How, when do you start formal music training for kids?

I got a note from one of regular readers about starting a formal music education for her 6 1/2 year old daughter. Her daughter is very bright! We are interested in starting Rose in some music instruction as well, but we are clueless too so I am very interested to hear your answers! Here’s what the mom wrote:

“We are really committed to starting some formal musical education for our daughter, but we are a bit clueless about where to begin. Some questions:

“Are group classes better or private instruction, and how do you go about choosing them? Also, is it best to start off with something basic like keyboard lessons, or is there a way for her (even at the age of 6 1/2) to experience a variety of instruments and start on something different?

“For instance, she thinks she wants to play the trumpet, but is such a thing even possible for a kid that age? We don’t have a clue.”

So what do you all advise:

1. What are good ages to start learning instruments?

2. What are good instruments begin with? Do you start with what interests your child or is there one particular type that is really easy to learn and a good base to build on later? If our reader’s daughter is interested in a trumpet, is that good to start with or would she have enough lung power at 6 to blow one?

3. How do you know what instruments they might be good on? How do you know if your kid is musical at all? (We are not musical. We suspect Rose is musical. She is extremely good in math and is always singing. I suspect she could learn piano and have discussed it with her music teacher at school. She thinks she may be musical too.)

4. Do you like private lessons or group?

5. If you don’t have a piano at home, can you take piano?

6. How do you begin to find instructors and what are good questions to ask?

7. What is a reasonable amount to pay for a lesson?

8. What’s all this Suzuki stuff about?

32 comments Add your comment

motherjanegoose

July 21st, 2009
7:13 am

Quickly, my daughter took piano for years and loved it…she still plays. She took private lessons from 7-12 or so. We have a piano and a Keyboard but we have now loaned our Keyboard to a neighbor…LOL…for her son to use. Another neighbor is a piano instructor and this was WONDERFUL!

Our son wanted to play the drums but I did not want him too. This is one of the regrets of I have that is related to DB’s guest post a few weeks ago. I should have let him.

ALL CHILDREN NEED THE GIFT OF MUSIC!

April

July 21st, 2009
9:28 am

I have always been told that early music training benefits a child’s brain development – especially in math. We started our oldest in violin at age 6. Our younger daughter started piano at age 7. She started piano without a piano at home and the teacher was very accommodating. I preferred the violin which was easy to carry and store. It did not take up much room. Generally, as with the violin, smaller instruments can be rented and a portion of the rental fee applied toward the purchase of an instrument when the child gets old enough for the full size version.

We found our instructors through recommendations. Church musicians and music leaders, college students, and school music teachers generally make good teachers or can offer good recommendations.

jodee

July 21st, 2009
11:33 am

Our son asked to take piano lessons when he was 6….we thought he was too young because his attention span was so short. He asked again at 7 and again when he was 8. We relented and hired an elementary school general music teacher I knew to get him started. We rented an electronic piano ( not keyboard) from Steinway Galleries. After a year, it was clear that he was good at it, and his music teacher felt that he should have more formal training. She taught him the basics but he needed more than she cold offer. A teacher at the school where I worked was a member of a piano teachers guild in Fulton/Cherokee, so she gave me the name of the head of the guild, who then gave me a set of names of teachers near where we live. I interviewed several, and chose a teacher who did individual lessons three days a month and one group lesson a month. She also scheduled students so that there was some overlap in their lesson times. That is, my son would come in 15 minutes early to “warm up” on her electronic piano while another student was having his lesson on the grand piano. This was SUPER, because she always scheduled a boy who was just a little bit better than my son, and my son was always trying to “catch up” to Nick and play the songs that Nick could play.

We bought an electric piano on eBay after the first year of renting, and sold it about 6 years later, again on eBay, for the same price.

In 6th grade, he decided that he didn’t want lessons any more. My heart was broken, because he was SO GOOD at it, and music came so naturally to him. He stopped playing for awhile, but when his friends at church found out how well he could play, they recruited him to be the keyboardist in the youth group praise band. The lessons stopped, but he continues to play not only keyboards, but electric and acoustic guitar, as well, and he is making noises about wanting to play drums.

