One of the most common questions we hear is “when should my child start music lessons”? The best music classes will consider your child, your family, your goals, and the amount of time you have to commit. There are a lot of music lessons in Chicago, I hope this post helps you find the right one!
Yes, it's true! Music makes you smarter and it's good for reading and math...BUT...
What we’ve found is that young children thrive in a research-based group class (such as our Kindermusik program), and the LATER the child starts private lessons, the more likely they are to enjoy lessons and want to continue.
Anyhow, these inquiries made me start to wonder when all of my musician friends and our studio teachers started “officially” studying their instruments, so I turned to the professionals. I wanted to try to find the sweet spot, that magic age of when it seems to “stick.” So I interviewed all of the musicians I know to see when they started, and here's the result:
Make sure you and your teacher are on the same page, and that your teacher is comfortable teaching the kind of music that you want to learn. You'll probably need a beginner book so that you can learn the notes and some basic theory behind what you are playing. After a few weeks of learning the fundamentals, you will probably be able to play a few simple songs. On guitar, for example, if you learn 3-5 chords, you can play a TON of different pop songs (of course, it does take a lot of practice to change between the chords!) Piano students will be able to play simple melodies and have their teacher (or guitar playing friends) accompany them. Voice students will work on pitch matching, breath control, placement, vowel shapes, and contour. Your teacher will be able to help find music that matches your voice and range. Ultimately your progress depends on: natural ability (a little), determination and perseverance (a lot), and how much time you have to practice. You should see a definite improvement within a few months, and like anything, the more you do it, the better it gets!
Young Students: Parents should be actively involved in young children's lessons. Children who can't read yet will need help going over their assignments and understanding what is expected. It helps to bring in a notebook and your teacher can write down what you should be working on and any helpful tips (rhythm, posture, hand position). The most important thing with music lessons is that it is not only a mental skill, but a physical one as well, that needs to be practiced over and over to master the muscle memory needed to be successful. At the beginning, your child should probably be practicing 10-15 minutes most days. Don't leave practicing until the day before your lesson, you really can't "cram" it in. You'll definitely want to practice the day after your lesson, when your teacher's tips are fresh in your mind. Piano students will generally use a series of 4 books (Lesson, Theory, Technique, and Performance) which work together, and gives your child several different ways to practice one skill, which keeps it more interesting. Guitar, violin, voice, and other instruments will usually have 1 or 2 books to work with. Another tip for practicing is to have your child play each song the number of times of their age (7 year olds will play each song 7 times.) Be sure to listen in and make sure they aren't just rushing through! The goal is to improve at least one thing each time you play.
I know, it doesn’t seem like something that an early childhood music teacher would say, especially one who plays violin! BUT, studies have shown that babies learn more from live interaction with their caregivers over a recording (imagine that!). A cappella singing (without instruments) allows baby to focus on a single sound at a time. Think about books that were designed for infants: they are simple, have clean lines and bold colors so that infants can learn to decipher the images and put them into context (this is a dog, this is a story about body parts, etc.) By singing a cappella, you are simplifying and breaking down the sounds of language into a format in which your baby can more easily relate. I would compare listening to a Mozart symphony as the equivalent of showing an infant the Sistine Chapel. It definitely doesn’t hurt, but it’s probably not going to help much either, since your baby is not actively involved.
Jessica Solares is one of the founders of Bucktown Music, along with her husband Luis. She holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Elmhurst College, and is a licensed Kindermusik educator with Top Program distinction.