child’s ready. Lessons and practice require a reasonable concentration span which comes later to some children than others.

Are there any benefits?

It’s widely thought that learning to play an instrument can help children in other areas of their development. Music lessons can develop coordination and motor skills, improve concentration and help them tap into their emotions.

"There’s a body of evidence which suggests playing an instrument helps children’s learning," said Cam, "Parents tell me that they become quicker to learn other things too, for example, counting to keep time when playing the piano can help with maths."

When your child reaches a certain level of ability, they will find that playing an instrument can help them wind down and relax, too.