BTW, I took piano as a child but was never very good at it. However, I could sing well, so my parents invested in voice lessons for me. I have participated in choirs and choruses all of my life, and have found it to be so rewarding. The great thing about learning how to “pay one’s voice” is that you always have your instrument with you.

penguinmom

July 21st, 2009
12:20 pm

My son played handbells and I taught him basic piano skills when he was 7. He did well with the bells but never really went very far with the piano. He can pick out music but not play a two-handed piece. He can read basic music which was one of my goals. This year he started guitar lessons at 12. He’s not an extremely driven person so he’s just fair at the moment. I’m waiting for the ‘Aha’ moment when he can actually play a tune and wants to practice.

My daughter started taking piano lessons this past year (at 8 years old), she progressed very quickly. I think waiting before introducing the instrument helped because she has a little more patience and maturity. Also, the piano teacher used books that included very simple but recognizable songs from pop culture (like the James Bond theme, songs from the Wizard of Oz). This really kept her interest level high.

I’m a Big believer in learning the piano first. With the piano you have to learn to read all the notes in the staff, bass and treble clef. With other instruments, you learn a much smaller set of notes. I think if you can play piano, learning any other instrument becomes easier.

MJG, my youngest already knows he wants to play drums. He’s 5. This has been a goal for him since he was 3. I’m still hoping to get him to learn at least some piano first. He already picks out simple songs on our keyboard so I’m hoping it won’t be a struggle to get him to try it. Even though I really don’t look forward to having drums in my house, I do think we’ll let him learn drums when he gets a little older. Maybe I’ll start to go deaf before then and the noise won’t bother me much. I wonder how much sound-proofing our playroom would cost.

Jesse's Girl

July 21st, 2009
12:56 pm

Ah…my forte’! While I am in no way a piano virtuoso…I do use it as a tool for teaching formal voice lessons. I do not start these lessons with children younger than 8. Their attention spans are not formed enough to appreciate lying on the ground for 4 weeks during their lessons…it builds their diaphram strength. Most..if not all…of my students also take formal instrument lessons. The piano is the instrument I recommned as the beginning instrument. It builds a deep understanding of all instruments….through chord playing and recognition. Group lessons are not typically adviced until they are at a moderate level of accomplishment. If they are not up to snuff, they will bring the rest of the group down. Once they reach that level however, a group lesson or mini orchestra….allows them to “read” other musicians while also “reading” the director. Definitely a required tool if they continue to progress.

Jess

July 21st, 2009
1:28 pm

I can only answer one question, if you don’t have a piano at home, it doesn’t really make any sense to take piano lessons, you really need to practice every day. I took private piano when I was between the ages of maybe 7 to 13. I was always jealous of the kids that took flute in a group setting, they always looked like they were having so much fun! Piano is very solitary.

jct

July 21st, 2009
1:51 pm

I think 6 or 7 is a good age to start if the child is really interested. I believe a child should start with the instrument that interests them. I take piano lessons currently. There is a 6 yr old boy whose lesson is right before mine. He seems to really love the piano. I am hoping that he does not pass me in proficiency for a few years :)

My piano teacher has told me numerous times that he cannot teach me to play the piano, he can only teach me how to practice the piano. So most work is done outside the lesson. To save on buying a large piano, you can buy an electric keyboard. They don’t take up much room and don’t cost that much.

I think the above comments discussed how to find an instructor. My only comment would be to find an instructor who likes teaching children. My piano teacher teaches all ages, however, he has a knack for getting children to appreciate the instrument. He always leave them with wanting to come back for more lessons.

For cost for beginning piano private lessons you are looking at $130 -$175 per month for 30 minutes per of week of instruction. However, I have seen prices a lot higher for beginning piano.

DUH

July 21st, 2009
1:59 pm

My two (age 7) haven’t shown an interest in anyhting muscial, even though she did get an play drum set for Christmas..They play on in once in a while..What they do have an interest in is playing golf..Both of them have requested lessons..So does anyone know at what age is good for that?

