By Hannah Williams
Are you thinking of starting music lessons for you or your child? Playing an instrument is a lifelong gift, and starting lessons is the first step on any musical journey. But where do you start?
First, make sure the timing is right. Your child may love singing in the car and playing with instruments, but these are signs they love music, not necessarily signs they are ready to start taking music lessons.
Finding that perfect time to start involves a combination of factors. Your child needs to have the focus, the motor coordination and the interest in learning an instrument. Starting too early can be disastrous. The last thing you want is for the music lessons or practicing to become a chore or a battle.
Many music teachers and studios offer trial lessons. A trial lesson is a great way to see if your student is ready to start lessons. Waiting a couple months, or even years, can make a world of difference for some students. The goal is for children to love learning music and enjoy lessons in the long run.
As for adults, the right time to start is now. The great thing about taking lessons when you’re older is that adults understand that if they practice, they get better. Whether you have never played or you haven’t played in 30 years, it’s never too late to play an instrument.
The next step is to find the right instrument.
For younger children, the piano is always a good place to start. It only takes one finger to make some sound, so even the youngest student can have success right away. If you don’t have a piano at home, a weighted keyboard is a great way for new pianists, or pianists living in small spaces, to get started.
If your child has asked about the oboe, the violin or another instrument, do a trial lesson on that instrument. A good teacher will be able to help you figure out if the child has the finger dexterity or physical strength required by specific instruments.
Sometimes it takes a few test runs on various instruments to find the right one. Collectively, my three children have taken piano, violin, viola, cello, guitar, ukulele, voice and drums lessons. Exploration is a good thing, and in my case, so is a minivan.
Once you’ve chosen your instruments, it’s time to find the right teacher.
Finding a good fit is key. For kids, I suggest a serious teacher who makes lessons fun. A 5-year-old may be ready to start lessons, but they may not be able to sit at the piano for 30 minutes. Finding a teacher who understands this and is willing to improvise to keep your child’s attention is important.
You want a teacher who truly enjoys your child and who wants to make sure their musical journey is great. It is a good idea to meet a few teachers and get a sense of what lessons are like with each one.
Different families look for different things. Do you want a teacher who comes to your house? Do you want group lessons? Are you looking for a musical community for your child? All these questions are important. Take the time to find the teacher who feels right for your family.
Once you’ve found your instrument and teacher, have fun. Learning to make music is rewarding, and starting music lessons is a great way to hear new ideas and try new things.
The writer is co-founder of Opal Music Studio, a local music business based in Old Town.