This is a quick checklist of things to do, buy, learn and decide before your child has their very first music lesson. I found it on the internet and thought it was a good read. Not all of it may be applicable to you, but you may decide to follow a few steps.
Working your way through this checklist will speed up your child’s learning curve, possibly by months (maybe more!), and once you’ve covered some of these steps below, you will be a superbly equipped parent entering into the role of nurturing the growth of a new little (or not so little) musician.
- Buy the instrument. This may or may not seem like a no-brainer to you. In case it’s not, let me explain. Your child will not make progress without the instrument they want to learn with at home with which they can practice between lessons. So until you have the instrument of choice, don’t bother organising to take piano lessons. Unless your goal is to pay for really expensive, but good babysitting. Ideally you will buy a good quality instrument.
- Allow your child to play the instrument in a part of the house that isn’t a. lonely and/or b. where the only TV is. Two of the biggest reasons children don’t end up practicing is because they’re either lonely in the glummest/most distant room of the house or because everyone else wants to watch the television.Having the child practice hidden away communicates that the instrument is not something normal or useful; having the child and tv competing for acoustic space is just asking for conflict in your family.
- If you have an acoustic instrument, keep it tuned! This is more of an administrative burden than it is a major expense, but if the instrument is out of tune your child(ren) will find playing with it far less pleasant, and you won’t enjoy hearing them practice all that much either.
- Have the instruments in your house for months – even years – before your child begins lessons. This is about developing a sense of the everyday about the instrument (part of normal life) as well as allowing the child to explore the instrument quite thoroughly prior to lessons beginning. To which end….
- Encourage your child to play around with the instrument prior to beginning lessons. Your child will develop a sense of familiarity with the layout of the strings, holes, mouthpieces, keys etc, and the way the each settings make sounds as well as different effects the instrument can make. This saves time in the first weeks of lessons and, more importantly, means that your child will have a confidence when being asked to try ‘new’ things on their instrument in these first few weeks and months.
- Purchase the right equipment to support your child. Does the instrument need a strap to hold it up, does the child need a seat to play the instrument, does the music stand adjust to the right heights and angles etc.
- Notice what your child does with the instrument and (when the time is right) talk about their discoveries with them. Does your child play the same thing (or variations of the same thing) every time they get near the instrument? Or do they experiment with one kind of sound for a few days and then move on? Do they try to pick out tunes, or are they more interested in role-playing? Noticing the way your child experiments is an essential foundation to being able to talk about what they are doing. And talking about what your child does is an essential part of validating and consolidating the discoveries they are making.It doesn’t matter if you’re not sure of the exact musical term, talk about the kinds of feelings the sounds reflect, what the sounds remind you of, and ask your child to talk about their intentions, ideas and reflections.
- Make sure your child knows the difference between their right and left sides. This is a bigger issue than simply knowing the right hand from the left; having your child be aware that they can create an action on one side of their body and then mirror that action on the other develops physical-spatial awareness that will be immensely beneficial when learning new skills. Which is to say: having a child practice jumping to the left or jumping to the right will help them be better musicians. Anything that asks a child to do things with their body in terms of left and right will lay the foundation for physical fluency.
- Make sure your child knows their alphabet. From A to G. And maybe back again. This won’t be covered in the first lesson (normally), but if your child understands that the musical alphabet goes A B C D E F G A B C D E F G A B, etc., they’ll save at least half a lesson. And if your child can think through those letters backwards you’ve probably saved two more whole lessons over the course of the first year.
- Show your child a treble and bass clef. And explain that the treble is for high notes, the bass for low notes. If you have no idea what a treble clef is then google it. This is just a symbol, but the more familiar your child is with what these symbols look like these easier it will be for a teacher to introduce new ideas quickly during the first year or so of lessons. The treble clef in particular is an oft-used symbol to represent music – your child may well have already seen this symbol and just never quite understood what it meant. Being confident distinguishing these two symbols could save half a lesson or so at least three times in the course of the first 12-18 months of lessons.