I get it, New Year’s Day is coming and we’re all ready to dive into 2018 with some kickass New Year’s resolutions. Well, some of you might be, and some of you might still be recovering from the Christmas hangover. Keep going with that chocolate, there’s just so damn much of the stuff in the house.
So, music lessons eh? You might be a parent whose little angels are getting to an age where they’re starting to take an interest in activities other than sleeping and putting everything into their mouths. One night, you all go over to Uncle Bob’s house and your little angel looks over at you with the most radiant smile whilst attacking the toy keyboard with little fists. You smile to yourself and think to yourself, “holy crap, maybe it’s about time we explored music lessons.” Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do as a parent anyway? You know, the whole ballet classes, art lessons, piano lessons thing?
Yeah, that’s the sound of niggling doubt in your head. That’s okay, let it have its moment.
What if my child doesn’t want to do any of that? What if they get so good at it that they drop out of school to join a shitty band? How am I going to put up with the sound of a less-than-Miles-Davis trumpet in the house every day for the next 15 years (if you’re lucky)? Will I have enough money to fund these lessons and instruments and upgrades? How much do the damn things cost anyway? What if I end up with a bad teacher and they put my child off learning music for life? What if my child is just not good at this music thing?
Do some of those questions sound familiar to you? If any of them have crossed your mind, believe me – you’re already a good parent. These worries and fears are completely logical, and don’t dismiss yourself as an over-worrier if you’re wondering about these things – it’s totally normal! That’s exactly what this post is for – to help you address some of those concerns and maybe even help you make that decision whether or not to start your kiddo on music lessons. (Coming from a current music teacher who was once a student but still considers herself very much a student because you never stop growing in music and in life blah blah blah).
Observe your child’s rhythmic tendencies.
I hate sounding pretentious but music is one of those things that come most naturally to people who have a natural aptitude for it. Yes, hard work is 80% of the game like everything else but that core inclination is what really distinguishes the kiddies who pick concepts up quickly and those who struggle with the same things no matter how much time they spend practising. Notice I haven’t said anything about talent – more on that in another post.
What do I mean? Let’s start with rhythm – one of the most important (if not the most important) components to music of any kind. Also one of those things that are notoriously difficult to teach. Does your child have a basic sense of rhythm? When you put music on in the car, do they start bouncing along to the beat? When you dance to your favourite tunes in the living room, do they flail their arms and legs around to the beat? If you gave them a spoon, would they tap it on the table in time to the music?
If you nodded to more than one of these questions, chances are your child might be a naturally musical one and would benefit from some lessons to help them explore their creativity.
Does your child sing much?
Do you have a favourite song that you put on in the house pretty often? If so, do you sometimes catch your child singing it to themselves? Especially when they’re doing some doodling or playing with their rubber ducky in the bath or doing other child things? Do you just find them singing or humming any tune that sounds coherent to themselves fairly often? If so, I can’t promise that you have the next Pavarotti or Mariah Carey on your hands, but I will tell you that you probably have a very musical child who can pick up a good tune well enough to be able to hear it in their head (in a non-schizophrenic way) and sing it absent-mindedly to themselves. This is going to be a major helping hand when they get further along in their musical journey, I promise.
I once saw a quote that read, “If you can scream, you can sing.” Having worked with several singers, I can vouch for this to be very true.
Does your child enjoy exploring new things?
When your child learns something, do they tend to explore new patterns and possibilities or do they prefer to recreate the same thing over and over? You’ll be able to observe this in almost everything they do – be it drawing a flower, decorating cookies, doing a silly dance – you name it. There is no real right or wrong with this one – your child might be someone who enjoys doing the same thing over and over but reeeeally wants to do it better every time. They might be a butterfly who constantly makes up new ways of doing one thing, and often wants to see just how far they can push the boundaries (your boundaries). Both come in handy when it comes to a creative hobby like music.
What is your child’s imagination like?
I was one of those quiet, shy kids who preferred being in their own little world to playing with the other kids. In my head, I was the heroine of my kingdom riding an emerald green dragon and saving the world from the baddies and conquering lava forests on the way. I didn’t (still don’t) need much external stimulation to get my imagination going, it’s always been a little too wild and vivid for as long as I can remember. Get your child to draw something or to create anything from scratch. Some will jump at the opportunity and the ideas will never run out, others may struggle to come up with something and look to you for guidance. Doesn’t matter whether your child is introverted or extroverted, imagination is something that is key to their development as a person and will certainly be at the forefront when it comes to music.
Does your child know the alphabet?
No, seriously. It’s one of the main building blocks when your child first starts music lessons and learns notation. You’ll save yourself a couple of lessons if they already know their A-Z (at least A-G) before going anywhere near music lessons. Just trust me on this one.
The key is to observe your kiddo when they’re going about their daily kiddo lives. These tendencies should never feel forced, and just because your child isn’t the most “typically” creative person in the world doesn’t mean that they won’t excel at “creative things”. Different children have different strengths and interests, and you’d be much better off letting them indulge in something that gets them excited and plays to their natural abilities, whatever it is. That being said, music is something that can enrich a child’s life beyond measure, and if you have the chance/ability to give your child music lessons, don’t think too hard about it. Just do it.
Disclaimer: This post is based on J’s own experience as a music teacher, student of life/music and lover of music education and performance psychology. J is not a professional child psychologist. J takes no responsibility for your offspring’s ventures into shitty bands and getting ear stretchers the size of tennis balls.