I came across a blog entitled “10 Biggest Mistakes Parents Make About Music Lessons”, written by Lara Levitan. She compiled a list of potential pitfalls from parents and teachers she works with, so I wanted to share a few of her points. I think it’s common for parents to approach music lessons with the best intentions, but sometimes have the wrong expectations when it comes to learning an instrument!
The first mistake is starting formal music study too young: if your little one shows interest in music, this does not mean they are ready to start lessons. Private lessons require attention span, motor abilities, and reading skills that children younger than five are typically not ready for. For a preschooler to concentrate for a full 30 minute lesson is a lot and on top of that, because their minds and fingers are not ready to grasp the concepts, their first impression of learning an instrument is that it will always be a struggle (to get a full idea of all of the skills needed to read music, click here). A better solution for young students is to attend parent/child music classes or a general music class for preschool age children (like our Treblemakers and Merry Musicians classes), and then wait to start lessons until they are around 5 ½ or 6 years old.
The next mistake is a big one; not sitting down with your young child during practice time. The truth is that children ages six to nine need practice support from parents to be successful. Some parents feel as though they are not able to help because they know “nothing” about music, but sometimes all the child needs is a quiet presence. If this still seems intimidating, talk with your teacher about things to listen or watch for, or have your child teach you! If they can explain concepts to you, that means they really understand the material. Another consideration is to have your child practice in a “family area” of your home: that way, it’s not isolating for him/her and you can be there for support while doing other tasks around the house.
Another misconception about practice is that students are supposed to practice for a certain length of time. Practice should be focused more on achieving the goals that the teacher has established instead of practicing for an hour just for the sake of practicing. This takes the joy out of music making, and oftentimes the child starts to resent the instrument.
Many parents also expect their child to always stick with their first instrument. Finding the instrument that is the best fit for the student can make all the difference. A child who studies piano because their older sibling takes lessons and because you already own a piano does not automatically mean that piano is the right instrument for him/her. If you want your child to be a long term musician, be open minded to what instrument is the best fit- even if it’s not what you originally envisioned!
The last point is not letting students take lessons just for pure enjoyment. As students grow older, they have more academic demands and other activities to juggle, so it’s usually at this point that they quit lessons. Instead of nagging older students to practice and meet rigorous expectations, maybe all that’s needed is a shift in purpose for the lessons. What if we let older students decide when and how often to practice? I have mixed feelings about this, as I know private lessons are expensive and if you’re not going to practice, isn’t this just a waste of money? On the other hand, older students crave independence, and if they are in charge of what they are playing and when they sit down with their instrument, wouldn’t that make them happier and more likely to play? As long as the parents and teacher are on board as a team, it may be worthwhile to let older students take the reins.
As parents, what are some things you’ve learned along the way in your child’s music journey? We are always open to what parents have to say!
To read Ms. Levitan’s original article, click here