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According to many music teachers, starting formal music lessons too early is a sure way to put a child off learning to play, but how do you know when your child is ready to learn something? It seems the overriding answer is that it should be child-led. If they show an aptitude, an interest or ask for lessons, then it may be time to consider it.
However, before they start they need to be able to recognise numbers and understand the alphabet from A-G. They also need to be physically able to hold an instrument or press hard enough to close valves etc. In addition, they need to be mature enough to be able to concentrate during a lesson.
What to start with:
Recorder - a common and popular first instrument. Its a great springboard to other wind instruments and children can start as soon as they have long enough fingers to cover the holes. It's light, easy to carry around and can make some nice noises!
Piano - as soon as your little one can reach the keys, they can start playing the piano. Groups lessons can be great fun and rewarding to young children.
String instruments - these come in various sizes to suit children. A violin sized 1/8 is suitable for a child aged 4 - 6 years, the ideal age to start learning violin is six.
Wind and brass instruments - these need to be tackled by older children once their second set of teeth are through. The pressure put on the teeth can cause damage. They also need to be old enough to hold the instrument and blow. Puff is essential!
Before you sign up for any lessons, chat to the teacher about it at length and, just as important, chat to other parents. Make sure your child is serious but even so consider hiring an instrument rather than buying just in case! Music is a vital part of our lives and our culture and can be an inspirational source of delight for children. We need, however, to be careful how much we encourage (or 'push') our children when they are little. Having fun with music, singing together, saying rhymes and just enjoying music itself is more important than being the first child in school to be playing a violin. It could put off a potentially talented young musician.