Sunday, 26 April 2015

How Soon Can Your Child Start Music Lessons?

Children are capable of learning musical principals from a very early age- research has proven it. Yet there remains a pervasive bias against starting children “too young”. The benefits of music lessons on young minds is significant and broad ­based. Parents who have figured this out can help their children lead happier, more successful lives. Musicians, on average, have longer attention spans, communicate more clearly, socialize more easily, naturally work towards longer ­term projects, and have higher math and science scores. A recent Canadian statistic found that of all disciplinary backgrounds, musicians had the highest proportional rate of acceptance to law school than any other. Introducing music to a person of any age can have cognitive and social benefits. However, the younger you start with music lessons, the more lasting and profound the impact will be. What’s Too Young? The objection goes something like this: “I want them to be old enough to know what they like, so they can choose whether they want to do it or not. I don’t want to force them.” As someone who speaks to hundreds of parents a year about starting lessons, I can tell you that most want music to be a voluntary, fun, and entertaining experience for their children, and I’ve heard that statement (or some version of it) uttered almost every time the subject of music lessons is raised. This is at odds with most other activities that parents believe to be of high value for their children, such as school, other social activities, access to technology, or sport. In those cases, the ‘voluntary’ part is often overlooked, and ‘fun’ is always balanced with the hard work or the less enjoyable parts of those activities or skills. The problem with letting music be voluntary is that it is incredibly challenging ­ and the challenging part is why there are so many benefits. And unless you’re one of the 0.005% who has an uber­talent on their hands, learning music will be just as difficult as learning algebra, advanced gymnastics, or a second language. It doesn’t take kids very long to figure this out, and even if they initially had an interest in music, they’ll quickly elect for an easier activity. For most parents, starting music lessons too young doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with age, it’s tied very strongly to a concept of forcing an activity or lifestyle on someone who is too young to decide. There is a practical limit to how early someone could begin working with a coach or a class (2 or 3 for most kids), but there is absolutely no limit to how early someone can start listening to music, or beginning to interact with small percussion instruments or pitched instruments (xylophone, for example). What does “starting lessons” mean, anyways? There are good reasons for this bias to exist. For most of the 20th century, a wrote ­learning, conservatory system of teaching has been in place in most parts of North America, which focused exclusively on the mechanical parts of playing music, without exploring most of the cognitive parts. Repetition of pre-composed passages and whole pieces was what practicing essentially was. How [...]

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