HB

July 21st, 2009
2:02 pm

I think all children should start out on piano by around age 7 or 8 (I know of some kids who started even younger and did well, but I don’t think most kids would be ready yet), even if they are more interested in other instruments. As others have said, it is the best instrument for establish a good basic knowledge of music, and a keyboard should be sufficient for practice for the first couple of years. Other instruments, like the trumpet, that are played one note at a time just don’t give kids as clear a picture of chords and scales as the keyboard does. If they start out on piano in 2nd or 3rd grade, they’ll have a strong basis and will likely excel at any instrument they choose if they want to sign up for beginning band or orchestra in 5th or 6th grade. A lot of instruments are probably too physically challenging for children under 10. Their hands may be too small to stretch out for keys on something like a saxophone or flute or their arms too short to reach past 4th position on trombone. Size-wise, guitar, violin, and drums are probably fine, but I still think piano is the best foundation.

Penguinmom, I wouldn’t be too worried about drum noise. They’re loud, but there are far worse sounds — ever hear a beginning clarinet or oboe player? I’ll take banging over those squeaks any day.

RJ

July 21st, 2009
2:10 pm

Children can be introduced to the keyboard as early as 4 years old. There are studios that offer “parent and me” classes throughout the metro area. I have taught group courses for young children using Music for Little Mozarts. It’s a great introduction to the piano and very age appropriate. More formal lessons can begin as early as 6. It really depends on the child. I started playing at the age of 4 and while I’m far from a piano virtuoso, it has helped me throughout my life. From the age of about 14 I was able to use my piano playing skills to earn money and have continued to do so. I recommend starting younger kids with a group lesson and getting input from the teacher after they’ve had time to observe your child over a period of time.

Also, if you have younger ones, I highly recommend “parent and me” music classes such as Kindermusik. They’re wonderful programs.

TKH

July 21st, 2009
2:12 pm

I’m not a musician myself (sadly), but my younger sister is and has taught piano for years. She always started kids around 4 with very basic stuff – 15 minute lessons tops. I think all kids should start with piano. It gives a lot of confidence because it’s easy to adapt favorite songs to beginner level (I remember learning Disney songs when I was 6 or 7) and it’s a great instrument to learn the basics of music theory on. Once you’ve learned piano, it’s much easier to learn a second instrument.

My other suggestion is to do in-home lessons at YOUR home if at all possible. My sister had a home instructor and she enjoyed it a lot more than me and my other siblings. And my mom didn’t have to remember to take her to lessons when there were a thousand other things going on. Sometimes she was a little frazzled when the instructor showed up,because she’d forgotten and was very busy, but they didn’t miss lessons. I was in someone else’s home and I hated going. We forgot often (mostly because I would hide quietly in my room and hope my mom wouldn’t remember if she didn’t see or hear me). Being in your own home is SO much easier, and you can still use an inexpensive keyboard for beginners.

I say no to group lessons for beginners. They need the one-on-one instruction at that age.

Jesse's Girl

July 21st, 2009
2:26 pm

Per the piano in own home…..I think this is very important. Even if it is only a keyborad. Children MUST practice at home. Being a vocal coach, assigning a practice piece at home isn’t such an issue. But it helps a great deal if they can play their scales at home. Children do very well..in my experience…with pianos at home. Oddly enough however…other instruments lend themsleves to practicing very well both in and outside the home.

lakerat

July 21st, 2009
3:14 pm

I don’t know the going rate for piano lessons, but I do know that whatever you pay, make sure it includes 4 lessons per month (for at least 30 minutes) PLUS a 30 minute music theory lesson, per month, too. My sister is a highly qualified piano teacher (since 1972, bachelors in piano performance from Florida State and MS in Music Theory from Georgia State – she also has a law degree from UGA, but that does not count in the music genre’) in Gwinnett County and required all of her students (from age 5 – adult) to take the theory aspect, too (she taught M – F piano, then on Saturdays had the theory lessons – if the students were involved in sports it was up to them to work out a time for the theory; and no one was exempt from theory or she would not teach them). As she says, what good is it to be able to play without UNDERSTANDING what you are playing!

