When I first started writing this blog, it was with the public school parent in mind. I imagined that 4th or 5th had rolled around, and that your child had picked an instrument through their school music program….off we go!
But many parents want musical training for their child sooner. Maybe it’s because they want their child to have a “head start”, or simply because they believe there is a benefit to be had by starting a musical instrument early.
Whatever the reason, the following are some guidelines to help you decide when a best time is for your child to begin an instrument:
First off, physical size plays a big role in determining when a child should begin an instrument (and even what instrument they should play). That said, people of all shapes and sizes have been able to overcome issues and play instruments if they are determined enough! When I started the trombone, my arm could not stretch all the way to 7th position, so I dealt with it until I grew. It all worked out!
Students can begin strings at a very young age. Starting in school in 4th or 5th grade is rather late for a string player; not so much for wind and brass instruments. That does not mean that a child starting later on any instrument will be less successful, by the way, so don’t worry too much.
Strings come in many sizes (1/8th size on up to full size), thereby making it easy for young ones to begin. The Suzuki Method is the most commonly used method for young children, or lessons contain any Suzuki elements.
Most students do not begin these instruments until age 8 or 9; basically 4th or 5th grade. Recorder is normally taught in school leading up to this, so students have a good handle on note reading, air control (to a degree) and finger mobility.
Instruments such as french horn, oboe, bassoon, and tuba are often switched to in middle school. That’s not to say that you can’t begin younger, though!
This is a tough one. Students begin piano as early as 4 years old. My opinion is that the child should at least have the patience to sit through a lesson and understand what’s being taught. If that happens early, great. If you need to wait a year, everything will still be fine. Piano is a wonderful instrument to start a child on, and serves as a great “launching pad” instrument as well.
The jokester in me wants to say NEVER! But seriously…
One could argue that the youngest child can be engaged through percussion and world drumming, and they can. But if we are talking about music reading lessons on snare drum, etc., 4th or 5th grade works great.
Music lessons in early childhood lead to changes in the brain that could improve its performance far into adulthood, researchers say. And that is a great reason to start early, as long as your child is ready, willing and able. All the research in the world means nothing if your child is not having fun with music, so make sure the musical experiences you provide are with joy and exploration in mind.