Saturday, February 02, 2008

When to start your child with music lessons

Yep, that's me, at left! Learning to play along with my Happy Goodman records...


Starting your children with music lessons is more than just finding a teacher, buying books and plunking down a wad of money every month. Music lessons begins the moment your child is born. Just like you read to them when they are babies before they ever know any letters in the alphabet or even know what a book is, so musical training starts when they are babies.


You teach them by exposing them to a variety of music, by filling your home, your car, your world with music. And,for Christians, I believe having them in worship service every time the doors are open to be a must. Church music, and "learning to play for church" is a world all unto it's own, so having your kids in this environment early on is essential. I learned to play well for altar time and flow well in that atmosphere simply because first of all, I was raised in it. I will take a person who plays this way - primarily by ear or flow - in the church, versus anyone who is simply classically trained because learning to play for church is all about learning to flow, but that's another subject for another day. Okay, when, when, when is our topic today...

Music lessons start as you rock your children to sleep and sing to them. My children still remember the songs I sang to them. Savanna remembers a lullaby song I always sang to her (that I wrote) called, "Mommy's happy girl". Jordan remembers being sick at Christmas one year, and I rocked him to sleep singing, "We Three Kings." Kids never forget and hold these kind of things dear in their storehouse of memories. Sometimes my kids even ask me for a command performance. They wouldn't want to admit it to most (but the kids don't read my blog so I'll tell you) that at times they'll still sit on my lap and I sing to them.

I first learned to play the piano listening to Happy Goodman Family records. My parents played them all the time. When I was a little girl, Vestal Goodman was my hero. I still remember as a little tiny girl getting up in front of the church singing, "I wouldn't take nothin' for my journey now". I would sit and play my little keyboard right along with Goodman records and people would comment how good I would do, playing right along with the music by ear. "How does she do that?" people would say.

My parents got a piano, signed me up for lessons and everything I was hearing in my head became easier for me to play as I actually had a teacher show me the fundamentals. At that point, it seemed like music just exploded out of me. Pretty much all I would have to do is hear a song once and I could go play the entire thing or even play a song as someone began singing it (without every hearing it first) just feeling where they are headed. If you have a child who shows a potential to play by ear, I really encourage you to get them lessons right away because I've seen the same thing happen many times in others who are gifted the same way. It will just come pouring out of them, as they learn just a few fundamentals.

I believe children need to be at an age where they are able to (for the most part) sit still for the time needed for lessons. I realize some parents would say, "well then mine will never be ready!...", especially if they are boys. Of course, what I mean by this not sitting perfectly still, but having the attention span to make it through a 30 minute lesson. Some people are overly zealous parents who begin their child on piano lessons at two and three years old and quite frankly I think that is unrealistic and unfair to expect a toddler to endure sitting on a bench attentively for a 30 minute lesson. At this stage, I think it's appropriate to teach them short songs and sing with them and perhaps get them a keyboard to experiment with. This is the time when they need to learn how FUN music is, not be tortured by having to sit still for half an hour.

Most people start their children in music lessons during the elementary school years. Kids retain so much during that time and their learning curve is simply amazing. Dustin started guitar at 8 years old and a professional guitarist told me that in his opinion, that was prime time to start. I personally believe the years of 8-12 are just prime time for learning an instrument. But, please -- don't think it's EVER too late! In fact, consider this...

Some of the best learners are teenagers who are motivated. Now, if your child is a teenager and has had no musical training and doesn't want any, he or she probably won't learn much. However, if they have an INTEREST, it is definitely NOT too late. Motivated teens are one of the biggest sources of energy and creativity on the planet! Just look at how fast they learn video games, computer codes, html, among many other things. Motivated teens are absolutely changing the world. And they can easily learn an instrument!

Realize that MOTIVATED children will catch up. Let's say your child starts playing the trumpet at age 8 but hates it. He only plays it because you forced him to choose the trumpet, but his passion is truly the guitar. If he switches to the guitar at age 10, he will catch up with those who are already taking lessons with the guitar, due to his motivation. So the quicker you get him where he will be motivated, the better.

For the motivated, it is never too late to start music lessons. If you are 42 years old now and say, "I wish I would have had lessons..." if you are motivated, it's not too late to start. Children do learn anything quicker, however, motivated people have the ability to learn anything. Just look at adult missionaries who go to language school to learn a brand new language to go to their field. They might be middle age, but they are MOTIVATED, and motivation makes all the difference.

At whatever age your child is at, find out what instrument they are interested in and then let his or her motivation carry them in learning to play their instrument.

1 comment:

Angie said...

Our son is gifted in singing and playing the guitar. He started when he was seven and we listened as he strummed terribly for two years. About 8 months ago it finally clicked and we started hearing beautiful music. We splurged for his 10th birthday and bought him a quality guitar. He's being called the little Chris Thomlin at church. It's really quite amazing. He's been taking piano lessons since the fall and he's starting to understand the mechanics of it, as well. This morning I sat in disbelief once again as I listened to Caleb play "How Great is our God" and sing it with all of his heart. It's in those moments that I'm thankful for being in fulltime ministry where my kids are at the church and surrounded with worship music all time. I have a few of his vidoes that he did at church up on my blog and his public school teacher showed them to his class on Tuesday...what a testimony! The songs are "Holy is the Lord" and Blessed Be the Name"