She only has about 4 or 5 students now as she has basically retired, but they still do the theory stuff!

Kathy

July 21st, 2009
3:42 pm

I agree with lakerat about theory and I think that applies to anything that you are doing or learning. I can imagine that the theory would give students a bigger picture about music and also give them a better appreciation of it.

I hope to start Little E in some sort of music lessons when she is old enough. She is VERY interested in playing the little toy instruments that we have and she LOVES to sing. I would love to start her in piano, but we don’t have one. I have always believed that if you learn piano, you need one at home to practice on. I will have to save my pennies for a couple of years to buy one!

jodee

July 21st, 2009
3:50 pm

Ditto about learning theory! The math/music connection is that the brain learns to see/hear/understand patterns and relationships. Gotta have the theory piece if the skills learned in lessons are to transfer.

FCM

July 21st, 2009
4:00 pm

JG–I have 2 who love to sing…but since I do not sing (at least not in key) they have had a bad example of what to do. They do very well when I get them out of their nose and on track….In fact one is very good at it. Where can I find them a coach that won’t break my poor bank?

My eldest started Guitar at 7. This last time they broke the strings by messing with the guitar I put it up. Same child wants to do Orchestra this year–I signed her up.

Other child loves to sing and make up songs. That child is 7.

DB

July 21st, 2009
4:17 pm

Daughter started with keyboard at age 4 — she loved it, and would practice incessently. My son tarted piano in kindergarten thru private lessons with a teacher who came to his school (once a week during recess.) He’s not musical at all, except in his enjoyment of music and his mastery of Guitar Hero, although he has made noises about wanting to learn how to play the guitar, but never followed through.

My daughter, on the other hand, played piano from 4 until 10, when she switched to low brass. She has been playing low brass ever since, thru private lessons, camps and at school. Her playing has given her opportunities for international travel, participation in high-profile events, and she received a 4-year music scholarship in addition to her HOPE scholarship.

Lessons ranged from $30 an hour to $60 for 45-minutes from world-class instructors. We had to change brass instructors twice in eight years, when she got to a point where the instructor’s strengths and weaknesses didn’t dovetail with her needs. Good music camps, etc., are also pretty pricey.

Because of fine motor skills and muscle development, it’s hard to introduce brass and wind instruments to kids much before the age of 8 or 9. Many school music teachers have a sixth sense as to what instrument is best suited for a child — it’s eerie.

Re:

DB

July 21st, 2009
4:26 pm

Re: The music theory, yes, it is crucial to a moderately advanced understanding of music. Some colleges stress it so much that they do not accept the AP Music Theory score for credit, no matter how well someone may have done on it, because they are anxious to make sure that the foundation for further study is solid.

Keyboards are inexpensive, compared to a piano, and do very well for beginning pianists, to see if there is that spark or interest. I received my piano as a Christmas gift when I was 12, and I have had it ever since (40 years?). I am a mediocre player at best, and cheerfully admit that my daughter outstripped my musical knowledge a decade ago! I’ve seen prices on pianos today and have to admit that it would be a stretch if I had to buy one today, although I have always craved a grand . . . *sigh*

And yes, she’s good in math, too :-)

motherjanegoose

July 21st, 2009
7:26 pm

Db…I think the fees you quoted are more in line with what I remember. It was 6 years ago but I think we paid $60 per month for 4 half hour lessons. We have the piano my parents bought over 30 years ago. I am not that great on the piano but I still enjoy a piece now and then. My daughter is so much better and I am proud that she enjoys it!

I_Run_Barefoot

July 22nd, 2009
11:30 am

1. What are good ages to start learning instruments?

My son started formal piano lessons right before starting kindergarten. He was 5. He’s now 8 and still taking lessons.

