When a child reaches 5 years old, they may be showing some interest in instrumental lessons. This is the perfect age to start! At 5 years old, children generally have a good grasp of numbers and the alphabet. Their little minds are like sponges – they soak up everything you teach them. Their fingers are usually strong and independent enough to manage an instrument, and they are able to concentrate for short periods of time. Starting lessons at this age is a good idea because they will learn to read music at the same time they are learning to read and write. It will become second nature to them, and they will learn quickly.
Why pay for private instrumental lessons?
The average cost of private instrumental lessons now is £30 per hour. It is recommended that children have a 30 minute lesson, once a week. Add to this the cost of the instrument and its maintenance, and the books they will learn from, and you have a fairly expensive hobby on your hands. So why should you pay for one-to-one lessons, when they could learn in a group for much less?
- Private lessons allow children to progress at a rate suitable for them. They are not rushed to learn things they don’t understand, or wait for children that are less able than them
- Private lessons can be adapted to your child’s individual needs. A good teacher will recognise the way that your child likes to learn, and will alter the lessons accordingly. You may want your child to learn classical music, and sit exams, or you may want them to learn purely for the fun of it. Either approach can be taken with private lessons
- You will have more contact with a private teacher. They will be able to feed back to you every week about the progress your child is making, and whether there are things you can do to help them during the week
- Any problems with technique, practising, confidence, etc. can be picked up immediately when your child is the only one that the teacher has to concentrate on
At Elegie School of Music, we regularly have enquiries from students who have started learning in a group. When they learn with us, we often spend a long time correcting bad habits, delaying the learning process even further. The total cost to parents usually ends up being much higher than if they had started with one-to-one instrumental lessons to begin with.
Picking an instrument
Don’t just pick the first instrument offered to your child at school! They will often be encouraged to play an instrument that is readily available through your local music service. This may not be the best choice for them.
- Listen to lots of music with them, to help them decide which instruments they like the sound of. Some classical music for children has been written specifically to teach them about different orchestral instruments, so this is a good place to start.
- Let them try out different instruments, to see which family they like best. Would they prefer to blow, pluck, bow, hit, etc.? Would they like a high or low sound? A loud or a quiet instrument? What sort of music would they like to be able to play on their instrument?
- Book some trial instrumental lessons. Most teachers offer a free trial, so make the most of this opportunity. Book 3 or 4 trials, and let your child have a good go at the instrument before committing.
Buying an instrument
In order for your child to make any real progress, they will need to be able to practise between lessons. This will require them having an instrument to practise on! This can be a huge expense, so check out the following tips to make it more reasonable for you:
- Local music services often have hire-purchase schemes, allowing you to ‘rent’ the instrument for a certain number of months, until you commit to buying in. This is great if you are worried about your little one giving up, or if you don’t want a big start-up cost.
- Gumtree has a whole wealth of second-hand instruments for sale. There is often very little wrong with them – people just want rid of them if they are taking up space, and are no longer used. Ask your teacher for guidance regarding suitable models, and if there are certain faults you need to look out for. You can often pick up a real bargain here!
- Some instruments have cheaper ‘beginner’s’ options. For example, if your child would like piano lessons, you could purchase a keyboard to begin with. This won’t be suitable for long, but will certainly get them started, and allow you to find out if they are really committed to playing.
- Some local services have options for allowing your child to practise. For example, churches will often grant permission for youngsters to practise on their organ, and music colleges will regularly permit students to use their percussion instruments. This is especially true for instruments that are too impractical to have at home.
- There are occasionally grants available for students choosing to learn more unusual instruments: double bass, tuba, bassoon, etc. Music charities and outreach departments in orchestras often have information available regarding funding for these, in an attempt to keep this instruments alive!