Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Music Lessons

Numerous studies have shown that children how study music (learn an instrument) succeed better in school.  Here is three studies that demonstrate just that.
The University of Irvine conducted experiments testing music study against the benefits
of computer learning in preschoolers. Additionally, they tested students who studied
music against those who simply did not, and the results were astounding. Of the three
groups of tested preschoolers, those who studied piano lessons performed 34% higher
than their peers who had not had any musical training.
Other studies have shown that 2nd and 3rd grade music students, because of the
counting involved in musical rhythms, scored 100% higher in math than those who
learned mathematical counting in a traditional setting.
And college students who have studied music have typically scored 98 points higher
than their non-musical peers on their SATs. (
Most people I know understand all of this information but the hard thing is actually putting this into practice.  It's a lot of work, money, time, and frustration having your children learn an instrument.  But I'm here to tell you it's so worth everything you put into it.  It's like anything in life the more you put into it the more you get out of it.  You personally have to decide how important is it to you to have your children learn to play an instrument.  Here is some questions I have had from a few friends who were thinking of starting there kids on an instrument.  I'll try my best to answer them.  Please offer any of your own experiences and opinions.
How old should I start my child in private lessons?  I have a believe that your never too old and never too young.  But I will say I wouldn't start formal lessons until age 3 or 4.  I would lean toward 4 though unless you have a child who really wants to or they are just really quick at learning and very responsive to new things.  With that said, if you do want to start them that young, you really need to be involved with the lessons and every practice.  The Suzuki Method encourages young beginnings and a lot of other music methods are starting to make method books for young learners (pre-readers.)  You also want to find a very patient teacher who is great with kids. For this young age, playing the instrument with you everyday is so much fun, you make it a game and make it exciting and rewarding for them.
If you want to start your child later after they are more independent I think 8 years old is a good age.  They are a little more responsible and you would not need to be as involved with the process, but I would encourage you to still be as involved as your child will let you. (As long as you are positive) The more parent support and encouragement a child gets they will succeed more.  Even if you just pop in while they are practicing and say "Wow that sounded great, can I hear you do that again"  Or "It sounded like you were having trouble with that part, do you want some help?"

How much of a priority should it be?  This is a tough question, because it really is up to you.  For me it's a high priority.  It's something all our kids do, and that's what we tell them, "This is what we all do?"  Our kids play their instrument before they watch TV, or play with friends.  We know that if it doesn't get done before then, it just doesn't happen.  Homework and school work does come first.  We really try to have them do practicing before school and that is so nice.

If I know how to play an instrument, would it be ok for me to teach them?  I think it can work.  Depending on how well you get a long with your child it can work great!  But even though I do know how to play piano and the flute, I have decided to have my kids take from another teacher.  I practice with them but it's nice to have someone else to check with every week.  The best situation would be to find another teacher that you can swap lessons with.

It's just too much money to take lessons, we can't afford it.
I totally understand this.  Especially if you have three, four or even more taking lessons at the same time.  There are other ways they can learn an instrument.  Have them pick an instrument when it becomes an option at school.  School orchestra and band is a great way to learn.  You can get great deals on rentals and also buying a used instrument can be very affordable.  We got our son a violin on for only $60.  If you play an instrument you can teach them yourself, or work out some kind of swap.  Even if you don't play an instrument a lot of teachers would work with you if you wanted to take to swap with a skill you have.  If there is a will, there is always a way.  Get creative.

How far do we push them, or how long should they take lessons for?  I think to make lessons worth it for your child is they need to be able to play something on their instrument for fun.  That's when they can enjoy playing is being able to play the music they love to hear.  You could make a piece goal where after they can play a certain piece they can stop playing or once they get to a certain level they can stop.  It really necessary to set a goal so they have something in mind.  My goal for oldest son who is playing the piano is that he can play from the hymn book well enough to accompany a congregation.  You could also set an age goal, once you are 16 you can stop playing.  I really would discourage starting any instrument if your child is already asking how long do they have to play for before they even start taking, you are going to be in for a long battle.  But every child gets to a point where they want to quit.  That is so normal and then is when you need to have a discussion about why your doing this what this is helping that with and then set some goals.

What can I do to keep them motivated?
Buy them fun pieces of music or books for birthday's, Christmas, or after they play in a recital.
Take them to concerts where they will get excited about their instrument.  If you have a piano player, take them to a Jon Schmidt concert for sure!
Get recordings of music they are playing or other great classical music
Get them performing, play for Grandma and Grandpa, have weekly family recitals in your home, go to a rest home and play for residents there, play in church for prelude or a musical number, etc.
Give them lots of encouragement and don't let them say this is so hard, "It's not hard, it's just new."



  1. We have a rule of starting an instruments at 8. We had talked with other experienced parents and they said 8 is when you get the biggest bang for your buck. All my kids hit a wall and it is a fight to get them to practice. This seems to be temporary and once they work through it they love it again.

  2. Does Devin play an instrument? You could have your own family orchestra :) I have a hard time motivating myself to get the kids to do their lessons. I did so well with their piano lessons last year and then this year with the time change I can't fit it in in the mornings. Poor Andrew hasn't had lessons for a long time. Danika is playing the violin but I really should have her practice more. I remember playing the clarinet but only for a couple years. Thanks, your post makes me want to do better. On a side note, I have a stinkin cold. I'm hoping I can kick it for tomorrow nights party. grr..

  3. Very good article, Heather. It seems surprising to some people who know how much my husband and I love music, but we have decided to wait for that true spark of interest in our kids, and for an age that allows for more independent responsibility. Your article inspires and reminds me to give more exposure so that my kids are aware of the opportunities around them though. As a parent, my goal is to encourage and help them to become their best selves in every way.


I appreciate your comments!