2. What are good instruments begin with? Do you start with what interests your child or is there one particular type that is really easy to learn and a good base to build on later? If our reader’s daughter is interested in a trumpet, is that good to start with or would she have enough lung power at 6 to blow one?

Piano is good. Don’t know if it’s true but I heard if you can play the piano, in conjunction with learning to read music, then you can learn to play anything.

3. How do you know what instruments they might be good on? How do you know if your kid is musical at all? (We are not musical. We suspect Rose is musical. She is extremely good in math and is always singing. I suspect she could learn piano and have discussed it with her music teacher at school. She thinks she may be musical too.)

I don’t think it matters if there’s natural talent or not. You start them young enough they’re going to get reasonably proficient at it. Additionally, the value of the education on their ability to think is good, even if they never become really great at it. Music is actually quite mathematical.

4. Do you like private lessons or group?

Private

5. If you don’t have a piano at home, can you take piano?

Yes, though it’s pretty cheap to get a decent keyboard. We don’t have the space for a real piano so we bought an inexpensive keyboard. Now that our son has been playing for a few years we plan to invest in one of the higher end “real feel” keyboards. They cost about $2000.

6. How do you begin to find instructors and what are good questions to ask?

Get recommendations! Ask if they teach kids to play by ear or by reading music. They should emphasize learning to read music.

7. What is a reasonable amount to pay for a lesson?

We pay $95 a month for once a week, 30 minute sessions.

8. What’s all this Suzuki stuff about?

Not sure. Our piano teacher uses the Suzuki books but I don’t think she uses the method. I think it focuses on playing by ear…but not sure.

FCM

July 22nd, 2009
2:37 pm

Musical instrument accessories

July 22nd, 2009
7:55 pm

Mainly as soon as a child understands music, they should be taught. The basic most common instrument is a piano and you can usually get a keyboard with which to play for a good price. Private lessons are better than group as your child may feel pressured and insecure about playing in front of others. When the child becomes more confident, you may think about switching to a group lesson.

Whitney

July 22nd, 2009
8:20 pm

Hello, I’m a Student Counselor with TakeLessons – a national music lesson provider, and we have found that maintaining a child’s interest in their musical instrument is most successful after the age of 5 years old. We have noticed that holding a child’s attention span and motivating a child under 5 years of age to sufficiently practice is exceedingly difficult and results in less progress than children ages 5 and up. Since your child is 6 and ½, she is definitely old enough to excel in her music lessons.

We believe it’s imperative to continually document and track our students’ progress conjointly with their teachers. We do this online by having our students and their parents record practice sessions while our teachers create online lesson journals following each lesson to remind the student of what they can work on during their practice sessions in preparation for the next lesson.

We also feel that setting goals is a very important aspect in terms of maintaining a child’s focus and ambition in their musical progress. The key is to really listen to your child and learn where their interests and passions lie, what genre of music they wish to pursue, and then help them get the education necessary to achieve these goals.

Also, finding a good match in a teacher is essential in holding the attention of your child and serving as a musical mentor that they can aspire to emulate. With the right teacher, a child can be motivated and driven to meet and exceed all goals and expectations and rise to any challenge that their teacher presents.

I took 13 years of piano lessons and 8 years of voice lessons and started my piano lessons when I was 5 years old. Having inspiring teachers as role models in conjunction with my motivating parents were the reasons why I pursued my musical aspirations for as long as I did. Finding the right formula for your child is crucial to tapping into their love of music.

Hope this helps!

Barbara

July 23rd, 2009
2:13 am

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

Barbara

http://keyboardpiano.net

Cecilia Rowe

July 23rd, 2009
7:12 am

What a great blog with so many good comments! My BFF sent me this link to answer some questions – my family and I own Courtnay and Rowe Corporation, Atlanta’s premier In-home Music and Education Company, started in 1989. I have been a private instructor since 1992, stopping teaching to run the business when I started having my own children. While I do not consider myself an “authority”, I can give some insight from about 20 years of personal experience – and again, this is only my opinion and personal experience.
1. When to start?
You can start pretty much anytime the child is interested – that is the KEY – but in most cases, around 7+ is best. Their attention span can usually hold for a full 30 to 45 min lesson by then. And they can practice and can do their “homework” (theory games or coloring, flashcards, etc) with minimal supervision on your part.
2.Good instrument to start with?
A good instrument to begin with is piano (or weighted keyboard if you don’t have a piano). The piano is the gateway to all other instruments. You are learning both clefs (high and low notes), using both hands together and separately, and music theory and notes that can be applied to all other instruments. There also is instant gratification by learning simple songs, which is a HUGE plus to keep interest going.
3. How do you know which instrument?
Any good teacher or company offers a free evaluation, so take advantage of that. As with our company, we teach most all instruments, so we have many teachers to be able to assess initial aptitude for many instruments. Again, piano is usually the best to start with as it is a painless beginning. I wouldn’t recommend guitar for a young child as they don’t have the grip or the hand size. Voice is fine, but not “formal voice” until teen years – “karaoke” type voice (i.e. singing along with a CD) is fun for children. If a child is interested in voice, but is young, we try to encourage mixing a lesson of 30 min piano and 15 min voice (or 20/25) as to keep it fun and moving forward. Violin is a beautiful instrument, but one that needs commitment and much practice to make pleasing sounds. And as a parent, you have to “get real” with what you think your child’s commitment level will be, and choose an instrument from there. Like I tell parents, just because your child is interested in horseback riding lessons, I wouldn’t run out and buy a horse. See if you can play on a neighbor’s piano a couple times, rent a piano or keyboard or buy a smaller sized keyboard before spending a fortune on an instrument.
4. Private or group lessons?
Personally, I truly believe in private lessons over group. Personal attention, easier to notice where child is “missing it”, doesn’t have to hold back for others in the group. But, if that’s all you can do (or that’s available for you) right now, any music is better than no music!
5. Don’t own a piano?
Rent a piano or keyboard or purchase a small one. Please ask the teacher for recommendations. Do not just rush out and buy something (horse example above) so you don’t spend more than you need to. If you need advice, my Dad (Jack) has been helping people for years purchase the appropriate instrument (as did my Grandfather before him!).
6. How to find a good teacher?
We have grown so large by word of mouth – the BEST advertising there is! My answer to this is to ask your friends and see who they use and are they happy with the service. It is SOOO important to have a teacher that relates with your child – you know you remember your favorite teacher from school and how much they made an impression on you – well, it needs to be that way with your music instructor, too. The more the kid likes/relates/enjoys the lessons, the further they will progress and longer they will take.
7. Cost?
The last time I checked, the going rate for an in-studio lesson (like a music store or someone’s home studio) is anywhere from $20 to $30 per half hour. In-home lessons are a bit more due to drive time, gas, convenience, etc. and is anywhere from $30-$40 per half hour. It’s best to shop around and weigh what you are getting for your money – please make sure to factor in quality of instructor! A good teacher is not necessarily one with lots of degrees, but one that can help your child be the best they can be and instill the love of music for a lifetime.
8. What is Suzuki?
Suzuki is a method of teaching – like Kumon is for tutoring. Different teachers use different approaches when you hear of Suzuki training – you will sometimes hear that the parent needs to be involved (sitting in and learning) as well in the lesson, and much of the beginnings of Suzuki is not reading the music or learning to read the music, but by imitation and repetition, and maintains a classical bend to their music selections. I know that this is successful with some, but I’ve seen far more success with actually teaching notes so that you can pick up any music and play. Comparable to saying “Do you want me to just read this book to you, or do you want me to teach you how to read so then you can read ANY book?” And of course, kids would rather play what they want to play – it keeps them practicing more!

I hope I’ve helped in some way! :-) Feel free to call our office (or check our website www. courtnayandrowe.com) if you have any specific questions or needs.

Cecilia Rowe

July 23rd, 2009
7:34 am

What a great blog with so many good comments! My BFF sent me this link to answer some questions – My family and I own Courtnay and Rowe Corporation, Atlanta’s premier In-home Music and Education Company, started in 1989. I have been a private instructor since 1992, stopping teaching to run the business when I started having my own children. While I do not consider myself an “authority”, I can give some insight from about 20 years of personal experience – and again, this is only my opinion and personal experience.
1. When to start? You can start pretty much anytime the child is interested – that is the KEY – but in most cases, around 7+ is best (begging for lessons is good! ;-). Their attention span can usually hold for a full 30 to 45 min lesson by then. And they can practice and can do their “homework” (theory games or coloring, flashcards, etc) with minimal supervision on your part.

2. Good instrument to start with? A good instrument to begin with is piano (or weighted keyboard if you don’t have a piano). The piano is the gateway to all other instruments. You are learning both clefs (high and low notes), using both hands together and separately, and music theory and notes that can be applied to all other instruments. There also is instant gratification by learning simple songs, which is a HUGE plus to keep interest going.

3. Which instrument? Any good teacher or company offers a free evaluation, so take advantage of that. As with our company, we teach most all instruments, so we have many teachers to be able to assess initial aptitude for many instruments. Again, piano is usually the best to start with as it is a painless beginning. I wouldn’t recommend guitar for a young child as they don’t have the grip or the hand size. Voice is fine, but not “formal voice” until teen years – “karaoke” type voice (i.e. singing along with a CD) is fun for children. If a child is interested in voice, but is young, we try to encourage mixing a lesson of 30 min piano and 15 min voice (or 20/25) as to keep it fun and moving forward. Violin is a beautiful instrument, but one that needs commitment and much practice to make pleasing sounds. And as a parent, you have to “get real” with what you think your child’s commitment level will be, and choose an instrument from there. Like I tell parents, just because your child is interested in horseback riding lessons, I wouldn’t run out and buy a horse. See if you can play on a neighbor’s piano a couple times, rent a piano or keyboard or buy a smaller sized keyboard before spending a fortune on an instrument.

4. Group or Private lessons? Personally, I truly believe in private lessons over group. Personal attention, easier to notice where child is “missing it”, doesn’t have to hold back for others in the group. But, if that’s all you can do (or that’s available for you) right now, any music is better than no music!

5. Don’t have a piano? Rent a piano or keyboard or purchase a small one. Please ask the teacher for recommendations. Do not just rush out and buy something (horse example above) so you don’t spend more than you need to. If you need advice, my Dad (Jack) has been helping people for years purchase the appropriate instrument (as did my Grandfather before him!).

6. How to find an instructor and some good questions? My answer to this is to ask your friends and see who they use and are they happy with the service, quality of instructor/instruction, facility (if applicable), and are the policies fair and will fit your needs (making up missed lessons, etc.)? Also take into account YOUR schedule, drive time, wait time (if you have other children involved that are having to wait with you), sports, etc. and would it be worth someone coming to your home vs. going to the studio to keep peace and less stress for your family and you?

7. Cost? The last time I checked, the going rate for an in-studio lesson (like a music store or someone’s home studio) is anywhere from $20 to $30 per half hour. In-home lessons are a bit more due to drive time, gas, convenience, etc. and is anywhere from $30-$40 per half hour. It is in your best interest to shop around and see what exactly you are getting for your money. And please take into account the quality of the teacher – it’s all about “relate-ability” to the student – and the more your child enjoys the teacher, the more they will enjoy the lesson and learn to love music for a lifetime. (My mother’s lessons early on were from “The Wicked Witch of the West” and the teacher had multiple degrees and was extremely accomplished, but didn’t relate at all with my mother. My mother almost quit piano before luckily changing teachers.)

8. What is Suzuki? Suzuki is a method of teaching – like Kumon is for tutoring. There are several different approaches when you hear of Suzuki training – you will sometimes hear that the parent needs to be a part of the lesson, and much of the beginnings of Suzuki is not reading the music or learning to read the music, but by imitation and repetition, and maintains classical music . I know that this is successful with some, but I’ve seen far more success with actually teaching notes so that you can pick up any music and play. Comparable to saying “Do you want me to just read this book to you, or do you want me to teach you how to read so then you can read ANY book?”
I hope I’ve helped in some way!  Feel free to call our office (or check our website) if you have any specific questions or needs (www.courtnayandrowe.com).

Sara

July 30th, 2009
3:01 am

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

Sara

http://pianotutorial.net

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July 30th, 2009
9:32 pm

[...] How, when do you start formal music training for kids? [...]

Christy

July 31st, 2009
1:56 am

I am a professional clarinet player, and I started piano lessons (formally at age 8), before that at home with my mom since she had piano all the way through college and could get me started. I remember I didn’t really like practicing that much, but it did give me the life and music skills that helped me learn to play the clarinet, and eventually saxophone also. I plan to start my daughter on piano since it is the easiest instrument to start on. You don’t have to worry about how to ‘blow’ into it or if your fingers are too small to cover the holes like on clarinet and some flutes. If you don’t own a piano-go buy a keyboard, but first find a piano instructor and get their advice on what to buy. It can’t be a Disney Princess keyboard because you can’t play real chords on those! I had a small Korg keyboard, but also was fortunate enough to have a real piano too. Your kid will NOT get better without practicing, so if you can’t find, borrow (from a church, school, teacher, or friend), or own one this will be frustrating to the kid because he/she will not really keep advancing with just one lesson a week and no practice time. Music just does not work that way. Suzuki is usually a string method that is taught to beginning string players-which is another great instrument to start early on. Violin is probably easiest because it is the smallest-and they do have kid size violins and cellos-so make sure to ask a professional teacher which one to get. Some schools have orchestra programs and you can borrow instruments through the schools. Most schools don’t, so you may have to go to your local music store to track down a beginner stringed instrument. I’d say either start a young child on piano or violin. Piano will teach more about chords and have a more visual way of seeing chords, and hearing how they all sound together. A violin can only play one note at a time, so you may want to wait til later for the child to play a string instrument-but don’t wait to long if they decide to get serious about it. To see the most accomplishment and productive results from investing all that money into whatever instrument-music lessons with a quality teacher is the best bang for your buck. Private lessons (or also Suzuki classes for strings) prices vary on the state and city you live in. Usually, the bigger city, the higher the cost for lessons. I am in Tulsa, OK. and teach clarinet lessons for $30.0-$32.00 per hour. I have a Masters Degree in Music Performance and teach at two Universities here. However, if I was in TX, I could charge more…in NYC probably quite a bit more than that, it just kind of depends on what your community can afford to pay and the qualifications your instructor has. Beginning students with on a budget, could try calling a local university and hiring a student who is pursing a music degree to get them started. Ask the music office secretary who they’d reccomend to teach your instrument. They may even have a college professor there that would be able to teach your child-and if not at the beginning level, then maybe eventually a more advanced level in years to come. Whatever instrument you choose to start your child on-make them practice-but also give them lots of encouragement so they don’t get discouraged. Practicing is hard work and lots of repetition which can be boring at times, and then there is the whole being nervous to perform factor…don’t pressure them to hard to perform for everyone, try to just let them enjoy learning new songs, and skills on their instrument. Then, in about 5th or 6th grade, they may want to switch to, or add another wind or percussion instrument-and that would be a good time to do so. With help from the schools band director, they can guide you to an instrument that would probably suit your child best. Start with what instrument they think they want to play, and then have the band director help them find their true match! Best of luck in your musical endeavors! I can’t wait til my 3 year old gets the love of music that my husband and I have. She already likes to dance, draw, and play her toy clarinet…so who knows…another musician in the family???? Only time will tell.

Christy

July 31st, 2009
2:01 am

MUSIC LESSONS:

Almost forgot-you can try your local Musician’s Union to find a private music teacher. Look up American Federations of Musicians Union in your phone book, and they should have a good list of qualified teachers in your town.

Weekendweekend

December 18th, 2009
4:49 pm

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